2006 Saskatchewan Book Awards Winners Announced

This year was the first year since 1997 that I had to miss the Saskatchewan Book Awards which was a bit sad for me. 

I attended my first Gala when I started working at the Saskatchewan Publishers Group that same year.  That led to me serving on the SBA board from 1998-2001.  After we moved to Calgary, I still returned for the SBA Gala every fall from 2001-2004 and even though my job in Regina meant I had to work on Gala night in 2005, I still managed to catch most of it (mostly due to Alistair MacLeod giving a two and a half hour speech when he probably should've given a forty-five minute one!)

But my hope that some library might fly me back to Saskatchewan for a job interview right around this weekend wasn't to be so that streak is over.  (On a positive note, I've been the SBA's webmaster since 1999 and this was the first year that I was able to upload the list of winners immediately following the Gala whereas there was usually a lag of a couple hours to a couple days depending on where I was and what my computer access was like.)

The old web site is showing its age a bit these days (not a blog or a wiki to be seen!) but it still gets positive feedback for its simplicity and ease-of-use which always makes me happy. 

Long before I officially decided to come to library school, I had  this message forwarded to me by the SBA Executive Director.  I liked it so much I used it in the “References” section of my resume for awhile:

“You have the best – most informative – Web site
for your book awards of any that I have seen. And, I have seen
quite a few as we are compiling a listing of the winners of Canadian literary
awards (1923-2000) which will be published by the Canadian Library

– Suzanne Sexty,
Information Services, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University of

As for the Gala itself, Saskatchewan's has been recognized by many, including author & publisher Anna Porter (who was our guest speaker in 2001) who wrote in Quill & Quire that it was “…arguably the best-run writers' event outside of Toronto's Giller Prize…

Unlike the other prairie book awards programs in Alberta and Manitoba, Saskatchewan's is held in the fall (not the spring) so that the winners are announced right before Christmas, the biggest book buying time of year.  Although the books submitted don't necessarily fall within the last calendar year (which is why Alberta and Manitoba hold their awards in the spring), having the Gala in November is also a great chance for everybody in the very small, very tightknit communities of Saskatchewan book people (writers, publishers, librarians, editors, etc.) and book lovers (book clubs, politicians, media, teachers, professors) to get together to celebrate the successes of the year.  

It's always a lavish affair but also has a streak of fun to it – one year to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of Saskatchewan two oldest literary presses, birthday cake was delivered to each table as the Beatles' “Birthday” blared from the speakers (and yes, I'm a Beatles fan but no, I had nothing to do with that decision.)  We've had musicians perform, special meals prepared from recipes contained in a creative non-fiction book about the province.  We've had hilarious speeches from sponsors and long-winded ones from winners.  We've had special moments (Yann Martel's speech where he defended Saskatchewan in a way I've rarely heard people from the province defend it was amazing) and controversial (the year that three authors tied for the City of Regina Award was …awkward…to say the least.  And I felt really bad for the RPL representatives who had to get up to present an award about a month after their board had announced closures of numerous branches.) 

All in all, it's a great event and if you're looking for some books for Christmas gifts outside of the usual G&M or MacLean's Top Ten, why not look up some of the books that were nominated this year?  (Or if you're in a library someday doing collection development, why not make sure that you collect these books that may be a bit more under-the-radar than those by the big Toronto and New York publishers?)

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