In lieu of an acceptance speech

Last weekend, I double-dipped into the Alberta Literary Awards prize pool. Walls: Travels Along the Barricades was awarded the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Nonfiction, and “A Hymn in Aramaic” – a story I wrote for Alberta Views Magazine – took home the James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction.

The gala stuck to its new ‘no acceptance speech’ rule – a wise policy, no doubt. Still, given the opportunity, this is what I would have told the assembled crowd:

A few months back, Walls won another prize that was handed out at a swanky gala in Ottawa attended by several hundred federal politicians, political journalists and writers. In my acceptance speech for that award, I thanked Calgarians (though I could’ve easily said Albertans) for their ongoing support for my work. I told the gowned and besuited crowd that Alberta was an excellent place to be a writer.

I thought that my shout-out to Alberta would earn some polite applause. Instead I got a rousing whoop from the crowd. Later, I realized why. The audience was filled with federal Conservatives, all who have a spiritual and philosophical home in Alberta. This annoyed me because I sure as hell was not thanking them. I was even more annoyed when I saw that Conservative duds Joan Crockatt and Michelle Rempel tweeted my comments, as if they represented the Calgary I was referring to and were the target of my praise. Please. Alberta is a fine place to be a writer in spite of the Crockatts, Rempels, and Harpers et al we inexplicably send to Parliament. Certainly not because of them.

The sort of Albertans I meant to thank were not in Ottawa, they were in that room in Edmonton last Saturday night. My fellow writers and readers of Alberta, the publishers and editors and booksellers, are the people who I owe a debt. You have been enthusiastic for my writing, and I am honoured by your support. You make me feel both lucky and proud to be a writer from Alberta.

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