Dispatches

My Prizes: A Memoir

Devon Code

An account of the circumstances surrounding seven literary honours bestowed on me.

Every time I review my curriculum vitae I am pleasantly reminded of my small accumulation of literary awards and distinctions. But a CV is, by definition, only a summary. I offer here a fuller account of the circumstances surrounding the various honours bestowed upon me in the years since my career began.

THE AEON AWARD

In 26, I was awarded third place in the Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest. The winner of the Aeon Award receives £1. As third-place winner, my story was published in an Irish magazine of science fiction, fantasy and horror, for which I received a £5 honorarium. Then, in 29, my landlord contacted me to inquire whether I was in fact the same person who had been awarded third place in the 26 Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest. I informed him that I was. He purchased a copy of my short story collection, in which the third-place story was reprinted. The price my landlord paid for my short story collection was approximately twice as much as I had been awarded as third-place winner of the Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest, or one one-hundredth of what I paid my landlord for my monthly rent.

THE MOST LIKELY PRIZE

In 1999, the editors of the Prince Andrew High School yearbook deemed me the graduating student “most likely to be published.” I shared this distinction with Elizabeth C., selected by the yearbook editors as co-recipient. I have no recollection of Elizabeth C., nor do I know if she has been published as the yearbook editors predicted.

THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION ANNUAL LITERARY AND POSTER CONTEST PRIZE

In 1996, I placed third in the intermediate category of the Royal Canadian Legion Annual Literary and Poster Contest for the jurisdiction of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. No cash prize was associated with my third-place award in the municipal jurisdiction. My story then advanced to the provincial jurisdiction, where it was awarded second prize, for which I received a certificate of recognition and a cheque for $35.

THE BOOK READING PRIZE

Of all the literary prizes I have ever been awarded, the Book Reading Prize, which I won in 1992, was the most embroiled in controversy. I was awarded a $15 bookstore gift certificate for being the first student in my grade 5 class to read ten books and report on them to our teacher. During the competition, a classmate was disqualified when, after a heated exchange with the teacher, he admitted to having reported on books he had read before the competition had officially begun. This incident was for me a tremendous relief, for I had subjected myself to considerable strain in attempting to equal what I understood to be his prodigious reading habits. I won this prize and went on to win the Book Reading Prize twice more, accumulating a total of $45 in bookstore gift certificates before I myself was disqualified. Unlike my classmate’s disqualification, mine was honourable: I had demonstrated that my reading prowess was entirely without equal. My own disqualification, like that of my classmate, came as a relief, for it allowed me to read books of greater length and complexity.

THE RELIT AWARDS

In 28, my debut short story collection appeared on a longlist for the ReLit Awards, a literary prize of which I had no prior knowledge. The other titles on the longlist for the 28 ReLit Awards included Up on the Roof; The Goldfish Dancer; Seven Openings of the Head; What Belongs; The Breakdown So Far; The Penance Drummer; Black Rabbit; Bix’s Trumpet; Boys; At the Bottom of the Sky; Six Ways to Sunday; One Day It Happens; A Feat of Longing; Long Story Short; The Woman Who Walks on Glass; All in Together Girls; Long After Fathers; The Reckoning of Boston Jim; I, Tania; The Outlander; Shelf Monkey; Orphan Love; The Milk Chicken Bomb; Glass Voices; Macdonald; Dirtbags; Homing; The Flannigans; Dohaney; The Silent Time; The Convictions of Leonard McKinley; A Place of Pretty Flowers; Brother Dumb; Big White Knuckles; As Good as Dead; Be Good; Coureurs de Bois; Bottle Rocket Hearts; The Book of Beasts; Where White Horses Gallop; Correction Road; Smuggling Donkeys; 74 Miles Away; Post; White; The Skin Beneath; Room Tone; Soucouyant; Be Wolf; Snow Candy; Stealing Nasreen; The Housekeeping Journals; Planet Reese; The Prison Tangram; Crown Shyness; The Flush of Victory; Delible; Pulpy & Midge; The Hole Show; Made Beautiful by Use; The Bindery; Natural Disasters; My Mother Agrees with the Dead; ths is erth thees ar peopul; Falsework; Vermeer’s Light; Going Around with Bachelors; Full Depth; My Etruscan Face; The Stone Skippers; Erratic; Accidental Animals; The Shovel; Loyalty Management; All Things Said & Done; Sitcom; Two Hemispheres; Selected Portraits; Thin Moon Psalm; Rental Van; Muybridge’s Horse; High Speed Through Shoaling Water; Songs for the Dancing Chicken; Impersonating Flowers; The Discipline of Undressing; Combustion; Quotidian Fever; Domain; Torch River; O, Clytaemnestra!; Soft Geography; I Cut My Finger; Earth’s Crude Gravities; Adagio for the Pressured Surround; Red Bird; I’m Not Going to Lie to You; Beatitudes; Making Bones Walk; Cleavage: A Life in Breasts; The Sweet Fuels; Found; More to Keep Us Warm; Woodshedding; Broken Vessel; Old Winter; The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Tablecloth Trick; Last Water Song; AEthel; All Our Wonder Unavenged; The Bone Broker; Why Are You So Sad?; Last Scattering Surfaces; Hands Reaching in Water and Floors of Enduring Beauty.

No cash prizes are associated with the ReLit Awards.

THE CRAZYHORSE FICTION PRIZE

In 28, I was one of six finalists for the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, for which there were approximately 9 entries. The winner was awarded $2, US and publication in the literary journal Crazyhorse. When I did not win the prize, the editors of Crazyhorse informed me that my story would nevertheless be considered for publication. Several months later, the editors decided to reject the story. In the years that followed, the story that had been a finalist for the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize was rejected an additional fifteen times before it was eventually accepted for publication.

THE JOURNEY PRIZE

In 21, I was awarded the Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Since winning this prize I have received no further recognition from awards juries or content judges of any kind. Because I did not know I was to win this prize, only my wife accompanied me to the awards ceremony. The Journey Prize consists of a certificate of recognition and $1,. With the prize winnings I paid off the balance of my student loan and purchased a large television set. I also promised to take my wife to a fine restaurant. I have not yet honoured this promise, which does not matter, since my wife has since forgotten.

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