Yesterday I did not win the Lakeland Book of the Year award. At one level there is a thin line between success and failure. Everyone wants to win the race. However, there are times when relative success is to be cherished.
After the initial disappointment of being ‘merely’ a category runner-up, I am now thinking that it is actually a pretty special achievement. The Lakeland Book of the Year Awards “encourage and celebrate writing and publishing in Cumbria, and contribute to furthering the wonderful literary heritage of the County”. It is a prestigious award, that has been going since 1984. It has high profile judges – this year Hunter Davies, Eric Robson and Fiona Armstrong. The overall winners command respect – last year’s was James Rebanks (for The Shepherd’s Life), and previously it has been Keith Richardson, Harry Griffin and Alan Hankinson.
I was really pleased to be able to travel to the Lakes and attend the award ceremony, which was held in the beautiful Armathwaite Hall Hotel, alongside Bassenthwaite Lake. For the award this year there were over 50 entries, which have to be predominantly about Cumbrian people and places, of which 15 were shortlisted for the 5 category awards (I was in the Guides and Places category), four of which were the eventual short list for the overall Lakeland Book of the Year award.
It was a really great award ceremony, with most excellent food, a fund-raising opportunity for the Cumbria Flood Appeal, and networking possibilities. Two years ago at the same event I met and chatted with mountaineering legend Doug Scott, and this year commiserated with Kendal AC’s top fell runner Rebecca Robinson, who was on crutches after breaking a metatarsal when running the Skiddaw race at the weekend (she was also 6th fastest UK female marathon runner in 2015).
One of the best things about the event is that the judges give their thoughts on the shortlisted books. Eric Robson went through those up for the Striding Edge Prize Prize for Guides and Places, and said the following about The Round:
We come to The Round by Steve Chilton
His earlier book ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ (lovely title), about fell running as well, won the Bill Rollison Prize in 2014. For those of you not of a mountain pounding persuasion, The Bob Graham is a Lakeland mountain challenge. It is 62 miles, takes in 42 peaks and 27,000 feet of ascent, which you have to do in mere 24 hours. As you do. I was trained for the Bob Graham Round by my neighbour in Wasdale – Joss Naylor. He said he would take me out running. I lost. That was just round the function room of the Santon Bridge Hotel. This book about fell running, which is a fairly specialist subject, could have been totally boring. It could have been statistics in hardback. But in fact it is inspirational and it is compelling. It is a great read. It also told me that Chris Brasher failed in his attempt to do the Bob Graham Round, which made me feel a lot better.
When the announcements came, I was runner-up in the ‘Striding Edge Prize for Guides and Places’, a category that was won by The Gathering Tide by Karen Lloyd.
So, I collected my runners up certificate and we waited for the overall winner to be announced. It was the winner of the Illustration and Presentation category, a book called Lakeland Waterways.
It was written by a guy that works on the passenger boats on Windermere.
Reflecting on it now, I am really chuffed to be short listed for this prestigious prize. But there is no time to dwell on it. I am moving on to apply the finishing touches to my third book. I just hope that it is written well enough to get some recognition of this sort when it comes out (in early 2017).
Or signed copies direct from me.