From Lopa Banerjee in Los Angeles
Los Angeles: In the thriving, bustling LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles, the Los
Angeles Book Festival 2017, a division of JM Northern Media honored some
deserving books representing world publishing of contemporary times and their
authors in an informal award ceremony at Fleming’s restaurant on Saturday, April
1, 2017. The award ceremony, titled ‘The East Meets West’, was described as ‘an
evening’ of creative excellence’, where some of the awardees of the Los Angeles
Book Festival, Great Southeast, Great Southwest and also Great Northwest Book
Festivals congregated and talked about their books and the inspiration behind
writing their books in front of the audience.
Steven Manchester’s “Ashes: A Novel” (The Story Plant) had been declared the
Grand Prize Winner of the LA Book Festival, and there were also celebrated
names like Neal Hall, the poet laureate whose poetry book ‘Where Do I Sit’ was a
winner (category: poetry). Hence, the first thought that came to my mind when I
was invited to the award ceremony in Los Angeles for my book ‘Thwarted Escape’
(Honorable Mention: memoir/autobiography) was that I would be a miniscule
voice lost in a sea of illustrious voices.
However, when I found myself inside Fleming’s, it was rather a cozy, homely
gathering of authors and some of the award committee members chatting over
scrumptious dinner, drinks and mouth-watering desserts.
“So you came all the way from Texas to LA to receive your award certificate?” A
couple of fellow authors whom I befriended right away asked.
“I had to come. How could I possibly ignore the allure of the Pacific Ocean?” I
joked, and then told them that the award ceremony was too good an opportunity
for me to showcase my book to a greater, wider, appreciative audience.
A Table of Honor was prepared for the authors, a wonderful display of the books
in a quiet corner with candles lit, honoring the authors, their publishing journey
and their success, following years of hard work, motivation and perseverance.
Being the only south-Asian present to take the Honorable Mention certificate for
my book in this very close-knit and cozy gathering of authors was indeed a special
moment for me. I had been expecting to see another South Asian, Niraj Srivastava
to come for the event and receive Honorable Mention for his fiction ‘Daggers of
Treason’. However, only a handful of the winners, runners-up and honorable
mention candidates were present to take the awards physically. Overall, the
experience was tremendously rewarding.
“Tonight’s winners truly represent the best of what current book publishing has
to offer.” The blue, sparkling brochure of the event ‘The East Meets West’
specified, also reiterating the fact that with a discerning committee of judges
including authors, publishers, journalists, agents, directors, such hard-earned
recognition would greatly inspire the authors to keep up the momentum of their
writing journey and certainly create greater impact in the already crowded
publishing marketplace. Bruce Haring of J M Northern Media in his opening
speech, emphasized on the relevance of publishing in today’s fast-paced world of
technology, adding that despite the other overwhelming forms of entertainment,
writing and publishing books continues to thrive because there is still a hungry
audience who are constantly in search of content that is timeless and out of the
“Without books there would be no movies…” he says, citing several instances
where a number of memoirs and nonfiction books have been made into award-
winning movies in recent times, a fact that deeply inspired many authors like
myself present on the occasion, authors who have been told time and again that
in today’s competitive marketplace, fiction and only fiction rules the roost.
The winners, previously been announced in their website
www.losangelesbookfestival.com, were an eclectic mix of authors in diverse
categories including, but not limited to general non-fiction, fiction,
biography/autobiography, children’s books, young adult, poetry, romance, and
regional literature published on or after January 1, 2012. These also included
books published by major publisher, independent publisher and self-published
works, so the scope and range of the award event was understandably quite
huge. What also inspired me was the presence of other nonfiction authors in the
award ceremony, authors whose memoirs, spiritual nonfiction works and other
autobiographical narratives being awarded gave me a chance to know them, as I
had been intrigued to know more about the subject matter of the books.
My recently published book ‘Thwarted Escape’, a poetic memoir about my inner
sojourns as a woman, a mother, a writer and a wistful immigrant woman from
Kolkata, India has been chosen/placed as Honorable Mention (category:
memoir/autobiography). Undoubtedly, while it gave me goosebumps to stand in
the podium and say a few words about how the book was conceived and how I
trailed along in its arduous yet fulfilling journey, it was also tremendously
satisfying to listen to my fellow authors Kevin Foster, Dr. Sam Alibrando, T.M.
Morris, Madeline Morehouse and others whose memoirs/nonfiction were placed
as winners and Honorable Mention. Their journeys with their books, shared in the
podium resonated with my own, as we all were celebrating a worthwhile moment
in our lives with our books bridging gaps, forging new friendships and pushing our
boundaries as writers and artistes.
As the festivities ended and we, the authors lined up together to pose for group
pictures with our individual award certificates, a special moment in our lives was
born, a moment that whispered to us in unison that the journey with our books
must never stop, that it is the journey and not the destination that would remain
of utmost importance, always.