The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction

The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction is a major national prize that anyone who writes a historical novel for young people dreams about. It’s given annually for the best historical fiction novel for teens. Five books are shortlisted in September, and the winner is announced at the CCBC/TD Bank Gala in November.

The news that I was shortlisted came out of the blue. I was shocked, then elated, jubilant with joy. For days I carried that wonderful feeling quietly inside me. It’s hard to describe the feelings without going in clichés. I now carry a little thrill of pride inside me. 

Writers research and write stories in relative isolation. But the topic fascinates us and we fall in love with our characters, so we go on. Occasionally as we’re writing we think how brilliant our work is, more often we have doubts and sometimes even despair that we’re writing total junk. Being shortlisted for this award shows that esteemed experts in our field have validated and value our book. Wow. That is so encouraging and affirming. I’ve also loved all the congratulations I’m receiving from friends and fellow writers. The young people’s writing community is very supportive.

This award and eight others are presented at the glittery CCBC/TD Bank Gala at the Carlu Hotel in Toronto every November. It’s a fabulous evening attended by everyone in the industry, all dressed up and excited to be there, sort of like the Academy Awards of Children’s Literature. 


The fun begins when we are escorted in on a red carpet, by a doorman in a tux and top hat. Wine, food, conversations, connections and good wishes flow through the crowd. I’ve always loved attending, but this year will be extra special. Once the audience is packed into the huge auditorium, each nominee’s book is shown on one of the two giant screens as praise is heaped upon it, and then the winner is announced. I will be sitting in that audience, basking in happiness, and a bit anxious, waiting to see who wins. Either way, I will be celebrating.

Now my problem is – do I write an acceptance speech just in case, or will that jinx it?


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