Wednesday, 16 June 2010
The Melissa Nathan Award 2010
This was a truly amazing night. For starters, the event was being held at the Cafe de Paris, which was beyond glamorous; then there were the judges Jo Brand, Liza Tarbuck, Morwenna Banks, Sophie Kinsella and Joanna Trollope who are all, without exception, idols of mine; and finally there was the fact that the event is held not only to champion the genre of comedy romance (a genre sadly neglected by 'serious' literary people) but also to celebrate the life of Melissa Nathan - comedic novelist extraordinaire - and to continue the charity work she undertook during her life via the excellent Melissa Nathan Foundation: click here to see the work The Foundation does.
The evening began with champagne and canapes as the guests arrived: there were the other shortlisted writers to meet, old friends and acquaintances to catch up with and new friends to make - Melissa's family were there and I had two conversations with her mother who was wonderfully warm, encouraging and chatty. In fact the whole event had a lovely family atmosphere. There were two babies present: Shortlisted author Danny King ('Blue Collar')'s little girl who was ten weeks old and Sophie Kinsella's youngest, only eight weeks old. Also present was Melissa's son Sam (age 7) who, after the judges had summed up all six shortlisted books, gave an extremely moving explanation of the work of the Melissa Nathan Foundation that had most of the audience wiping away a tear or two.
We were called into the main auditorium where Jo Brand bounded onto stage to host the event. She was sensational. I saw Jo live in 1993 and my abiding memory was of my face aching with laughter - it only took about two minutes and it was aching again. We then had a performance from songwriter (and, as it turned out) singer David Arnold and then the judges each celebrated one of the shortlisted books. Jo Brand did mine, beginning by holding up a copy of the book featuring the image of my blonde, barrister heroine on the front and saying: 'As you can see, they put a picture of me on the cover...'
After a short interval we enjoyed a fantastic performance by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy who performed a selection of his songs ("I suppose you'll want me to do the one about the bus...") and then there was the announcement of the winner, who was...'Moon-Light in Odessa' by Janet Skeslien Charles. Huge congratulations go to Janet whose book Joanna Trollope describes as 'a book that stays with you for all the right reasons'. All the shortlisted winners received a beautiful trophy (mine is now proudly residing on my mantelpiece) and the evening ended with more mingling, canapes and champagne.
It was a real fairy-tale evening and I feel so lucky to have been part of such a wonderful experience. Melissa was a truly exceptional author and her Award and the work of her Foundation will ensure that she remains a powerful force for good for years to come.