Feature Story: Lopamudra Banerjee
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’, while some of the awardees of the Los Angeles Book Festival, Great Southeast, Great Southwest and also Great Northwest Book Festivals congregated at the award venue 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 minuscule 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 ordinary.
“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 http://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.