Waiting for Arthur
In Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, two men wait in vain for someone named Godot. Of course, he never shows up, and it turns out that they wouldn’t have recognized him even if he did. To while away the time, the two “eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats”—anything "to hold the terrible silence at bay."
In my case, I am Waiting for Arthur. He, too, may never show up. However, I do know what he looks like! He wouldn’t be hard to recognize, in any case. He’s a lovely soft light brown with lots of lines and spots (even though he’s only twenty-nine, he’s made out of natural wood so his complexion makes him look older).
Try to disregard the fact that he’s been hung from a rope until dead. Arthur is, after all, the award for excellence in crime writing. He’s even named after the penname (so to speak) of Canada’s hangmen.
I have definitely been employing the various ways that the two Beckett characters used to fill the time, all except the swapping of hats. But maybe I can do that on Awards Night. I have eaten a lot (always do when I’m excited and happy), slept, talked (incessantly about Arthur), argued, sang (Will I Be Blue? or Winner Takes All?), played games with the grandkids, and exercised (not as much as I should, but still…).
I’ve added one other activity: writing. I’ve tweeted, facebook’d, blogged, googled, articled, librarything’d, pinterest’d, goodread, and texted. I’m famous for writing my way through almost anything, and this waiting period is obviously no different.
I have to use at least one cliché about my experience. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be Waiting for Arthur, I would never have believed it. In fact, a year ago, I had just finished radiation for breast cancer and had no traditional publishers for my books or my recent stories.
Suddenly, here I am, a finalist for the most prestigious award for mystery and crime writing in Canada. All four of the novels in my series (and the fifth one in progress) have a home with Imajin Books. The short story that’s Waiting For Arthur was published by NorthWord literary magazine, and they are publishing another, non-mystery story of mine too. One of my personal favourite Canadian writers, Louise Penny, emailed me the morning after the shortlist to congratulate me! I have been asked to be a guest blogger for all sorts of writers and readers (including the Mystery Maven, my literary heroes). I entitled one of the blogs, They Like Me, They Really Like Me. That just shows how Flying Nun I’ve been feeling.
On the evening of the Arthur Ellis shortlist event, I was so busy organizing that I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d react if I actually made that list. My friend and I (who both had stories submitted) declared that simply making it as a finalist would be enough. And that night, it was more than enough. I was ecstatic, excited, honoured, humbled…all the emotions one might expect. (Plus my friend is on the list too!)
I have stayed buoyed ever since. Right now, I am a little overwhelmed with organizing the actual Arthur Ellis Awards Dinner, but essentially, I am thrilled. I wake up in the morning thinking about Arthur and pretty much spend all day with him on my mind. My husband is beginning to get suspicious.
But the real point is: it doesn’t actually matter who wins on May 31 (Awards Night). I’ll have had six whole weeks of pleasure. Forty-two days of anticipation, that delicious feeling of being on the cusp of something great. A thousand and eight hours to realize that my esteemed colleagues have judged my writing to be commendable. It’s rare to have such a sustained period of time where every few seconds you break out into a satisfied grin.
I almost hope the “terrible silence” doesn’t end. I like it here, in the quiet before I know for sure whether or not Arthur will show up. Right now, it’s delicious.
Catherine Astolfo is the author of The Emily Taylor Mysteries, published by Imajin Books. Her novels have been optioned for film by Sisbro & Co. Inc. Catherine is a Past President of Crime Writers of Canada and a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto. Visit Catherine and discover her series at: www.catherineastolfo.com