It seems that something surprising happens every month in the life of Laurie Steed. In June, and specifically, on the afternoon of June 4th, my debut novel, You Belong Here, was shortlisted for the WA Premier's Book Awards, with the winner to be announced in late July.
I'm delighted by the news. I also feel incredibly grateful; while I'm ecstatic to have been shortlisted, there are many talented WA writers who wrote great books but who missed out this time around. In all of this, I think, there is a lot of hard work but also a bit of luck, and so I take the win with gratitude, and keep writing, in search of my next story, or moment of joy.
I'm partly so delighted (and a little relieved) by the recent shortlisting because I spent so long with this book, eight years in total by the time it was published. I don't know if the book is great on an objective level, but it is my book, just as it is yours, for those of you who have read the book and shared the journey.
My most invaluable feedback has come from those who knew the place and time of You Belong Here, and so felt drawn back to that space. Nostalgia often gets a bad rap in today's society. And yet, our memories are the one thing that connects us all to this place and this time, ranging from our first cup of Milo through to the roads we drove to get to a girlfriend or boyfriend's house. With songs, that's doubly the case, andYou Belong Here is nothing if not a family mixtape that wanted to honour Perth, and the people of Perth in my own unique way.
While the recent shortlisting is incredibly exciting, I'm equally buoyed by readers' responses, and the ways in which the book brought people back into my life: my aunt Flo and cousin Alexandra, continents away but keen to read my words; my friend from high school, Alex, stopping around for a coffee the day before release, and tossing my baby boy up in the air, firm-hands catching him safely; a former writing friend, Jean, who'd been at the first ever writing workshop I took, and who came to the Perth launch to celebrate with me in person.
Nothing beats that. For me, it's like someone took John Parr's 'St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)', added the click-clack of Spokey-Dokeys, threw splotches of that bright Stackhat orange colour you so rarely see around anymore and labelled it 'life'. It's real, alive, flawed and faultless, all at once.
Thank you to The State Library of Western Australia for this honour, and to anyone and everyone who has read and appreciated my book. As authors, there’s nothing more heartening than a person who reads your words, sees your world, and says, ‘Yes. I know what that feels like.’