There has been a bit of discussion on some of the Australian blogs about whether one can opt to withdraw from consideration for an award.
And I say: No, you shouldn’t be able to.
An award is not a contest. It is not something that you, the writer, enter. It is something bestowed on you – or your work – for your excellence.
If Aloysius Muddlesworthy decides – because he is a really, really nice guy and he has been winning the Best Book of the Year Award for residents of Downunder for umpteen years – that he doesn’t want his work to be considered any more, and the organisers agree to allow it, then he is short-changing both the award and his fellow Downunderian writers.
How can Scintilla Cuddlesbug, this year’s winner, feel proud of her win if she knows that the Muddlesworthy book was not considered? She - and everyone else -will be wondering if her book really deserved the win, or whether it just won by default. That’s not fair to her, and it devalues the Award.
And what about Spyte Sickleton, you might ask? He had a different reason for not wanting his work to be considered. Maybe he thinks the Award is crap. Maybe he thinks the judges take bribes. Or maybe he just had a row with the organiser. He might be paranoid, or he might have a very valid reason. The actual reason doesn’t matter – he feels that if his work is considered, he is being a hypocrite after he’s spent the past year telling everyone the awards suck. So, you might ask – shouldn’t he be allowed to withdraw his work from consideration?
My answer remains : No. For the same reasons as above. If you are going to have an award for The Best Book of the Year in Downunder, then every eligible book should be considered – or discarded - by the judges or the voters. Not by the writers.
Fortunately, Mr Sickleton still has a choice. He can refuse the award if he wins. That’s his privilege. He should not, however, have the privilege of withdrawing in the first place.