We seldom talk about awards here at MagicalWords.Net. Why? Perhaps because we don’t want to fluff our own feathers and toot our own horns (both which sound distinctly uncomfortable, but, onwards and upwards.) However, awards are a part of writer’s life and hopes and dreams, right up there with sales figures. We’ve already said, many times, that sales numbers make or break a writer’s future publishing life. One bad book (even it is isn’t your fault that it sold poorly, even if it was a series of bad decisions by the company) and you are quite likely out of the pub’s list. But awards are a different matter. Awards…well, awards are the spice in a writer’s life, like a really good gumbo with the filé added in at just the right time and just the right amount.
So, at the risk of the discomfort of horn tooting and feather fluffing, at the risk of sounding pretty stupid, I thought I’m mention awards today because of the effect that they have on my life. And it’s weird because, well, I’m feeling sort of pensive today. I shouldn’t be. I should be on cloud nine because I’m leaving town to go to Orlando for the RT awards. Trip out of town, no deadlines for a whole month. Plans to swim with the manatees in Florida after the con.
It should be a whoowhoo moment, because
my AKA is up for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Contemporary something or other for 2008 for Sleep Softly. So I should be all excited and pumped, right? But I’m not. It’s exactly because of the award that I am down today.
Awards come less often than one might expect except for the top 200 selling writers in the country. I’ve been up for three big awards over the years, won two of them, and seen exactly no effect on my career. Awards are nice, but they don’t effect sales numbers or income or my level of happiness or anything important.
When I’m up for an award and go to the event, I feel like I should be home with family. Home writing. Awards make me look back and reflect on the things I did right and the things I did wrong, and then I grieve for the people I hurt. ((Not the ones I was mean to on purpose, mind you, but the ones I hurt by accident just because I wasn’t paying attention or had a brain fart or something. And yeah, I have been snippy to other people before and not cared that I was being mean, but that’s another blog…or maybe I just need a priest or something to confess the meanness and the fact that I don’t care that I was mean.))
Anyway, here’s how I am feeing. It came out as an open letter to my old wannabe self…
Dear sixteen year old Faith/Gwen/Gary/Future Pen Names/Geep (that last one was pronounced Jeep. Don’t ask.) I think that’s all the names I’ve gone by in life and on paper. So far.
Girl, I know you want to write. Your enthusiasm is kinda weird, but it’s also wonderful. You are a geek right now in high school, a misfit, living more in your head than anywhere else. Don’t feel too bad when the kids laugh at you for standing in the school yard staring off into space, sometimes with your lips moving. That mis-fitted-ness is just a symptom of the writer soul being born.
I remember the thousand questions and no answers. As I look back I want to say… Well… It’s been a fun ride. When you get to where I am now, you’ll have so many milestones to look back at. Just finishing that first book will pretty much freak you out. It’ll also feel pretty much like a miracle to you. And in its own way, it was. Statistics are against a finished book. You’re heard them before but:
1 in 100 people want to write a book.
1 in 100 people who want to write a book start a book.
1 in 100 people who start a book finish a book.
Only 1 in 1000 books written ever get accepted by an agent.
Only 1 in a 1000 books accepted by agents ever get sold to New York publishers.
And only 1 in 1000 books published in New York ever make the writer enough money to live on for a while, so they don’t require another income.
That first finish-a-book milestone will be a biggun. I remember your satisfaction, that deep down sense of accomplishment. I remember stacking the pages neatly. The feel of the paper. The smell of the ink. That sense of delight was worth more than any award I’ve had since. *That* was the reason I write.
Unfortunately, that first book won’t sell. Or at least not yet. I still have hopes, even after all these years, but it looks less and less likely. Or maybe the book looks more and more awful. Don’t despair. You’ll get better, I promise. A lot better, thank God! And finishing that first book will be what teaches you how to write a book and will show you what you need to learn to be come a writer. That first book will send you back to school for a higher education poetry class and a short story class. The poetry class is a bigger help than you expect as you learn the flow and meter of language and punctuation. But the biggest thing you learn from university level classes is how to plot.
Yeah, you don’t know how. Frankly you suck. But you learn. Really. Oh – and don’t let it bother you when one of the proffs makes a pass. But try not to laugh. I know it was nerves and shock, but he gets pretty insulted. You win a cash prize after his class and see your short story published in a regional literary magazine. And you don’t have to sleep with him to win, which is good because he was pretty ick in class. Had to be even more icky out of class. You win all on merit. Three (four if you count the pass as a landmark, which I don’t) milestones in a row, all in one semester, with seeing your name in print is the biggest by far. I still have that literary magazine.
Shortly thereafter you meet the cop who becomes the second part of Gary Hunter, your first pen name. The first words the two of you put on paper together get you published for a 2 book deal from Warner Books. Now that…that was a milestone. And for the last time in your life you stopped and smelled the roses.
After that came the book deal with Pocket Books, followed by the national award in the UK and the bestseller there. Pretty cool. The money is really cool too. But it’s all a blur because you worked so hard and long and worried too much. Not that you can help it. It’s your nature to push yourself.
But…well, that’s what I wanted to write this for. To remind you to stop and smell the roses along the way. To rest more and dance more and laugh more and worry less. To play your music loud and ride horses too big and too feisty for you and water-ski till you drop. And mostly, to remind you to spend time with the people you love. Because while the book milestones are great, it’s the people in your life who are the biggest milestones. It’s the people who matter.
So. I’m off to Orlando. And for some reason I’m all teary eyed. I’d rather stay home and rip out the front garden and plant new stuff. Really. I’d rather be home for my niece’s birthday tonight. Really. I’d rather be with Misty and David at RavenCon this weekend. Really. Especially that part. And the newer long distance relationship with Catie falls right in there. Why?
Because they are part of the people who have made it all worthwhile. Hugs to Misty, David, and Catie, and to all the readers who have made MagicalWords.Net such a success. This time on MagicalWords has been one of the most delightful milestones yet.