This is about writing awards . . and surprises. Why surprises? Because I think that’s what awards always are. How could this writer (no matter how much she loves writing and works at it) be this winner at this time? So, here I am, sharing with you, my reading and writing friends, the surprises any writer can aspire to.
Let’s begin with number one–the biggest surprise, and the one I treasure most.
Each year, at its May conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Writers’ Federation awards writers for their work in thirty-four categories. Contest entries come from all over the United States. Judges in each category are given the option of awarding first, second, and third place, plus a suitable amount of honorable mentions, depending on the number of entries in their category.
In 1992, with what felt like a tremendous amount of nerve and bravado, I entered one of my first unpublished essays in their essay category, which often draws well over a hundred entries. When awards were announced, and my name was called for an honorable mention, I was suddenly Miss America, I was an Oscar winner, I was class valedictorian, all squeezed into one five- foot two-inch trembling female body. I walked to the front of that huge crowd on a path of gold, almost unable to breathe. I remember well going back along that golden path to my seat, listening to the applause (never let it be said that writers don’t support and cheer each other), as I held up my precious certificate.
The certificate, now hanging on the wall of my office, doesn’t say which honorable mention I won. For all I know, it could have been third (the maximum allowed). It doesn’t matter. Every time I choose, I can recall exactly how I felt that night, and nothing will ever surpass it.
Okay. There are now twenty-five award certificates, most of them either first place or a singular award, plus a key to two cities and one National Historic site jail, two trophies, and other such stuff in my office. Never mind. Number one is still the most memorable.
A second surprise. August, 2010
I entered the sixth novel in my Carrie McCrite and Henry King series, JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, in the Silver Falchion contest at the 2010 Killer Nashville. Their web site states: “This is awarded for the best achievement in publishing to a Killer Nashville attending author as voted on by his or her peers.” The award is announced at a Saturday night banquet. I rarely thought about the Silver Falchion after I sent my entry, and didn’t attend the awards banquet. (I think the banquet cost was $80.00 a person that year.) My husband and I went out to dinner with writer friends at a nearby Irish Pub. (Fabulous food.) We came back to the hotel. We went to bed.
When I came down to the conference area on Sunday morning one of the organizers said, “Congratulations.”
Bewildered, I said, “For what?”
“You won the Silver Falchion.”
The rest of that morning is a blur. Tears, hugs, congratulations, photos, interviews. Surprise? You betcha! That afternoon the award ceremony was repeated at the convention’s closing ceremonies, and I got to hear, once more, (as I had in 1992), applause from a huge crowd of people. Who wants to be Miss America or an Oscar winner? Not me!
Number three. Now it’s June, 2011.
Each year the longest running writers’ conference in the United States (67th year in 2011 for the Arkansas Writers’ Conference), chooses one writer with Arkansas connections to be inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. I didn’t know (until after this year’s conference) who most of the previous inductees were, and know now that they include Dee Brown, Charles Portis, a couple of Pulitzer winners, a poet laureate, and Charlaine Harris. Selections are nominated and voted on by the Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, and the Arkansas Writers’ Conference.
This year’s inductee was Radine Trees Nehring!
One of the nicest surprises about this was what another Arkansas author, Marilyn Collins, said when announcing the honor . “In closing, I want to say a personal word. Our recipient is not only a skilled and talented writer, she is what we as writers should all aspire to be, a friend to other writers. Her talent, generosity, and sharing set her apart. “
Now, you gotta know that this was another lovely surprise. And, shouldn’t we all aspire to being known for giving to others? I think that’s one thing that really matters above all awards. I hope you do, too.