Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bits and pieces...

Three quick things:

I went to Seattle and never posted a picture of the Space Needle? What was I thinking?
So here I am riding the monorail approximately 4.5 feet to get to the space needle:

and the Space Needle:

So glad I got that off my conscience.

Number 2:

Please meet my souvenir from Seattle. I honestly could not leave this guy behind and he looks perfect in the living room. My girls think he is a pet and we call him Abna. Cutest robot ever.

Now, to reward you for making it all the way to the third tidbit, this is why I love Florida
(Dolphin, not a shark) 

even though my hair looks like this the entire time
Yes, that is a live alligator.
 Let's just say I've had an atypical month over here.

Here's to humidity, tourist traps and natural beauty.
Oh yeah, and robots.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I'm not talking about my first date with the Artist where I borrowed a dress and didn't understand that my hair can work for me and needn't be an enemy.
But if you want to ask me about that "homecoming" sometime we can laugh. I have pictures.
I wanted to show a few pictures of my homecoming a week ago.
First, obligatory self portrait with cell phone as we fly home:
It was one of the best weekends of my life, but it was fast and intense and by Monday evening I was sort of a shell of myself in a middle seat on a small airplane. But I managed to smile and look human so pretend that's how I felt.
I kept thinking that I just needed to go collect my girls from my mom's house and get some sleep. But when I stepped into the airport I was surprised by this sight:

I know- couldn't get any cuter. I laughed so hard. Can we all just say it together? Nom Wow! Only my Dancer.
So I got my hugs and many requests for a present (whaddid you bring me? whaddid you bring me?) and we settled in for the hour drive home. And just when I was thinking how quiet my weekend had been (those girls were firing off words like bullets from a machine gun) we came home to this:
There was silly string and noisemakers and mostly love. Thank you to my writer's group who shared in my victory. It meant more than a lot.
And then we walked up to the front door to find this:
Thanks, Gabs! You have pulled so hard for me. I'm lucky to have you.

First I was overwhelmed by shock, and then by love. I've always been pretty good at "mourning with those who mourn," but this experience has taught me the value of "rejoicing with those who rejoice." I would give up a hundred book contracts for the love of one friend.

To those of you who offered your support in any way- a smile, a note, an invisible thought- I felt it. Thank you for letting me have a shining moment.
Thank you for shining with me.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sharing the love giveaway

My friends, it is time to put you in the spotlight and share some of the love. After all, your votes are what made my dream come true, so I am kind of like an accessory to your awesomeness, right? So how do I begin to thank you?
Let's start with presents. Lots and lots of presents...

Since I've been home I've heard the following conversation more times than I care to admit:

"Hey, Tapper, great job on that whole book prize thingy..." Voice trails off as if they forgot why they started the sentence. "By the way, where did you get that dress?!"

There was such an overwhelming interest in the dress that I, your fearless blogger, contacted the company (an awesome boutique called Downeast Basics) and said, "How about sharing the love with my readers?"
And here's the kicker- they said "Absolutely!"
Years of of my literary toil =  you in an great dress.  I'm in- let's do this thing!

All you need to do is go to their website to pick out your favorite dress (check to ensure your size is available- they go fast!)
UPDATE 6/25- Feel free to pick out a skirt if you prefer. No limits!

And in my comment section tell me which dress would make you feel like a winner!
That's it. Easy. Peasy.
And if you are overcome with love for this great clothier, be like the other 30,000 shoppers with great fashion sense and like them on facebook, ya know, so they will think you are the best blog readers in existence and beg me to give you more clothes.

And if you are still feeling the love and excited to see what other presents are coming (oh yes, my friends, this is just the beginning) then follow this blog or like my author page on facebook  or follow me on Twitter.  I will announce new giveaways and winners on twitter, facebook, and of course, here at Tapper and Company.

And P.S. my friends, after I randomly select a winner (whoever I like the most that day) please check back to see if it is you. Nothing is worse than losing a prize you won!

If you didn't figure it out- I was kidding. I love you all and I really will randomly select the winner.

That's all. What are you waiting for? Go shop!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ABNA speech and acceptance

The following is a recording of my speech at the awards banquet.
I wish we had the memory on our phone to record everyone, but we didn't. My husband recorded my speech and acceptance. I do have pictures of each person speaking, but the lighting combined with a phone camera didn't make a great mix. It is captioned since the audio was not professionally recorded.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

We're supposed to eat?!

ABNA 2012: The Awards Ceremony

So with big smiles we all arrived at the Sculpture Park on Puget Sound. The venue was in a glass building where we could see the sound and the mountains beneath the ever-present Seattle clouds. It was beautiful. With the room filled with acclaimed authors and editors and book reviewers it was time to flaunt our stuff. Only I felt more like hiding behind my fellow finalists than flaunting. I kind of followed them around and snuck out for hellos when someone looked especially trustworthy or fascinating.
My big moment was meeting Libby, who was the woman who called to tell me I was a finalist. I hugged her for a long time. I really want her job when I grow up. Maybe next year I will beg her to let me come sit in her office when she makes those calls to the 2013 finalists. Best phone calls ever!
As the minutes ticked by my heart was beating to the rhythm of "Here it comes. Here it comes." One way or another, for better or worse, the announcement was coming. And in between palpitations they announced that our food was ready.
Woman on far left with sequined top is Libby. We all love her. :)

I am surprised that I managed to eat. I was sitting between my fellow winner, Alan, and my husband. When Thom stood up to begin the program I took a shallow breath, felt it shiver down my back and turned to see that Alan's smile looked a little preoccupied, too. Honestly, every contestant was putting up a graceful fight. Except Chuck. That man is cool personified. He didn't have to try- he was just chillin'.
Casey went first and broke the ice for all of us. Thank you, my friend. You did incredible. Rebecca was reading and as she spoke the Seattle clouds gave up and let the sun take a last look at the day. The warm light filled the glass building like a yellow fire and I remember taking strength from that. When I stood to speak I could feel the light on my face and I thought, "Just talk to them. Let them know who you really are. Tell them how you really feel." I felt the same calm I used to feel after I spoke my first line in a play or did the first steps of a dance. I knew I was ready- had always been ready. I know words. I feel them. I'm not afraid to share them. I had no idea if I would win- but I knew I could find the words I needed to say what the opportunity meant to me.

After I sat down, Alan stood and shared his gift for self-deprecating humor and instant wit. We laughed and enjoyed his show. Chuck, Mr. Cool as a Cucumber, recited his entire passage from memory! He is something between Sherlock Holmes and Captain Picard. It was great. Brian finished with a beautiful passage from his book that was haunting and touching. His Hawaiian shirt and fresh lei was perfect for the evening and his reading.
And then there was nothing else to say. No other way to stall. The truth was coming and coming fast. I put my fists in my lap, trying not to show the fear, trying not to release the hope. When Libby stood up to announce the winner there was a horrifying pause when I felt like I would shatter if the waiting stretched out one moment more. Then she held out her hands to me. I remember that gesture most- her outstretched hands, inviting me, including me, pulling me forward to the podium. She said my name and I had to find my legs before I could stand. I knew I had them just one moment before, but they seemed to have wandered away from me. When I got to her she grabbed me in a hug and rocked me, letting me hide my face from the group while I tried to process the shock.
Turning around was the most painful part of the weekend. Looking at Casey and Rebecca and knowing that they wanted to be where I was- deserved to be where I was- should have been where I was. I made one quick plea to the room to make sure their books were not forgotten and got their due attention, gave my husband a quick gesture of love and sat down.

When they called Alan's name I was so happy! Not as happy as his hilarious wife who was in a state of utter shock, but so close! It felt like it was my brother going to get the prize and I was thrilled.
After that there were arms- wrapping around me, extended toward me, pulling on me, handing me envelopes. I grabbed onto Justin's hand while the planet tilted around me and he gave me strength and courage, like always.
calling home to share the news
fellow winner and new friend, Alan Averill

I've never shook like that. In some videos I've seen I look almost normal- almost functioning. I don't know how there could be such a difference between what I felt and what others saw. Someday when I die and get to replay my life I will linger on the moments with Justin and the girls. I will spend almost the entire time looking at my family and concentrating on those magical moments when I could feel God's love close and sure. But you better believe I will take a moment to replay this night once.
Or twice.
thank you to Amazon, Createspace, Penguin, Publisher's Weekly,
my fellow finalists and each of you who were part of this dream.

ABNA 2012

Seattle 2012 (I will need to break this up, especially for other ABNA contestants who really want the details of what this trip is like. I will post the rest this afternoon or tomorrow.)

Friday the 15th:
We arrived in Seattle Friday afternoon (there was a driver in a suit waiting with a town car, for Pete's sake) and the first item of business was meeting the other finalists for dinner. This part was scary for me because I didn't know if they would see me as a fellow writer or a competitor to crush. Luckily, it was the first. I met Chuck, my fellow mid-westerner, first. We were both early to the meeting spot. I think it's a farmer mentality or something. Early bird gets the worm and all that. Then as people arrived I was excited to meet them and their "honored guests." Casey Griffin kept us all intrigued by her so-interesting-it's-absurd life story and Rebecca Phillips was a cheerful trooper all night even though she'd been traveling from the far corner of Canada for the last 20 hours or something ridiculous like that. We went to dinner and spent the night laughing until our sides hurt. There was no awkwardness anywhere and I loved being with writers who were on the same journey as I. Alan and his wife Sue are total comedians and kept the rest of us thoroughly entertained. (Alan, I'm not going to tell them about the biggest punch line of the night because that should be your honor- please announce to the world how they came up with the final six, okay?) Brian and his gorgeous wife Rae let me look at pictures of their beautiful baby girl and let me talk about my daughters without looking the least bit bored. Thanks, guys!
With all my worries put to rest I headed back to the Grand Hyatt with Justin, stopping long enough to buy a sweater. (Middle of June in Seattle is cold! Cold! Cold! Cold!) And may I say that downtown Seattle on a Friday night is full of some of the most... colorful characters I've ever encountered. We happened to wander directly through the sections of town that our host told us he avoids. He just didn't tell us until the next day. Chalk it up to life experience.

Saturday the 16th:
Justin and I woke up for the day at 4 in the morning. I couldn't shake my Central time zone clock and I really couldn't sleep knowing that this was "the" day. We got up and took our time getting ready before we took an early morning walk down to Pike's Place Market where all the flowers were just arriving for the day.
I picked my favorite bouquet and by the time we met the other finalists for breakfast we'd already trekked around downtown for hours.

Our host from Amazon, Thom Kephart, took us to breakfast with two representatives from Penguin, but no one ordered the octopus omelet or the gravlax. Although, now that I remember, I told Alan if I won I would swallow a slimy oyster and I never did. I guess next time I'm in Seattle...
After breakfast we spent the day meeting people. We met one of Justin's clients from Seattle
 and most importantly, we met our new, wonderful niece.
After several hours with our family and well into the afternoon I had lost the ability to carry on light conversation. I was starting to shake. I went back to the hotel room, picked out a new excerpt to read, went over my speech and took a long, hot bath to calm my nerves. Then I got dressed and went downstairs to the salon to have my hair fixed before the reception.
As soon as they put in the last of the 41 bobby pins it was time to go. Justin and I met the other finalists and I concentrated on not letting the shaking inside make its way to my outside!
Sue told me I looked so calm and I started laughing and said, "then lead me to Broadway because I am an awesome actress!"
I will tell you all about the actual contest next post...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Until tomorrow...

I am not quite thinking straight yet. Yesterday the planet tilted a little bit and I haven't adjusted to the new angle. What I know:

-Last night someone read my name when they were announcing the winner of the Amazon  
 Breakthrough Novel Award 2012.

-I owe this success to the kindness of countless people.

-I am endlessly indebted and overwhelmed with gratitude.

-I am so proud of every finalist I met.

-you are waiting for details and pictures.

-I am a little too inebriated from shock to drive this keyboard yet.

-I will be home tomorrow and will tell you everything. (that is a promise!)

-I have the greatest friends and supporters on Earth

Thank you for being a part of this journey and this dream.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I don't just write...

I love to write. Most of the time. But that is not all I love.
I cook (kind of) and play (a little) and clean (almost enough). I read and love and bike and swim and dream and draw (stick figures).
I am a writer, but I am not just a writer.
If my hands fall off and I can never write again I will be very sad. About the hands and the writing. But I have hundreds of other things that make me happy.
Making my daughters' home inviting and creative is one of those things.
You can see more of my home and learn more about my philosophies for blending work/home/family at the amazing and informative DesignMom website. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Life has it's moments

Forgive me because this post is mostly for me and it's longer than a blog post should be.
I haven't fully recorded an important experience and I don't want to forget the details in future days. I don't want to forget the emotions and the mercies and the smells and sights.
And miraculously enough, I have pictures of one of the most unexpected moments of my life.
Rewind to Tuesday morning, May 14.
A hot, clear morning and a to-do list a mile long due to teacher appreciation week, talent show rehearsals, the end of the school  year and the standard craziness of motherhood.
But this morning there was something on my mind that was just about me.
I knew that Amazon would be calling three people to let them know they were finalists to receive a contract with Penguin Publishing. And in my heart I knew that it wasn't me. But I also knew that shouldn't matter.
Only it did. A little. Maybe more than a little
I had two hours alone while the Dancer went to preschool and I was shopping in the grocery store when I realized that I couldn't think of spinach or hamburger patties. I needed to think big. And think free. And find a place where I could convince myself that I would be okay if my words never mattered to a single person.
I abandoned my shopping trip and drove south. Straight out of town. Past farms and schools until I hit the dust of gravel.
It was so beautiful, I took two pictures out my car window:

I finally stopped here and pulled onto a tractor path half covered by a raspberry bush. I remember the smell first, hot and unmistakably bovine, though I  couldn't see or hear an animal anywhere. I stepped up to this small wheat field that was alive with the high hum of bees and felt certain I had
picked the perfect spot.

I am allergic to bees , but I willed the busy bugs to ignore me because at that moment I needed that piece of earth as much as they did. I talked to myself for a long time. I talked to my grandmother who passed away ten years ago and whom I miss every. single. hour. of every. single. day. I knew she was proud of my dreams and my efforts to reach them. As I sat there, whispering, smelling, thinking, watching, I heard a strange bird song. I'm no expert on bird calls, but I knew this one was unusual. And mid-call, it changed. It warped again and again. I found the bird on the telephone wire right above my head and tried to get a good look at it but it was silhouetted by the bright sun. I whistled to it. I listened to  it's notes transform from fast to slow and low to high. "Are you a mockingbird?" I asked it out loud. I knew it couldn't answer, but I also knew I'd never heard a bird sing like that before. An old truck bounced down the road and the bird took flight, stretching out its wings so I could see the wide band of white feathers. I crossed the road to follow it and I took this picture as I walked.
Then, just as I turned to snap a picture of the dust cloud left by the truck, my phone rang. My words were "dang it," because I lost the picture as the dust settled. I looked down, didn't know the number and said hello.
Then a woman said , "Is this Regina?"
They say hearts stop. But they mean they stop. There is a beat that is sacrificed on the alter of hope, never to be regained. I choked out, "yes."
Then the woman said, "This is Libby from Amazon," and I'm sure she finished her sentence but I didn't hear it.
Only two words escaped with my tears. "You are?"
She laughed and said, "Yes I am!"
I remember pushing on my chest, reminding myself to breath. I remember how heavy the joy was. How it pressed me over  until I was touching the road, steadying myself against the gravel.
"Are you sitting down?" she asked.
"No. I'm on a gravel road. Taking pictures of mockingbirds!" I answered.
There was another laugh and she said, "Well pull over."
"No, I'm not driving. I'm just standing on a gravel road."
There was a perplexed pause. I guess she hadn't heard that one before. I'm sure she was thinking, "Yep, this is the finalist from Kansas, all right."
There were words and thanks, but mostly tears. I don't believe I've ever felt shock like that before. To be so certain of my failure and find success. I called my husband first and he laughed and cried with me. And wanted to know where I was. And then wanted to know why in the world I was there. There was no time to explain that some feelings don't fit in a four bedroom house or an aisle of the grocery store. Some moments require something as big and strong as the open sky to reassure us.
Some moments we prepare ourselves to mourn, and rejoice instead.
Some moments have to be recorded before we forget the wet tear falling on the dust, the mockingbird, the hot sun and the sound of quiet crying over the drone of insects.
I am grateful to have this memory, added to so many beautiful ones before it, to remind me that life has its moments.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

So good to be normal!

What a deliciously normal weekend! After the constant craziness of the last two weeks, our family looked at each other this weekend and said, "what should we do?"
What indeed?

Let's stop climbing the corporate ladder and just climb this instead.
(can you see my monkey up there- You have to look at the very top)

Let's stop trying to stay afloat and just skip rocks.

Let's stop bustling down the highway of life and find a new path.

Maybe we should look for some new tracks to follow.

Get dirty. Put your feet in. Be quiet. Be alone.

Be together. Be happy.

A normal weekend with nothing to do..? Normal is wonderful.