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
thank you to Amazon, Createspace, Penguin, Publisher's Weekly,
my fellow finalists and each of you who were part of this dream.