Thursday, April 10, 2014
Best and Worst
In fact, it's much easier to think of potential best times than worst ones. San Francisco Bouchercon, where I checked in so late that the standard rooms were full and I got kicked upstairs to a suite with a balcony and a view of the bay? Taking a trolleybus back to the hotel from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland Bouchercon? The room party, post-Agatha banquet at Malice - thinking the last time I laughed this helplessly I got sent out of the classroom to consider my options . . .
But one memory has bubbled up from where it lives deep inside me, causing me to shiver sometimes still.
Only the thing is that this bad time was also a pretty great one. (He knew what he was talking about, that Dickens.)
The scene is Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, October 2012. DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS got nominated for a Macavity award by Mystery Readers Journal. Yay! But I glanced at the shortlist and decided I didn't need to worry about an acceptance speech. Boo! But then I won. Yay/Boo!
On the one hand, I was chuffed to bits. I'd never won an award before and up on the stage, there were John Connelly and Janet Rudolph, and all my friends were cheering and I was in the same building as Jimi Hendrix's guitars, for crying out loud.
On the other hand, I took the mic, looked out across a sea of faces and swiftly rethought my "don't need to prepare a speech" thing. I froze like a surprise ice-age. I didn't thank anyone. Not my editor, agent, kind reviewers, friends who were still cheering. Wait - I did thank Janet Rudolph. But I thanked her for having such pretty hair.
I slunk off-stage to be greeted with supportive denials all-round. "You were fine; it was sweet; the acoustics are terrible anyway - no one could hear you." I swallowed it and got on with the party.
Only, the next morning, there was another best and worst moment. I met Mary Higgins Clark at breakfast time. And she said congratulations! Then she lowered her voice and went on "Boy, you *were* surprised, weren't you?" and twinkled in a very kindly, but still telling me straight that I'd made a chump of myself, sort of way.
So, in conclusion: here is my most serious piece of writing advice to anyone who hasn't been nominated for an award yet. When you are - even if the other people on the shortlist are Jane Austen, Albert Einstein and God - write some names on your hand.
You'll feel silly if people see you scrubbing them off in the toilets after you don't win, but it could be worse (and better) too.