Thursday, March 19, 2020

All Glove, No Bat from James W. Ziskin

From Jim

What moment of personal accomplishment within the writing realm made you most proud?

A happy topic this week. And a tricky one. We have been asked to brag about our writing accomplishments, which is fun. In doing so, however, we run the risk of coming across as smug or self-satisfied if we handle it clumsily. So, with humility as my guiding principle, here I go...

I will boast about the thirteen award nominations I’ve received over the past six years—five Anthonys, four Leftys, two Macavitys, one Barry, and an Edgar. Never mind that those nominations only yielded two wins, a batting average of .154. If I were a baseball player, they’d say I was all glove and no bat. But who cares? No one remembers who won those awards.

Well...actually, I do. And I’ll bet Terry Shames remembers, too, since she was nominated along with me on several of those occasions. Most often, it was Louise Penny or Lou Berney who carried the day. Three times each, in fact. Furthermore, two Anthony awards I had my eye on are sitting somewhere in Lori Rader-Day’s house with her name on them. And then there’s our own Catriona McPherson. She won the first time I was nominated for an Anthony in 2015. And, of course, Rhys Bowen, Adrian McKinty, and William Kent Krueger all took home hardware I had hoped to display on a shelf in my office. Pretty good company to be in. I am tremendously proud to have been nominated with such talented authors, and there’s no shame in having lost out to them. Not only are they gifted writers, they are—most of them, at least—wonderful people. (Just kidding. They’re all jerks. Every last one of ’em!) 😉

Yes, I’m truly proud of my awards and nominations, especially the Anthony and Macavity awards I somehow won for HEART OF STONE. But none of those is the achievement that gave me the greatest thrill of my writing career. That was an e-mail I received from my agent in November of 2012, informing me that he’d received an offer on my first book, STYX & STONE. It was a magical moment I’ll never forget. I had wanted to be a writer since I wrote an awful World War I novel at the age of twelve. After that, I wrote six more books, each one a little less horrible than the last, until It finally happened. For me, overnight success took forty years, from 1972 to 2012. And good thing it did. I needed that time, those life experiences, those failed novels, in order to improve my writing. I shudder to think what might have been if one of those crappy books had actually been published. And, of course, I could have quit along the way. Forty years is a long time for any endeavor. Just ask Moses. And though I frittered away many years writing nothing at all, I never lost the itch to write novels.

My advice to aspiring authors, as always, is don’t give up on your writing dreams. I still have many more that I hope come true. You should, too.

1 comment:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree with you, James. Lots of great moments, but none quite like getting that first deal.