Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The top five ways I made a fool of myself at the Whitney Awards

This just in: I am a winner.

This also just in, albeit for the millionth time in the past thirtysomething years: I am a loser.


Early this year, my little self-published novel was named as a finalist for a Whitney Award in the Best General Fiction category. The Whitney Awards are for fiction written by LDS authors. If you didn't know, I am an LDS author. I don't usually address my faith on this blog for a variety of reasons, but there you have it. However, I do not write "LDS fiction." None of the characters in Gravity vs. the Girl are either expressly or implicitly LDS and I made no attempt to incorporate my religious beliefs into its theme. Lucky for me, the Whitneys acknowledge authors of both LDS-themed and general work. Indeed, if you read the roster of finalists, you will probably recognize the names of a lot of nationally best-selling authors that you did not previously realize were LDS. You will also wonder how on earth I ended up on there. I honestly have no idea. If you are one of the people who nominated me, THANK YOU.

But if you know me in real life and you still nominated me, I must question your sense of social responsibility. As the title of this post suggests, I kind of made a disaster out of the Whitneys, and I am holding you personally responsible for failing to foresee this outcome. This list could easily be seventy entries long, but I've got stuff to do (I do!), so I'm limiting it to five:

5. I got a cheap hotel. The Whitneys were held in Provo, Utah--on the fifth anniversary of my graduation from law school in that fine city and the day I was last there. Because my mom (who attended with me) and I had some friends and family to see in Salt Lake City, I chose to stay halfway between the two in Draper, just a stone's throw from the state penitentiary. It wasn't a Motel 6 or Super 8 or anything that bad--it was just a member of the economy brand in a respectable chain. The walls were paper thin and children's high-pitched voices echoed down the hallway and people were walking around upstairs all night and I didn't get any sleep. I found myself fantasizing about bunking at the prison instead, what with the concrete cells and lack of children and guards to beat people into observing lights out. Needless to say, my energy and mood suffered the whole weekend.

4. I didn't attend the LDS Storymakers Conference. The Whitney Awards ceremony caps off a weekend-long writing conference. When I made my reservations a few months ago, I anticipated having a legal job by now. Since recently-hired associates generally aren't allowed to take any time off, including Saturdays, I decided to forgo the conference but gamble that I could make the awards, even if I had to fly in hours before. When I didn't get a job, I neglected to change my plans. Not only did I miss out on what sounds like an awesome conference, but I showed up at the awards without the bonding experience everyone else enjoyed. It was like crashing somebody else's prom and then wondering why you weren't crowned the queen.

3. I didn't buy a new dress. Given my love of shopping and new dresses and valid excuses for both, I am still not quite sure how this is possible. In short, I was bombarded in the week preceding the Whitneys with new church responsibilities and business for my arts and crafts goods. The day before I left, I was running my own personal sweatshop out of my apartment to fill a big order (more on that later this week). I packed a back-up outfit but convinced myself I would have time to buy the real deal in Utah. And then I didn't have time. The backup outfit became the real outfit. And it wasn't even an outfit, it was just a mess of black. With my dark hair and fear of tanning salons, it's not hard for me to come off a tad goth in perma-highlighted Utah, but in that outfit I looked like I was attending a Wiccan-Mennonite interfaith funeral. The only upside is that, technically, I still owe myself a new dress and, to be fair, a pair of shoes and some earrings.

2. I failed to take advantage of networking opportunities. The Whitney Awards committee was kind enough to sit me by two best-selling authors. And yet I was so tired, unconferenced, inappropriately dressed and generally feeling inadequate that I completely squandered the opportunity to pick their brains and get the inside scoop on their publishing successes. Rather, I talked a lot about being a lawyer because it's the only thing about which I feel I have any expertise. This prompted one of the famous authors to ask me if I was interested in abandoning the law and writing full-time. The truth: ABSOLUTELY! THE SOONER THE BETTER. The answer I gave him: No, writing's just a hobby. He also told me he would read my book because he had met me. My reply: No, don't read my book. What is wrong with me?! I'm pretty sure that if I had attended the LDS Storymakers Conference, one of the very first things I would have learned is that you should always encourage people to read your book, especially if they are best-selling authors.

1. I didn't prepare an acceptance speech. Long ago, when I was an optimistic youth working in the film industry, I had a sort of mental acceptance speech prepared for the moment when I became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar. Why I concocted that speech but neglected to prepare one for an award for which I was actually nominated is beyond me. As I was donning my all-black getup in the hotel, my mom asked me what I would say if I won. I rattled off a list of things that I didn't remember five minutes after I said them and I don't remember now. As I expected, I lost the Best General Fiction Award to Jamie Ford for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and figured I was off the hook as far as speeches were concerned. Then, to my complete surprise and, I'm sure, the outrage of many, I won the Best Novel by a New Author award. I actually tied in this category with Dan Wells for I Am Not a Serial Killer (which is ironic, because "I am not a serial killer" is one of the daily affirmations I say in the mirror each morning). They handed us our awards and asked me to speak first.

Here is the award as they handed it to me. It is glass and the size of a standard book.

When I got to the podium, I set the award down on it and soon discovered it opens up like this:

Thus, my strongest memory of my rambling excuse for an acceptance speech is not anything I said but rather nervously playing with this award by opening and closing it over and over like an idiot. My mom's summary of my speech: You did fine. But you didn't say any of the things we talked about at the hotel. In retrospect, it probably would have been better if I delivered my Best Director speech, however irrelevant. Now that Catherine Hardwicke has broken the gender barrier, I don't really need it anymore. Fortunately, Dan saved the day by following me with a super witty and, I'm assuming, prepared speech. He probably learned how to do it at the Conference.


  1. wow - that is pretty awesome! i mean, that you won. and it's a bit comforting to know that you're still the same old friend i knew a long time ago. and that you'll write about all your embarrassments. and laugh at them.

  2. I was there.

    You did fine.

    You looked great.

    Your speech was sweet and sounded humble, unlike what it would have sounded like if you had gone up there and unfolded 15 pages of prepared text.

    You should have told the nice man to read your book.

    I enjoyed every moment of our time together in the cheap motel ... a motel I have stayed at before, I might add.

    You won.

    You got a really cool award.

    I was proud as punch.

    (If this posts from Brett, it's because I am on your computer. It was me ... your mother ... who was with you. Remember?)

  3. ... that would be "his" computer. But I figured it out anyway.

  4. Wow! Congrats! I love this recap. I'm sure it all turned out better than you're painting it, but your account is fabulously entertaining. I do hope you are writing another book...

  5. I was there too, and your speech was great. It sounded humble and sweet, and struck just the right note. I loved your book--I feel haunted by my own ghosts all the time, and that scene in the mall at the end was amazing.

  6. Congratulations on the win! It is well deserved.

    There are so many good lines in this post, I laughed my way through it - pretty much like I did reading your book.

    Laughed out loud at each of these:

    "...but in that outfit I looked like I was attending a Wiccan-Mennonite interfaith funeral"

    " 'I am not a serial killer' is one of the daily affirmations I say in the mirror each morning"

  7. MS: I loved your comments
    and GS: I'm sure you were fantastic and wonderful

    the book certainly was

  8. you really screwed it up. what's wrong with you?

  9. (just felt like someone should concede to your over-critical, and yet hilarious, post. although, i do think encouraging someone to read your book is always good. especially when we write it together - wink, wink.)

  10. Aww congratulations!! That's awesome :)I'm sure you did way better than you're explaining but it was humorous to read how you perceived yourself hehe.