Saturday, October 13, 2012

I’d like to thank the members of the Academy.

A few years back, the ad agency where I worked hired an animator for a TV spot we were producing.  When we found out this guy was an Academy Award-winner, we all lobbied for him to bring his Oscar when he came to Cleveland.  He did it!  (Obviously this was before a TSA person would have told him he’d have to check his lumpy gold weapon or skip the plane.) 

So there He was.  Oscar.  We handed Him around.  He was heavier than I expected. Bigger, smoother and shinier too. One thing that happened, though, we probably should have anticipated.  When the heavy, gold, naked, somewhat androgynous person was placed into someone’s eager paws, the someone would be compelled to make a speech. 

They wanted to thank somebody.  They wanted to pull out a wrinkled up piece of paper and acknowledge a big bunch of folks who made it possible for them to realize this dream.  And, of course, somebody always wanted to tell somebody else, “You like me.  You really like me.”

The point here is not to say what yahoos we all were—though, folks, we were, and I loved that about us—but to draw attention to the desire most of us have to reach the universally-agreed-upon apex of our ambitions and, then, while standing on that heady pinnacle, to thank everyone who help us climb up this high.  Gratitude. Pay back.  A sense of finally having earned our belonging in an inner circle to which we’ve aspired for a lifetime. 

But look. A great number of us will never get there. That’s the math of life.  Watch the Olympic Games and ponder the fate of those beautiful, committed, accomplished, almost-golden losers.  We can’t ever guarantee the win, but that heady moment of gratitude can be ours right now.  This is mine.

I want to publish my novel.  Ho boy.  Do I.  From the brightest part of my spirit, I believe I will.  And from the dark night of my soul, I believe I won’t. But nothing at all is stopping me from writing the dedication and the acknowledgements for my as yet, unagented, unpublishered, unpublished book.

That way it’ll be ready when I need it.  In a couple of months or so. So here goes.


For Bill.  The forever believer.


Yikes! Now I know what the wrinkled piece of paper is for.

To my family, Bill and John, who didn’t laugh when I sat down to write. Even when I was secretly and not-so-secretly mocking myself.  Who treated my work with respect. Who picked up the slack when I was working, slack-jawed, at dinnertime. 

Extra kudos to Bill who even though he grew up in the dark ages before feminism like I did, always encouraged me to take risks and honor my ambition.  He’s been braver for me than I’ve been for myself.  And steadfast.  Always.

These two guys have made it possible for me to know that if I never published a freaking thing, my life would still be greater, luckier and happier than anyone could believe. 

To Tina Whittle for the kind of support an aspiring writer can only dream of:  solid advice, appropriate admonitions against direct foreshadowing, cheerleading, empathy, networking, even pitching on my behalf. You know how grateful I am.  Actually you don’t.  You couldn’t possibly. 

And to Lynn for introducing me to Tina, you too, lady.  Big time.

To my family of origin. Mark and Margaret. 

Mark: My father’s legacy was delivered to me though the memories of the people who witnessed his love for me in a time I don’t remember. Obviously, love is one kind of immortality.

Margaret: My mother’s confidence that I was special, gifted, and destined for wondrous things ferried me over my own doubt about that stuff, like a million times.  Momma, after you died I found a book in which you’d underlined somebody’s advice to: ”Write something every day.”  And in the margin you’d penciled, “Ann.”

To my BBFs: Judy, Karan, Laura, Elaine.  Each of you has been my dream’s best defender.  Each of you has been my strength, refuge, and partner-in-crime for a major part of my life. Together you are all still my inner circle of support.  My good-listeners.  My ass-kickers.  My friends. I sure hope I’ve been worth it. 

And for Elaine & Bob and Doug & Thom, the Usual Suspects. You make the fun and bring the love. As far as I’m concerned, without fun and love there’s nothing worth writing about.

For Joe and Mary Lucille (and Pat, behind the scenes) you have been my “writer’s group” and much, much more.  Daily support.  Daily friendship.  Sustenance.  And the taste of home.

Now, for my readers, in order of their appearance:  Bill, of course, Elaine, Doug, Dan, “Tuckie,” Joe, Susan, Fran, Judy, Vicky, Laura, Bob, Anne, Terry, Cathy, Jane, Traci, Ellen, Cindy, Tess.  Some of you passed the ms onto people I didn’t know about.  I bless them for reading, too.

To Rip Ruhlman for taking the manuscript of Twice as Dead to read even as he was dying. And for always making me feel confident and appreciated.  Rip, we were robbed when we lost you.

Then, of course, although I haven’t met all y’all yet: To my future agent.  My future editor.  My future publisher.  So grateful and I don’t even know exactly what for.  And not least to my future readers.  Remember that I wrote for you before I believed in you.  On faith.  Out of devotion for what other authors have written for me. 

That’s it.  And yeah.  I know.  It’s too long.  Everybody went to the bathroom or got beer or changed channels while I was droning on, but I don’t care.  When I write the “real acknowledgements” I’ll tidy it up, put in the ones I’ll be horrified to realize I left out, and not gush so much.  But I’m glad I had the chance here and now.

Because here’s the other thing.  Last spring I went to a writer’s conference and the author who won the big award for the best new writer was a man whose wife had recently passed away. Right there, I got it. Like a hammer in my head. 

If it’s just you, any victory is no bigger, or more wonderful than you can make it, all by yourself.  There can be a party, for sure, and you can be glad and honored and validated—all that—but the celebration won’t be complete unless all your people are there, too.  

And this, as well. If we don’t take the opportunity to thank and re-thank the people to whom we feel grateful, we might lose the opportunity to make our gratitude complete.  They might get away before we say the most important things.  We might have to leave before they have a chance to know how full our hearts have always been with thanks for them.

Thank you, my people, you make my life very sweet. 

Because you like me.  You really like me.