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One more post on the Christy Awards…

Since I did all that talking about my bungled acceptance “remarks” in my previous post, and because I rather liked having the opportunity to express my thanks publicly to some people whose support has been very significant over the years, I want to share it here.  And not only because of them, but because you all — my readers — are also among the “thankee’s.” It was supposed to be 1 – 2 minutes, during which we were encouraged to talk about what it was like in the beginning, a bit about our journey and what motivates us then and now to write:

“Well, I am deeply honored to be among the first inductees into the Christy Awards Hall of Fame, and a bit overwhelmed. No matter how many times I’ve been privileged to stand up here, it always seems unreal.

First I’d like to thank the Christy Awards organization for holding this annual recognition of excellence in Christian fiction. [Insert spate of blither about inspiring and encouraging authors here]

Thanks, too, to the Christy Awards judges for being so kind to my work over the years.

Second I want to express my deepest gratitude to Steve Laube, my agent and formerly my editor at Bethany House, and the one who opened the door for me. Despite hearing my nervous and rather lame pitch of Arena at Mt. Hermon many years ago, he still asked me to send him the manuscript!

I’m grateful as well to the Bethany House editorial board he presented it to, and who bought both Arena and, not long after, my fantasy series Legends of the Guardian-King. They were taking a big gamble back then. Science fiction and allegory were still very questionable venues for Christian fiction. Fantasy was even worse — “a death word” in the industry, Steve told me.

So I took to calling it “Speculative Historical fiction.”

Nevertheless, Bethany House took on all five books. So to Carol and Gary Johnson and the others on that board — thank you for your vision and courage in taking the risk that you did and then in continuing to believe in my work as the years have passed.

I also want to give a huge shout out to my editor, Karen Schurrer, who has worked on every one of my books. — What a joy and blessing you have been to me! — In the beginning it was unnerving to think of someone else making changes to my work. But Karen was so patient with me, so good at what she does that now I can’t imagine not having her there to find all the clunks and logic gaps and wrong turns and to gently suggest I take another look.

Finally, I am thankful for and to my readers whose enthusiasm and support have shown me that I actually am accomplishing what God has called me to do: provide spiritual encouragement and edification through story to my fellow members of the Body of Christ. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve them in this capacity.”

Thanks to all of you!

Close-up of the engraved words: 2013 Hall of Fame, The Christy Award, Karen Hancock

Close-up of the engraved words: 2013 Hall of Fame, The Christy Award, Karen Hancock

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The Christy Award Hall of Fame

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

Okay, so the entire reason for my going to St. Louis was, as I mentioned, for me to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Award Hall of Fame, along with Historical novelist Lynn Austin. And so far, I’ve said nary a word about it.

Well, the dinner/awards ceremony was held in a ballroom … or at least, I think it was a ballroom — we weren’t exactly sure for what purpose the room had been built but it had a high ceiling and floor to ceiling windows, as well as tall, squared- off columns. And yet… it was very long and narrow, almost as if it had once been part of a larger room, and was walled off to increase the number of spaces the hotel could offer for events.  In any case, it was an elegant if echo-y room, with a very lofty ceiling.

This might be the room -- the windows and columns look right...

This might be the room — the windows and columns look right…

The reason I can’t recall the exact location is that I didn’t know it beforehand, and when my husband and I arrived, we were late. We were supposed to have been early, because I was to be participating in the presentation of the awards to this year’s winners and needed to receive my instructions…

We would’ve been on time, I think, except for the GPS.  I knew where the hotel was, but my hubby had brought our GPS, so we were planning on relying on that. But when we left the garage, the GPS became terminally confused. It was determined that we should “turn right on 7th street” even though we were past 7th street. As it repeated its command to turn right, the screen declared that the Garmin was in fact, “off.” Even as it was on.

Okay. So we tried to make our way through the maze of one way streets, and I thought I had a clear idea of which way to go, except then the street I wanted to turn down had suddenly been blocked off and … by the time we arrived, I’d keyed myself up in that Introvert state of Overwhelm. As I said, I was supposed to have arrived a half hour early to meet the banquet organizer “by the podium” for my instructions. But when I got there, late, there were tons of people already there, and I had no idea where I was going. I spotted a familiar face and asked if he knew where the podium was… and only gradually did I realize I’d asked the former president of BHP, now retired, Gary Johnson. He was very gracious — and helpful — nonetheless.

Eventually I made it to the correct room — all my angst had been utterly without justification (as is so often the case!) — but that is why I don’t know what room we were in!

Anyway, it was a fun evening — despite the fact I had to give an acceptance speech. I had one written out when I left Tucson, but every time I went through it for practice in St. Louis, I kept changing it – via hand-written insertions since I had no computer. For some reason I thought it would be bad if I just read it, so I was trying to memorize it… and there was one particular spot at the beginning where I kept going off script because it felt like there was more to say, even if I couldn’t think what.

Anyway, instead of freaking out about it all, I gave it over to the Lord to handle (Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you) and asked Him to give me the words He wanted to me to speak and not let there be any huge bungles in my delivery.

So I got to sit with my editor, Karen Schurrer, my agent, Steve Laube, the Editorial Director of Fiction, Dave Horton, and BHP’s Executive Vice President and Director, Jim Parrish, all of whom are really awesome people to work with. Lynn Austin with her hubby, Rachel McCrae, a book buyer with Lifeway, and the director of the awards, Donna Kehoe rounded out the rest of the folks at our table, though Donna spent almost the entire dinner hour away from her seat, working out various details.

Steve Laube, (yes, my agent) was the Master of Ceremonies and did an excellent job, as usual. He always seems to do an excellent job no matter what he does…

After the presentation of the 2013  Christy Award nominees, agent Chip McGregor gave an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague Lee Hough, and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement award in the field of agenting.

Then it was time for dinner, where I talked far too much and ended up hardly eating much of my food at all… but I can always eat and I can’t always talk to the people who were with me. At least not face to face.

After dinner, the Induction into the Christy Hall of Fame began.  I went first, made it to the podium without tripping, notes in hand, and started in with my spiel. Then I looked up from the notes and was suddenly ad libbing in that area at the beginning where it kept seeming like I should say something more. The next thing you know I heard myself LITERALLY babbling, making no sense whatsoever! Here’s a pic my hubby took of me, so rattled, the camera couldn’t focus:

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

LOL!

Fortunately I had the sense to cut it off immediately, but not without observing out loud to everyone listening that “I’m babbling. I’ll stop now” and went on to my prepared remarks. Which I think went well, in spite of everything. I should have known before I tried it. Yes, it’s true, I’ve ad-libbed in the past and had no problem. But now that I’m older, the words are no longer coming as swiftly as in my youth. And the words that do come initially are often the WRONG words. Which is what happened on the podium.

If I ever have to do something like this again, I have learned that I MUST stick to the script. Anyway, no one threw anything, and I didn’t collapse from the horror of it so… I guess it’s okay…  Here’s a picture of me right after, receiving my award (courtesy of Becky Miller — Thanks, Becky!)

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

I’ll share a bit more tomorrow…

Arriving in St. Louis

The Arch in St. Louis My hotel is just behind that capital building

The Arch in St. Louis
My hotel is just behind that capital building on the right.

I mentioned some time ago that I was going to St. Louis last weekend for this year’s International Christian Retailers Show, where I was to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Awards Hall of Fame. They have decided to limit the number of awards an author can win to four, which is how many my books have won.  Lynn Austin, a writer of historical novels who has won eight Christy’s, was also inducted.

When I was first invited, I was hesitant to go. We’d have to board Quigley if both Stu and I went, which we’ve never done before with any of our dogs,.  And I didn’t much take to the notion of going alone…  I don’t care for fancy, dress up parties, and I really don’t care for being in any kind of limelight. Plus I feared I would fret about it for weeks and by that take away time otherwise devoted to Sky.

I was almost ready to decline, but my agent Steve Laube talked me down off that ledge. It wasn’t that hard. All he had to do was point out what an opportunity it was to publicly thank Bethany House for all they’ve done for me and my books, and that turned it all around. Plus I got to publicly thank him for opening the door in the first place, and my editor Karen Schurrer who has had a significant hand in all my books.

I am so glad I went. I had a great time, even if I did have to fly alone. (Primarily because long ago after a sudden glitch in our air travel plans I decided I would never again fly on the same day as the event I was attending.)  So I left Sunday morning very early (the Christy dinner was Monday evening) while my husband stayed behind to bring Quigley to the Pet Resort Sunday afternoon. That way we could minimize the time Q spent there (we feared the worst). Stu left for St. Louis early Monday morning.

Not that flying alone was bad: I finally had the time to finish the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien I’ve been “reading” for far too long.  I’ll write more on that in another post, but it was extremely edifying. In many ways, he was a kindred spirit as far as writing goes (and in many other ways he wasn’t)

Anyway, my hotel was practically at the foot of the Arch, and the dinner put on by Baker Publishing for all its authors, editors, publishing contacts and friends (Bethany House was acquired by Baker a number of years ago) was at the hotel next door. I’d also been invited to that, so at about five-thirty that evening, I left my room to walk over. On the way down some people in the elevator asked me if I was going outside. I said I was and they expressed head shakes of sympathy for my misfortune.

I thought they were talking about the problem of the muggy heat and agreed with them that it was unpleasant. I told them I was from Arizona, as if that explained everything (we have that “dry” heat, you know, so the mugginess is always a shock). They seemed to agree, and got off on the second floor where the garage is. I went on down to the first floor, walked out toward the street and for the first time realized there was a thunder-and-lightning, pouring rainstorm outside that would rival many of the best monsoons of southern AZ.

So that’s what the elevator people were talking about! I started laughing. Yeah, the humidity was about as bad as it could get!

Well, when the rain didn’t let up, I went back up to get my umbrella and emergency poncho, which the Lord had fortuitously supplied me a couple of weeks ago. Then when there was a break in the ferocity of the downpour, I walked over, shielded by umbrella and a poncho that felt more like a garbage bag, though I arrived none the worse for wear. My shoes and the bottom of my skirt were a bit damp, but nothing anyone would notice, and both would dry soon.

The dinner was held on the top of the building, where glass panels formed part of the roof and we enjoyed a spectacular show throughout the evening. I love rain storms, especially when there’s lightning and thunder. Always makes me think of the power of God.

In fact, everything about this trip just drew my attention to God over and over again. All the weeks leading up to it, whenever I’d start fretting, I got to practice turning it all over to Him, utterly and completely. For example, there was the problem of where to find an umbrella in the midst of June, when there is rarely a cloud in the sky, let alone rain. In fact we’d hardly had any measurable rain since February. Nor did I have a lot of time to go driving around from place to place. So I took it to the Lord. You handle it, Father.

Not long after that, I had to go to CVS to get my eye-drop prescription refilled and while I waited I wandered about the store. Well, I’d barely begun when I “happened” upon the umbrella and the poncho both. Right there together, and costing a lot less than everything I’d looked at online at Target and Wal-Mart. The woman who checked me out looked at the umbrella and poncho and commented that I must be going to a rainy place. Well, certainly a place with more potential for rain than we have here right now.

Anyway, the last thing I expected was to have to walk to the Baker Dinner in a thunderstorm. But I did, and it worked out fine. (In the picture above, the hotel I had to walk to was just to the left of the Arch, out of sight behind the immediate buildings. There is a small park between the two hotels, from which to view the arch situated on a hill some ways beyond the downtown area, though it looks much closer than that.)


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