Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Winner's Circle

It's that time again! ALA Midwinter is in session in Boston this weekend. The convention center floor is packed with booths and people buzzing about books. It's intoxicating! It's exhilarating! It's exhausting! And tomorrow morning the winners of the major publishing awardsthe Newbery, the Caldecott, the Printz and Sibert Medals, the Morris, Coretta Scott King, and more—will be announced.

I, for one, love listening in as the awards winners are listed and hearing the cheers of all the librarians and editors and authors in the room. I've been in that room just once before and it was an amazing experience.

But let's face it: most of us aren't in Boston right now. Most of us won't be in that room tomorrow morning and most of us won't hear our names read into a microphone. Not having published a book in 2015, I'm free of any angst on this matter. But that wasn't the case in 2013.

My debut novel, Wonder Show, was published in 2012 and was nominated for the William C. Morris Award. Unlike many of the other ALA awards, the Morris finalists are announced a month or so ahead of the Midwinter conference. Which gives those authors a good amount of time to think about that morning in January when the calls are made to the award winners. Will the phone ring? If it does, what will I say? Should I pretend to be asleep? Will I actually still be asleep? How early will they call? If the conference is on the west coast and I'm on the east coast...

You get the picture.

Ultimately, I did not get the call. I wasn't surprised, but I was disappointed, and that took a little while to get over. I did, however, get to attend the ALA Annual conference in Chicago that June, where I met my agent for the first time in person and stayed in a hotel that felt like a fairy tale. And where I wrote the first few pages of what would become my second young adult novel.

It's easy to lose sight of what we love about writing when the spotlights are shining so brightly on others. It might feel like there are only so many books that get talked about, only so many authors whose names are known, only so many seats at that fancy dinner table. But don't forget this: there are readers out there who need your stories, and though you may never know it, the work you do can change them in big ways. You might never hear them say your name out loud, but when your book connects with a reader's heart, you win. We all win.

I'll leave you with this, from my friend Kate Messner. I read it every year, just before I tune into the ALA awards webcast.

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