The 2010 Kansas Notable Books awards ceremony yesterday was a “swimming” success, and I say that only half-jokingly now.
When I first heard that my book had been selected as one of the 2010 Kansas Notable Books, I was startled and very happy. I hadn’t submitted it for consideration myself. I had merely registered it last year with an online database hosted by the Kansas State Library as a “Kansas-themed book.” That was it. But apparently, that was enough!
I figured registering the book would help people find it. And, as a self-published author, I am always looking for ways to promote Silver Shoes. If I don’t get the word out, who’s going to? Hence, this blog, my website, my self-made book trailer and self-designed poster, etc. I am a self-promoter of a self-published novel now. That’s the path I chose, albeit not an easy one. Part of me feels kinda weird about constantly “talking up” my book, but the alternative would be to humbly and passively watch it sink into oblivion. And then what would be the point of having written it? I want people to know about it and to read it … and hopefully, if I’m lucky, enjoy it!
Back to hearing about the award …
The congratulatory letter said that there would be “a reception September 10 at the Kansas State Capitol at which medals for the award will be presented.”
As cool as this sounded, I remember actually laughing and saying, “A medal? It’s not like I swam the English Channel or anything.” Perhaps that was just me geeking out a little. I consider myself a confident guy, and I’ve learned to take a compliment fairly well over the years (I used to be terrible at it), but every now and then, I still laugh things off, if only to put flattery and myself into perspective. For every “aren’t you cool?” gesture of appreciation, there are those who think you ain’t so cool. So balance is the key, and a grounded perspective, whenever possible.
Then I saw the medals on the table behind the podium yesterday before the ceremony began.
My eyebrows went up again, and I laughed. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “Looks like they think I really did swim the English Channel!” … or won an Olympic race or a Kennedy Center Honor or something a little beyond my comprehension and failing attempt at perspective.
I saw the gift bags out front, too. Pink, don’tcha know! I remembered my good friend Dennis Hensley, who is an accomplished interviewer and writer in Hollywood and serious swag aficionado, joking rhetorically, “Who doesn’t love a good gift bag?”
Before the press conference and ceremony began, I took my assigned seat with the other authors in front, and we began to chat and introduce ourselves as more people arrived. Suddenly, I found myself hobnobbing and swapping stories with a group of truly fascinating, really cool people.
After a short press conference explaining a bit about the awards themselves, their (five-year) history, a Q&A about the selection process for the honored books, the importance of the award and the continued recognition of local authors and Kansas-themed books, the ceremony began. Our keynote speaker was celebrated, respected, and award-winning author Nancy Pickard, and, boy, was I impressed!
Nancy talked about receiving the award. She’s a former honoree herself (among so many outstanding recognitions for her work). She jokingly said she would wear her medal proudly to the grocery store if she thought she could get away with it. As she talked about the basic accomplishment of having written a book and actually publishing it, either via traditional literary agents and publishers, or taking a self-published, non-traditional route as I have done, I began to feel really proud of what I had accomplished—that I had come so far from the days of thinking I had a neat story that I just had to write down at some point.
So, there went my perspective, right out the window—at least for those next few minutes. To borrow and paraphrase from one of my favorite “creators” on the planet, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim:
Look, I made a book
where there never was a book.
Next up was the presentation of the medals themselves. One by one, we were introduced alphabetically (by book title). Roy Bird, director of the Kansas Center for the Book, gave the assembled audience (including First Lady of Kansas, Stacy Parkinson) a little background about each of the authors, and there went my perspective again. I was so proud of my fellow honorees. We had all come from different backgrounds and had vastly different stories to tell, some real, some imagined. Some for children, some for young adults, some for adults, and some for big adult children like me! But we had one thing in common. We had all started with an idea in our heads that just wouldn’t go away. So, over the course of days and months and years, we made something out of thin air. It became our goal to communicate this idea to others who might be receptive and interested in knowing about it. And we never gave up. We kept going until we were finished. Until we had reached the other side and there was a book staring at us on a shelf. And that’s when it hit me …
We had swum the English Channel after all.
After the ceremony, there was a reception with desserts, fruit, tea and lemonade, outside the old Supreme Court Chambers. I had a chance to chat further with the authors, Roy, Jo, and Claflin Books who hosted a book-signing for us.
So it’s another day now. And my head is out of the clouds once again. A grounded perspective has been achieved. But you know, every now and then, it’s nice to go up into those clouds and feel like you’ve done something that others find extraordinary.