BHBA winner stickerFROM WHERE I STAND, it’s a good time to breathe a sigh of relief, sit down, and swallow some humble pie. Because MARY MARY QUITE just won its first book award – The Beverly Hills International Book Award for Humor – and I’m having the strangest reaction.

I am humbled.

I prayed MMQ would win first place, and it did. Why did I want first place? Because I know oh-too-well how disappointing it is to be the finalist, but not the winner. Yep – been there, done that on other writing projects.

And guess what? I can feel that finalist’s pain, the one who came in second today. Oh yes, I can.

It’s like standing two feet away from the altar and seeing your childhood friend say awesome things to the man she will live with for the rest of her life, while you look on and feel pangs of longing and emptiness inside. Will anyone ever claim me as his bride? Is there a wedding day in my future? It’s those unspoken questions that live behind that veil of happiness you genuinely feel for your friend, on her glorious day.

The bridesmaid syndrome.

Close, but no cigar. And close only counts in horseshoes.

So. . . do I know how to win? I’m not sure that I do. But today, I have won. And winners get noticed, so I’m glad about that – primarily because it means I’ll probably sell more than 18 books in 2015, and I can begin to pay off some credit cards!

It’s been a bit tricky, you see, going through my starving artist years on Social Security.

My kids think I’m crazy. (Well, let’s be fair. They reached that conclusion 14 years ago, when I enrolled in film school at the ripe old age of 52.) But my grandkids, on the other hand, are too young to be practical. They still have big dreams of their own, so I fit right in with their view of the world, which is basically, “Go for it!”

Except that I don’t fit in.

Most kids don’t enter the school of hard knocks until they leave the comfort and safety of their parents’ home and face the world on their own. But I’ve already graduated from that school, and learned many lessons from its hard task masters. I’ve tasted my fair share of disappointment over the course of this lifetime, so I have to work a bit harder at “going for it.”

Sometimes, I have to walk around behind myself and give myself a push uphill, just to keep on going for it. Sometimes, I have to talk to the woman in the mirror and tell her just how funny she is and that she will have her big break-through, if only she just keeps on going for it. (It always helps if I make a goofy face, at this point. Hey, now that my skin is looser than it was when I was 19, I can make some gnarly goofy faces. Dude!)

(Yeah, tight skin is over-rated.)

Oh, I’ve always had ambition. That’s never been the problem. But I did have to learn not to let ambition rule my life. That was a problem, back when I was 30. You see, in order to be successful, artists need not only talent, but also training, ambition, confidence, and recognition. And they’re all intertwined.

Good training develops the artist’s God-given talent. Talent and training, together, undergird an artist’s ambition. All combined, talent and training and ambition feed an artist’s confidence. And once all four are all working together in synergy, recognition eventually arrives on the scene.

But in the process there can be so much rejection in an artist’s life, that it’s easy to become discouraged. Hence, the pep talks to the woman in the mirror.

Today, I won an important book award. (And I’m hoping to win a few more, BTW.) But today, while I hover on the precipice between anonymity and fame, I just have to stop and think for a minute (and of course, write down what I think).

I’m a woman with a gift and a dream – and I believe that each of us is born with at least one gift and one dream, our own unique seeds that have the potential to grow into trees of life and bear fruit.  I’ve been fortunate enough to develop my artistic gift, ambitious enough to pursue my dream, confident enough to invest time and money in both my gift and my dream, and resilient enough to catapult over some hard-knock obstacles along the way to this, my very first important recognition.

But suddenly, I’m beginning to understand that it might have been helpful to be the finalist and not the winner, for a season. Be the bridesmaid, before being the bride. Know what it feels like to hold longing and unfulfillment deep inside, and house it there so long that it feels like a member of the family.

Because the winner’s circle will move to someone else soon enough, and awards will gather dust and begin to age. But gaining insight from the mistakes you’ve made along the way, acquiring the tools for success from the people who’ve come alongside you on your journey, and persevering through doubts and setbacks while marching on towards the ultimate goal – these are the things that will remain, long after the spotlight fades and the applause dies down.

It’s called character. And believe me, I’m quite a character by now!

Kind of the Grandma Moses of the literary world.

I guess that’s why it’s kinda humbling to win, for a change. Because I know all too well, the costs of the artist’s journey. (But I think I could tolerate a bit more humbling – so bring it on, folks!)

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