That’s exactly how I felt on March 7, 2012, at 8:07 a.m., when Harriette
Sackler, Chair of the Malice Domestic Grants Commit-tee called. I’d
applied for the grant the previous November. It was an arduous process
requiring three chapters of my novel (preferably the first three), a
300-word synopsis, a letter of application and a letter of reference.
The results were to be communic-ated to the applicants sometime in
March. I’d been checking my email eighteen times a day since March 1.
But for some
reason, I was not expecting a phone call. Harriette seemed to be calling
to verify some of the things I’d written in my letter and to gain my
assurance that 1) I had not published this or any other mystery novel,
either in print or on line, and 2) my work did not, and since it was
still a work in progress, would not contain graphic gore and violence. I
assured her on both counts.
I was just allowing myself to hope
that this call meant I had made it through to a subset of “finalists”
and could still hold out hope, when she said, “Well, then, it is my
pleasure to tell you that you have been selected as a grant recipient
for 2012. Congratulations!
It all becomes fuzzy after that. I
think I screamed like a twelve-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
This shocked me almost as much as receiving the grant. I’ve always
believed I’d make a lousy game show contestant because I could never
muster the enthusiasm of those smiling, screaming folks we see on TV.
How embarrassing to discover I’m not so different.
At some point in the conversation
with Harriette, she told me I would receive the grant at the Agatha
annual awards in the cozy
mystery subgenre. She told me to prepare a few words. I thought “Thank
you,” would be adequately few.
The awards dinner was attended by
over 500 authors, agents, publishers and fans. Ralph and I were seated
near the front at the Grant Committee table. There were two grant
recipients. The other, Sarah Bewley, was called to the stage first. She
spoke eloquently for five full minutes. I realized at about minute three
that my two-word address was not going to suffice. I made up my 2-minute
acceptance address on the way to the podium. I hope it was okay. I
explained my inability to find a word that would express my emotions at
hearing I was a grant recipient, and I urged all the writers in
attendance to use the word ‘gobsmacked’ in their writings at least once
this year, thus changing the U.S. English lexicon to include it.
I was gratified to hear my special
word used throughout the rest of the convention. At the closing
ceremony, the event was even declared “Gob-smacking Good.” So, if you
judge the success of a speech by whether it causes a change in the
audience, mine was a success.
I hope I’ve managed to take you with
me on my most exciting writing adventure yet. I thought about entering
the grant competition for over ten years. Of course, I’m even gladder
that it all worked out. I owe a special debt to Sandy Raschke, our able
fiction editor and Michael Giorgio, writing coach extraordinaire for
their letters of recommendation.
So, my spring message to you is to
set a goal and go for it. Don’t wait ten years. Just do it.