COFFEE BREAK
  
by
    
Cynthia Sabelhaus
Gobsmacked! 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 Awards ceremony—the
    
    
       
(top) 
 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. 
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