The sun poured through the glass walls of the library and made me even more aware of the fact I was wearing a hot and itchy suit.
“Man this suit is hot,” I said to Jessica Brockmole, one of my fellow Emerging author finalists at the Indiana Authors Award. She socially appropriately acknowledged my statement.
And then I went on.
“I don’t normally wear suits. Actually, borrowed this one.” If only I had stopped there. “My suit doesn’t fit any more. I started doing CrossFit about a year ago and my butt got bigger.”
The more dressed up I get, the more socially awkward I become. It’s a law that is as true as gravity to me.
(In a suit at the wedding of a former high school classmate who I bumped into on the way to the bathroom: “This wedding…THIS wedding is just beautiful.” I didn’t think it was that beautiful. I really didn’t even want to be there, but there I was having the out of body experience watching suit-wearing Kelsey say stupid things.)
Jessica didn’t really say anything. What was there to say? And thankfully, Laura, one of the amazing organizers of the evening called us over to walk through the order of events.
(Note to self: Don’t talk about body parts with people you’ve just met. You’ll probably end up in their next book as a creepy neighbor.)
This was my second year as a finalist for the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award. The Library Foundation spoils the authors, putting us up at a fancy hotel in downtown Indianapolis, giving us money to eat, and even paying our mileage. Annie and I dumped our kids on the grandparents and treated the weekend like a mini-vacation.
The best part of the event is without a doubt getting to meet the other authors. Michael Shelden, the national winner, writes big books about legendary figures (Orwell, Twain, Churchill) and enviably seems as comfortable in a suit as I am in my pajamas. Norbert Krapf, the regional winner, is a poet healing his and the Catholic Church’s wounds a poem at a time. Clifford Garstang, a fellow Emerging Finalist, is a recovering lawyer who seems to have giddy yet practical passion for words. And of course, Jessica Brockmole turned her love for place, connection, and travel into her book, Letters from Skye.
It really is a joy being around folks to whom I don’t have to out myself as a writer. That’s always awkward. (I’m on a plane right now and I hope the lady beside me who is reading a book(!) doesn’t ask me what it is that I do.) I also love the opportunity to talk to them about the work, the words. Sure, we chatted career stuff. Even fellow authors are up for telling me what my next WHERE AM I… book should be. But there was less of a focus on time and money than the joy and burden, the honor and the privilege of sharing stories.
And then the grown ups showed up
Once Laura walked us through how the evening would play out, the grown ups in suits showed up. They bid in the auction for events, goods, and services that were a luxury in our writer-income household. They small talked with us. And in many ways Annie and I felt like kids playing dress up. (Also, it must be stated, Annie looked amazing.)
The main event of the day is the awards dinner. The event sort of hangs over the entire day. The winners of the national and regional awards are announced months before the event, but the winner of the Emerging Award is announced at the very end of the evening.
As much as I’d like to say that I was okay enjoying the evening without winning, just like last year, as soon as the phrase, “And the winner of the Emerging Author Award is . . .” my pulse pounded against my tie, and, just like last year, I wanted to win.
Let’s pause the second before the winner was announced. It’s an odd thing. I’m either going to win $5,000 + $2,500 for the Muncie Library, and have to give a speech, or I’m going to sit and watch someone else do the winning and the speaking.
But unlike last year . . .
“. . . Kelsey Timmerman!”
I’ve seen awards shows before. Act surprised. Kiss your wife. Go to the stage and make a few remarks. Those folks are often actors though, so you don’t know if they are surprised or acting. I was more than surprised, I was touched. I’ve bled literally and figuratively to collect and share the stories I’ve written. I’ve sacrificed being with Annie, Harper, and Griffin for weeks at a time. When my name was announced, I almost cried. When I took the stage and took 5 minutes to deliver a 2-minute speech (I had things to say), I almost cried again when I looked at Annie to thank her for being the best part of my story.
Look, I know this isn’t a National Book Award or a pulitzer, but it meant a lot to have my weirdness validated, and to be appreciated, not just in an email, but by people who dress up to come to the Central Library to support writing and storytelling.
Wearing a suit and tie, eating meals with lots of shiny utensils, and then having a lot of people wearing fancy clothes stare at me after they too ate meals with lots of shiny utensils is not my average day or necessarily in my comfort zone. But that was my evening at the Indiana Authors Award and it, just like last year, was awesome.
Nominations for the 2015 awards open in February. If you want to show an Indiana author some love and support, please consider nominating them.
The moment my name was called and I turned to Annie and saw the excitement in her eyes is a moment that I’ll never forget.
And right after that moment I sat for this interview.