If you asked my wife, she’d tell you my mood fluctuates up and down with my writing . If the words flow easily, I’m up. On a day when the right words escape me, I’m down. The same can be said about acceptances or rejections, and good reviews or the inevitable (but thankfully rare) bad review.
Then there’s contests. Let’s be honest–there’s a certain arbitrariness about book contests. Tastes in book are subjective at best, and we usually don’t even know who’s judging us . Some contests are more commericial enterpises than exercises in artistic appraisal. An organization offers a marketing opportunity to the author and, to put it bluntly, they make money from entry fees.
That’s not to say contests don’t provide a service to readers in this age of the infinite slush pile. With everybody and anybody able to publish, at least awards tell readers that one book has been deemed better than a bunch of others. I don’t mean to pooh-pooh what contests provide and have benefited myself from some nice awards.
Today, however, I received some news that triggered one of my finer moods. I learned that Along the Watchtower was named a must-read finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award, a contest sponsored by Mass Center for the Book. This is a non-profit organization. They do not charge a fee and their charter is to promote quality books to the libraries and book stores of Massachusetts. Furthermore, unlike the contests that have dozens of categories (chicklit, momlit, historical romance, paranormal romance etc.), this contest has only four–fiction, non-fiction, poetry and Children/YA. Each category has its own three-member judging panel that draws from a variety of reading communities (schools, academics, public librarians, etc.).
Why did the message from them make my day so much more than others?
First, I’m a Massachusetts boy. My parents were born here. I was born here. My wife and children were born here. But there’s something more. Lt. Freddie Williams, the main character of Along the Watchtower is a Massachusetts boy too. He grew up in Boston as I did, lived on Cape Cod as I do. For his first real outing since being wounded in Iraq, his physical therapist takes him to the Christmas festivities on the Boston Commons, an annual event I enjoyed so often as a child. He rehabs at the Jamaica Plain VA hospital, which I drove past many times following trips to care for my elderly parents. Freddie visits the graves of family members at a Baker Street cemetery, the area where my mom and dad are buried.
And most of all, Freddie’s story portrays the plight of our wounded veterans–a cause I believe in passionately.
For me, a Massachusetts boy, this recognition from my home state is nice, but even more important, it’s recognition for the character I’ve created and his story. And that’s what matter most.