Last year at this time, just a few days before the annual Library of Virginia Awards Dinner, I was nervous. Really I had nothing to be nervous about–I had already learned that I was the winner. Still, though, I was afraid that a mistake had been made. Sure, my book, What the Zhang Boys Know, is pretty good, and I believed in it, but by then I had read the two other finalists: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and The Right-Hand Shore by Chris Tilghman. These are fine novels, so I suspected that there had been some mistake. Did I misunderstand when the Library called me?
I went down to Richmond the night before the Awards Dinner–I didn’t want a last minute problem to derail my attendance–and went to the James River Writers Conference kickoff party for speakers and volunteers. Then on the day of the big event, I floated through the preliminaries–registering for the Conference, attending the luncheon where all the finalists were recognized, sitting next to the Kevin Powers at the book-signing table (he drew a lot more attention than I did because his book was much better known), participating in the panel of fiction finalists, and then, finally, heading back to my room at the hotel to relax a little and get ready. The dinner itself was kind of a blur, but the climax for me was when my award was confirmed. There had been no mistake! Lee Smith presented me with the check and the trophy and I could finally relax.
So this year won’t be quite as exciting. I am moderating that Saturday afternoon panel with the fiction finalists, so there’s still a little performing to be done. But otherwise all I have to do is attend the kickoff party and the awards dinner (assuming I can tie my bow tie — it’s been a whole year since I did it the last time). Nothing to be nervous about, and I’m looking forward to it. This year’s finalists are Lee Smith, for Guests on Earth, Carrie Brown for The Last First Day, and Virginia Pye for River of Dust. Also on the panel will be Mary Miley, author of The Impersonator, a finalist for the People’s Choice Award. I’ve read all four of the books, and it will be fun to discuss them on the panel.
Should be fun!