My husband and I were once athletes, long ago, when our bodies were young and strong and quick. Even in our 30s and entering our 40s, we could still hold our own. Competitive, hard working, wanting to be the best at whatever sporting event it was at the time.
I am sure that a lot of Olympic and world class athletes who compete at the highest levels are happy when they “medal,” but honestly, I think most of them are not that happy with Bronze. Bronze is “the second loser” in sports. As much as I love soccer, I always laughed at the tournament set up because there is a third place game. Two teams lose to the eventual final game opponents…and rather than go home to lick their wounds…they have to play another game. Like…who the hell wants to play for third place? Maybe it is cultural and maybe the people from other countries are proud to claim third prize. But that is a mindset that alludes me, and if it’s because I’m American, then so be it.
As I continue along this new author journey, I have learned that any kind of recognition for your writing is good. Even mediocre or negative reviews are good. “Second loser” in a writing contest is almost the same as a win.
My debut novel, Scout’s Honor, recently won Bronze for Southern Fiction at the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. Now I can claim that I’m an “award winning author” or that my book is an “award winning book.” If I were bold, I’d put “best selling author” in front of my name. Out of all the authors in my neighborhood, I’ve sold the most books.
On November 18th, I got to go to Miami to receive my award on a stage in front of a bunch of strangers, most of them also authors. While it was a nice moment for me, it stung deep because my husband never got to see it. I felt truly alone, unlike at any other point in my life. An occasion that was supposed to highlight my only real accomplishment in life, a book that touched a few lives, and that Scout’s story meant something to the judges, was eclipsed by the absence of one man.
Back in September, two days before he suffered a second stroke and began his fast descent into his final days, I found out about Scout’s Honor’s award. I was able to tell him about it, as I sat in a chair next to him, his speech seriously impeded and not doing well at all. But I was able to tell him, at least. It was the first time he actually looked at me since he suffered his first stroke.
Scout’s Honor was something that he had been proud about, a project of mine which he supported. My novel’s launch was the one thing I had during his cancer diagnosis and ensuing nightmare that gave me a glimmer of hope about our life. And just as he was suffering and dying in front of my eyes, enduing his final days on this earth, my book won an award.
I don’t think winning this prize has actually sold any more copies of Scout’s Honor or brought me additional opportunities to write and talk about my work in the vaunted “book world,” and I can hear my husband saying, jokingly as a fellow American former athlete, “How does it feel to be the ‘second loser?'” But winning this prize gave me a brief moment in the sun, confirming that all of the time and energy I spent on writing this story was time and energy well spent.
My husband may not have been able to convey his happiness for me upon learning of my award and he may not have been able to attend the ceremony and take my photo and say to strangers, “That’s my wife” … but the book itself was our’s, a small anchor that tethered us both to a small flicker of hope throughout the most hopeless stretch of time in our lives.