Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps in the Tethered World, you’ve heard about the total eclipse that is happening today. This past week I happened to be at ground zero, in the Pacific Northwest, and the buzz was everywhere.
This phenomenon in the sky is a once in a lifetime event they say, (except that it happens again in seven years…say what?) and the souvenirs and safety glasses were plentiful. Tiny little coastal towns are currently flooded with hundreds of thousands of people and the locals are both cringing and filling their coffers. I’m kind of glad to have slipped back to the south on Saturday so I wasn’t caught in the cacophony.
This was my third trip to the Portland area in five weeks. That’s just weird! I grew up there, have missed it terribly (so much so that I used the Northwest as a setting for my books), but have had to content myself with a visit every few years.
Though the first two trips were planned–a family vacay and a bookfair–last week’s trip blossomed into reality this past Monday over dinner. My stellar (but not normally spontaneous) husband told me to buy a ticket to Portland for the Oregon Christian Writer’s Cascade Award ceremony. My first two books were finalists in the Speculative Fiction category and he wanted me to be able to attend. Talk about a shock!
Two days later I was on an airplane. Due to the eclipse, there were precisely ZERO cars to rent in the entire Portland/Vancouver area. Thankfully, I have some besties up there and my BFF since 3rd grade was able to play taxi and hostess (she also happens to be my inspiration for Aunt Jules!).
The dinner and award ceremony was the culmination to the OCW writer’s conference featuring Frank Peretti (gah!!!!) and Tessa Afshar. Though I didn’t get to learn from “Master” Peretti himself, I DID snag a picture with him! My emotions were running high so I didn’t say much more than hello because I would have started crying and fangirling all over the both of us. Awkward!
My publisher Miralee Ferrell was there and I got to finally meet some other Mountain Brook Ink authors, Gayla Hiss and Patricia Lee. I also enjoyed meeting the other Spec-fiction finalist, the one and only Jill Williamson! I’ve got some of her books and have watched her from afar for awhile now. She was very gracious and down to earth. We took a fun picture together and shared the stage as the the finalists were announced.
Two of my characters also joined me for the ceremony! Julie (aka Aunt Jules, left) and Amy (aka Amy Larcen, right) came to cheer me on. Of course, I forgot to take a picture with them at the event, but we’ve had a few together this summer, thankfully!
Although I felt pretty calm, I realized my stomach was in knots when dinner was served and I couldn’t eat much. Then some incredibly talented musicians led a couple worship songs and my emotions began to breach.
Writers are visual people. We imagine stories and characters and even hear voices 😀 Long before I had a published book, I hoped for some measure of success…something that would validate the many hours spent in front of a computer when life beckoned all around. I had to trust that I was using the gifts that God had given me even though it often felt like a waste of time.
Thursday night when we sang “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus”, my heart swelled full of gratitude for the moment. Outside of the picture window was the lovely Columbia River. Inside I was surrounded by other sojourners in this Christian Writing adventure–most of whom were veterans, full of wisdom and willing to share it. Beside me was my amazing friend and publisher, Miralee, who helped usher my dreams into reality by taking a chance on my story. On the other side sat a new friend and talented young writer, Taylor Bennett, who I’d met via Facebook after she read my first book a few months ago.
For once I was present in the moment and it was wonderful. I’m not always good at being mentally connected to big events. My brain likes to float into third-person mode and I feel like things are happening to someone else.
Not Thursday night! The worship set my focus on things above and it made reality so much more real, here below. And the realization that–just a few days prior–I had no clue that I could possibly be at the ceremony, and yet, there I was, felt like a miraculous trans-portal experience. God’s goodness, His undeserved grace, His lavish blessings overwhelmed me in the best of ways. That He so lovingly gave me Billy, a man who is a left-brained engineer and yet GETS my right-brained wiring (and even likes it and encourages it!) just made me melt.
It was a wonderful moment of being in the moment. Whether I actually won the award was secondary to the clear culmination of the Lord’s hand at work in my life.
But, somehow, the night managed to get even better! The MC’s for the evening, (Jeff Gerke, Susan May Warren, and James Rubart) announced the winner of each category by reading the first line of the winning book/work.
When I heard, “Is she dead? Shock shimmied up my spine at the sight of Great-Aunt Jules crumpled in my mother’s arms” I thought, have I heard that before?
So, maybe, that one little moment DIDN’T seem real. But my brain soon caught up with the words of The Flaming Sword floating across the loud speaker and little twinges of adrenaline prickled through my body as I rose from my chair to receive the award.
I don’t think I can describe the feeling because I don’t entirely understand it. But happiness, joy, gratitude, and a tinge of disbelief swirled around inside as I stepped onto the stage. After receiving the award, winners are supposed to stand for a photo with the certificate, which I had to be instructed to do because I was in such a daze. But hey, now that I have the photo, I know that it really did happen!
And although I thought the evening couldn’t get any better, I had two more lovely moments…
A young man stopped me to say he and his wife had read The Tethered World and absolutely loved it! He’d read it thanks to an Amazon recommendation (what? Those things really work?!) and not because someone that knew me told him about it. That’s like having a real fan–eeep! It totally made my night (again!).
And secondly, one of the judges that read The Tethered World (note: not the book that actually won) stopped me to tell me how much he loved the book and say some other very encouraging things about my writing. Wowsers! I felt like I might be able to admit I’m a real author by the time the evening was finished (something that usually feels awkward, for some reason).
All of this was just icing on the proverbial cake, and I LOVE ICING (especially buttercream. And this was like the besssst buttercream ever!). Although I was exhausted once I returned to Julie’s house, it took forever to fall asleep. And then I woke up a half dozen times in the five hours I had before I headed to Portland for the day while Julie went to work. My brain was just buzzing too loudly with the crazy week that I never expected to happen. But it was worth being wiped out, of course, (and I drank coffee ALL. DAY. LONG. which didn’t really help but made me happy because Portland has killer coffee).
Have you ever had one of your dreams come true? Have you reached a goal with your career, your family, your health? How did you feel when you realized you’d reached it? Please tell me about it in the comments below 🙂