A little over 72 hours ago, I found myself standing in front of a microphone to thank the Military Writers Society of America for choosing me as their "Author of the Year." I love this picture of that moment for several reasons. First, I want to call it "The Sound of One Hand Clapping." That's why the two gentlemen have blurry hands in the photo. Now I know what that sounds like. But what I like even more is the expression on my own face -- the one that says, "You've got to be kidding me!"
I don't win things -- not contests, not titles, not even sales records. Inside, I'm still the little kid whose mother was told to take me out of dance class because I was hopelessly awkward. "She'll be happier going to the library," the teacher said, "And the rest of us will be happier that she went." A few years later, it was a piano teacher who said, "I can't accept any more money for lessons. She'll never be able to move her hands in two separate directions." And a driving instructor who said, "She's never going to make it down the driveway until she's in a car that has an automatic transmission."
In organizations, now that I'm all grown up, I'm not bad at getting elected as the chair of an unpopular committee. I was a pretty good teacher, with a small cadre of ex-students who still come around, but I was never "Teacher of the Year." My office wall has a few plaques on it -- certificates of appreciation for hard work, recognition for donations, and the diplomas that show my academic achievements (although none of them have a seal higher than "Cum Laud" -- no "Summa' for me.) And not a single one of my books will ever bear a sticker that says "New York Times Bestseller."
Now, at 76? This award? I'm almost speechless. I am endlessly grateful for all of the congratulatory notes that have been arriving on Facebook, even if I can't thank all of you personally. But now, it's time to get back to work. Recognition means nothing if I cannot use it as a vehicle to help others reach the same goal. As I think I remember saying on Saturday night, "Use me. If I can help other writers by sharing what I have learned, I am at your disposal. Ask away."