Tag Archives: andre norton

How to Lose An Award Without Losing Your Mind

Two weeks ago, I lost a very important award.

How important, you ask? Important enough that I had an essay posted about it on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog the day before the ceremony. Important enough that my nerves had me writing this open letter to my mother on my blog…and her response the next day left me sobbing in the hotel room. But that–and dinner that first night when I discovered my Auntie Jeannine had passed away–were the only times I shed a tear.

Because, you see, the SFWA Nebula Awards Weekend this year was one of the best times I’ve ever had. I can’t think of a more fun way to lose an award. So I thought I might share some tips on what to do the next time YOU happen to be up for some major, ceremony-inducing monolith of Lucite.

Tip !: The Other Nominees Are Not The Enemy.

This year, the Andre Norton Ballot had an unprecedented TWELVE nominees. My odds weren’t good from the get-go. The day that the list was announced, I was so giddy that I instantly friended all of the nominees on Twitter and Facebook. I shared many pictures of our books and encouraged folks to spread the word of the Award to stores and libraries. I even gave our posse a name: Andre’s Dozen.

There was no way we were all going to be present for the ceremony in San Jose–Libba Bray, for one, had just landed in Australia for her book tour. Those of us who did show up: Eugene Myers, Leah Bobet, Sarah Beth Durst and me…well, we bonded.

The Norton Nominees (aka The Kids Table)

We had a great time at the mass signing (where we smiled at everyone who walked in the door and stared at Gene Wolfe’s never-ending line), and then later, goofing off at the official Nominee Photo Shoot. We received our certificates and our pins (Sarah has THREE now) and we acted like fools. But inside we were all scared. We knew that in 24 hours, three of us would be losers. Or all of us would be. And being there, in the trenches together, was a special thing.

The "Serious" Picture

2.) Write Your Acceptance Speech

Rachel writing her 2011 acceptance speechWhenever you are nominated for an award like this, you must write an acceptance speech. Even if you don’t plan on winning. You can write it well ahead of time, or you can steal a notepad from the hotel right before the banquet and scratch something brilliant down real quick…like Rachel Swirsky did when she took home a Nebula back in 2011.

I wrote my speech the night that voting ended. By then my fate was sealed, for better or worse, and I could spend the next six weeks working on my “It’s an honor to be nominated” face and slow golf clap for a winner I’d inevitably despise.

That didn’t stop me from being superstitious, of course — I am Greek, after all. I hand wrote the speech on a card and slipped it into my talisman — a book I had purchased from Miss Andre’s personal collection the last time I ever saw her.

3.) Embrace The Forethought of Doom

My dear friend Gail Vinett once passed to me a bit of wisdom that I always misremember as “No forethought of doom.” Essentially: Don’t waste time on worry. But there does need to be a moment before that awards ceremony–a few days before, or a few minutes–where you know FOR ABSOLUTE CERTAIN that you are not going to walk away with this one. No matter what happens, you’re either going to be right or pleasantly surprised…but you need to know in your heart that it is never going to happen. And you need to accept that.

The Princess and Her Fairy Godmother, Agent Deborah Warren4.) HAVE FUN.

…which should really be a universal rule, no matter what. Nebula Awards Weekend was an amazing, magical time. I got to hobnob with the starsof SF–my heroes–and have conversations I’d never thought I’d have–like talking to Kim Stanley Robinson about how he used to sign Red Mars and Blue Mars and Green Mars with different colored pens…or how Gregory Benford believes he’s become the spitting image of Ernest Hemmingway. I finally met William C. Dietz for the first time, even though we’ve known each other for years.

And I wore a ridiculous white ballgown with a silver corset and left glitter everywhere and was the talk of the evening. Well…one of them.

I discovered, right before dinner was served, that our table was situated directly in front of the u-stream camera, and that every bite of my fish was being live cast on the internet for the world–including my parents and old high school friends up way past their bedtime on the East Coast–to see. But instead of freaking out that I had just put half a lemon into my mouth instead of a yellow squash, I decided to become U-Stream Ambassador. I dragged one SF writer after another in front of that camera to wave hello to the folks at home…because they were suddenly part of my Evening to Remember as well. And they were sharing from on every corner of the Internet.

I was so high on life that when Steven Gould walked on stage to present the Norton Award, I wasn’t *too* scared (but it was nice to have Fran Friel’s hand to hold anyway). And when Eugene’s name was called…well, I jumped up and hooted and hollered just like my brother was about to walk onto that stage. I wasn’t sad AT ALL…I was incredibly proud! There would be plenty of time to be sad later. And then later I just kind of forgot.

5.) Condolences

It would have been nice to win the Norton, sure. But it’s really been rather quite a lovely award to lose. All those people rooting for me, sitting on the edge of their seat from the other side of the table or the other side of the world, they don’t suddenly stop loving me or my work. It was like living in my very own Disney movie–nobody walks away disappointed with the Jamaican Bobsled Team. Those folks who have always cared about me, and the new friends I’d just met: They’ll all be rooting for me next time, maybe even harder.

I looked around that banquet hall and realized that there were people present–heroes of literature I looked up to–who had lost more awards than I’d ever be nominated for in my life. I suddenly felt like I belonged to an exclusive club, like I was finally on my way to becoming a Name to Remember in SF. I’ll be nominated for more awards–win some, lose some–and my friends will be nominated. We’ll present awards to each other and take turns playing master of ceremonies…and maybe half a century from now we’ll be drawing straws deciding who gets to be Grandmaster this time around.

And maybe then…well, I have a feeling I’ll remember this weekend and wish I could go back to this–the beginning–and do it all over again. So I’m going to enjoy it while I’m here, with one glass slipper in the open door.

And you know what? It was an honor to be nominated.

Norton Nominated Princess


[Enchanted was just released in paperback this week: check it out here!]

How Long Does it Take To Get Published?

“How long does it take to get published” is the title of fellow YA author Brigid Kemmerer’s blog post today. She makes some very good points and chats about her own story. (You should go read it…or at least click over to say hi.)

Like Brigid, I, too, get asked this question quite a lot.

“There is no ‘standard’ in how long it takes to get published,” says Brigid, and she’s absolutely right. Asking an author how long it takes to get published is even more subjective than “Where do you get your ideas?” An author can generally tell you where the seed for a particular novel/story/scene came from. In order to answer “How long does it take to get published”, you have to know two things: Where to mark the START and the END.

How long have you been with your significant other? Married couples get to celebrate an anniversary on the day the got married, but what about the day they met? Their first date? Their first kiss? The day they moved in together? The day they shot that guy and drove to Mexico?

There are too many places for an author to start.
For me, the START places are:

1.) When I was eight years old and announced to my parents that “If this acting thing doesn’t work out, I’ll just fall back on being a writer.” (1984)

2.) In college, when a bunch of my friends emailed around their answers to a personal profile questionnaire, and my answer to “What do you want to accomplish by the time you’re 30?” was “To be published.” (1994)

3.) When I started reviewing books for the local free press every two weeks (my paycheck was also free) (January 2003)

4.) When I attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp, my first formal writing education (June 2003)

5.) When I went to High Hallack and met Andre Norton (2003)

6.) When I got my first official book contract for AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First (2004)

Based on this timeline, I usually pick 2003 as my START, since it’s obvious to me that’s when I decided to take writing seriously and devote major time and energy into pursuing it as a career. But I’d been faffing around writing and submitting stuff to the school literary anthology, the neighborhood newsletter, and magazine contests (never the school newspaper, though, and I have no idea why) since that first bullet point at 1995.

I’ve heard so many people say, “If you’re submitting, then you’re a writer!” If that’s true, then I’ve been a writer since I was eight.

Now we have to pick an ending!
Possible END dates for me:

1.) 2003 — when that book review column started running in The Rutherford Reader. (I held that position, unpaid, for two years. As long as I met my deadline, they put me in the paper.)

2.) 2004 — when I got the book contract for AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First

3.) 2006 — when AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First was actually in print

These END places work fine for me, but some people aren’t satisfied by this. Some would prefer the time I started writing the novel (Enchanted) to the time it was published (2012) because picture books and anthologies and Dark-Hunter Companions don’t count. But then do I mark the start date from the time I wrote the original “Sunday” short story for the Codex Writers contest in 2005, or after that, when I decided to turn it into a novel? What about the novel I wrote in 2005 that’s still making the rounds and has yet to be picked up by an editor? Where does that fit in?

Obviously, the answer to “How long does it take to get published” varies by author. For me, it’s somewhere between 1 and 28 years.

MY question is: When people ask this, where are they starting from? At what point do they set their own personal timer? And who do they get to blame if the cake’s not finished when the buzzer sounds?

Given all these START and END points, what would you answer if you were me?