By Kasie WhitenerI don’t get nervous for Zoom events even when I’m hosting them. I pour a glass of wine and tuck my pajama’d legs underneath me and tune in like the meeting is a television program.
But last Monday night I was nervous. The Southeastern Writers Association was holding their awards event on Zoom and my novel, Being Blue, was a finalist. The entry was an unpublished manuscript and this one, up until now, had only been read by my critique group and a developmental editor.
In contrast, my first novel, After December, has been out since 2019 and has over 50 ratings on Amazon. My second novel, Before Pittsburgh, released last month and earned a dozen 5-star reviews from the vast world of #bookstagram. My short story “For the Win” was in the summer issue of The Showbear Family Circus and my story “The Shower” is set to be printed in Fall Lines. I blog weekly across multiple platforms. I have authored two textbooks at use in my classrooms.
I’m being read on the regular and not just by people who know me.
Entering the Hal Bernard Memorial Award for Novel with the Southeastern Writers Association also meant I’d joined the organization. Logging into the Zoom, I saw strangers’ faces, not my usual SCWA crowd. The nerves had begun much earlier in the day, though, when I thought about what it meant to be a finalist and what it would feel like to have to show one of those fake-Oscar smiles when they didn’t name me the winner.
Any other acceptance or win has come as an email or phone call notification. Congratulations, your book is a finalist in the Indie Excellence Awards. Congratulations, you’ve won the Broad River Prize for Prose.
I’ve applied and submitted and been refused and rejected. We’re sorry but your work does not fit our needs at this time.
I’ve queried and entered and been ignored and ghosted. My novel After December was in a first-novel contest for female authors and lost to a book about the experience of a young Latina immigrant. So, yeah, my white-privileged male protagonist never stood a chance.
Never have I minded the rejection. Putting my work out there means accepting defeat. And Monday night I wasn’t rehearsing my, “Good for you!” expression because I’ve been spoiled by the wins.
Buzz Bernard, who sponsored the award selected five entries to honor. Two received honorable mention and three took prizes.
The screen said, “Third Place – Being Blue by Kasie Whitener,” and I smiled and unmuted and said, “Thank you.” I thought of our bronze-medal winning athletes and the looks on their faces knowing they’ve come so close and come up just short. Then I finished my wine.
Bronze is hard because it’s not a win exactly, but it’s not a loss, either. It’s somewhere in between. Congratulations, your work is above average.
So, thank you. I might just stick with this writing thing. I have some work to do.