January 26, 2013: Like catnip.
It’s my birthday today, and I have always been one of those folks who really enjoys birthdays. In fact, I am a bit of a birthday baby. Cake. Candles. Presents. All of that stuff gives me great joy. My birthday comes on the heels of the holiday season and just one week after my late brother Roger’s birthday, so while I was growing up, the day was more like an addendum to Christmas and New Year’s. And Roger and I often shared our birthday parties. (Not like that was so bad; it meant there were always boys at my parties, and I always did like boys at my parties.)
Perhaps it is my birthday’s proximity to New Year’s Day that makes me not only want to think about new beginnings (as we are wont to do around this time) but also to reflect on what has already occurred. Looking back over last year I realize that I had a good one (I think I already knew that, but it helps to remind oneself) and that I have been the recipient of many good fortunes. My own life has been better than satisfactory over these last twelve months, with very few personal sadnesses. Of course I, like so many others, do feel the despair of recent tragedies and I hope that we can figure new ways of being that might prevent such things happening in the future. And I know that my own personal joys are small on the grand scale.
They are, however, joys. And since it is my birthday, and I am a birthday baby, I will take a little time now to reflect.
Things That Made My Year (in no particular order and in no way all-inclusive):
- Devil’s Kitchen Lit Fest. I was so honored to have been awarded the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Prose by the staff of the lit journal Grassroots, published at Southern Illinois University. What a delight to meet and hang with the smart, writerly students, editors, and really fine, fine other guest writers. If you are near Carbondale during the 2013 festival, you really should swing by.
- Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award. How incredible is this? The Temple of Air was chosen as the awardee in the traditionally published fiction category. I am gobsmacked! And the emerging writer Meagan Bowdy, CWA’s uber-talented intern wrote a lovely profile about me and the book for the CWA blog.
- Society of Midland Authors Finalist Awardee in Adult Fiction. This was the first real notice The Temple of Air received besides decent reviews. I cried when the email came. (Big book baby.) And I sniffled a little, too, when I accepted the honor at their banquet that just happened to fall on the anniversary of my father’s birth.
- Newcity’s Lit 50 List. Who Really Books in Chicago. I guess I do…number 50 on the list, hanging on by my talons!
- Readings and signings at fabulous bookstores with fabulous other writers and lots of thoughtful, smart, readers. Brilliant Books in Traverse City. Left Bank Books in St Louis. A few Barnes & Noble stores in Chicago and Rockford. McLean and Eakin in Petoskey. Schuler Books & Music in Lansing. Arcadia Books in Spring Green—to name a few.
- Lit and artist talk series appearances. Why There are Words in Sausalito, Reading Under the Influence in Chicago, THENEWSTUDIO in Evanston, Essay Fiesta in Chicago, The Tamale Hut Café in North Riverside.
- Festivals and conferences. Is there anything more wonderful than festivals dedicated to writing? Brooklyn Book Festival, AWP Conference, Story Week Festival of Writers (I shared the stage with John Sayles and Heidi Durrow!), Chicago Writers Conference, New Trier High School Lit Fest, ShortStoryVille sponsored by the Bristol Short Story Prize in Bristol, UK. Mix Conference at Bath Spa University in the UK.
- Book clubs. I love book clubs. Thanks to the readers at IMONO and Nicole Chakalis’s Wine and Words group. (I will happily visit your book club—either in person or via Skype.)
- Workshops. So pleased to have been able to work with writers and artists at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts, and at Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat. (I’ll be back at both of these places again this year. I’d love to see you there!)
- Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck. Honored to be part of 2nd Story’s new anthology—and to be able to read from it with some really fine storytellers.
- Winner, 53-Word Story Contest by Press 53. A short-short-short thingy that got me a prize I couldn’t be more chuffed about.
- Interviews with smart people. Got to share ideas with Aaron Stander, writer and host of IPR’s Michigan Writers on the Air; best-selling author Caroline Leavitt on her Leavitttown blog. I already mentioned Meagan Bowdy from Chicago Writers Association, didn’t I? And am deep in the work of an interview with Mark Eleveld, writer, poet and one of the Society of Midland Authors judges.
- Elephant Rock Books. My publisher is wonderful. None of this would have happened without ERB, Marketing Mavens Emily Schulze and Morgan Graham, ERB intern Kaylin Brennan, and the honcho himself, Jotham Burrello.
- New adventures on the horizon. One year rolls into the next, doesn’t it? The work and honors of last year are already presenting me with new opportunities for this one.
And this stuff above is just about the joys I have received because of my writing and particularly my book, The Temple of Air. My biggest joys really have very little to do with this. They are those moments I share with the people (and cats) most important to me. Philip Hartigan—my greatest delight. Pablo and Enrique, our cat children. My family (brothers and half-brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins and in-laws near and far.) My friends (you know who you are!) Colleagues. Students.
So here’s to a magnificent 2012! And also to the promise of 2013! Happy New Year, everyone. And as always, thanks for reading. -PMc