Put on a Brave Smile

Posted on 15 May 2013

A few pieces of good news today, all leading up to some additional news about my writing life that I’ll announce later this week:

Living Arrangements was named a category finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award.

♦ I will be heading to one of my favorite places — Portland, Oregon — for a week in July for the Tin House Writer’s Workshop. I am so grateful to have received a full scholarship, without which I wouldn’t be able to attend. I’ll be workshopping the opening of my new novel, so Portland, you better look out for darkness, skin, stars, and girls. Someone should probably warn VooDoo Donuts, too.

♦ I’m also happy to share that I wrote the introduction to the new Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology, which was published recently by Washington College’s Literary House Press. (You can learn about the Sophie Kerr Prize and my experience winning here.)

Speaking of the Sophie Kerr Prize, May 14 was the big day to announce the latest winner. I wasn’t able to watch the ceremony live because, among other reasons, I was at a writing group. (I think even Sophie Kerr herself would approve of that excuse.) But I did watch the video later. The prize was announced at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore following a keynote from Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda.

Dirda opened his remarks with not congratulations but consolation:

“One of you will be the happy recipient of the Sophie Kerr Prize, worth, as we know, a considerable amount of money. But the other four here tonight will need to hold back their tears and put on a brave smile. It will make little difference to hear, as you may, that the choice of this year’s Sophie Kerr winner was a difficult decision. In fact, it will make it seem worse. That little voice in your head will cry out, if only I tried a little harder, had run that last paragraph through my typewriter (to use an old metaphor) one more time … No, you will feel heartbroken for a while. But if you are meaning to pursue a literary career, it’s best to get used to that feeling right away.”

He also had some wise words to the winner, who was later announced as Tim Marcin. This advice that perfectly sums up the news I’ll be sharing about my own writing life later this week: “It doesn’t matter if you fail, if nobody ever hears of you or your writing ever again … but right now you need to try, and try hard.”

How hard are you trying?


7 responses to Put on a Brave Smile

  • Sarah W says:

    Congratulations on being finalized (is that the verb), your scholarship, and the intro!

    I’m not trying hard enough . . . but I’ll try to try today.

  • Teri says:

    “But right now you need to try, and try hard.” That may be the best and most realistic advice of all.

    Congrats on Tin House and the scholarship, Laura. That is HUGE. Hugehugehugehuge. There sure is a lot of good news buzzing around this group of late…. :-)

    • Thanks for your support, Teri! I have to say I have a lot of hope for that novel I’m working on right now.

      I really appreciated that Dirda’s keynote focused not just on the winner of the prize but also on the finalists who did not win. He went on to discuss some of the prizes he missed out on, how he finally won the Pulitzer after the win lost a bit of meaning for him personally, etc. It was a level-headed approach to literary awards and what it truly means to be a writer.

      All we can do is try, and try hard.

  • Catherine says:

    Ahh this trying business. I love it, and yet wonder, when I am in the thick of it, Am I trying hard enough? Then it becomes a tussle between letting go and really touching the bottom, or patrolling every thought with a watchful eye. It’s a wrangle!

    Congratulations on your writing headway. You are really moving. I would love the chance to run away and write/revise, but it’s not going to happen during school year!

  • Jennifer says:

    Many congratulations to you, Laura!

    It probably won’t surprise you to know that I corresponded with Michael Dirda years ago because I was so enamored with his bookish intelligence. Actual letters in the mail! OMG I’m dating myself, but I love that guy. Good stuff.

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