Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Wonder of It All--My Agatha Nomination

Weekend before last, I came home from walking the dogs to discover a message on our answering machine. "This is Verena Rose," said the caller. "I'm from the Agatha committee of Malice Domestic. I have some happy news. Please call."

Boy, were my fingers ever trembling as I dialed that number. Malice Domestic may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they are the standard-bearers for the traditional mystery community.

"Joanna, I want to congratulate you and tell you that Paper, Scissors, Death has been nominated by the committee as a Best First Novel," she said.

And then I cried.

You see, I've been attending Malice for three years straight. I started before I sold my first mystery. I kept going even though I didn't have a book in hand. I went because I liked Malice. I liked meeting authors. I liked hearing about their books. And I wondered. I wondered if some day, I'd join their ranks.

Being an author means living on faith. You sit alone with your keyboard and work and create and wonder. You make up stories, so you wonder how much of your own life is real. You wonder if you've picked the right idea. You wonder if you'll ever finish your book. You wonder if your work will be accepted by a publisher. You wonder if you are wasting your time. You wonder if you should be doing laundry. You wonder if your kid will forgive you for running late to pick him up because you were writing and lost track of time. You wonder how understanding your husband will be about you changing careers and going from a nice income to...speculation.

Then you sell your book. And you wait. And you wonder some more. You wonder if anyone besides the publisher will like it. You wonder what your cover will look like. You wonder what they'll name your book. You wonder when it will come out. You wonder when you'll actually be able to hold it in your hands. You wonder if anyone will buy it. You wonder what the reviewers will think.

After all you're just a mom who spends a LOT of time in her basement doing...what? Pecking away at a keyboard? Surely this is NOT what a REAL author does. There's not a jot of glamour. You don't need to put on makeup. You don't even have to change out of your pajamas. Your office companions are your dogs. They can't read. And they like the basement. This is as close to socialization as you get.

You have officially joined the ranks of whackos.

Your friends (who aren't writers) ask, "How is, uh, it coming?" You try to tell them, but you quickly notice how their eyes stop focusing. They nod politely but aren't really listening. One of them asks if you intend to run off copies of this, uh, BOOK? in your basement. You are too stunned to respond.

You grit your teeth a lot. Your dentist suggests a nightguard. Now you are a whacko who wears a mouthpiece like boxers do. When you answer the phone, you must remember to remove it because you slur your words. People are positive you are home drinking.

You wonder if that might be a good idea, actually.

But if you are me, you shrug it off. I shrugged it off because this was/is all I ever wanted to do. This was my fantasy. I've wanted to be a writer ever since I was in grade school!

And oh, how I love these characters. I cry when things happen to Kiki Lowenstein, even though I made them happen to her. I laugh thinking up funny things that can happen to her. One night, when I couldn't sleep, I plotted a scene in my head. I got to laughing while I was lying there in bed. I woke up my husband. He thought I was having a seizure and tried to call 9-1-1.

So, yeah, I've been having fun. But still... a little voice inside me has wondered. I wondered, will anyone else ever care about Kiki? I mean, I thought I wrote a good book. I knew I gave it my best. I rewrote and rewrote and polished it. But...I wondered if I was wrong. I wondered...a lot.

Then I got a call from Verena Rose.

And I cried.

I'll probably still wonder. I'm made that way. But I'll always have that moment, that moment when Verena Rose said, "You know, it's not just me, Joanna. This was a committee of your peers. Other writers. Readers. Mystery fans. They're the ones who chose you."

Maybe now I won't wonder quite so much.


Linda O. Johnston said...

What wonderful news! Congratulations, Joanna! My fingers are crossed that you will win.

Ellen said...

Congratulations, Joanna! I hope you are thinking of an appropriate place of honor in your home, Just In Case!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thank you, Linda and Ellen. I do love teapots, so it would certainly find a good home here! But the nod is, well, just fabulous in itself, and I'm basking in that glow.

Allison said...

I am so thrilled for you! Your book combines 2 of my favorite things - mysteries and scrapbooking. You really deserve this nomination. I've had the next Kiki book on preorder for 2 months now, so hopefully you'll be somewhere so I can have you sign it once it's released.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Allison, I'll try to be very good about posting my signings on If we don't meet up, you can always send me a self-addressed stamped envelope at Joanna Slan, 12033 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights, MO 63043 and ask for a bookplate that you can paste inside your book. I really, really appreciate your interest in the series. (And Book #3 is a heck of a good time as well, so stay tuned!)

Camille Minichino said...

Congratulations, Joanna! I'm coming late here, BUT give me credit for being the first on this site to spread the news!

Hooray for you! Looking forward to Malice and clapping in person.