There is an award from PEN New England called the Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. In years past when I have entered, I went searching the Internet for information about it because that is what I do. I search the Internet for information. It soothes me. A few writers who won the award posted about it and I hung on those posts as if my life depended on it. I used them to do mental calculations on what the timeline would be if I happened to be one of the winners.
For the record, I wasn’t one of the winners.
This year, I almost didn’t enter and waited until the last possible second to do so. Oh, I had a manuscript. It’s called Dear Rachel Maddow. It’s an homage to my beloved Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, the book that inspired me to want to be a writer decades ago. It’s about politics and a belief in the potential of our democratic process despite obvious reasons to be cynical. It’s a filial and agapic thank you to Rachel Maddow whose show has kept me company and kept my brain from atrophying during my kids’ baby and toddlerhoods.
It is my fourth novel.
At the end of the day, in addition to being One Who Googles, I am also One Who Enters Things. There is a writing thing I can enter? There is a person to query? On it. Boom. Mic drop. So my One Who Enters Things tendencies overcame my One Who Is Convinced Submitting Things Leads to Inevitable Rejection tendencies and this year, the committee chose my book.
There is some irony in this. I remember when I first started DRM I asked my friend Jen if I should change the fact that the entire thing is written in epistolary format to Rachel Maddow. Like, the real living, breathing human being. Mr. Henshaw, after all, was actually a fictional person. Jen said, “Write the story that inspires you most.” So I did. That story happens to have an MSNBC news personality as an off page character. I took comfort in thinking no one would actually read it, ever.
Oh, universe. You funny, funny gal.
So there it is. It took tens of thousands of words and more words and rejections in the triple digits to get here. And it’s amazing to win the award and when I meet the committee I will probably drool my thanks all over them and then faint while trying to sneak a selfie with Lois Lowry. But at the end of the day what means most to me about this book going anywhere is that it is a love letter to Beverly Cleary, Rachel Maddow, and all of those women who think and create and inspire. They keep me going. The least I can do for them is to keep writing books of my own.
If someone lands here looking for information about the Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award, this is my advice: keep writing the stories that inspire you most. Keep submitting. Keep submitting even when you are pretty sure it’s pointless.
Oh, and also: if you live in a place where it is asked of you, vote in local and national elections. That might not influence your craft, but it is essential to a healthy democracy.