|My Official Lammys Photo|
SusieQ, his fiancée, if not early, or on time, but at last not as late as usual, stormed the station, a warrior princess in red, a blast of windblown hair and towering heels. Together we took the subway downtown. We arrived early and, led by my brother, Michael, tall, unshakeable as a redwood, surged through the doors at Cooper Union, boisterous, bulletproof, Stanley, my partner, trailing us looking bewildered but proud. We signed in at the reception desk and were directed downstairs.
|(L to R) Me, Stanley, SusieQ, Michael|
Downstairs: a crush of bodies and rising heat. An army of waiters, ramrod straight and beautiful, jet hair, silver white skin, red-red lips parted in welcome, seemed to beckon, come closer. Closer. Okay, not that close. They coolly offered platters of hors d’ouevres, and poured oceans of Ketel 1 Vodka.
Writers, fans, guests, sweating, smiling, air kissing, eating and drinking, fanned themselves and mopped damp brows all the while talking, talking in a rising crescendo of sound that broke over the crowd like cresting waves before a storm. The crowd itself, black and white and tan, dressed in silk and seersucker, black lace and jeans, tattoos and earrings. In the distance, I saw, bobbing like a buoy in the sea of strangers, fellow finalist JaimeWoo, beckoning me to safety, to friendship. And Donna Minkowitz in black and white, offering familiarity.
Unable to bear the heat and the increasing volume of sound, which rising like the tide threatened to sweep us to the nearest audiologist, a number of us retreated to the auditorium, which was cool, cavernous. I looked around: theatre seating, a stage, two podiums with microphones, big screens.
I’d memorized a thank you speech. Just in case. You had 60 seconds. At the 30-second mark, music would begin to play softly; at the 60-second mark the music would get louder, the email from the Lammy people warned sternly. Presumably at one minute ten seconds, burly, sweaty men would wrestle you off stage. I practiced. My speech was 30 seconds. That left 30 seconds for the standing ovation.
Seriously, there were so many people to thank: all the folks at Beaten Track Publishing, especially Deb McGowan who believed in me from the beginning, from the time she read What Binds Us; and my partner Stanley, my love, my soon-to-be-husband, for his love and pride in me; and my big bro Michael and Susie Q for their unwavering support and excellent cheerleading skills.
|Unbroken's cover on the big screen|
And after, when I didn’t win, all the people, friends and fellow writers—all of whom rushed to tell me I was still a winner in their eyes and a darned good writer—Ken Larsen, Andy Gordon, Walt, Nigel, Beth, Deb, Jose, Lynda, Bill, Brandon, Leslie…the list goes on. My gratitude is endless.
I didn’t win but I’d been a finalist. For a Lammy. That was huge for me, for this writer who once had so little confidence in his talent, that he let a manuscript sit in a drawer for 17 years convinced no one would ever want to read it. To go from first publishing that first novel to a Lammy nomination in just over 2 years was a huge step forward and one I wouldn’t have been able to envision as little as 3 years ago.
And I’m more disciplined now. I’m learning (slowly) to control my muse, this bitch, my talent, to make her do my bidding.
So I didn’t win. I. Didn’t. Win. And while I’m disappointed, I am unbroken.
Unbroken is both a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist and a 2014 IPPY Gold Medal winner in the gay fiction category. Learn more about Unbroken here.