On Saturday night, March 20, 2010, my husband and I attended the annual fund-raiser for the Midwest Writing Center, held at the Outing Club in Davenport, Iowa. There was a silent auction preceding the event, and we bid on several things, but were outbid. I had a lovely conversation with Diana Garman, a reading aide in the Moline (Illinois) schools, and we were sitting at a table with several professors from St. Ambrose University, including Nancy Hayes, who had many interesting stories about the years she lived in Germany.
The speaker was a Davenport native who specializes in “ghost writing” of books for celebrities, and his “90 Minutes in Heaven” book has been on the New York Times Best-Seller list for quite some time. (His table displayed many, many titles and I was given a copy of his latest book.) “Cece,” as those who introduced him referred to him, was an engaging speaker, and then the MWC began giving awards to various individuals.
There is always one “surprise” award given. Last time I attended, in fact, I paid for my collaborator’s ticket because I feared he would not be present, otherwise, and he was to be that year’s winner. I was contacted and asked to get hm to come, so I bought his ticket (although not that of his girlfriend Cindy, who is now Mrs. Mike McCarty). He was very pleased and surprised to receive the award and my husband and I (who were sitting with him and his girlfriend at his table) were happy for him.
This year, I was just settling in and enjoying the speeches and awards (especially the LeClaire writing award winner who had the unenviable task of awarding herself the honor from her club) when writer emeritus Julie Jensen began reading the credentials of this year’s “surprise” winner. At first, it sounded very normal and could have been anyone in the room, as many of us attended the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, but when it mentioned Berkeley, running for office, starting 2 businesses (Sylvan Learning Center and Prometric Testing Center) and the names of the books I have written (Training the Teacher As A Champion; Hellfire & Damnation; Ghostly Tales of Route 66, Volumes I, II and III, Out of Time, Both Sides Now and my (just purchased for publication) nonfiction book Classic Cinema of the ’70s: It Came from the ’70s, I was suddenly aware that I might have to stand and receive this unexpected award….a beautiful clock in burled walnut with engraving…a really nice (and useful) award.
My mind raced: whom should I thank? What should I say?
I have always liked the quote, “If brevity is the soul of wit, I intend to be hilarious,” so I ripped that off and then said, “I’d thank my English teachers, but they’re all dead.” Afer that, of course, my husband needed thanking, especially since he hadn’t wanted to go at all, as his brother was in town from St. Louis with his wife and our son and wife and twin girls were in town, all to celebrate his birthday the next day (March 21). He really wanted to be watching March Madness with our family, but I had bought the tickets before we knew they were coming to town to help him celebrate a milestone birthday. I thanked Mike McCarty “for pushing me into fiction,” which was not my original metier, and I “plugged” the Quad City Book Fair, which is to be held May 8th, and for which I am handling Marketing and Fundraising duties.
Long story short: it was a lovely night, a lovely award, and one additional QCBF participant signed up, after I mentioned the event, which will be held the same weekend as the Beaux Arts Fair in downtown Davenport. We will be inside the River Music Experience and using the stage at Mojo’s for presentations throughout the day. I just hope that, between setting up tables, handling programming and marketing and fundraising and (also) having to give a presentation of my own, I survive.
It was a memorable weekend.