On Monday morning, October 10th, Lauren Myracle was a National Book Award finalist. By Monday afternoon, she wasn't.
Here's what went down, in case you haven't kept on top on this debacle. Apparently all the nomination business was done over the phone, and someone misheard Shine (by Ms. Myracle) instead of Chime (by Franny Billingsley). After the finalists were announced, the National Book Foundation mea culpa'd their mistake but said that they would allow both authors as finalists. Then a few hours later they changed their story and asked Ms. Myracle to withdraw her name as a finalist. She very graciously did so. She also asked that the NBF consider donating to The Matthew Shephard Foundation, given that her book is about the aftermath of a gay hate crime in a small Southern town. The NBF donated $5,000 (good on them).
I'm not here to rant about how screwed-up this situation is; Libba Bray did that really well on her blog (LOVE HER)! I'm here to say: Lauren, I feel your pain.
Years ago, when I was in college and still dancing semi-seriously, the artistic director of a ballet company that I took class with called me. He told me he wanted me to be in their annual production of The Nutcracker, and proceeded to list all the roles he wanted me to dance. I was over the moon. I had just been through a bad break-up and needed something like this to focus on.
A few days later, I showed up to take class. The artistic director pulled me aside. "Sorry," he said, "I got you mixed up with another Nicole." I stammered, "So, you don't want me to be in The Nutcracker?" "No," he said disdainfully, and left me standing there, my heart in my shoes.
It was awful. It was humiliating. I needed something good in my life and for three days I was so excited, only to have it ripped away from me in one, horrible moment. Oh, and did I mention that my ex-boyfriend was screwing one of the ballerinas in the company?
So when I heard about the NBA screw-up, it took me right back to that crushing moment. But at least mine was in private. Lauren Myracle's moment was as public as it gets. And yet, she has handled it with gracefulness that any ballerina would envy. She's written a fabulous article for The Huffington Post that tells her very personal side of the story.
One of the things she writes in the article is this: What I've realized: it's just one more reminder not to be so invested in validation from external sources.
So freaking true. I didn't even want to be a ballet dancer; I was an acting major in college. I didn't need to be in some stupid production of The Nutcracker to validate me as an artist. Just like Lauren Myracle doesn't some award to tell her what a great writer she is.
And the positive outcome here? I now have two books on my nightstand that I probably wouldn't have read if this whole debacle hadn't happened. I'm going to read both and privately decide which one I'd give the award too. Although I can already tell you the answer is both. Because, let's face it, any author who finishes a book and then travels the long hard road to publication deserves an award.