ON THE MORNING I was supposed to fly to Nashville, I awakened at 2:40 am with a piercing double ear infection. Stars in the Grass was a Christy finalist for Best Debut Novel and the Awards Gala was that night; but after googling AIR TRAVEL and EAR INFECTIONS, my trip was up in the air. At the local ER, the doctor stood back, grimaced and said, “You know you have pink eye going on, too.” (That’s nice for an Awards Gala and shaking hands.) “Why do you have to go anywhere?” she asked, and I explained I wrote a book up for an award. She left and returned, “You have to go. I googled you and watched your book trailer and it’s really good!"
So... off I went with five medications and her best wishes. At 8:30 that morning I flew out with my shy friend who wishes to be anonymous, so I’ll call her “Michelle.”
After recovering from ear splitting in-flight pain, that night at the Christy Gala, “M” and I felt like imposter Nobodies in a candy store scooping up all the freebies and meeting the famous.
Then after a sit-down dinner, the awards began.
Presenters announced the award-winning novels by reading their opening lines. Suddenly I realized that the presenter for my category was Beth Moore herself. But as she began reading, I didn't recognize the words; they didn’t match my Prologue and I knew the winner had to be the book by the other Stuart. And yet cotton candy didn’t fit in a Holocaust novel. SHOCK. Could it be?
“That’s my book,” I mouthed to “Michelle” in a daze “M” later described as completely expressionless. But M didn’t look happy, staring at me uncomfortably, with a look that said, “This is awkward. How do I tell her that’s not her book?” Then I turned to my publisher, “That’s my book,” and received the same sympathetic look. We all knew it wasn’t the Prologue, we just didn’t prepare to hear Chapter 1.
“And the winning novel is Stars in the Grass by Ann Marie Stewart!” The music swelled and there was lots of applause and the book cover was up on the screen and I was stepping forward on too high heels in shoes too big for me to fill in so many ways, hoping I wouldn’t fall on the steps up to the stage.
“Oh honey, you look so cute,” Beth said giving me a hug. (Should I have warned her about the pinkeye?) and then I said something at the mike feeling very comfortable in my 20 seconds playing Cinderella. Back at the table, I texted my daughter Christine asking if she had caught the live stream. “YES OF COURSE I SAW IT I WAS SCREAMING IN THE CAR FOR THE LAST FIVE MINUTES I AM SO PROUD OF YOU THAT IT TAKES ALL CAPS TO EXPRESS I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU.” Plus Christine even sent Victory Lap Music. “Oh, What a Night!” indeed! I’d say I floated but I was grounded trying to keep the shoe on my left foot.
The next day was not quite so glamorous but almost as much fun. At the Grand Ol’ Opry, we parked our car in LOT E for RV’s. But when we tried to find LOT E for RV’s, we somehow lost our way amidst the ¼ mile of glass-domed botanical gardens and a ¼ mile of river. We walked for miles through endless parking lots that were not LOT E. At a particularly low point, Michelle pointed out a lone police car in the middle of an empty lot. I took the hint and marched myself over as she hung back, dreading whatever I was about to do. “Help!” I began, thinking that was a good lead. “We can’t find our car. Do you know where LOT E is?” Even the policeman didn’t. I waited. Finally, he said apologetically, “I could drive you….” “GREAT!” I interrupted as he finished, “…but you don’t know where your car is……” Well that wasn’t stopping me from a free ride (Tax payer dollars). “Michelle, I’ll get in if you take my picture,” I directed, not one to miss a good publicity shot.
This was not what my shy, quiet companion had signed up for, but as a loyal friend, she was along for the ride and squished into the patrol car, horribly embarrassed. (Did you know the back seat of a police car has NO leg room and it’s made of hard plastic? Why are there repeat offenders?) The nice policeman radioed in, “This is KFHS349503293-04 and I am at mileage 43954KH. I am transporting two adult females to their vehicle because they don’t know where it is.” PAUSE. At last the dispatcher responded, “If THEY don’t know where it is, how do you think YOU’RE going to find it?” At this point, Michelle became a little unglued and yelled through the glass separator, “HEY WE KNOW WHERE OUR CAR IS, WE JUST CAN’T FIND THE LOT!” The dispatcher muttered, “I could say so many things….” To which Michelle defended, “HEY I HEARD THAT!” and rapped on the window, “THAT WAS OFFENSIVE!” Then the radio went crazy due to a robbery in progress. How exciting! An UBER driver looted a FED EX vehicle and we were privy to the whole story. “Ma’am I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete this assignment,” our officer apologized. “That’s all right,” I assured. “You have more pressing matters.” At this point Michelle was working so hard to stifle her laughter, she gave herself a headache that would last through the night. Nevertheless, we DID find LOT E RV Section and have since learned you can put your car’s location on your GPS! (Good to know). Thank you, Michelle (I know I’m more than a headache at times) and all my other friends who have so graciously supported and congratulated me on this wonderful award. And now we’ve found our way back home to Virginia and recovering in more ways than one from ER to Star to Police Car. PS. The ER doctor and nurse got big thanks and a signed novel.