So, you’re a finalist for a book award?

That’s what I heard from the Texas Institute of Letters this week, anyway.

Hardly something I ever thought might happen, but I’m sure not disappointed that it did. Got the email about mid-day. Didn’t think much about it at first, honestly. Back in January, I saw a post from Michael Martin Murphy that he’d be getting the songwriter honors this year. They posted all their book award winners that same day as well.

Long list of names, it was. None of them mine. So, when I got today’s email announcing their online virtual awards banquet, I figured it just more of the same.

Still, I couldn’t help but look once more.

Sure glad I did. Unlike before, when they simply named winners, this time they added the lowly runners-up as well, or “finalists,” as they called them (despite the fact we already knew who won, weeks ago). Today’s list was every category winner, plus two, in most cases. And I’ll be damned! There I was, listed as one of two finalists for the 2021 Sergio Troncosco Award for Best First Book of Fiction.

Winning that particular award this year is Marisol Cortez for her Luz at Midnight, published by FlowerSong Press. Also named as a fellow finalist in that category is Elizabeth Wetmore for her Valentine: A Novel, published by Harpers Publications. (My congrats to them both!) I brought up the rear with my Long Gone & Lost: True Lies and Other Fictions, my story collection published by Madville Publishing.

All were published in 2020. They had to be to qualify for this year’s awards. All also had to be written by Texans.

Texas Institute of Letters is one of the state’s oldest and most esteemed literary societies. Its membership consists of the state’s most respected writers, essayists, poets, journalists and scholars, It’s one of those groups that you’ve got to be invited into, and getting asked only comes with literary achievement.

Just look at ol’ Michael Martin Murphy as a prime example. He’s been churning out acclaimed albums for decades now and they’re just now letting him in. I couldn’t be prouder, however, that I land my first finalist with them the same year he gets inducted, That’s just cool all over.

As you likely guessed, a first year, first book “finalist” does not rate membership.

Considering I attended the AWP conference in San Antonio last year and was one of some 800 authors scheduled for new book signings at a four-day event, I’m guessing that Top 3 ranking might actually mean something. My publisher seemed to think so, anyhow.

And who knows? Perhaps one of these days..

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