08 Oct Notable Essay of 2019: How it feels to be recognized
My essay “My Books and I” has been chosen as a Notable Essay by the Best American Essays, 2019 edition. The editor, Rebecca Solnit, is a National Book Award author of seventeen books, as well as a Guggenheim Fellow. She went through hundreds of literary magazines, newspapers, journals, and websites to make her selections, paying special attention to the confluence of public and private in the stories.
I feel very honored to be recognized as the author of a Notable Essay. I had always thought that “My Books and I” was my best essay so far. It had been published in the Fall 2018 issue of the Chicago Quarterly Review, a prestigious literary magazine.
As I was writing it, I was reading David Sedaris. One of his stories, “Laugh, Kookaburra,” made such a deep impact on me that I wrote and published a detailed analysis of what made it work. As I saw how Sedaris used hints and echoes to subtly emphasize the theme of his story, while keeping another line of events in the foreground, I was inspired to go back to mine and rework it, so my main theme — leaving loved objects and people behind — resonated more throughout my story. This inspiration paid off.
I will confess that I had high hopes for this essay, and a pipe dream that it would make it to this renowned anthology. When my CQR editor, Elizabeth McKenzie, emailed me with the news that I had been honored as the author of a Notable Essay, I wasn’t sure if that meant that I was anthologized or not. I found out I wasn’t, I appear in the list at the end in the very good company of authors with a much longer pedigree than mine, but I was still thrilled. As Vanessa Hua (one of my literary teachers) told me, “This is HUGE! You were recognized out of thousands of entries. Celebrate!”
It’s hard for me sometimes to acknowledge and celebrate my successes. I tend to see myself as less accomplished than I really am, perhaps a consequence of being the seventh of ten children who were not coddled or praised. But being an emerging author at 61 years of age, and getting this type of recognition deserves a celebration. It’s never too late to dream.
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