“I probably won’t go to the award ceremony,” I said to my brother Jim when I told him Leaning into Love won the Gold Medal IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) for Aging/Death & Dying. The IPPY is considered one of the highest honors for books published by independent publishers.
“I’m not a city person,” I said, “and the book gets the award whether I go or not.”
“Are you kidding?” Jim said. He’s had many honors in his long academic career. “When did you get an award like this? When did anyone put a medal around your neck? You have to go.”
I couldn’t remember receiving an award since high school. He had a point.
I read a few blogs about previous IPPY ceremonies and expected a crowded, fast-paced affair in a well-appointed hall with an open bar. The noise was a challenge, so I turned my hearing aids off and wandered around. The bar was the most crowded place in the room.
I saw joyful faces that couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. I saw beaming, teary smiles from people clutching their books against their chests. I saw how the tired ones looked for a place to sit and the young ones in their impossibly high heels couldn’t sit still.
Amy Opperman Cash of Larson Publications and Jill Swenson of Swenson Book Development met me in the Harvard Club lobby to accompany me to the event. My brother had given me a two-night stay at the Harvard Club. “I don’t get to do nice things for you often enough,” he said when I protested. “It makes me happy.” Jill who’s been with me on this book journey since 2011 came from Wisconsin. Fortunately, Amy and her co-publisher and husband Paul Cash were in the city for the 2015 Book Expo.
After the award ceremony began, Amy handed me an IPPY gold medal sticker. “Thank you,” I said silently to the Great Mother Who Gives and Takes. I carefully put the sticker in just the right spot on the book. Then Paul handed me a glass of red wine.
I watched as people received their awards with smiles and tears, applause and cheers. Some chose to be photographed alone. Most chose to be photographed with either the man or the woman presenter.
The screen flashed my book and name. The announcer shook my hand, draped a heavy gold medal around my neck, and showed me to another spot for photos. I stood between the woman and man presenters feeling small, out of my element, and very protected.
I leaned into the love offered by Amy, Jill, and Paul. I gobbled sweet text messages from my sons and friends. I let it in that my book had received an award I hadn’t dared imagine. I celebrated.
“It’s not a mistake,” she said with a laugh. “You won a Gold IPPY.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” Truth is, I’m more comfortable with hard knocks than awards.
I imagined my beaming mom at the ceremony. She thrived on achievement and loved every award I got in high school. I imagined my husband Vic hugging me and smiling with proud soft eyes.
“I’ll find a way to be all right. I’ll make a good life for myself,” I said to Vic over seven years ago, a few weeks before he died. I leaned over his hospital bed and looked him in the eye to make sure he knew I meant it. I had no idea what my vow would demand.
Promise kept, dear Vic. You know I love to keep my word.
Have you received surprising recognition for something you’ve done? Do you expect good things to happen? How do you manage disappointment? Do you feel uncomfortable sharing success? I’d love to hear your stories.