Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Happy Best American Essay Brithday

When my birthday arrives in about 10 days, my card may say, "Your gift was delivered on  September 13."

Here's why (and I beg of you, imagine this in deep narrator voice-over like at the Oscars): This is Lisa's second nomination, and first…

Let me not bury the lede any further: I received word that an essay of mine, published in 2015, was selected for the Notable Essays list included in Best American Essays 2016. How simple and calm that sentence sounds. So unlike how I sounded when I got the news.

No, that was more like this (imagine this in hysterical barn owl voice at 140 decibels): What?! NO WAY. Wow. Whoa. OMG! Wait, REALLY?

BAE doesn't notify those on the Notables list. I learned it from a Facebook writer friend who'd scoured the Notables pages (using Look Inside) as soon as Amazon put BAE '16 up for pre-order.

As you probably know, BAE is an annual anthology that republishes about two dozen essays that exemplify fine writing craft. Tucked in the back is the Notables list, a few hundred pieces culled from thousands of nominations. When I think about all the essays published in all the print journals and all the online literary journals, and all the mainstream magazines and websites, across a full 12 months, the odds of being selected are small. The honor is huge.

Often, a media venue will let a writer know that it is nominating one's work, as happened several years ago when Under the Sun nominated an essay of mine from 2013 (no booming narrator voice that time around).

But this time, I was not aware that the good folks at Blue Lyra Review, notably nonfiction editor Adrienne Ross Scanlan, had thought highly enough of my essay, "Not Quite Meet Cute" (which appeared in their Spring 2015 issue), to place it in nomination. So the news last week was extra surprising, extra sweet. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Adrienne and BLR.

If you like this sort of stuff, the backstory on that essay includes the usual forces and vicissitudes that accompany this wacky thing called essay writing.

It's such a personal piece that after the crappy first draft in 2007, I put it away, worried my husband wouldn't like the world knowing how he behaved when we first met, or how I'd behaved before we met. Then there was the inevitable cycle: revise, rewrite, put-it-away-this-is-crap, forget-about-it-for-another-year, revise, this-is-less-crappy-but-it's-still-crap, revise, rinse, repeat.

Finally, it entered the gee-this-maybe-is-not-so-bad stage, followed by revise, submit, rejection, submit, submit, submit. Once it found a nice home at BLR, the only next step I considered was that I might include it in a future essay collection of my own (yes, I'm delusional that way), but essentially, I figured that was the end of that story.

The BAE listing comes with not a dime of monetary compensation, and of course, the Notable pieces themselves are not printed in the book. That booming narrator voice isn't concluding with….and her first win. A Notable is more than a nomination, less than a win, but it's something rather nice, and I'm excited. It means the judging committee and editors think it has merit.

And I’m thinking that, in the everyday trenches of revise, rewrite, put-it-away-this-is-crap, forget-about-it-for-another-year, revise, this-is-less-crappy-but-it's-still-crap, revise, rinse, repeat, gee-this-maybe-is-not-bad, submit, rejection, submit, submit, submit – that's going to help.

Though I guess this means my husband figures he's off the hook for a birthday gift.


Erika D. said...

This is WONDERFUL news, Lisa. Many congratulations!

Lauri Meyers said...

Huge congratulations! Ack. Strike that. I feel like Trump has redefined huge. Umm...
Whoopsy-splunker congratulations!
I feel better about that.

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks, Erika and Lauri!