Writers of the Future, Day 6: Limelight

Five days into the trip to Hollywood, and I’d had no time to do anything touristy.  Those slave drivers over at Author Services had kept us that busy.   Boy, if they hadn’t bought my plane ticket and my half of the hotel room, paid me generous prize money, published my story, given me an award, treated me like a celebrity, and generally thrown a week-long party in my honor, I’d have been really irritated.

But it turned out that I actually had some free time on the day of the awards.  Some free time, mind you.  I still had speeches to work on and rehearse.  I decided on a tour of the Kodak Theatre.

The Kodak Theatre, for those that don’t know, is the home of the Academy Awards.  I believe I mentioned that I’m a bit of a movie buff, so this totally rocked for me.  And did you know that the entrance to the theater is inside a shopping mall?  That’s right, folks, when all those celebrities parade down the red carpet in all their finery, they’re actually walking past a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, among other stores.  Curtained off for the show, of course, but still.  Something to keep in mind the next time you’re watching the Oscars.

Anyway, the tour took us through the lobby, the VIP room (where an Oscar was on display), backstage, and of course, the theater proper.  Along the way, our tour guide kept throwing out movie trivia questions, which I had the annoying habit of answering.  You just never know when having a head full of useless information will come in useful.

After lunch, I headed back to the hotel to work on my speeches.  Yes, I wrote one for the Gold Award, just in case.  Turns out I didn’t need it.  You didn’t miss much.

Then it was time to get ready for the show.  The wife did a quick trim of my hair before I donned my tux.  Once dressed, I had to report for makeup.

Yes, really.  The whole event was being streamed live over teh Internets.  Can’t be all shiny, you know.

Professional hair and makeup people had been brought in for the job.  I just had to show up and await my turn.  I stood around and jawed a bit with Jordan, Don, Schon, and Grá, all of us dressed to the nines.  It felt absurdly like prom night–or how I imagine prom nights must feel, given that I never went to prom.  (What can I tell you?  Geeks don’t get the girls.  That’s why we’re geeks.)

Properly powdered, I joined my wife and parents for the pre-show dinner.  The wife, of course, dazzled–but that’s what she does.  (OK, sometimes geeks get the girls.)

Dinner was quite pleasant.  We shared a table with Rob Sawyer, Carolyn Clink, Schon, Grá, Gary Kloster, and his wife Brin.  A barbershop quartet made the rounds, serenading various tables.  After the crème brûlée, we headed downstairs to the Blossom Room for the awards.

I must say that this was probably my favorite part of the whole affair.  It would have been far too easy to be stressed out and obsessive at that point, worrying endlessly over my speech, the audience, the Gold Award, all the myriad details.  Instead, I was able to put all that aside and just be in the moment.  This was a big, fancy party, and I and my new friends were the guests of honor.  My wife and parents were there to share it with me, and they were proud of me.  My mom’s cousins, who lived in the area, were also there to cheer me on.  Truly, folks, this didn’t suck.

As for the event itself, well, you can see it for yourself here.  The opening dance number might seem cheesy to you, but I rather enjoyed it.  And we got to see the book trailer, including the awesome Stephan Martiniere cover, for the first time.  And then the awards were handed out, in the order the stories appeared in the anthology.  Mine was the ninth one (starting at about 1:30 in the video, if you’re of a mind to check it out).  Tim Powers introduced me.  When I went onstage, he said, "This is pretty cool, isn’t it?"

Yeah.  Like I said, it didn’t suck.  (That’s actress Ellen Dubin on the left, BTW.)

The speech went off without a hitch–unless you count the moment when I nearly knocked over my award.  It was good for a laugh, anyway. 

Is it wrong of me to say that I think the award–a silver quill pen encased in a pointy lucite block, heavy enough to brain someone, should the urge overtake me–is gorgeous?

The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the Gold Awards.  Sasha Barysheva was the illustrator winner, and then–as I had been predicting–Emery Huang took home the writing grand prize, for his story "Garden of Tian Zi."  Spare me any "Sorry you didn’t win" sentiments, folks; Emery is a great guy, and I’m happy for him.  Hell, I was happy for us all.

After the awards, we posed for many pictures, then made our way upstairs for the post-event reception–which was, for the writers and illustrators, a giant signing party.  Everyone who attended the show got a free copy of Writers of the Future Volume XXV, and we spent hours on end autographing.  I hardly got to see my wife and folks after the show, but they did stop by to congratulate me once more.  And Tracy even procured a beer for me.  Gawd, how I love that woman.

It was after 1:00 a.m. when the signing finally wound down.  There was an after-after-party in the Hospitality Suite, where the exhausted but still jovial lot of us gathered.  Joni Labaqui had room service bring up another raft of those monster burgers, along with a metric ton of fries.  I was still stuffed from dinner, but others set to.  I grabbed a burger for the road and made it to bed sometime after 3:00.

So that was my Celebrity Moment.  And I must say, it didn’t suck.

Next installment:  Pasadena burning, more signing, and the Spirit of Radio.

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