My dashing husband and me!
This was taken at the Baker Publishing dinner on Sunday Night. It was held at a elegant restaurant called Ventanas, my first rooftop dining experience! There we met several authors including Cecil Murphy (who told me it's okay to be shy . . . he's been publishing for YEARS and is still shy at big events like this. I really appreciated that, for it was intimidating to be in such an enormous crowd of professionals!), and Tamara Alexander. I also sat next to Jim Parrish, Executive Vice President and Director of Bethany House . . . whom I had met two years ago . . . and I asked him what he did at Bethany House . . .
Yes. I sure did. I had completely forgotten meeting him, and I totally asked him what his role at Bethany House was!
Gracious man that he is, I don't think that he held it against me. Sigh . . . One of these days, I'll learn to keep names and faces straight with job descriptions!
Anyway, here's another picture of my handsome husband:
Looking so dashing that night!
It definitely boosts one's confidence to walk into a fancy dinner on the arm of the handsomest man in town! Sadly, I didn't get any great pictures of us or even the event itself. But here's one more, just for fun.
It's blurry, but you can kind of see the pretty city lights far below us. I'm scared of heights, so I had more than one dizzy moment of vertigo on this trip! Rohan has a good, steady head, however, so that helped.
The next morning, we strolled over to the convention center and walked around ICRS for a while. Then Bethany House had me sign copies of both Heartless and Veiled Rose, which we were handing out for free. That was a busy forty minutes, let me tell you! I have never signed my name so much, so fast . . . and I had to keep reminding myself to sign Stengl and not de Silva. Here I'm just starting to get used to being a de Silva! It was a lot of fun, but my husband took all the pictures of that event, so I don't have those yet . . . his camera is much fancier than mine, so I'll wait until he gets a chance to download them before I post them. It was a great event, and Rohan and I had a bit of time to chat with my acquisitions editor, David Long, afterwards, which was great.
Then Rohan and I strolled the city for a bit, went back to our hotel for a cup of tea and a bit of rest . . . then the night of the awards banquet! We had to get ready first, of course, a long and laborious process for yours truly. But the Christy Awards are considered the Oscars of Christian Fiction, so we couldn't stint on our glamour!
And right before we walked down, my Rohan surprised me with a gift: A gorgeous, diamond tennis bracelet! He thanked me for saying yes to his proposal one year ago, while I did my utmost not to cry off all my carefully applied mascara. With a kiss for luck--and help working the complicated bracelet clasp--we swept downstairs to the ballroom.
The Christy Awards really was the highlight of the trip (well, except for all the great quality time with handsome, that is!). Liz Curtis Higgs was our MC, and what a marvelous woman she is! She had us all in stitches the entire evening, while simultaneously being as gracious as she could be. (And what a beautiful speaking voice she has too . . . so rich! I'd be willing to bet she's a singer.)
The night began with calling the finalists for each category to the front where we all received medals. Kind reviews were read of each of our nominated novels, and Liz gave sweet introductions for everyone. I was introduced to the crowd as the kitten-owning-princess-type with the dashing new husband. And I wore pink. Yes, please, world. Take me seriously! Oh, well. I write YA fantasy . . . I daren't take myself too seriously!
Now please understand, dear reader . . . yours truly is not fond of a public situation full of people I do not know, no matter how lovely those people may be. All the finalists were called up to the front and given medals at the beginning of the night, and that more than enough for me! The notion of giving a speech before all these people was nothing short of terrifying.
But after receiving my finalist's medal, I settled back into my seat completely confident that I had NOT won my category. After all, as stated above, I am the pink-princess-kitten-cutsy one. Not award winning material. And it was a nice relief! I was able to enjoy dinner, sitting with Rohan, my editor, and the lovely Siri Mitchel (who was, by the way, such a neat and interesting woman! She is fluent in French, so well-traveled, and quite the prolific author, writing in so many historical contexts and places. And she was able to tell us that the weird vegetable served on our plate was a cauliflower/broccoli crossbreed. It looked more like an alien life form to yours truly, but Siri was probably right. Which means, you should order and read her books.)
So the dinner passed with surprisingly little inner-turmoil. I thoroughly enjoyed the company, the night was ever-so glamorous, and I knew I was neither going to win nor going to have to get up in public to give an acceptance speech. A great combination for a great evening!
Our keynote speaker was Randall Wallace of Braveheart fame (he wrote the screenplay). What a wonderful, humble man he is! Rohan and I both enjoyed his speech. Both he and Liz emphasized the importance of remembering why we write and who it is we write for. Mr. Wallace's speech reminded me all over again of how it is God's work . . . how He is the one who directs our steps and lays out the plan for each work of fiction any of us pens. He knows who will be touched by our work, who will need the message contained therein. And He will see to it that His work is accomplished through us, despite any outer barriers or restrictions of the flesh.
Wonderful, refreshing speech. Moved me to laughter and to tears.
After that, it was time to name the winners of each category. They have a great method of doing this, by announcing the category, then reading the first line of the winning novel. That way, the author truly is the first person to know, for of course the author will be listening for those familiar words.
Well, most authors, that is. I wasn't. I was listening for some other, unfamiliar first line. And wondering if it would be all right for me, when my category was over, to slip away for a quick visit to the "powder room" or if I should wait until all the categories were finished--
"Two children, a brother and a sister, played down by the Old Bridge nearly every day, weather permitting. No one observing them would have guessed they were a prince and a princess."
That's right, my dears. They read my sentence.
And I gasped so loud, I think my editor thought I'd choked! And my dear husband had to prod me out of my chair to go up there and accept the award! And, after a whole evening of confidently believing I would NOT have to give a speech, I jolly well had to march up there and GIVE A SPEECH! Without crying, by the way. You can't cry while wearing a pink dress, or you'll never be taken seriously again as long as you live (at age 25, of course, this is of utmost importance to me).
It was an honor that I certainly never expected. And an honor, I cannot honestly say I deserved. But someone, somewhere, must have been touched by the message of grace contained in Heartless's pages. So, by grace, I was awarded the Christy.
I had written a very nice speech, most of which I forgot, naturally. I said something somewhat reminiscent of what I had written, I think (I really don't remember much of what I said . . . I was a bit dazed). But here I would like to post what I had originally intended to say:
"My novel Heartless is a story of undeserved grace. Standing here tonight reminds me yet again of all the ways this story has been brought home to me over these last few years. The story came to me during a period of deep hurt and disillusionment. It was easy during that time to think, ‘I don’t deserve this! I am a good person! It’s not fair that I should be treated this way!” Yet God, in His infinite mercy, gently reminded me that what I truly don’t deserve is His love and His grace. Thus the story of Heartless was born, a fairy tale about a girl who, through bitterness at the loss of her dream, becomes a far worse evil . . . but to whom grace is extended.
The story of Heartless’s journey to publication is in itself one demonstration of God’s grace after another. It was by grace that my agent, Rachel Kent, understood immediately the important message within the little fairy tale on her desk. It was by God’s grace that my editor, David Long of Bethany House, recognized potential even in that early draft he first read. It was God’s grace that placed my story in the capable hands of my line editor, Rochelle Gloege, who knows so well how to draw the best out of an author without changing that author’s individual voice.
I cannot even begin to thank all the people who poured work and prayer into this project. Lovely authors, Kim Sawyer and Jill Eileen Smith, who gave me much-needed advice on submissions and the dreaded art of proposal-writing . . . All my dear friends back home who patiently read various drafts and offered honest feedback . . . my agent, Rachel, who is, I believe, a real life superhero . . . the wonderful people at Bethany House, David Long, Rochelle Gloege, Paul Higdon (who gave me the most gorgeous cover), and so many other people who I don’t even know but who put countless hours of effort into making this book the very best it could be. Heartfelt thanks to you all!
But most especially, I must thank my long-suffering and patient mother, Jill Stengl, who read and proofed every single dragon-eaten draft of this book and, miraculously, still likes it! That is mother love for you. I can honestly say I could never have written this story without her support, encouragement . . . and knowledge of the humble comma.
So let me conclude by thanking you again for this award and for being yet another demonstration of God’s undeserved grace in my life. Blessings to you all and good night."
Yes, well, in reality, I didn't say anywhere near that much, nor did I thank anywhere near as many people as I had intended to. But I hope I said what I meant to about undeserved grace. Because that night really was just yet another demonstration of grace showered down upon me!
There were many talented authors there that night! It was just wonderful to get to stand up with them, both at the beginning when we received our medals, and at the end when we stood with our trophies:
Here I am with Steven James, DiAnn Mills, Nancy Rue, Lynn Austin, and Julie Klassen. Not pictured are winners Chris Fabry and Jill Williamson.
This one is straight on, but we're not all looking, sadly. Oh, well! You can see our shiny trophies and our medals. And some of my face (that which isn't hidden by my inadvertent peekaboo hairstyle).
But the best part of the whole evening was getting to share it with that handsome, supportive, wonderful man of mine!
Who looked like James Bond.
Two very happy people here!
Thank you all for your support and prayers! I hope you enjoyed this post of our adventures.
P.S. Rohan got so many more and so much better pictures! Once he puts them on my computer, I'll put them up on my facebook fan page and direct you that way. He has some artsy shots of our hotel and fun things like that! Because he's brilliant, that's why.