Disappointment is something we would all like to banish from our lives. However, the older I get and the more I experience disappointment, the more I see how it shapes and molds me into a more thoughtful person. Disappointment helps us grow up, no matter how old we are. I know that sounds ridiculously self-righteous, but it’s true. Case in point, my book, The Beekeeper’s Son, was a finalist in the contemporary romance category of the ACFW Carol Awards Contest this year. I went to the ACFW conference in Nashville about ten days ago and attended the awards gala.
I image my friends and family figured that out when I didn’t shout about the results from the rooftops and all over social media. I slunk off to my hotel room and went to bed with nary a word. This is the second year one of my books has finaled. Neither time did it win. I can tell you there is a moment when that other name is announced when the disappointment is so profound that a person can hardly breathe. Then the moment passes and you’re able to smile and clap for the winner.
Just so we’re all clear, none of us authors write these books because we want to win contests. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have the same small competitive itch that others have when it comes to winning. It’s a nice affirmation. And good for marketing and getting (or keeping) the attention of publishers.
And I had a fabulous time sitting at my HarperCollins Christian Publishing House table with my beautiful and wise editor Becky Monds and the other members of our team. I felt like Cinderella at the ball. Until my carriage turned into a pumpkin!
When we lose, we tend to feel isolated in our sense of loss. Like no one else feels as badly. No one else understands. Which is silly. At least two dozen other writers watched someone else make that trek up onto the stage to accept an award they really wanted to win.
I imagine they were as touched by the experiences of the winners as I was. The winner who couldn’t be there because her body has been ravaged by cancer. The winner whose wife and youngest son were almost killed by tree that fell into their house while he was writing his book. It was rejected by his editor and he had to rewrite it. Almost every winner had a story to tell about the personal challenges they faced in order to write the winning book. We were touched and encouraged and humbled by those stories.
Beth Vogt, whose book Crazy Thing Called Love beat out The Beekeeper’s Son, has experienced disappointment. This was Beth’s third year to have a book final. And her first win. (We actually competed against each other last year as well.) She had experienced that disappointment twice before. One could argue, it was her turn to win. And, in the eyes of the judges, she wrote the better book in order to do so. She was so sure she would be disappointed again, she refused to write an acceptance speech until the last minute—much as I had done. She was thrilled and honored and gracious and deserving. And she gave all the glory to her God and savior. Every single writer did.
When my kids were little, I hated it when they were disappointed. When the ice cream truck didn’t stop for my daughter after she chased it all the way down the block. I raced to the freezer to give her a popsicle. When she didn’t make the volleyball team, I organized the pity party with her favorite flavor of ice cream. When she didn’t get asked on the date, I walked around the neighborhood with her, listening to hopes and her dreams, and assuring her that she would not grow old alone. I hated for my children to be disappointed, but I knew disappointment was necessary for them to grow up. If we always get what we want, we begin to feel entitled. We don’t appreciate the wins. We don’t learn that sometimes the other volleyball player is more skilled or the other writer is a better storyteller. We have no reason to strive to do better. It seems I’m still growing up. I will continue to hone my craft and seek to write stories that touch readers’ hearts and bring them closer to God. I will continue to support my fellow writers in their quest to shine a light in a dark world.
That means I will enter the contest again next year. I committed to that when the last winner was announced at the 2016 Carol Awards. Linda Davis, another San Antonio writer and my friend, won in the Debut Novel category for The Calling of Ella McFarland. She just turned seventy years old. Linda has never given up on her dream to be a published author. With this novel, she won Operation First Novel and a prestigious Carol Award.
The lesson there? Ignore disappointment. Never give up. Keep writing. Never lose sight of the real prize: touching readers’ lives and bringing them closer to the glory of God.