The news came out yesterday that This Is What I Want is a finalist in the fiction category of the 2016 High Plains Book Awards. It’s my third finalist designation—the previous ones were for Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure in 2012 (short stories) and 600 Hours of Edward in 2010 (winner in the First Book category)—and I’m as flabbergasted and grateful as I was the first time.
Perhaps even more flabbergasted this time, since This Is What I Want came out last July and promptly…well, did not much of anything. It got some nice reviews, colleagues said some lovely things—and, again, I’m nothing but grateful—but the book just sort of settled into a corner. My wonderful friend Richard S. Wheeler, the six-time Spur Award winner and epitome of grace, gave me some advice years ago that serves me well every day. Write the best book you can, he said, and then surrender your expectations. If you’re at it long enough, books that you expect to fly will, instead, fall, and books that confound you will soar.
Damned if he isn’t right. Neither This Is What I Want nor its immediate predecessor, The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter, has found readers the way I hoped they would. But I’m at peace because they were the best books I could write when I wrote them, because they’ll be around a long time and still have the chance to connect, because I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate by any measure, because I’m not owed anything, because I still get to do this thing I love, because there will be another book, and because I’m blessed to have this book in the company of the 36 other finalists across the High Plains Book Awards categories.
The winners will be announced October 8 at a banquet in Billings. I’ll be in New England on my honeymoon.
I’ve already won.