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June 2008Another Thing to Know

And the Winner Is . . .

Last month, one of my early mentors asked me if I would consider donating a week of my time to teaching in a program she started several years ago. She pointed out that it's estimated only 1 percent of writers support ourselves with our pens, if you will. Frankly, I think that number is a little high. At any rate, I happily agreed to teach in her workshop next summer. More details when I have them. In fact, I may be teaching in up to three workshops in 2009.

But teaching is only one way to give back. As a writer who's been lucky enough to win awards for my work, I decided it was time to give out awards to readers. So welcome to the first - and maybe only - RE:! Awards, given for outstanding achievements in email.

Do Whatcha Wanna. This is an award that acknowledges that to err is human, to forgive divine, and to correct someone gently is beyond divine. This goes to Mark H., who pointed out one of my latest gaffes:
"Just read the May 2008 Letter from Laura and suggest a couple of corrections. The important one is that Dr John's other name is Mac Rebennack, not Matt. The other is a typo in paragraph 2: "Twice, I feel asleep...."

Keep on keepin' on. I an ardent admirer."
See what he did there? He didn't call me an idiot, or conclude that this boneheaded mistake was evidence that I am a thoughtless, brainless hack who doesn't deserve to be published. Just told me straight-up that I made a couple of mistakes. (An aside: Typos are a real torment for me, but getting Dr. John's name wrong is an inexplicable gaffe that fills me with shame.) Mark H. will receive the Basin Street Festival Sampler CD. No Dr. John songs, but it does have Kermit Ruffins, Henry Butler, Jon Cleary and Theresa Andersson. CQ, by the way, on that double "S" in Andersson. Do whatcha wanna, but try to keep things accurate.

The Hot Dang Award. Next up, we have Lynda M., who wrote a truly heartfelt email about whether it would be possible for me to avoid profanity in my work. This is not an infrequent complaint, but Lynda made it with tact and consideration, and continued reading despite her sincere distress over the language. I'm sending Lynda the novel Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, which is delightful and profanity free. As for my own work -- well, I am currently writing something that has to avoid profanity. Look for The Secret Project this fall. And if it never appears, we will all know once and for all that I cannot, in fact, write without using curse words. However, according to a recent poll, only six percent of Americans admit to cursing. What the --?

The Lady or the Tiger Award. I'm not saying I get a lot of mean email, but I get enough that I approach my in-box with trepidation every morning. So this award is in honor of email that makes its intentions known in the subject line. Unfortunately, I haven't yet heard back from this correspondent, so the next person who sends me an unambiguously cheery email will receive an advance copy of my short story collection, Hardly Knew Her.

The fact is, I could have given dozens of awards for the kind emails I receive almost daily. It's human nature to obsess over the mean-spirited and cruel comments, but those are in the minority. Most of the people who take time to write are generous and kind. Thank you.

Speaking of Awards . . .

What the Dead Know has been nominated for the Duncan Lawrie CWA award for best novel, along with the Anthony and Barry. And Hardly Knew Her, the title story in my new collection, is nominated for an Anthony as well. And while I was castigated for my clichéd writing by another correspondent -- Note: this did not put her in contention for a RE:!, not because of the criticism, but because of an incredibly low blow in the way that critique was framed -- some clichés have the virtue of truth. It really is an honor just to be nominated.

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