In for a Penny

Back after a minute, my eye. I had a couple of teachers in, and a student. Yup. My glamorous professorial life.


Do you have a minute?

I wanted to write this post separately from the post that contained my Nebula congratulations. I am sincerely happy for the nominees, and as I indicated at the end of today’s other post, I really think it’s great that all those writers got nominated for the Neb.

But I want to talk to you for a minute. Yes, you.

You might be…

…a previous award nominee. This year, the spotlight isn’t on you, and you feel like last year’s dress. Christmas cake in Japan. The going thing instead of the comin’ thing.

…a hard working writer who wonders why lightening didn’t strike for you. Your story was good enough to get published, but not nominated.

…a novelist. One of the things about only writing novels is that the time sink is longer, and the pay off for the writer takes longer in terms of recognition. Longer to join SFWA. Longer to get nominated for Hugo and Nebula, if that’s the kind of book you write. Novelists are a bit like puppies. It takes about 7 years to accomplish what a short story writer can do in one.

(CAVEAT: Writing of any sort is hard. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is that short stories are…well…shorter.)

…not that kind of writer. It’s the rare paranormal romance that gets this kind of attention! Or pulpy SF. Or what have you. No award is exclusive, but people have differing tastes, and different eras in writing have their own fashion. Maybe what you are writing is not the Nebula fashion now. And don’t even get me started on humor versus drama. Nope. Not going there.


Chin up, little Buckaroo.

As many of you know, I am a master class costumer, retired (hey, a girl’s gotta work on her writing!). I’ve been in A LOT of costume contests. I’ve won a few. I’ve lost a few. I’ve probably won a few more than I’ve lost, but sometimes, whether the win involves you or not, you are mystified at the choices made. I am sure that a lot of Nebula voters are going to wonder why the story they picked as best didn’t win. I certainly have looked at a lot of overshadowed costumes and wondered. I’ve also been in shows where there have been too many good costumes to give out awards to all of them. I’ll admit that sometimes my tastes just do not match the judge’s, and therein lies the rub.

You can’t let the judgment of others affect your opinion of your worth. Not awards either. I’m not saying this: Defend your writing in the face of valuable critique from other people. Change nothing. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying this: Do the best you can. Get better. Take pride in your work. The rest will follow, whether it’s that award nomination, or that you get to give a TED talk, or you get a space satellite named after you (all things which have happened to writers that I’ve heard about).

Awards are nice. And the admiration of your peers is wonderful. It’s nice to have the award. It’s nice to feel validated. But you know why people get awards? Because someone has decided to give someone an award. It’s not necessarily a validation of quality (it can be, but it isn’t always. Ditto on the whole book making money thing…). Lots of skillful musicians and actors haven’t won the coveted awards of their profession. It doesn’t make them any less skillful.

I am writing this in part to the hypothetically frustrated, but I also write this to myself. I’ve made two writing decisions lately that I intend to stick to: 1. I’m a novelist and 2. I’m done sending out crap. Both of those things mean that I won’t be cranking out short stories, selling three, and getting into SFWA anytime soon. (Not that this is easy, but I’m gaining on it, skill-wise.)

I am a far, far way away from writing the novels I want to write. But I’m getting closer all the time. I’m gonna write and do my best. That’s gotta be enough, because that’s all I can guarantee.

Going to check some rough drafts now. Work hard, little Buckaroo. Next year’s award could be your own.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

3 thoughts on “In for a Penny”

  1. You’ve nailed the hard part about novels…they’re a huge time sink, and it takes sooooo long to get any follow-through on one. So there’s no feedback for a lonf time as a reward.

    So back to work for both of us!

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