What a glittering event! The ten Townsend Prize finalists, other authors and the want-to-be authors of the Atlanta Writers Club gathered at the beautiful Wimbish House for drinks, dinner, speeches and awards.
The Townsend Award is a big deal. Named in memory of Jim Townsend, founding editor of Atlanta magazine and mentor to a generation of remarkable Southern authors, the award is given biannually to the finest work of literary fiction written by an author in Georgia. Past winning authors include Ferroll Sams, Alice Walker, Celestine Sibley and others.
I looked enviously at the table where the books of previous winners and current finalists were displayed. Oh, to actually have a published book! I hope that’s in my future! And to imagine that it might qualify for a prize! A lofty goal!
The hopeful finalists and their families were all seated together, looking glamorous. I know they were all nervous, thinking about the award.
Melissa Faye Green, Kirk Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Agnes Scott College, gave the keynote address. You may know her; she is the author of six books, including Praying for Sheetrock. I loved her talk. Her premise was that humans are story tellers, and our brains want to make everything a story. As she described the arc of a story and its eight key elements, I thought about my writing. Did I have the eight? She showed Kurt Vonnegut’s iconic short video about the arc of a story and followed it with several short videos of commercials, each telling, in only a few seconds, a complete story with all the elements. Amazing! What a perfect explanation of our need to hear stories, the cultural value of stories, the power of stories.
Sanjena Sathian was this year’s Townsend winner, for her book Gold Diggers, a story about immigrants, ambition and a little bit of magic. I can’t wait to read it.
And now I am psyched up to continue to drudgery of editing, querying and working on turning my manuscript into a real book. I think of Pinocchio and his desire to be a real boy, and the Velveteen Rabbit, who became a real rabbit, after he was loved enough. Perhaps there is a real book in my future after all!