I knew I'd be nervous, but I really didn't anticipate how badly my hands would shake when I stepped up to the podium. I have plenty of experience speaking in public; when you grow up Mormon, you give at least half a dozen talks in church by the time you're in high school. Besides that, I've done a decent number of readings and I've appeared on local radio. Always before, the nervousness has subsided and my hands have stopped shaking in fairly short order.
But I hadn't addressed an auditorium full of teenaged writers before last night, at the awards ceremony for the New York City Region of the Scholastic Writing Awards of 2004. It was a humbling and terrifying experience. Laura reports that she couldn't hear any quaver in my voice, but I sure could. The shaking of my hands lasted all the way through my remarks and didn't end until well after I had sat down.
Before my address (the text of which is here), approximately seventy young writers had mounted the stage to be recognized for their receipt of Gold and Silver Key awards in the regional competition. If memory serves, there were three winners from the SF/fantasy category in attendance, two of them girls. My heart swelled seeing these kids announce boldly that they were science fiction writers. I couldn't help thinking back to my first clumsy submissions to Asimov's and Omni was I was fifteen, how hopeful I was when I sent out the storiesand how devastated when the inevitable form rejections from Shawna and Ellen (or their slush-pile minions) came back. What a scary and exciting road those kids have ahead of them.
After the ceremony, Laura and I led much of the staff of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers back to our apartment (a short walk from Long Island City High School, oddly enough) for delivery diner food, Girl Scout cookies, lots of beer, and Scotch tasting. (The 37-year cask-strength Auchentoshan, served with just a splash of water, was a brilliant highlight.) I probably shouldn't mention that part of the evening, but it was terrific fun and great company. That's why I'm still moving slowly this morning.