There's a point in awards ceremonies where I always ask myself, why do this? I can eat chicken and mushrooms at home, and I can avoid rolls at home. Then I ask myself, should I really just take one bite of the chocolate mousse pie and give the rest to my husband, because after all, I probably won't win a Whitney this year, since I won one last year? And gee willikers, I paid a lot for food I'm a) either not eating b) or I could cook at home. (This is how nervous nellies think. It's not a pretty sight.)
But I was a good enough girl. I passed up the roll, didn't eat all the mashed potatoes, and yes indeedy, handed over that chocolate mousse pie to Hubby, after one - mebbe two - bites. Then I waited through interminable comments by presenters until we arrived at the historical fiction category, where My Loving Vigil Keeping won best Historical Fiction of the Year at the 2012 Whitney Awards.
I happily accepted the Whitney Award in memory of "my guys," the 200 men and boys who died in the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster in 1900. They were on my mind anyway, since it isn't that long since May 1, when the Number Four Mine blew up and killed the morning shift. Quite a few guys in the connecting Number One died, too, of afterdamp. That's only part of the story, of course. Novels are built of more than that.
Three days before the awards ceremony, I went up to Scofield for a visit. Going to the cemetery makes me sad, because they all died too young, and generally with large and hopeful families. And some of them were buried so far from previous homes in Finland, England, Wales, Scotland, you name it. The sadness passes, though, and I feel the peace of the place. Eagles swoop and soar overhead. The logical side of my brain tells me they're only on the hunt for the cemetery's gophers. The other side suggests to me that they're looking after my guys,too.
Time passes. In a few weeks, there will be a paper flower on each grave. The Price Sun-Advocate began a project a few years ago called "No grave left unadorned." Scores of folks make paper flowers, which are put on each grave in Carbon County. Once a year, someone leaves a paper flower for my guys. But I go up several times a year, walk the rows, and think about lives cut short, hard-working men, and what compels people to leave their homes in other nations or states and follow the coal veins to Utah. For some, it was religion, and probably the hope of better lives for their children. For others, it was just the latter, or better lives for themselves.
I've noticed that sometimes others leave flowers during the year, so I know these men are remembered. I remember all the time.
Now a little housekeeping- If any of you live in New York City, you're welcome to drop by the Jacob Javits Center on May 31 at 2 p.m., or June 1 at 10 a.m., where I'll be signing books. It's part of the annual Book Expo America. Cedar Fort is flying me there, and I'm totally jazzed about it. I've never been to BEA, but I hear it's a great place to meet authors and snag free books. I'll also drop by the Harlequin booth on Friday morning, and maybe the Signet booth, because I have some interests there, too.