That time I cried on YouTube

On October 21, 2021 the SC Humanities held their awards ceremony for the Governor’s Awards and the Fresh Voices Awards. The former honors a body of work and was awarded to three senior members of our SC Humanities community for contributions in activism and scholarship. The latter is meant for “up and coming” or “new with potential” contributors to the state, such as myself.

I speak in front of people every day. My classrooms have 30+ people in them, I’m on YouTube with my Parenting Porcupines ladies once weekly. The radio show, Write On SC has an unknown audience of possibly hundreds. The the Pastides Alumni Center yesterday there were about two dozen people and I got teary-eyed. The award is awesome, but what it says—that I’m a leader in the literary arts in South Carolina—is the fulfillment of a dream I didn’t know I was supposed to have when I went to Clemson to see Nana and Papa in 1995.

Anyway, here’s the video. My part starts at 40:30. And below are my remarks (sans tears).

Fresh Voices Award Remarks

Thank you, Dr. Mack. Can I just say, to those who are sitting here as award recipients: WOW? Your accomplishments are humbling, and inspiring. I’m so grateful to be among you. To meet you. To be considered one of you.

I’m a writer. It’s a title I’ve had since I was 13 years-old. I majored in English. Twice. In corporate, I was a copywriter. For a long time I was an aspiring novelist. Now I’m a published author. I’m a writer and an AUTHOR. And that second title, the one that deserves a capital letter, it’s because of the South Carolina Writers’ Association.

I started attending bi-monthly support group meetings in the basement of a church in 2016. Like an addict, I confessed my love of literature and brought evidence of my addiction into the room and like a good, ornery group of critics, the SCWA Columbia 2 chapter ripped those pages to shreds.

I learned to take critique. To listen to readers. To craft better sentences, better paragraphs, better pages. I got rejected. I got better. I got a publisher. Thank you, Alexa Bigwarfe and Chrysalis Press for making my two novels, After December and Before Pittsburgh, bookshelf realities.

When asked to take a leadership role in SCWA, I considered what so many of us consider: did I have the time? How would it affect my family? What did I really have to offer?

In a dynamic publishing industry, with opportunity to tell so many stories, I put myself forward in service. I learned that from my Nana and Papa. 

My family is used to my commitments, they’ve been well-trained to accept that I’m building a career and that requires I pay my dues. Thank you, Charlie and Hollie, for getting it and for celebrating these awards as payment for the work I’ve done.

I didn’t exactly Lean In. I left full-time corporate in 2012 and stepped into voluntary associations with 1 Million Cups, Richland Library, 100.7 The Point, the Richland County Libertarian Party, and the South Carolina Writers Association. In all of those places, I learned that when I volunteered to serve, I was trusted to lead.

Despite a bad run of book clubs—I’ve been kicked out of a few; someday we can have a few beers and I’ll explain—I’ve become a good literary citizen. One who gives to the community. One who leads because of dedication to the craft and love of the state. We are a storytelling state with a rich literary tradition. I’m proud to be part of it.

Thanks to Richard Brown of the U of SC press and Jonathan Haupt of the Pat Conroy Literary Center for bringing me into your realms of the literary world. 

Thank you to Keven Cohen and 100.7 The Point for keeping Write On SC on the air every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and my co-host Rex Hurst for showing up and being in this thing with me for 163 episodes and counting. Thanks to the SC Arts Commission for supporting our show with an Artists Venture Grant, and to our Patrons for contributing monthly to keep us on the air.

Thank you to the Darla Moore School of Business: Joel Stevenson for recommending me, Rob Ployhart for hiring me, Sandy Bringley for helping me, Sherry Thatcher and Anthony Nyberg for keeping me, and Mark Ferguson and Dean Peter Brews for applauding me, even if this accomplishment is not directly related to established business school metrics.

And thank you to the South Carolina Writers Association, specifically Mike Lee for pushing me to lead, Amber and Mary for asking me to help, Vivian for being a cheerleader, the Columbia 2 chapter for helping me improve my craft. Thank you to my editor and friend, Jodie Cain Smith, who introduced me to SCWA in 2016, and the entire Board of Directors for giving me a chance to prove I could be what you believed I could be.

A writer. An author. A teacher. A leader.

I love this state and all of the stories in it. I’m so grateful for the chance to write, read, tell, and hear them all.

Thank you again, Dr. Akers and SC Humanities, for this honor.

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