Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Inside The Christy Banquet--Part 1
I’m going to take a number of days to tell you about some of the sights and sounds here in Denver. No doubt other bloggers and e-mail posters have listed who the Christy Award winners are. So I offer you something a little different.
This year on Saturday night the Christy banquet was held in the downtown Denver Marriott. I always enjoy the evening since it’s a gathering of wonderful fiction editors, agents and writers. There’s so many fascinating and talented people I want to talk with. I’ll start one conversation and end up getting pulled off to something else. This being my fifth Christy dinner, I feel at home now. Not so the first year I attended.
That would be in 2002, in L.A. That was also my first C.B.A. convention (now ICRS) and first ChiLibris retreat. I had three books on the shelves at that point and was definitely still feeling like a new kid on the block. Naturally, feeling nervous about attending the convention and dinner, I wanted to look just right. Well, what do I know. I heard “banquet” and “award,” and this naïve newbie thought, “Oh, okay, this is like the Oscar awards for Christian writing.” Which, of course, means ya dress to the nines.
A smarter person would have asked an experienced Christy attendee about the dress code.
So yours truly bought a new gown. Floor length and green, completely sequined, low backed. I told my husband (this is the only year he’s been with me) the dinner was formal, so he packed not a tux, but an expensive suit with French cuff shirt and gold cuff links. Fast forward to the ChiLibris retreat, when I started hearing what other women were wearing. Trust me, it wasn’t floor length gowns. More like basic Sunday dress. No way floor length. No way sequins. Definitely not low-backed.
Oh, boy. At least other men would be dressed in suits, so Mark wouldn’t look all that different. But I was gonna stand out like a green sequined sore thumb. With a couple of fingers thrown in. Looking at myself in the mirror before leaving the hotel room, I just wanted to fall through the floor. But what to do? So I had a little talk with myself. “Okay, B, you can either act like you’re mortified out of your mind—which you are—or you can walk in on your husband’s arm with your head held high, as if you perfectly well knew you’d be more dressed than anyone else, and that’s just fine by you.” Plan A—make myself and everyone around me miserable, because they’d surely feel my self-consciousness. Plan B—forget self-consciousness at my faux pas and just have a good time.
I’m a practical sort. I chose Plan B.
We got to the banquet. I felt like a neon sign, but didn’t let on. I was very glad to have my husband with me. We met all the Zondervan folk. We had seats at their reserved table. I’d just as soon have sat in a corner. No such luck. By twisted Murphy’s Law I ended up sitting next to none other than the Zondervan President/CEO.
He was a gracious man and never said a word about my dress.
At the table next to us sat a prominent novelist. I caught him staring at me. I just knew he was thinking, “Who on earth let that crazy woman in CBA?”
To be truthful, I did get compliments from many kind women. Even while they were no doubt thinking, “There but for the grace of God—and more than a few IQ points—go I.”
To this day there are numerous folks who haven’t forgotten the dress. Some in ACFW still talk about it. This is partly my doing. Since the doggone subject wouldn’t die, I decided to turn the thing on its head and make fun of myself. At the ACFW conference that fall I dressed up a lifestyle doll in the gown and a red wig. (That red wig was later used to outfit Mildred Koppelheimer, but that is, indeed, another story.)
An interesting thing happened the next year among the ChiLibris gals. Someone started talking on the loop about dressing to the nines for the banquet. I don’t know if my green dress had anything to do with that idea or not. At any rate, many of us decided to make it a fancy night. We knew many would still be in basic black dresses or Sunday best, and that was fine. But for those of us who wanted to dress up to help make the celebration of Christian fiction feel more festive—we decided to go for it.
Way cool. I had gowned cohorts that year. Although no one was in full sequins. Including me.
Since then it’s become a tradition for us dress-uppers. I’ve pulled a different gown from my closet every year, joining many of the other female novelists who’ve taken to doing the same. Others choose not to go that fancy. It’s just whatever the person feels comfortable with. Everybody’s happy with how they choose to look, and nobody need feel self-conscious. And so we’re free to have a great time, see all our pals in the industry, and forget about ourselves. Most of all, we rejoice with the winners of the awards. We all know and love each other, so whoever wins, it’s easy to feel happy. And together we’re celebrating fiction with a Christian worldview.
Tomorrow—this year’s keynote speaker, the award winners and some surprising acceptance speeches. (I took notes.)