The Writer


My mother remembers where she was when Nixon resigned. My husband remembers where he was when John Lennon was shot. I remember where I was when I got word I’d been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

I was lying on the sofa with my husband and my dog, watching the Golden Globes. The text came from Alle Hall, former senior nonfiction editor at jmww journal. The nomination was for my 2019 essay “The Light of Day is a Crucible.” I was stunned. I was excited. And I was very, very grateful.

Like many writers I know, I’ve written most of my life with the shitbird of defeat hovering nearby. The shitbird, as Philip Schultz, creator of The Writers Studio, describes it, is “…a black bird that perches on our shoulders whispering perverse, ugly things” about our writing abilities. A Pushcart nomination, even one that did not result in a win, might just interrupt the bird’s negative flow of chatter, I thought, or at least help me trust my own writing process a bit more.

I didn’t say anything about my nomination on social media for three days, in case Hall had second thoughts and decided to un-nominate me. On the fourth day, I posted my news on Facebook. And the shitbird hit the fan.

It turns out not everyone thinks a Pushcart nomination is anything to crow about. My own sister wrote in the comments section of my post that Pushcart nominations are so ubiquitous as to be meaningless.

“I’ve been nominated multiple times,” she wrote. “You should be proud but you shouldn’t publicize it.”

Not only did that sting, but it also opened the way for a gusher of shame, the feeder system for which was every past minor and major accomplishment about which I’d ever crowed, no matter how softly. But was she right? Is a Pushcart nomination the literary equivalent of the pink fifth-place ribbon every child who didn’t win first through fourth place receives at the end of a horse show? (God knows I have plenty of those.)

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