I got word this morning that a short story I wrote for the March/April issue of CRIME AND SUSPENSE ezine(http://www.crimeandsuspense.com) was chosen by readers as excellent. So imagine a nosy reporter sticking a microphone in my face and asking, "How does it feel, Ms. Herring, to be chosen for this award?" They always ask dumb questions like that.

Of course it feels great. Somebody, and I don't really care who, likes my work. A lot of Somebodies liked it enough to read to the end, find the correct spot on the website, and vote for it.

What do such things tell a writer? One argument is that awards tell you nothing. They are subjective, unmonitored, and piecemeal. Some will say that the big ones are political, going to people who've paid their dues, joined the right organizations, stroked the right egos. I don't know about that, but I'd guess that most writing awards are not determined in any scientifically approved manner. At one conference I attended, there was a box where you simply wrote an author's name down as a vote for Most Popular Mystery Writer Ever or something like that. I could have stood there all day putting my own name on endless slips of paper if I'd had any mysteries published at all.

Still, a prize is nice. Knowing that someone approves is helpful, and the publicity is a good thing. Knowing they got it, that your words strung together well enough to convey a mood and a message, is helpful to a writer. Rejections tend to be vague: "This isn't right for us at this time." Approbation says it was right for someone, that a project hit a particular target, that it was right for both the publisher and the fans at this time. Cool.

What you feel like writing is what you should write, but when it strikes a chord with others, your focus locks in, just like when the optometrist clicks two perfect lenses into place. Your two "eyes," your own talents and your readers' desires, come together into a single vision. That is something to be prized, like the T-shirt I'll be getting for "The Blizzard and Mrs. Beard."

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