The Edgar (r) nominees were announced today and I was nominated for best short story. For those who have emailed and said that they expected to see me in another category — well, I didn’t expect to be, and I can produce the person to whom I made this prediction a week ago.
But it is very gratifying to receive my first short story nomination, for Hardly Knew Her from Dead Man’s Hand. And here’s the reason why: Otto Penzler put me through a very tough rewrite on that story.
I submitted it almost two years ago. I had written several short stories for Otto and never received more than a few technical notes. But this time, Otto wrote back a polite but sorrowful email. The story didn’t work. Certain motivations didn’t ring true.
Now, when I teach, I tell students that if they’re really honest with themselves, criticism — good criticism, I should say, where someone has really thought about what’s working or not working — won’t surprise them. In their heart of hearts, it will resonate. Because they probably know about the problem, but have talked themselves into believing it’s not there. When I submitted Hardly Knew Her, I had persuaded myself that all the problems that Otto would eventually cite didn’t matter because of the character and the writing and the details about the time period, 1975, which was very much on my mind in 2006.
So I’m thrilled about the nomination, but it’s Otto who should take a bow today. Because he not only pointed out the problems in the story, he gave me a chance to revise it.