Sunday, August 5, 2007

If it Looks Like a Duck...

I hate traveling. Driving to the airport; waiting in the security line; hanging around the terminal; the take-off; the landing. Even when I’m on vacation and going to a fun destination, I hate the process of getting there.

I had an especially hellish trip Friday. I had to fly from Indianapolis, connect to Chicago, and fly on to St. Louis. Sounds simple enough. My flight from Indy was delayed over half an hour, which meant I (just) missed my connecting flight in Chicago (even after I ran across the airport to catch it), which meant I had to hang around another hour for a later flight.

Unfortunately I was up against a deadline. I had to be in St. Louis no later than 6:30. Actually, it was a suburb, technically in Illinois, about 30 miles from the airport. I needed to rent a car and drive to my hotel, which was right down the street from my ultimate destination.

I landed in St. Louis at around 4:30. Originally, if my connection hadn’t been late, I would’ve been there by 3 p.m. I was already an hour-and-a-half late. Renting the car took longer than I expected. I checked in at the rental agency in the airport but then had to take a 10-minute shuttle to the car lot. It was after 5:15. when I finally got my car and zoomed onto the highway. I was making fairly good time until I hit Friday afternoon downtown traffic. This delayed me about ten minutes and my 30-minute trip turned into 40 minutes. I pulled into the hotel parking lot just before 6 p.m., rushed thorough the check-in process, and collapsed on my bed at 6:05. Made it!

So why in the hell was I killing myself to get to Collinsville, Illinois? I needed to be at an awards banquet that started at 7:00. One of the award presenters met me at my hotel at 6:30 and we drove to the nearby Holiday Inn, which housed the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). After a tasty meal, and an entertaining audience-participation murder-mystery show, the awards commenced. At 9:00 I received the 2007 Golden Duck for Excellence in Picture Books. What the heck is a Golden Duck, you ask? I didn’t know either until I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by one of the award’s representatives. The Golden Ducks were created in 1992 to recognize excellence in children’s science fiction literature. In essence, the award is a Hugo for kid lit (the Hugo being the biggest award a science fiction author can receive). Past Golden Duck winners include Jon Scieszka, David Elliot, and somebody named J.K. Rowling (who was awarded a special Golden Duck in 2000).

It’s a major prize, to be sure, and I was thrilled to receive it. The book that won was NIGHT OF THE HOMEWORK ZOMBIES, written, of course, by me and illustrated by Steve Harpster. The Duck went to both of us, but Steve couldn’t make the banquet (he was at a show in California) so I hogged all the glory, although I will have to send him half the prize money…eventually. I also received a lovely framed scroll and a necklace with several rubber duckies (see photo).

At the banquet I sat next to another winner, Pete Hautman, who won for Best Young Adult Book. Pete’s a helluva nice guy, and after the ceremony we hung out in the cigar bar, talked books, movies, comics (as a kid, Pete wanted to write comics and created his own mimeographed comic book with his friends), publishers, agents, and why there were so many chubby goth girls in revealing homemade costumes at the convention.

Pete’s an excellent author, too. He gave me a signed copy of RASH, the book for which he’d received the Duck. It’s a darkly comic tale of a sixteen-year-old boy in the not-too-distant future, and it’s a wonderful read. Pete’s also the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Young People's Literature (for GODLESS), which is a really major award – one of the biggest. You can check out Pete's books at his website, and buy them at Amazon. I plan on getting as many as I can.

Pete drove from Minneapolis – a ten-and-a-half trip each way. He brought along the audio version of the latest Harry Potter book, which just so happens to run about 21 hours. Perfect!

My trip back to Indiana was uneventful and, thankfully, glitch-free. I was a little tired, my ears were badly plugged from the flights and a sinus irritation, but I walked in the door Saturday night proudly wearing my Golden Duckie necklace.

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