Long ago, on Genie RomEx, a writers group that no longer exists, a discussion arose about good luck charms and answers to prayers. Often feathers are my notice from the heavens, and I said to the group that if I ever found one of the RITA feathers that are so renowned for breaking off, I’d know I would eventually win one. It would be my ultimate good luck charm.
A few days later, I opened my mail box to find a package from Anne Stuart who was a part of that writers group. Intrigued, I opened the box to find a tiny object wrapped in tissue paper–a RITA feather, broken off from one of Sister Krissie’s statues, which she’d sent as a good luck charm. I was a relatively new writer, and this was a gesture of enormous generousity from someone I idolized. It became one of my prized possessions.
Now, it’s hard to remember exactly when this was—and I’d check for the discussion, but the service we used in those days (lo these many years ago!) died with Y2K, one of the few things that really did. All those discussions are lost in some cold computer hard drive somewhere.
So, I can’t remember the exact year, but I’m fairly sure Sister Krissie had read Jezebel’s Blues already, since she liked the book and told me so and I nearly fainted over the honor. Jezebel, a book I wrote as Ruth Wind for Silhouette in 1992, was a rich brew of a story, about the daughter of a famous writer who goes to a small Texas town and is stranded in the attic of her house during a flood. Obviously, she was not stranded alone. Her mate, Eric Putman, is a blues guitarist who lost the use of one hand in an accident, and he’s trying to find his way back to himself. I loved the book, the flood, the fact that it was about the blues, that the only white characters in the book were the main two and no one noticed, which was exactly as it should be.
But it also had a terrible cover and sold about six copies, so the RITA nod was much needed to keep it in the public eye. I remember being terrified that I might win and have to go accept it, and it seemed that because there was a flood in St. Louis that year, I might actually win. I was quite, quite shy and did not want to speak in public. Being nominated was all I wanted.
Things get a little blurry in terms of timing, but I think Sister Krissie won that year in St. Louis, and that’s why we ended up discussing it.
That beautiful little feather has brought me tremendous luck. I bought a tiny embroidered bag for it, and every time I finaled, I tucked it into my bra, wearing it close to my heart. The first year, I won a now-defunct award for the best novel addressing a social issue. One year, I took home two RITAs, and thought I should give it away to someone else. Share the wealth. I mailed it to a writer I think is very good, who wanted to win very much. She mailed it back. I loaned it, at various times, to three other people. Somehow, it always comes back to me. Since it arrived in my mailbox all those years ago, I’ve won five RITAs and tried to give the feather away six times.
So I’m going to keep it for awhile longer. Maybe I’ll make the Hall of Fame one of these days, which requires three RITAs in the same category. I’d really like to do that. And maybe I’ll never make my goal, either. That’s okay. I’ll always have my magic feather, tucked close to my heart, the generous offering of a writer a bit further on the path than I.
Oh, and thanks ever so much, Sister Krissie. You’re the best.