Presenter of the National Book Awards

National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Julia Glass, Winner of the 2002 FICTION AWARD for Three Junes

Photo Credit: R. Platzer/Twin Images

GLASS:

Oh God, I think I felt emotions this intense only two other times in my life and that's when my new born baby sons were put in my arms. Only a whole lot fewer people were watching and one of them wasn't the astonishing Steve Martin.

MARTIN:

I was there.

GLASS:

Oh God. Well, I'll have to ask you about that afterwards. And I'm not worried about catching a cold because I'm on a heavy duty antibiotic because I had laryngitis for the last two weeks and I'm really glad I'm on drugs. Wow.

Well, you know what? I'm going to start with my thank yous. Part of me is still sitting down there. I'm going to start by thanking the person who never gets thanks enough and that is Dennis Cowley, my guy, and the father of our wonderful children. I have to say that for about three or four years I was supposed to be working at home as a journalist and an editor and I was sneaking work on this novel. And he'd come home sometimes and I'd say, well, I worked on the novel today and I had a pretty good time. And he'd say, well, that's nice, dear, you know, or the equivalent and I had this kind of nobody asked, I won't show policy so nobody ever saw any of it. I realized when this book came out and I saw him holding it in his hands and he had this kind of amazed look on his face that why in the world should he have believed me, that that's what I was really doing when I said I was doing that, you know? So Dennis, thank you so much for believing that's what I was really doing or doing a really good job of pretending.

Gail Hochman, my amazing agent. You know, people ask me about my agent and she was the very first agent to see my work and also the first person to read my novel in its entirety. And many of you know Gail. I try to describe her to people and I'm never very successful. But she is so loyal, so affectionate, unbelievably energetic, smart beyond belief but aggressive and no nonsense when I need her to be. And I hope she's not going to take this amiss but, you know, I've realized that the perfect way to describe her is that she's quite a lot like the border collies that are a centerpiece of my novel.

Now it was Gail who, in our very first conversation about sending out my book, named a number of publishers and she said, but you know, I think your book is going to be really happy at Pantheon. And to Pantheon, I don't have words to say what a wonderful experience this has been. I know that publishing is a business but for me it's been nothing but pleasure.

I have to say there are times when I just kind of thought that my book was the only book they were publishing. And in a year of my life that actually turned out to be very, very difficult while my book was going through the process of being published, everybody at Pantheon treated me not just with the enthusiasm that you treat a new writer whose work you've discovered, but with the tenderness and patience that I thought was reserved only for children. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I will never forget that, and I mean, everyone that I have known there. I especially want to thank Dan Frank and Janice Goldklang and my tireless, all suffering publicist, Kimberly Burns, who is not here tonight. But Suzanne Herz, you've also been wonderful and I hope you'll convey my thanks to her.

And my incredible editor, Deb Garrison. She's not just my editor, she's my anchor, she's my cheerleader and she's my guru. I just - I've had an incredible education. I thought I knew everything, my friends think I'm a big know-it-all and I thought I knew everything about publishing but, Deb, you're my teacher. I love you. Thank you so much. I know that without everybody at Pantheon I really would not be standing here.

I also want to thank John Casey, Richard Russo and Michael Cunningham who without knowing me from Eve, read my book, loved it, blurbed it and have been wonderful to me. I want to thank the National Book Foundation for putting the stress on books. This is a room full of people, beautiful people, smart people, but everybody here including me is like a proxy for a book or a group of books and I have to say that in the 24 hours between the time I heard that I was nominated and I found out the rest of the nominations, I thought my way through all of the books of this year and how many incredible books there were and I marveled at the thought that books are these amazing - I mean, if you strip them of their beautiful finery, these amazing objects that are just very homely but transmute themselves into something completely different when you read them.

A book can be a sailing vessel, a magic rabbit hole, a tree house, a fabulous rich dessert, the wise crusty grandmother you lost when you were too young to need her to be around you, the naughty friend in the playground who tells you the facts of life much too young and all wrong.

I have a six-year-old son who taught himself to read when he was four and a half. I had really very little to do with it. The other day I saw something remarkable. Instead of reading very dramatically and expressively, which he does out loud to himself, I caught sight of him moving his eyes along the pages of a book without moving his lips. I had this amazing sensation of being both really proud and really jealous. I thought, God, this is like what I'm going to feel in ten years when he walks in the door with a true love on his arm. Because the relationship that we have with books, I think, is one of the most intimate and fulfilling relationships we have in our lives and I just felt - I felt very moved.

I have one more thing to say and that is that two years ago, I was pretty far into the 44th year of my life. I was vastly pregnant with my second baby and Gail Hochman had just taken my book on - nobody else had seen it - and she was showing it around. And sometimes I would lie awake as you do an awful lot when you're vastly pregnant and I would think who am I to think that I can have a first book published when I'm this old?

And then I thought, but you know, there were a bunch of doctors who told me I'd never have this second baby and I kind of went along with it. And Gail sold my book and all I have to say is that this is for everybody who blooms late in life, whether you're a writer or anything else because you never, never know.

Thank you so much everybody.