The power of validation

Destroyer-of-Worlds-CoverInternational Thriller Writers have nominated Joanna Penn for a writing award – Best Ebook Original. Although she’s an internationally known podcaster and author mentor, this is the first time she’s received a nomination for her fiction writing as J.F. Penn.

Her pleasure over this recognition is obvious. She sounds charmingly giddy talking about it during her weekly podcast, The Creative Penn.

It reminded me of the well-known Sally Field moment at the 1984 Academy Awards, when wide-eyed with wonder the former TV child star said winning the award for a second time meant “You like me! Right now, you like me!”

I think time and parody have relieved Field’s words of some of their meaning. Here was a woman who had grown up portraying characters in light comedy – Gidget, The Flying Nun – and now she was handed filmdom’s highest honor for a serious drama, again (the first was for Norma Rae in 1979).

“I haven’t had an orthodox career. And I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect,” she said before delivering the oft-quoted words. The award meant her fellow actors did indeed respect her acting chops. It was a sweet moment of validation.

I’ve been listening to Penn’s podcast for years now, and it’s been fun hearing her grow and following her career as she helps her fellow creatives learn and grow with her.

It’ll be fun to see if her book – Destroyer of Worlds – actually gives her a “You like me!” moment on stage. In a sense, though, she has already has what she needed – acknowledgment that her peers accept and respect her.

Was she a very good writer even before she got the nomination? Of course she was; she wrote well enough to sustain her book sales and draw an audience big enough that both she and her husband have been able to leave their traditional jobs to devote full time to her business.

What did the nomination change? Nothing, really, except now she knows, beyond the financial success, that while she may not have had an orthodox career, her peers like her, too. And yes, that means a lot.