Dear <<First Name>>,
So..... Hi there.
I genuinely hope you are doing well, but I also hate every email I get that starts off by saying they hope I'm well, so sorry about sending that right back at you anyway. Sometimes a weird warm up is better than nothing.
My original plan was to send this email update on June 1st, but here I am on the last day of this month instead. I'm still here - just a little behind the original schedule, because as they say, life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. I don't know who They are, but I have a few things to say back to Them about their proverbial truths that on occasion make me very irritated when I need to actually admit that I am a human - and therefore susceptible to things like life's ups and downs, especially when they collide together.
On Tuesday, June 1st, two very different emotional things happened within a five hour period of time, but I discovered them in opposite order. Around midday, I had to say goodbye to our younger dog, Nicky. He'd just been diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple weeks prior, but his health deteriorated so quickly that it had become fatal. I sobbed with saddness and grief and came outside the animal hospital to my car to try and calm down to be able to drive home safely. (I am a very risk-averse human and driver.)
After sending a bunch of texts to my inner circle of humans and getting the biggest of the hurt out, I checked my email to make sure I hadn't missed anything important over the last few tumultuous hours. Sitting in my inbox, from 8 am that morning, was the latest newsletter from the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. The title was "Enough with the Imposter Syndrome Stuff, Okay?" I sniff snorted, wiped my tears, and decided some writing advice was exactly what I needed, because I often feel like an Imposter with all things in my writing life.
And that was when I read the official announcement that I had been named the Humor Writer of the Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. The email I was planning to read so I could remember I am not an imposter was literally telling the world that I was not only A writer, but THE writer - for the month of June, at least. It wasn't a total surprise, but then again, I was totally surprised. I'd known about this honor since I'd received the most incredible email from the Workshop Director the week prior letting me know. I hadn't applied for anything. I hadn't asked for anything. This was a gift that was just bestowed upon me. And I had to remember it wasn't an error - like they picked the wrong Colleen or something. Or gotten me confused with a different Markley. But there it was in writing, and real.
So of course, I decided to "well, it's not really a big deal" it. Since most of my writing is self-deprecating humor, actually being proud of something big and exciting can feel weird, and bragadocious, and totally not me. So I looked it up online. And that's when I saw that one of my all time humor heroes - Mike Birbiglia - was listed on the same page as me. Mike Reiss was a former winner of the award too. And Annabelle Gurwitch. People I've admired and learned from and read their books and attended their workshops. And then there was me. It still might be a clerical error. Or it might be a vote of confidence for other good things to come. I've been plugging away at this writing thing for the last ten years, but have only been trying to be "serious" or "a real writer" for the last three. My tax returns might not tell you that I'm a real writer, but the folks over at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop seemed to think I am. Since I've never thought much of the literary criticism or book reading recommendations from the IRS, I'm going to go with that other vote of confidence.
The "Sisters!" anthology will be published by The Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop and will be out this fall. My piece, "Unflappably Calm, Occasionally Furious, Ready and Willing to Hide the Bodies" will be included in the book. I can't wait to tell you how to buy it. All royalties go to the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop Endowment Fund to help keep the conference affordable for writers, especially underrepresented ones. Real. Writers.
On June 1, I felt my heart break into pieces as I mourned my complicated, anxiety-ridden, often difficult dog. Minutes later, the universe reminded me that he was indeed some of my all-time best writing material, and there's a reason the viral blog about him is included as a chapter in my book, which I continue to edit and revise and make better. We all experience so many heartaches. Finding the funny in even those moments seems to be the lesson I needed to remember this June. Thanks for being part of the journey.