Voting is open in the annual DABWAHA tournament, which pits romance against romance for fun, bragging rights, and prizes. Making It Last is a finalist this year, a reader write-in nominee for the final slot in the novella category. In the first round voting, it’s pitted against Mary Ann Rivers’s novella The Story Guy.
This means that today, if you’re so inclined, you can hop over to the DABWAHA website and vote for Making It Last — or for The Story Guy — as well as for the books matched up in the other slots.
I haven’t done any DABWAHA campaigning this year, in part because I’ve been busy with other things, and in part because, to be honest, it doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense for me to encourage you to vote for Making It Last over The Story Guy.
It doesn’t make sense for me to talk trash about Mary Ann Rivers — her work, her story, her anything.
I know it’s all in good fun, but I can’t find it in myself to do it, even jokingly, because Making It Last is the product in large part of my creative and personal collaboration with Mary Ann Rivers. Because The Story Guy is a rich and beautiful story that she wrote before I met her, which was my introduction to her creative mind, and it’s a novella that I admire and love.
I met Mary Ann on Twitter. I jokingly said, one day, that I was about to write a sexy pinball scene and someone should talk me out of it. Mary Ann said no, she wouldn’t do that. Because pinball was sexy. And then she told me how, and why, and talked me into writing the scene that I obviously already wanted to be talked into writing.
It was a fun way to meet someone. She made me smile, and was clever and encouraging, so I sent the story to her when it was finished. She wrote me back a six-page letter that told me exactly what I’d done in my novel, and what it meant, and why it mattered.
That letter was the single most validating response to my writing that I’d ever received. It offered me, generously, a kind of clear-eyed understanding that is far more valuable than praise. It’s nice to be admired, of course. But it’s affirming, valuable, necessary, even, to be seen.
What do you write? I asked her. Can I read something? And she told me, in fact, she had a novella on submission to my editor at Loveswept. A novella that, it turned out, bore a lot of similarities to Big Boy, which was not yet published at the time.
The book in question was The Story Guy.
It blew me away. Made me cry. Made me happy. Gave me something, some insight, some gift that I still carry with me. The Story Guy is a kissing story — a story about life and choice, carrying burdens you haven’t chosen, making decisions to act in a way that feeds you.
After I read it, I asked her, What do you want?
Because it seemed to me, then, that whatever her hopes were for her novella, those hopes should be fulfilled. I knew she deserved that — that what she’d done was special. I wanted to help.
In the months since, that hasn’t changed. I’ve read all Mary Ann’s manuscripts. She’s read all mine. We’ve helped each other, exchanged daily pages, exchanged ideas, even done some collaborative writing.
She’s all over my work. I’m all over hers.
And this is why it doesn’t make any sense for me to tell you to vote for Making It Last. I didn’t. I voted for The Story Guy, because I’m always going to vote for Mary Ann. We vote with hundreds and thousands of emails, phone calls, visits, conversations. We vote with friendship and collaboration, insight, care, love.
We vote for each other, and when we do that, we vote for romance that is expansive and bright, interesting and insightful, engaged, big.
We vote for stories that take everything we’ve learned in our lives, in our reading, in our writing and craft and friendship, and use it to make meaning.
There are no wrong choices here. There’s no competition. There’s just her book, and my book, and what they offer the world. Which is more together — I am certain — than it would be separately.