Every Thank You Tells a Story. On Reading the Acknowledgements Page, Part One.
By Cameron Dokey - April 4, 2012
You want to get to the good stuff, and I understand. But before you dive into that book you’re clutching in your hot little hands, let me just encourage you to make one small stop along the way. On the acknowledgements page.
This is the place where the author of the work you can’t wait to get started on gets to say thanks. Sometimes, it’s a very personal thank you—to a partner and/or children for putting up with all the weird hours it took to get the book finished. Not to mention all those red-eye flights to Iceland. Or maybe to another writer or a writers’ group for inspiration and support. If the book you’re looking forward to is non-fiction, you may encounter this great big list of scholars and scholarly institutions. This can seem daunting, I admit. I encourage you to read it anyhow.
How come? Because every single thank you tells a story. Put them all together, and they help to tell the story of how the work you want to read came to be born. Sometimes, who an author thanks just might surprise you. So all this got me thinking: If I were going to write an acknowledgements page for my entire writing career, who would be on it? What story would it tell?
There are some obvious choices, of course. My parents for a start. My mom was a kindergarten teacher who loved to read to my younger brother and me. I still have my childhood copies of Do You Know What I’ll Do? How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Where the Wild things Are, and The Tomten. (Actually, I think that copy of The Tomten really belongs to Todd, my brother. Am I giving it back? Dream on.)
My mother may have done the reading, but my father told the world’s best bedtime stories. Some right out of his imagination (the San Leandro Forest Stories—for the record there IS no forest in San Leandro. But it was the cool-sounding town where my aunt and uncle lived and hey—it sounded like it ought to have one!) Others were drawn from classical literature. I knew the stories of the Trojan Horse and Odysseus and the Cyclops by the time I was five. I’m pretty sure those bedtime stories inspired a lifelong love of Greek mythology. I almost switched my major from English to Classics in college.
My father is also a writer. Every single weeknight throughout my childhood, while my brother and I did our homework, my father went to his study to write. This was after teaching high school English all day. I’m talking year after year, every single weeknight. I think it was this as much as anything else that inspired me to become a writer. So, Mom and Dad get thank you number one.
Thank you number two goes to Uncle Jack and Aunt Mary Ann. I addition to living in exciting San Leandro, they gave me a book of short stories called The Princesses for my eighth birthday. Not all my stories for Simon and Schuster’s wonderful Once Upon a Time series feature princesses, but I am absolutely certain that my love of all things magical began with that volume of short stories. And that love directly affected what I love to write about--and how I want to write it. Not only that, my aunt and uncle had a cat named Claude. When I was eight, that seemed pretty danged funny.
Now we get a big jump forward in time. High school, senior year. Paul Barnes, the director of the high-powered theatre department where I went to high school, takes me and a group of classmates on a field trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. There, we meet James Edmondson, actor and director. And it is no exaggeration at all to say that meeting Jimmie, as his friends call him, changed my life.
How? See, here’s where the acknowledgements-page-as-story comes into play. If you check out my title for this blog post, you’ll notice that I called it Part One. And this is where Part One ends. With a life-changing event, and a whole lot of thank yous still to come.
Want to know how the story ends? Guess you’ll just have to come back for more.