Thank you to…

I am in a white evening dress, stilettos, and God’s perfect hair and makeup. I am sitting in a red velvet theater chair among the people whose work I’ve watched, read or listened to my whole life. I catch my breath whenever I recognize the next face, once on a stage or a screen, now only a few feet away. My body is healthy and strong. My fingers are intertwined with my husband’s, our hands resting on his thigh. He’s here for me. With me. My heart is racing. My name is called. Holy, holy shit. I turn to my husband and kiss him. And, thank God, my knees cooperate as I stand up, step out of the row, walk down the aisle, up the steps to the stage, and over to the podium.

“Holy, holy shit.

Hello everyone.  Thanks so much for your gracious applause.

Like all of you here, I’ve dreamed of this very moment. And in the dream, I looked exactly this good in this dress. I saw all your faces. Even felt the slope of the aisle as I walked down to the foot of the stage. Still, I can’t believe the moment is here.

I am writing this speech on August 17, 2021. Before I’ve created anything to merit your attention. I’m not writing it thinking that my work could be in the same league as yours, but as a beginning of some kind. Because I’m stuck this late summer evening. And have been for a while. My writing routine is like my workouts, which is to say, I shuffle-jog on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and wonder why I’m not Flo-Jo by Saturday.

I am obsessed with being physically fit, just as I am with being a prolific writer. It’s all I think about. But also, I only mostly think about it. I know I have to exert some actual, physical sweat. And so here I am, moments before this moment, sweating at an exercise in gratitude.

I know that none of you made it here without that daily sweat that is commitment to a thing you love to do. I’m so grateful to each of you, not only for the stardust that you’ve sprinkled on the human experience, but for the actual labor of it, the daily grind of it, the relentless pursuit of just the right lyric, strum, expression, verse, camera angle, and line.  I’m in awe of it.

Thank you to everyone in this room, for working hard at your art every single day. I heard it in every interview, and I took it to heart. Thank you to Bruce Springsteen…I see you there…for “Thunder Road,” for “Tougher Than the Rest,” and for the million and one moments that your songs have connected me to my own heart. Thank you to Carol Burnett, for giving a skinny, silly girl a way to be in the world. You are my personal hero. Thank you to Lin Manuel Miranda, for the swell in my chest during every moment of “In the Heights.” For the record, we were writing about the old hood at the same time…but you had a much better beat! Bravo, PIRAGUERO! Thank you to Laura Slobin, my Mook, an actual writer who informed me that in fact, I am a writer. I love you forever. Thank you to the magical beasts, my best friends, whose generous hearts, authenticity, and courage astound me every single day. Thank you to my husband, whose hand in mine exists as I read this, but not yet as I type this, in August of 2021. You found me just in time, love. Thank you to the people who have undermined me. Your insult lit a fire. And thank you to my mom, my personal OG and master badass, whose example as mother, sister, daughter, aunt, wife, friend, and pet Abuela to our puppy, is simply unmatched. Te adoro, Chiquita. Gracias a ti, estoy aquí.

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