Kate Flora, sitting here on a rainy day. It’s June 1st and the temperature didn’t get above 52 degrees today. According to one of the silly e-mail ads I got this morning, June 1st is National Go Barefoot Day, but I don’t think so. I’m wearing one of the sweaters I haven’t gotten around to putting away. And I’m thinking about the word “blue.” It’s the kind of thing a writer will do on a gray, rainy day while staring at a large blue balloon that is hugging the ceiling.
In general, when I think about blue, or someone says blue, I tend to think about the dark side of blue: blue moons–which suggest rarity. Or blue moods, which suggests depression. As does “the blues,” a “blue funk,” or feeling blue. There is another whole category of blue which suggests the off-color or pornographic, as in blue jokes or blue movies. There’s the connotation of blue that suggests overly strict or moralistic, as in “blue laws.” And of course, the overly intellectual woman who is labeled a “Bluestocking.”
In the military, or the police world about which I write, there are dress blues. And the “thin blue line.” And the men in blue. The Massachusetts State Police magazine is called: French and Electric Blue. And in the Civil War, there was, of course, the blue and the gray.
War. Cops. Depression. Oppressive laws. Negative labels applied to smart women. None of this is really any fun, is it? But there is that blue balloon.
And staring at it, I think of the positive power of blue skies and dancing blue seas and the bluebird of happiness. Last Thursday night, the bluebird of happiness just happened to land on my shoulder, as it will once in a very blue moon. Well, not really landed. I was sitting in a dark, crowded room where writers were asked ridiculous questions based on the book, Fifty Shades of Gray, and treated to equally ridiculous drum rolls. It was that quintessentially Maine, and absolutely writerly in the goofiest sense of the word, yearly event: The Maine Literary Awards. There was no moon to be seen and no birds were flying around. But there were plenty of balloons. At the Maine Literary Awards, for a reason that has not yet been explained to me, the winners get big blue balloons.
I was in excellent company as one of the four finalists for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction, along with Paul Doiron, Vaughn Hardacker, and John Corrigan writing under the pseudonym D.A. Keeley, great writers all. People who know me know that I’m a passionate writer absolutely devoted to the craft. But I don’t think of myself as particularly well-known. So I came into the awards ceremony last week thinking that I’d already had the amazing good fortune to win two years ago for my third Joe Burgess book, Redemption. I had absolutely no expectation of winning. I tend to take my brief from Eeyore, who likes to say, “Thanks for noticing me.” And Nuke LaLoosh, who says, in Bull Durham: “I’m just happy to be here.”
So when the moment came, and they introduced the Crime Fiction category, I was getting my camera out to take a photo of the winner getting his blue balloon. And then the winner was . . . me. So this Eeyore was noticed. I shoved my gigantic purse onto the lap of the kind woman sitting next to me (that is, New York Times best-selling thriller writer Gayle Lynds) staggered up the stage in a state of utter disbelief, and told the audience: I just finished my fifth Joe Burgess, And Led Them Thus Astray. After writing 350 pages, I don’t have any words left.
But I was, and am, thrilled at this unexpected gift from the Maine writing community.
And I still wonder: Is a blue balloon some whimsical equivalent of a blue ribbon?