I don’t often read the acknowledgments in the back of books. Do you?
Perhaps an unpopular opinion from the writer who just showed you the one she wrote, but I don’t actually… like acknowledgements. While they’re expected in a nonfiction book that requires a lot of phone calls, interviews, research, and borrowing offices and documents, in fiction, they can feel extraneous. Some go on, unlike a dedication, which is generally no more than a sentence or two. They’re often deeply self-deprecating, emotional or personal, and give a true behind-the-curtain glimpse of the author. However, unlike many people, I …don’t always care about the author.
(Shhhh! I told you: unpopular opinion. Some of you I can just see giving me side-eye for my ungenerous spirit. I feel the heat of your glower, but I’m not wrong. No, seriously…)
Fellow middle grade author, Kate Messner, wrote about the pitfalls of acknowledgments years ago, though coming from a different – and not often thought of – area of concern. Another piece I saw a years ago in School Library Journal or Publishers’ Weekly described acknowledgments as “acceptance speeches without an award.” Even the New Yorker has had their say (and they are clearly the last word on everything). Acknowledgments are not always near to thanking The Academy, of course, but… sometimes it’s a near thing. And, every book I write – with disbelief I’m finishing up number nine now – I’m met with that moment at the end of going over Master Pass and seeing those little TK’s glowering at me. TK is publishing speech for “to come,” or “Where’s the acknowledgements, ye wee numpty?”
I’ve only really happily accepted the summons to acknowledge… once. And it was called an “Author’s Note,” and it was more an opportunity to talk about the book more than to thank anyone.
It isn’t that I don’t believe in giving thanks – nobody who reads this blog and sees the years I do a November month-of-gratitude post-a-day thing could believe that. But, saying a public thank-you that has nothing to do with owing gratitude for documents or time, to people and institutions or playlists that supported you during the work… it just feels very public to me, very exposed. That an acknowledgement is enshrined forever on the pages of a book makes it even worse… “Social media is forever”, we’re told. Yes, but for me books in print feel even more permanent still.
Today, the TK I encountered was limned in yellow, with the words “Pls supply,” an imperative highlight that made me feel like I needed …ammunition to ignore its summons. I felt like my pipsqueak sullen mutterings of “I don’t wanna” wasn’t enough, so I went looking at other recently published middle grade novels.
…Aaaand they all have them. Every one. Author’s notes. Acknowledgments. Sometimes just pages and paragraphs long. I had to go back to a novel published in 1984 before I could find a novel without acknowledgements – and that novel might only have skipped them because it was a paperback copy, fifth printing or something.
Looks like I’m on my own, here.
With love and gratitude, I’d like to acknowledge all of the cheerleaders and silent supporters who have helped me write this novel.
I’d like to thank my mother, who listened to me whine about editorial notes without fully knowing what I was talking about, or paying that much attention, to be honest, but if pressed, would be firmly on my side anyway.
Thank-you to the whimsically lovely James Margaret, whose silent support comes in the form of adorably shaped sticky notes that are pretty much everywhere, bearing lists, reminders, snippets of story and, oddly, the address of a total stranger in Ashland, Ohio. *unsticks this and examines in bewilderment*
Thank you, Tech Boy, for always trying to help me do technical things beyond my ken much, much faster; for periodically dragging me on walks; for standing in the hallway listening to me prattle when you only got up to pee and weren’t calling a basic cessation to the work day, and for not reading my manuscripts because you’re really busy, and I don’t actually want to discuss the points of punctuation you’d want to get into because I already have copy editors. Apparently three of them this time.
Gratitude to those people with babies or bunnies – and apparently loads of free time – who send me heart-melting pictures of their cuddly, chubby spawn that revive me when my brain is imploding. Ditto to the senders of Instagram memes.
Thank you to the makers of Ibarra hot chocolate, Prednisone and Imuran, the unholy trinity which occasionally keeps me upright, and to June’s Journey, the game on my phone which provides helpful hidden object puzzles for me to do while my brain plays the Jeopardy! theme and a little loading hourglass spins.
You are all, in your own way, truly helpful, truly special, truly necessary, and I adore you. Thank you all, so very, very much.
And now that I’ve thanked you here, I can skip writing an acknowledgment. Right?