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I can’t believe I’m here and I’m not sure this is actually happening. A part of me is positive I’m going to wake up, with a cat at my shoulder and another at my feet, filled with awe and joy – until reality creeps back in and I realize that I was dreaming again and this wasn’t real.

But, on the off chance that this is happening, I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you for reading and thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you letting me share some of my stories with you – and thank you for believing and demonstrating that those stories were worth telling.

There wasn’t a lot of encouragement in my parents’ house. Sure, we were expected to get good grades, get good jobs, support our own families and make them proud. But dreams weren’t encouraged much because in my parents’ world, dreams don’t pay the bills.

So I followed the rules. I did what I was supposed to do – mostly. But there was a part of me that wanted to write, that lived in a fantasy world in my head, where I was always taller and prettier and smarter and, somehow, more than I was in the real world.

Harold Robbins wrote a book called “Dreams Die First.” I read it when I was thirteen. I can’t tell you the plot line now, but it was Harold Robbins, so it was a little dirty, a little shady and a lot sexy. I felt like such a grown up while I read it. What stuck with me the most, however, was the title. Dreams Die First.

When I was about 18, I beat the crap out of my writing dream and left it for dead. I didn’t want to go to school, so I had to start supporting myself. I got a job at an insurance company and I stayed in that industry for the next 32 years. I’ve heard many writers say that they write because they can’t not write, but for me that was never true. I learned to live without it and when it called me back, I told myself I had nothing to say or that I wasn’t very good and that I could never make a living with it. That made it easier to get out of bed each day.

But that voice in my head was persistent and it kept getting louder and harder to ignore.  So I started a blog. I wanted to make it a giant, continuous writing exercise, but by then fear had taken over. And fear, as we know, is a vicious opponent.

It took another decade, but I finally started writing from my heart. And then something incredible happened: people started reading. If people were reading, it probably didn’t suck very much, right? That’s what I told myself to keep going. Little by little, word by word, I just kept at it.

And now … now I really know what those writers mean when they say they can’t not write. I know it because I feel it – every day.  Getting an award like this means everything to me. It means that creativity is encouraged and sought after and honored and valued. Every day I spent not writing has brought me to this time and place, to losing the ability to not write.

Keep writing. Keep drawing. Keep designing. Keep singing. Keep on doing it until you can’t not do it – because that is the call of your soul. That’s how you know you’re finally home.

*Today’s challenge was to imagine I’d won an award and write an acceptance speech.