This past Monday, Stephen Wetta and his novel IF JACK'S IN LOVE were honored at a ceremony and reception at the New York Yacht Club. The occasion for the celebration was Stephen's receipt of the 2011 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, a yearly prize given by Reba White Williams and Dave Williams for a novel of exceptional quality set in the South. (You can read more about the award and IF JACK'S IN LOVE in our previous posts here.) Stephen attended the ceremony in his signature fedora; he is pictured below with Reba White Williams and Dave Williams.
The evening was a lively affair involving wine, hors d'oeuvres, and many model yachts on display, given the location. The New York Yacht Club is simply gorgeous, and the five of us from the agency who attended thought the location fitting as the place of honor for such a gorgeously written book as IF JACK'S IN LOVE.
Early in the evening, Stephen read from chapter eight of IF JACK'S IN LOVE, in which the main character, Jack Witcher, reveals much of his father's background and obsession with blues music. IF JACK'S IN LOVE is a novel about a family of outcasts, and the chapter allowed the audience to catch a glimpse of who this family was.
Afterward, Stephen answered questions from the audience. One audience member asked what it was like to write a novel in the voice of a twelve-year-old. Stephen's response drew upon the structure of his novel. He explained that Jack narrates the story as an adult, looking back on his life as a twelve-year-old. While the reader experiences the events that happen to twelve-year-old Jack firsthand, the language used to describe the events is that of the adult Jack.
Another audience member asked where Stephen saw Jack now, as an adult. With his hands resting on the podium, his eyes on the audience, Stephen answered matter-of-factly, “Well, I see him standing at a podium, looking out at an audience...”
The statement was followed by much laughter. Stephen continued, saying that he imagined Jack in a place far from where he'd grown up, doing well, perhaps at Harvard. But despite Jack's later success in life, Stephen knew that Jack had been hardened by the events that had occurred in his youth, the events that are the subject of IF JACK'S IN LOVE.
Wetta signed copies of IF JACK'S IN LOVE after the questions ended, and everyone clamored around his signing table for the chance to receive a copy.
Before we knew it, the evening had come to a close. When we exited the Yacht Club and returned to the crowded city streets, we felt as though we had left a hidden enclave in New York, a place where the windows were shaped like portholes on a ship and we had been allowed to sail grandly through the world of literature and into the life of twelve-year-old Jack Witcher for an all too fleeting instant.
Read Stephen's own impressions of the award, ceremony, and reception at his blog, and don't forget to find yourself a copy of his book.
Amy Einhorn Books, August 2012