Last night was the 2014 NM-AZ Book Awards Banquet when the finalists gathered to find out who won in dozens of categories. My first book, “Dizzy Sushi” was in the nonfiction category and I felt honored to be a finalist (out of 1,200 entries. The crowd of about 200 at Hotel Albuquerque was lively and my sisters and daughter came with me for support. I knew just being with them made me a winner.
At our table were three other finalists and assorted friends. I arrived just after salad was served so not a lot of time to schmooze. I did notice a woman across from me who was passing a small carved stone to an author next to her. It was brown and made me think of the carved fertility goddesses from Crete. The man next to her was quiet and humble. I knew he had carved it, even though I did not hear or see anything that confirmed that. The stone slipped back into her purse without me being able to ask to see it.
After we finished our dinner, I slid around the table to sit between my sisters to chat. I also introduced myself to the woman with the stone, and the man on her right. Susan was a mystery writer who also lived in Santa Fe and we chatted neighborhoods and writer friends. The man next to her was named Salvador and when I asked what the stone was in her purse, she pulled it out for me. It was a carving of a bird. As I took it in my fingers, my thumb fit right into its wing and I felt comfort holding it. Salvador carved it, she told me.
I asked him, “Is it a crow or a raven?”
“It’s an eagle,” he answered.
Then I knew.
“Your last name isn’t Romero, is it?”
Yes, he nodded.
“Sal Romero? I think I have one of your fetishes.”
I knew it was him by how my fingers fell into the stone, how it felt in my hand, how it was calm and accepting. My fetish was a wolf and had the same properties. Rough, old-feeling, like hundreds of fingers had held it. I even wrote Sal’s name on a piece of clear tape and put it on the bottom so I wouldn’t forget who had made it.
“Ellie Schrader of Indian Artist Magazine gave it to me,” I told him. He nodded. I turned to my sisters.
“This is Sal Romero; I have one of his fetishes.”
I couldn’t explain it at a crowded table in a noisy ballroom, but my wolf fetish is my writing fetish. I take it with me whenever I leave town for a writing weekend. It sits on my desk when I am writing. It is my most prized fetish and along with a writing crystal from another friend, the two pull in the power for me to make writing happen. My wolf fetish was on my desk, patiently watching as I finished “Dizzy Sushi.”
And here, at an event for writers, I met the man who carved it.
“Dizzy” remained a finalist and not a winner last night, but to me, I had a win. Coincidence, perhaps, but more a sign to me to keep writing.
When I got home, I immediately turned over my wolf fetish and saw the tape I had put there over 15 years ago, with Sal’s name.