A few years ago when Jon Stewart was hosting the Academy awards, the African American group that won for best song/score started jumping around at the announcement.

Up till that point, Jon was uncharacteristically subdued and not his usual irreverent self. But at this show of raw emotion, he perked up and said something about how cute it was that they were that joyful.

I think this was in comparison to the other folks who had won for various categories, who glided onto the stage in stiff tuxedos or very uncomfortable-and-downright-weird-looking evening gowns and had ‘gracious’ smiles pasted on their faces.

I’m reminded of that moment because of a conversation I had with some of my family members tonight about being a ‘gracious’ winner.

Apparently with my post about the SCBWI Golden Kite luncheon, my family members, who love me and care about me, told me in no uncertain terms that I came across as a Ms. Braggy pants in that post. And here I thought I was coming across like those African American group members who’d won the Oscar.

We had a very interesting and rather embarrassing conversation.

I find it excruciatingly embarrassing to think that I came across as an obnoxious braggart Ms. Braggy Pants.

That wasn’t my intention at all.

It’s just that I think that no one was as surprised as myself that Big Red Lollipop has done so well and that so many people reacted so positively to my acceptance speech. 

(It was one of the easiest speeches for me to do because it’s basically an extension of the last part of my Picture the Story presentation. I’ve probably done that presentation fifteen hundred times over the last thirteen years.)

And when you’re so surprised that you’ve attained such an accomplishment it’s hard to contain your exuberance.

And whether it’s wise or not, I thought I’d blog about it, because I’ve found that this too is part of the journey I’ve been on.

At first I thought I’d just tone down my offending blog post and leave it like that. And I’ve done so. I’ve taken out the sentences that came across as over the top, I think.

And I thought, the important thing is to just learn from this, as I’ve learned from so many other excruciatingly embarrassing lessons in my past, and move on.

And yet I feel compelled to somewhat explain and even defend myself…a little.

When I began blogging I wanted to make my blog something interesting. Too many author blogs are just thinly disguised platforms for people to announce their next media interview or promotional video.

I’ve described my blog as my thoughts on my journey of life, and I was determined to include both the good and the bad because no way is life a success only journey!

I’ve included plenty of the bad!

Just a few days ago I blogged about an embarrassing incident involving some oversize t-shirts that I’m really not proud of!

And I figured that hey, eventually people will realize that I really try my best to tell it like it is.

I don’t hide much, and unfortunately I don’t censor much either.

If I’m over the moon thrilled about something, I’ll say so. (And unfortunately look like a Ms. Braggypants in the process.)

And yet under the circumstances I’m only being honest.

But maybe I should explain a bit where I’m coming from. Maybe that’ll help put things in context.

You see in some ways it’s even surprising that I’m alive.

When I was six months old, I caught pneumonia and almost died. If an uncle had not stolen the money to take me to the hospital, I would not have received the shot of penicillin that saved my life.

My mom told me about the night that she sat watching and listening to me breathe. With every breath I drew, she waited, expecting and dreading the moment the noise would stop.

I have four teeth in my mouth (my number six molars) that are irreversibly pitted and discoloured because they were developing at the time of that high fever.

My father was working in England sending money back to support my mom and my older sister and myself. He never knew, at the time, how sick I had been. And when he found out, he decided the solution lay in not accosting those who should have sent me to the doctor with the money he was sending back, but rather in getting our family out of Pakistan altogether, and starting fresh in a new country where the lives of girls were just as important as those of boys.

My father always said that I was the reason we left Pakistan.

I grew up hearing this story.

And how in England when he answered the advertisements and tried to buy us a home, the people would not sell to him because we were brown.

So he brought us to Canada.

And we struggled.

When my father first arrived in Canada he was a skilled worker, a tool and dye maker, and he got a good job making about $7 an hour. (That doesn’t sound like much now, but back then it was good money.)

Within a year of buying the bungalow in Dundas, and my little brother and sister being born, my father lost his job.

We could have gone on welfare but my father refused. He said, “Why would I take charity when I have two strong hands I can work?”

So he got another job. But this time it was for $2.35/hour. Even back then that was not enough money for a family of six people.

He would work up to sixteen hours a day just to make sure we had food on the table. He was glad to take over time, because it meant time and a half. And at his work place his coworkers didn’t call him Anwar, they called him black bastard, and he put up with it because he had a wife and four kids to feed.

During this time my mother almost died when her bowels became herniated shortly after my little brother was born.

And I remember staying with my aunt and uncle while my father tried to keep things together.

We were in an old house on Hess St. in Hamilton, and I went to a very old school there. I loved going to school and I loved learning, but the other kids in my class were less than kind.

They used to tell me and my sisters that they were white because they were clean and we were brown because we were dirty.

So basically I grew up feeling dirty.

And poor.

At the end of the month after my parents paid the bills, they had $5 a week to feed a family of six people. Most of the time, growing up, we used to eat dill weed and potatoes because it was cheap and filling.

The one thing, besides my faith, that kept me going, especially through the difficult middle school years, were books!

I lived in stories!

They were my solace.

They were my comfort.

And I started looking for books with those shiny golden Newbery stickers on them because I figured hey, somebody must have found them worthy.

I remember the year I read Jacob Have I Loved  by Katherine Paterson! I read Caddie Woodlawn and loved the stoic way that the brother accepted his punishment! (Pakistani parenting is often filled with corporal punishment!)

And the same with Ping the story of a duck in China.

I read all these Newbery books that helped mould my sense of character.

And when my grade eight teacher, Mr. Bakody, wrote me a note saying that I should be an author, at first I thought he was crazy. Authors were white people. They were from England and America.

But something in me started to dream.

When I failed at my first try I decided to be ‘sensible’ and become a scientist because then it didn’t matter what you looked like it only mattered that you could do the job.

If I’d actually made a good living as a biological-chemical technician I probably wouldn’t be an author today!

I graduated from Seneca College at the top of my class, but I was the last one to get a job.

I’d ace the phone interview but once I showed up in person, they’d often take one look at me and say, “Sorry, the job’s been filled.”

I finally got a job but it only paid $.20 more than minimum wage and it took an hour and a half by bus and subway to get to work because it was on the other side of the city.

I stuck with it for a year and a half, and by this time I was expecting my first child so I decided to stay home and raise her.

I was about 27 years old, when I tried again, much more seriously, to get published.

I’ve had family members tell me that I’d never make it as a writer…look at the way you dress!

Many times I felt they were right!

But I kept going.

It took eight years for my first book to be published.

And now, after twenty-two years, I have eleven books published.

I have been to South Africa, Singapore, Mexico, Denmark and all over Canada as a Canadian children’s author!

I have even given a speech where Katherine Paterson was in the audience!

You betcha I’m tickled to pieces at what I have accomplished!

And because it surprises the heck out of me, it’s extremely hard to contain my enthusiasm!

And it’s extremely hard to paste on a gracious smile and glide up on stage and NOT be enthusiastic, but rather be calm and composed with an of-course-I-belong-here expression on my face.

And then to have people react so positively, and to have to play that down, understate it, because otherwise I look like an obnoxious braggart–is definitely not part of my first instinct.

My first instinct is to tell the truth. To jump up and down like those African American singers. Or yell from the rooftops in a Sally-Field-sort-of way, “They liked me! They really liked me!”

But of course you’re not supposed to do that.

For the record, I hate it when someone exaggerates!!!

I ALWAYS try to understate things!

I’ve had family members swear that mega-million dollar deals were coming to fruition in one instant, then next time you meet them, look at you puzzled when you ask what happened. 

And I always vowed that I would err on the side of understatement, and not ever exaggerate.

Frankly I think exaggeration is odious.

For the record, all the experiences I have related in my blog, both good and bad, are an honest reflection of what has happened to me. Nothwithstanding the fact that every person’s account is biased and subjective, for the most part, I have tried never to exaggerate anything, but rather tell it like it is.

Well, I guess I’ve gone on way too long about this.

I will try to trim the boastfulness and self congratulatory phrases.

But if I slip, in the future, which is something I’m prone to do, I hope whoever is reading this will understand.