My Pulitzer Story

This year’s Pulitzer winner for fiction is “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz (Riverhead Books). It’s Diaz’s first novel. He fell in love with books as a little boy growing up in New Jersey. As immigrants from the Dominican Republic, his family was not exactly flush with cash. So, he fed his book habit at his local library. Imagine that happening if there were no public libraries.

I had my own brush with the Pulitzers. It’s not what you think. Much earlier in my career, I landed a meeting for one of my clients at the New York Times. Janet Robinson had just joined on as CEO of the NYTimes. She graciously granted us 30 minutes of her time to hear our pitch. I was delirious.

The day of the meeting, we marched into the headquarters of the New York Times. This was before 9-11. Security consisted of a craggy looking old gentleman dressed like a security guard. He took our names and gave us little tin NYT pins for our jackets. (I keep mine in my jewelry box, still.)

Then he gave us directions to Ms. Robinson’s office:
“Take the elevator to the 11th floor, turn left. Walk to the end of the Pulitzers, turn right.”

We did so. Walking that long hallway of Pulitzer-prize winning articles and photographs was like stepping into a time machine. All the stories and photographs that defined our history were all there. It commanded reverence. What ever we had planned to say escaped us, we were all so swept away. The meeting turned out to be more casual, friendly. Not the same as winning a Pulitzer, but a winning moment nonetheless.

Congratulations to Mr. Diaz. A remarkable triumph for a first novel. I can’t imagine what that must feel like.

But I do know this. We all have moments in our lives when the sky opens up, benevolence pours down and we experience the extraordinary. I’m not overlooking people living in grinding poverty or with tragic situations. I believe every life has one, two, maybe if your lucky hundreds of moments when the world is your oyster. Best to know them when we are in them. And be grateful. Whether they come with a prize or not.

photo courtesy of epicharmus at flickr