I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

By J.T. Ellison

I rarely find myself at a loss for words. I am a writer, for heaven’s sake, words are my business.

But since Saturday, I’ve been utterly speechless.

I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on my social media feeds that A WORD ON WORDS won an EMMY Saturday night. Yes, a real EMMY, the gorgeous golden statue kind. It’s heavy. I choked up. Everyone involved was thrilled and excited and we all went for tacos afterward. Because #blacktietacos needs to be a thing.

Truth is, I’m having trouble putting in to words the scope of this honor. My brilliant cohost, Mary Laura Philpott, had no such issue:

Here’s a little bright spot: Tonight, our whole team at @nashvillepubtv for #AWordOnWords won an Emmy for the show. This is a tribute to the genius of producer Linda Wei and our dude-team, Matt Emigh and Will Pedigo (and Jim! and Paul!), not to mention NPT CEO Beth Curley, and our inspiration, the late John Seigenthaler. Thanks to my co-host @jt_thrillerchick for doing this with me — and to all our awesome guests! And thanks to everyone who works in public broadcasting — plus the bookstores, libraries, and nonprofits that make up the literary community in Tennessee. This is lovely. #keepreading! #midsouthemmys #emmy #publictelevision #books #reading

A photo posted by Mary Laura Philpott (@marylauraphilpott) on Jan 21, 2017 at 6:53pm PST

ML’s post said it all. My producer, Linda Wei, was eloquent in her acceptance. Our station’s president and CEO, the indomitable Beth Curley, who has more of these than we can count, made my night complete with tales of her past. Matt Emigh and Will Pedigo were more excited for us than themselves. Randy and Amy giggled and took pictures and otherwise made the table merry.

It was, in a word, perfect.

And I nearly missed it, because I almost said no when they asked me to host the show. I had a thousand reasons why—deadlines and commitments at the forefront, but in truth, it was because I was scared. Of the camera. Of the idea of being on television. Of putting myself out there in such a permanent way.

And if I had let my fear get the better of me, if I had stupidly declined, I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience Saturday night.

I think the reason I’m having trouble talking about it is because it’s made me sit back and reevaluate how I approach the world. How I want to interact with the people around me, and the issues we’re all facing.

Saturday, there was a little march you might have heard of. Many, many women that I know and love and respect got out there, and the pictures made me smile. Instead of braving the crowds, I spent the day developing a new character: a super strong, super capable woman who doubts herself, but ultimately becomes the hero we all need.

You’ll hear about her soon, I hope, but trust me when I say she kicks serious ass, and is a lady whilst doing it. I wrote 4000 words Saturday. I felt her come to life under my fingers and in my mind.

And then I put on a gorgeous dress, did my hair, and went to an awards ceremony. (Yes, this is my life. I am overly blessed, and don’t think I don’t know it.)

It isn’t lost on me that the Emmy statuette is female. I admit to doing a bit of research Sunday, and was fascinated by its provenance. From the EMMY website:

The statuette of a winged woman holding an atom has since become the symbol of the Television Academy’s goal of supporting and uplifting the arts and science of television: The wings represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science.

Note the words: The muse of art.

You know how much I believe in the muse. I honor mine in as many ways as I can so she and I can work together regularly, not get on each other’s nerves, and find a lot of common ground even when we don’t agree. Love, and nagging, and nurturing, that’s how we keep each other happy and focused. Supporting, and uplifting.

Interesting, when you think of it. This is very much how my female friends and I interact.

We all get access to and respect our muse in different ways. Whether through feet and signs, or through words printed on the page, or through a visual medium like television.

A Word on Words is, to me, the ultimate celebration of the muse. Mary Laura and I are both authors, charged with interviewing incredible authors. To give you some perspective, five of our guests are on this year’s NBCC list. That’s a pretty high caliber of talent.

But it’s more than that. This show has been on the air in Nashville for more than forty years. John Seigenthaler was its original host, and over the years that man interviewed hundreds, HUNDREDS, of incredible authors. I was beyond honored to be one of the many authors he interviewed (in case you didn’t already know, John was my first interview, ever.)

When he passed, it looked like his literary tradition might pass with him, but through the tireless efforts of Beth and Linda, the kind funding of Judy and Steve Turner, and the support of our Nashville Public Television team, the show was reborn. A phoenix from the ashes, we came back to life as what’s called an “Interstitial” which is a short snippet that airs post- or pre- a regularly scheduled show.

I LOVE this definition I found.

Interstitial art: any work of art whose basic nature falls between, rather than within, the familiar boundaries of accepted genres or media.

We fall between the boundaries of accepted genres, not within

It made me think about the four of us, the two hosts, the producer, the station lead. Women, all.

My cohost is a comedian, an artist, and a brilliant essayist. My producer was already an EMMY-award winner prior to this, known for another Nashville show, ARTS Break, and is wicked smart and very creative. The station President is a reformed English major who is a dynamic leader and tireless believer in the importance of public television. And then there’s me, the thriller author.

I’d say all four of us fit this interstitial description well, that our talents fall between, not within, the boundaries of our chosen fields, and maybe, that allows us to transcend them a bit. It certainly felt like that on Saturday night, when I was standing on a stage in a gorgeous dress holding a gold statue.

There are so many people who make this show incredible. Matt and Will, who were up on stage with us, are our backbone. Susie and Paul and Jim and Sean, who work tirelessly behind the cameras on the shoots to make everything look so good. Amy, who helps me get to know our authors whom I haven’t read before, which helps the interviews go smoother. Ariel Lawhon, who did a lot behind the scenes to help me when we first started. Our whole NPT family, who loved John’s show and wanted to see it succeed in this format. The viewers, who have embraced us wholeheartedly, and keep asking for more. The authors we’ve had on as guests, who have been patient and kind and willing to laugh, and go on locations which have been creative, to say the least (jail, Margaret Atwood?). The city of Nashville, and all the sites where we’ve filmed, for allowing us to invade their worlds for half a day. Our booksellers and literary community, who have tirelessly worked to help us promote the show. Our sponsors, who sit quietly but powerfully in the background.

We share this celebration of the muse with all of you.

And now, I really do have to thank the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their acknowledgement of our efforts. It means a lot to me.

I have no other words but these: Please, please, keep reading. It makes all the difference.

Via: JT Ellison


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