Around awards season here in Hollywood, you hear the phrase, “It’s an honor to be nominated” a lot. I used to roll my eyes. Now I know through my own amazing luck that it’s absolutely true.

There are so many fantastic books launched every year that I go into mystery awards season with zero expectations. Yet I’ve somehow been the recipient of both Lefty and Agatha nominations for my Cajun Country Mysteries.

I feel like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar and uttered the words that have haunted her ever since: “You like me. You really like me!”

To be honest, I also feel like the characters in Wayne’s World, who uttered these immortal words: “Not worthy.” Like so many writers, I’ve had to contend with insecurity, fear of success, and yes, bouts of depression, throughout my career. On top of that, as someone with the combined ethnic background of Jewish and Italian, oy maron, the guilt! Why me? Is it fair? Managing this emotional stew ain’t easy.

But I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the news that I was nominated for an Agatha Best Contemporary Novel award this year – making a right turn onto Oakdell Street in Studio City.

I’d spent the afternoon at the Getty Museum with a friend, an outing that turned into a nightmare when the last day of an exhibit coincided with Free Museum Day. After an hour in a line of cars trying to park, we raced through the exhibit in forty-five minutes to beat the museum’s closing hour.

While zooming past Mayan gold artifacts, I got a text that my friend and fellow Chicks on the Case blogmate, Kellye Garrett, had been nominated for a Best Debut Mystery Agatha. We Chicks text-celebrated with confetti bitmojis, and I put the nominations out of my head.

When the phone rang with my own news as I made that right turn into my neighborhood, I was so surprised that I burst into tears and sobbed, slightly freaking out the lovely Malice board member on the other end of the call.

The best part about being a mystery award nominee is that you get to share a panel with wonderful authors. For me, this year’s joy is magnified by the fact that not only will fellow panelists be the terrific writers Annette Dashofy and Marilyn Levinson (as Allison Brook), the slate also includes two of my mystery idols, Louise Penny and Margaret Maron. I’m not kidding when I say I choked up just writing that sentence.

Chicks on the Case recently published a group post with all the Best Contemporary Novel nominees. Louise, winner of countless awards for her Inspector Gamache series, answered the question, “What would you do differently starting out as a writer again?” by saying, “I think I’d enjoy it more…. I was riddled with insecurities. My agent finally sat me down and spoke quite sternly. ‘You’re not only living your dream, but the dream lots of other people have, who don’t get this far. If you can’t enjoy it, then it’s wasted on you.’”
Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees: We Asked, They Answered

When I get to Malice next week, I’m going to get over my Wayne’s Worldian not-worthiness, take Louise’s honest response to heart, and enjoy every minute of the nomination- especially that Best Contemporary Novel panel. Because it’s more than an honor to be nominated. To paraphrase Louise’s agent, it’s a dream come true.

Ellen Byron, author of the Cajun Country Mystery series, is perhaps best known as a former cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots for major network and cable outlets. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. A native New Yorker, Ellen now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.