Inspired by the Oscars: My Thank-You Speech for Last Night’s Celebration

Last night, while Hollywood got ready for the Oscars, I had the incredible privilege of gathering with many of the most influential people in my life, and a whole lot of people I didn’t know at all, in a little bookstore in La Conner, Washington, called The Next Chapter.

We were celebrating the arrival of Through a Screen Darkly, but it quickly became something more… a night to celebrate the way that God can speak to us through art.

As the party got started, and as I prepared my notes for a presentation about the book, my concentration was shattered by one surprise after another, one meaningful reunion after another. By the time John Connell gave me a generous introduction, I was already an emotional mess.

If you’re reading the book, you’ve read about my teacher Michael Demkowicz, whose teaching opened my eyes, whose photography continues to inspire me, and whose unexpected arrival at the book party last night (he drove all the way from Portland, Oregon to be there), caught me completely by surprise. It meant a great deal that he was there.

My parents, Lary and Lois, were there too, and that was a great blessing. It was a joy to tell everyone how my parents kept me buried in great storybooks while I was growing up. I thanked them last night, and I’m thanking them again now, for teaching me the value of using my own imagination instead of just waiting for Hollywood to serve up the voices and the visuals.

I shared a few stories about my experiences writing for LookingCloser.org and ChristianityTodayMovies.com, and I covered much of the same territory I do in my seminars to students at Seattle Pacific University, at local churches, and to writers’ groups.

But this was a much-abbreviated version of that presentation. After about ten minutes, I ended up abandoning my outline entirely and just “winging it.” I focused on a few films — The Story of the Weeping Camel, Chariots of Fire, Amadeus, Vera Drake, and then, an unlikely little film from the late seventies… The Muppet Movie. And by the end, a few of us were singing “The Rainbow Connection” together. It sounds awfully sentimental, and maybe it was for some. But for me it was an unforgettable moment.

The rest of the evening was a blast… chatting with so many people about so many movies. Relatives I haven’t seen in many years, friends from elementary school, friends from high school, friends from my college years at SPU, members of the Promontory Artists group who helped me start The Crossing (my first arts magazine), Peter Chattaway from ChristianityTodayMovies, Greg and Jenn Wright from Past the Popcorn, and so many more….

I’m thrilled to say that the store sold all 25 copies of the book they’d ordered, so fortunately I had brought along an extra box full of copies and sold quite a few of those too.

This publishing adventure is starting so many great conversations, bringing me back together with so many old friends, and introducing me to so many more… all of the work has been worth it. (Now, if we can just get to the second printing, I can fix those typos…)

Anyway, I want to thank John and Sharon Connell of The Next Chapter for putting on such an extraordinary party. I think only my wedding stands out stronger in my memory as a night when I was so overwhelmed by God’s blessings to me. There are so many amazing people in my life, and I’ve been moved by so many wonderful works of art, it really is a joy to get to share them with everyone else in this way.

I can’t wait to go back to celebrate the release of Auralia’s Colors. I hope you’ll be able to join me there.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • erin k

    Sounds like a fabulous night. We are looking forward to reading the book at this house!

  • SolShine7

    Congrats on all your success! I don’t know you but just reading your post maked me feel happy for you.


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