Before I read a book I always read the cover copy before turning to the dedication. Once in a while there’s no dedication to read. I go back to the very first page and carefully turn pages, thinking I missed it. If it’s really not there, I feel oddly disappointed. I manage to get into the story but for those first few minutes, I feel as though something important is missing.
I know writing a dedication can be stressful. There’s so much to consider. Many of the dedications are fairly simple. Thanks to my spouse for being supportive, for believing in me. Thanks to my kids for putting up with many nights of having cereal for dinner. Thanks to my writing group, my critique partners, my fans.
Sometimes the dedications are funny or contain inside jokes with the meaning known only to those being honored. Sometimes they’re poignant, dedicated to someone who’s lost, or people who’ve faced a particular set of problems.
Part of the stress, for me, is worrying that I’ll forget someone who was really instrumental in helping me figure out the story.
But there are many people we don’t often see thanked.
How about the pizza delivery guy? The cook at our favorite Chinese restaurant? The person on the bus, talking on their cell phone and giving me a good “what if” to begin my story?
I’d have to thank the ladies in the library and whoever invented Free Cell. I’d have to thank the grocery store clerk who rang up several pounds of peanut M&Ms without batting an eye, or the person scooping ice cream at my local Baskin Robbins. I’d include the person who refills the coffee urns at QuickChek as well.
In the days before the internet and email my postal carrier would have been high on my list of people to thank unless they were delivering a dreaded rejection letter.
Now I suppose that position has been taken over by tech support and the clerks at Staples.
I’d have to thank my chiropractor for unkinking my neck after a marathon writing session. The inventor of caller ID and the microwave.
All of these things are necessary to the mental health of the author.
Surely an author should never run out of people to thank, so I’d think a dedication wouldn’t be too much to ask, just because I’m nosy and I want to know which particular person the author felt was instrumental in helping them write that particular book, even though I quickly forget the dedication once I get caught up in the story.
Do you read dedications? Do you feel slightly cheated if none exists? And if you’re an author, how do you decide who gets thanked for that particular story?