We went for a walk a few weekends ago. As we walked and talked, the subject of the Maine Press Association Awards came up.

I knew I'd won something, but the MPA likes to keep things mysterious, so I didn't have the details.

“You won an award? When are you getting it?” Maureen said.

“The dinner is in a couple of weeks. I didn't sign up to go, because I was sure you wouldn't want to. Those things are always painful to sit through, anyway. My editor will bring my award back.” My attitude was perky as usual.

We talked on, and in the end Maureen said, “I think you should collect your award in person.” She felt so strongly about it that she was willing to go with me, even though it was going to be less than a treat for her to spend an evening with a bunch of people she didn't know.

So last Saturday, we drove to Bar Harbor for the 2013 Maine Press Association dinner. And it turned out to be a much better time than I had expected.

It didn't hurt that soon after we arrived, we met one of my good friends from the Camden Herald's sister paper, the Republican Journal, who showed me the education story I'd submitted that had won. It was on the emergency medicine and fire science program at the Waldo County Technical Center, a hands-on program that gives high school students a taste of what being an EMT and/or fighting fires is all about.

That story came about when my editor at the time said he wanted everyone to write one “fun” story a month — something that might not be the hottest news, but that they would enjoy. I always like doing school stories, and figured the fire science program would afford some good photos. Teacher Holly Scribner was generous with her time and welcomed me to her class, running the students through a couple of firefighting drills so I could take pictures.

Maureen and I wandered around the exhibit of winning articles and enjoyed some tasty hors d'oeuvres while waiting for the dinner to begin. When it did, the food was good, the proceedings moved along briskly, and I was glad to see a number of current and former colleagues receive well-deserved recognition.

Knowing that my education story had won, I was waiting to find out where it had placed. Eventually, it was announced as the third-place winner among weekly papers with circulation less than 4,000.

But before that, I got a fabulous surprise. I won first place in the local columnist category! I'd had no idea I had won more than one award. And for the column to win first place was a thrilling affirmation.

A column can be a very personal thing. Because of the nature of the stories it tells and the way they are told, it reflects its author's personality in a way good news stories don't.

“May you live in interesting times,” is said to be an ancient Chinese blessing – and curse.

When it comes to column writing, that certainly is true. I had award-winning material this year because “interesting,” and sometimes painful, things were going on in my life. It is very gratifying to be recognized for my efforts to write about those events in a way that is honest and meaningful to others.

It makes me feel I have company on this long journey home.