I am sitting at the Amtrak station when I know I am only one of Sable’s sleek black whisker’s width away from fully committing myself to November’s national novel-writing month. My stomach clenches at the thought. It terrifies me. 50,000 words in 30 days means 1,666.66666 words per day and 6.66666667 pages (of 250 words per page). My quick work on the calculator hooks me in even more. No Satanic inklings here, only the magic of these sequences of sixes, of forward progress–and how, hmm? If I write 7 pages per day, I’ll have written 210 pages by the end of the month. And maybe I’ll throw my hat in the ring for that young adult novel contest, after all. Last week I entered a different book contest, and, counting this young adult contest, I plan now to enter three more this week. I keep the pen moving across the page and remember to pull in air. I can still feel the tightness in my belly, more thrill than fear now, though the balance is close. I feel it in my bones, in the sun on my back, in my pleasure in the conversation I am overhearing part in English and part in Spanish, the fluid back and forth, the “I love you” when they part, father and daughter, I think. I feel in my fear and my thrill I may be truly ready to have my work win one or more of these book contests. If I submit the different pieces I have in mind I could win three of the four contests. I want to laugh out loud, but I keep writing. I am ready to burst out into the literary world with these winnings and the published books. I am ready to take the world by storm or in a swirling rush of wings, the sudden whoosh of the slow, deep strokes of a raven overhead, the feathery brush of angels, my breath easy now in my chest, heart light with hope, mouth full of magic.
I had a funny thing happen with mailing labels, and I want to let it change my life. I wished for more—you know, the free ones wildlife organizations send out, pictures of polar bears and eagles. I was almost out, and I was thinking about that one afternoon walking back from the mailbox, hoping more would come. Within two weeks I must have had eight or nine sheets, more than I’ve ever had at one time. I’ve always had a funny thing about visualizing, too. It isn’t easy for me, unless I’m imagining the things I don’t want to happen. Those spring to life with gruesome ease and require regular banishment. I’ve never been sure, but I suspect I try too hard when I’m asked to visualize something, or maybe I’m afraid I won’t be able to picture it, so I block the image from forming. But these mailing labels were easy, quick, almost unintentional. And not only was picturing them arriving in the mail effortless, but I was not attached to receiving them. I’m certain that was key here, the secret to my largesse. I have tried to visualize winning writing contests, but I don’t know how to be matter of fact about them. I don’t know how to not be attached to my hope of winning. But these mailing labels have inspired me to work in this direction. I am picturing more house finch in our yard, maybe twenty or thirty at the small tray feeder. I am seeing myself thinner and stronger and thriving. And while I was grading a discussion task the other day I went looking for my own “aha” to share with my students and read we should think about how we will feel when we get to have what we want. I like this idea. I think it may help me find a way to “enter in,” that focusing on the feelings may let the pictures arrive unforced. So I am thinking now about how it will feel to have that happy chatter in the mornings from the house finch, joyful and thankful for their company. I am thinking now about how it will feel to have lost more weight, to be healthy and vigorous again, the sheer pleasure and the ease of it, that vibrancy of life. And I am thinking now about how I will feel when I hold a copy of my first book. I can see myself sitting on the patio, eyes closed, stroking the cover. I feel childlike awe, an Easter egg between my open palms, thrilled disbelief, deep gratitude. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.
Hi everyone. I found out this morning I didn’t win the book contest. I am sad but okay. I have been telling myself whoever wins will be the one meant to win in this round. And looking at the winner’s photo on the New Rivers Press Facebook page, I felt good seeing her, knowing this was her time to win. Maybe one day it will be my time. :)
I’m sorry now I didn’t post this here the very evening I heard Suzzanne’s message on my voicemail. It was after Laurie and I spent that day writing for over six hours. I’m convinced it’s all connected. Listening to my messages, tired at the end of that intense day of writing, I found out my book manuscript, You and Me, has been selected as one of ten finalists for the Many Voices Project at New Rivers Press. It still feels like a dream. I didn’t post the news right away because Suzzanne thought they would be gathering photos of each finalist, making an announcement on their website. I waited to tell you about it because I wanted to be able to offer up the link to that page, make it all real. Now it makes me sad I didn’t share the news while it was still hot, still streaking through my veins, the joy and the thrill, the incredible validation, the almost overwhelming gratitude. I don’t know exactly how many entries there were. Maybe 300 or so, Suzzanne thought. And it looks now as though they may not get a chance to post us on their website before the winner is selected, which could be at the end of this month. (They are a university press, run by a small staff, so I understand this. It’s likely they are already accomplishing more than is humanly possible.) Still, I love that they let us know right away, let each of us savor being selected while every one of us still has a chance of winning. I think it is a great kindness. I pray to keep my joy about this, to hold fast to my gratitude and to the deep validation in it no matter how things unfold. If my manuscript wins, I will rejoice like nobody’s business, leaping tall buildings in a single bound. And this time I promise I’ll tell you right away.