Here is the little Associated Press newsclip that got picked up in newspapers and posted on their websites. I also have a couple of pieces started about how it has all felt, but they still need to sit for a while. I have not yet fully digested the experience. But I didn’t want to wait any longer to tell you, my dear readers. I will say when I see the 857 entries it makes me gulp. And when I read about the community college professor who won the contest, I get a little thrill. It’s me, I think. It’s me.
I make a point of entering my work in writing contests. I’ve been doing it for about four years now. One of my pieces won a small local contest, and most of them have now been finalists here and there. Each time, it heartens me, makes me hopeful. At first I entered almost every contest I came across. Over the years I have narrowed things down some. I tend to not enter the very expensive ones, for instance. And I try to re-enter the ones where people have liked my work in the past. Some contests seem more far fetched than others, but for some reason they appeal to me, so I keep entering them. Fish is one I’d put in that category. I think maybe once a good bit of time ago one of my pieces made it to their longlist, but I don’t remember the details. I don’t remember feeling encouraged by that. (I think it was a very long longlist.) The other day when I was looking over something contest-related, I wondered if I should stop submitting to them. After searching through their lists for my name so many times and not finding it, I was discouraged. And they always had a gazillion entries. I think without admitting it to myself I was wondering if the competition was too stiff, if maybe my work wasn’t good enough. Yesterday when I got their email announcing the winners of their 2014/15 Fish Short Story Prize, I started scrolling through their shortlist with zero expectations of finding my name. (They present the lists in alphabetical order by the writers’ first names.) But I got to the Rs, and there I was–not only listed, but listed twice. Both of the short stories I entered made the shortlist. Out of 1575 submissions, my two pieces were among 103 that were shortlisted. I can’t believe they both made it there. It still makes me grin, remembering what a sweet surprise it was to see my name and the two titles. I just wanted to let you know, my faithful readers. I am feeling encouraged now. And grateful, too. If Fish has shortlisted them, then who knows what might happen next.
First I want to say I have no plans to fall behind this year on my blog posts. I did drop the ball, missed my Sunday night deadline to post my sixth post in the sixth week. But I had a good excuse–my computer had trouble, and I literally couldn’t finish it. (Actually, I finished typing it up from my handwritten copy and then erased it when my mouse stopped working. So I typed it again, and then I wasn’t able to open my browser to post it. So. I am posting it shortly, and I have every intention of posting the seventh one this week as planned. ;-)
But what I wanted to share with you is some good news about my writing. I’ve been entering writing contests feverishly (!) since the beginning of last year. I have about five “polished” pieces I enter most often, three short stories and two short nonfiction pieces. So far, all but one of the nonfiction pieces has made it to the final rounds. A few weeks ago, I’d wondered whether or not I was being silly to keep entering contests, that perhaps my writing was not yet honed enough to win. A day or two later, I found out my short story, “Intended” (the one I thought surely may be too weird for most people in the world), had essentially tied for first place with three other finalists. It didn’t win, but one of the editors from the Writing Site, Tima Smith, told me “Intended” is “engaging, surprising and evocative.” She said my writing is “top-notch.” I was so excited and encouraged, happy the universe was whispering (or shouting?!) for me to continue entering my work.
And on Cinco de Mayo, a long, intense day with the full moon at the end of it–prayers for my commitment to writing to flourish, rattles shaking as I stood on a chair to see the rising full moon over the hedge–I checked my email to discover my short story, “Between My Ribs,” had won first place in the annual short story contest of the local Writers Guild. My first win! I hooted and hollered and was in big awe. I have told my friends and family, of course, but I wanted to let all of you know. You’ve been so encouraging of my writing here. I knew you would like to share my sweet news.
I feel honored and grateful and oh so glad. It feels a bit like a dream now, but a good one–coming true.