Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bittersweet Contest Winner

I woke up to my phone alarm Saturday morning. As I turned it off, I noticed I had an email from Writer's Digest. I quickly opened the email in hopes to find out the results from the Office Swag Giveaway Contest I entered. I read the email as quickly as I could to find out if I had won, and there it was: "the names of all the authors who wrote stories went into the magic hat, and four emerged--Nathan HonorĂ©, Dare Gaither, Laura M. Campbell and Jo O’Connor." I won!

My excitement spread across my face and I bounced around in bed. Upon reading the email more closely, I noticed, although it required participants to send in their response to the prompt, the winners were chosen at random. Disappointment swallowed my joyous celebration.

They didn't even read my response. The winners weren't chosen based on merit? How anticlimactic. Sigh. I laid back down and stared at my ceiling, upset and embarrassed. How could I tell anyone I won a writing contest when it was all random? Then I realized two things: I still won five books I didn't have to pay for and my name was emailed to everyone on the mailing list.

This prompt response was the first piece of fiction I'd written since graduating from Penn State eight years ago. I made myself a New Year's resolution this year to bring writing back into my life, and in the past six months I took several steps, dispelling the fantasy.

Back in May when I joined Philadelphia Writer's Group, I was still teaching, dealing with the stress of 8th graders. My confidence didn't even register on a scale. I immediately signed up to attend a meeting in June. Unfortunately, being a wuss, I didn't show up. Two months later and a few moves up the scale, I finally made it. After three meet ups, I've become part of a community of writers that support and inspire each other.

At the beginning of each meet up, the head organizer, Julius, asks the members to share their successes and failures in their writing life. I shared my contest winning only after speaking with him. He told me that no matter how I won, I was entered into the contest because I submitted my writing. When I stopped to think about it, that was true. I finally put all the daydreaming aside, and actually put words on paper.

As my choices began to push my confidence up the scale, I ripped off the bandaid protecting my fragile ego and submitted this piece to my writer's group for critique. It's time to see what people think of my writing. As my excitement keeps me motivated, I plan to continue my writing, pushing my dreams into existence.

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