I know I promised a series on backstory, but something came up this weekend.
I don’t make a secret of it—I hate writing contests. And this is because I have never gotten useful (or even non-contradictory!) advice from them. That may be a reflection on the organization sponsoring the contests I’ve entered, of course, because after my first contest through another organization, I’m quickly beginning to change my mind.
This last weekend, I went to a writing conference. Despite my past experiences and with more than a little trepidation (and very low expectations), I entered the conference’s first chapter contest a month ago. I was really hoping to place, of course, but I didn’t expect to do well.
Nevertheless, every time I happened to see the Saturday lunch hour in the conference schedule (“First chapter contest winners announced”), my hearing dulled, my heart pounded and my stomach shriveled. Just thinking about that day put me through the first stages of a panic attack.
(This made planning my conference schedule very stressful 😉 .)
Finally, lunch rolled around. About halfway through, the conference coordinator got up, and the pulled up the PowerPoint that would announce the winners on the two 20′ screens in the hall. To all 450 attendees.
They received almost 200 entries. They printed over 900 critiques which would be returned to each entrant after lunch. And then they started on the winners. I almost hoped they’d start with my category, just so I could have my disappointment and work to move on. But no—first came third place, non fiction: title, author. Second place. First place.
They moved on to General Fiction. And another category. And another.
And then my category, Mystery/Suspense. Third place. Not me. Hey, maybe this wasn’t so bad.
Second place. Not me. Oh. There was no way I took first place—so I had my answer. It wasn’t me. That’s okay, I know how much these things are the luck of the draw—get one judge who doesn’t love your chapter and you’re hosed. And not everybody loves everything I’ll ever write. That’s okay.
Seriously, this felt like the longest pause of the ceremonies. Despite my best efforts at consoling myself, I could hear the contest coordinator’s voice saying the title of my story over and over again.
Stop, I told myself. Don’t torment yourself.
“First place, Mystery/Suspense: Saints and Spies.” This time it wasn’t in my head. “By Jordan McCollum.”
So that little announcement is why we’re not starting a new series today. Tomorrow for sure.
This came at a time I really needed it. Many thanks to all those who helped me prepare the chapter. Thanks for a great conference, to all those who worked so hard to put it on. I also want to congratulate so many of my friends who also placed!