For several weeks, I’ve mulled over how to share the biggest announcement in my writing career to date (translation: I’ve been procrastinating as usual). Do I write some important-sounding essay on how you should put yourself and your writing out there, because doing so might just pay off? Should I announce it like a press release, making sure to include the phrase, “award-winning author” at least twice? Should I dip my head demurely and modestly thank everyone from God to my fourth-grade teacher the way actors do at the Oscars?
I’m going to squee all over this dang post like a thirteen-year-old with her first boyfriend. I won. I WON. I WON! I WON! I WON! I WON!!!!!
Specifically, my short story, “Proof Text,” took first place in the short story division, and my novel, Vanishing, Inc., took second place in the unpublished novel division. In other words, I WON. I WON! I WON! I WON! I WON!!!!!
They even gave me digital badges! The short story one is the leading image for this post. Here’s the one for the novel:
What, you expected dignity from me? C’mon… get real. Since the awards banquet on November 2, I’ve been acting like the authorial equivalent of a Price Is Right contestant, jumping up and down and screaming like a coked-up baboon. You want dignity? Try the Nobels.
And speaking of the awards banquet… We were supposed to dress up as our favorite sleuth. My favorite sleuth is Sherlock Holmes, but I figured a) there’d be about 50 billion of those (spoiler alert: I think there was one), and b) I wanted an excuse to do something I only do about once every 3 years: wear a dress. So I dressed up as Kate Warne, the first female detective in US history. She was a Pinkerton who helped foil an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln while he was traveling to his inauguration. My husband decided to go as the Scotland Yard detective who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders, so we were from roughly the same time period, give or take about 40 years. Here we are in our fake 19th century finery:
Clearly he doesn’t have any dignity either. And neither of us have any common sense. Did I mention where this event took place? Phoenix. Y’know, Phoenix, Arizona, where even in November the outside temperature is roughly equivalent to the temperature on the surface of the sun. Does anyone know of any female detectives who wore shorts and tank tops? I want to start preparing for next year.
OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking: enough shameless self-promotion. Hey, let me have my moment, will ya? Because that moment meant quite a lot to me. You see, writing is a solitary activity, and creative writing is a really personal activity. My stories are just that: mine. They are a product of my life experience, my taste in fiction, and my demented imagination. To put them out there at all, to let even one person read them, is scary as hell. To send them off to a literary contest was not something I could have seriously imagined doing even two lousy years ago. Enter a contest? Me? And don’t even get me started on, “literary.”
I didn’t show anyone my fiction until last spring, when I joined a critique group with great fear and trembling. It was the best thing I ever did for my writing “career” (Is it a career when you don’t make any money off it? But I digress…) other than actually writing. But it was still terrifying. So being recognized publicly for my work was an incredible experience. External validation matters, no matter how uncool it is to admit it.
And that’s the perfect lead-in to how I should end this post: by encouraging my readers to take the risk, let others read their work, hell, even send it off to a literary contest. You just might find yourself sitting in a room
on the surface of the sun in Phoenix in a high-necked, long-sleeved gown while having a hot flash… er, I mean receiving that sweet, sweet external validation.
I’m going to end this thing with all the truth, honesty, and authenticity befitting my new status as an award-winning author:
I WON. I WON! I WON! I WON! I WON!!!!!
(But seriously: put yourself and your work out there. It’s scary as hell but oh, so worth it. Now drop me a comment and tell me about your first external validation or some other good news about your writing. I’ll jump up and down and scream for you, too.)