Contests and Validation

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, my phone rang with a new text, one that would have me jumping up and down for the next few minutes.

A little back story. I work for my college’s literary magazine. We have two co-editors, an engaged couple with a sweet sense of humor, and I am part of the support staff on the literary side as opposed to the art side. Every year, the magazine launches a contest to bring in submissions and generate good public opinion. The categories range from studio art and photography all the way to short stories and essays. A panel of separate judges look at the different submissions and put together a list of first, second, third, and honorable mention winners for us to proofread.

I submitted story, one I worked on and agonized over for days. I drew up at least six drafts and sent it to several trusted readers for feedback before sending it in. I figured it would be better to submit one excellent story instead of the maximum three and having those be mediocre.

This, along with the personal nature of the story, made me nervous about finding out the winners of that category. Never having won a contest like this, I felt sure that rejection was inevitable.

Then, when I grabbed my phone that night, I nearly jumped out of my skin. One of my bosses texted me just to tell me that my story had placed first in its category. I jumped and squealed with my best friend, called my mom, and told as many people as were awake that night. It took me another hour to get to sleep.

There is something unbeatable about the feeling you receive when you’ve won something that means a lot to you. It tells you that all your hard work and practice has paid off in someone else validating your talent. Now, why we as humans need the validation of other people is a subject for another post, but it is a fact, and I felt it acutely as I lay in bed with the thought running through my head, I won. I won first place. They picked my story out of all the rest and called it the best. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you. 

I can’t wait to see my story and my name in print and in the hands of my fellow classmates and even professors. I only hope they like it as much as the judges did.


Flash Fiction Challenge: Photos of Impossible Places- Namibia

She came down from the tangerine sky when the ground cooled enough for her to tread barefoot on its blue sand. Her hair, threaded with strands of gold, whipped and fluttered around a round face that had looked on so many festivals and celebrations in her lifetime. Festivals in her honor, thrown by people who no longer believed in her.

“What are you doing down here?”

She turned spotting his bent, nervous figure instantly. She turned up her nose. “Not that I have to answer to you,” she said, “but I wanted to see the festival.”

“Can you not see it from up there?” He crouched around a naked, dark tree, pointing at the sky. In the molten light, his bulging eyes looked like pools of hot lead.

“I wanted a closer look for once. Would you begrudge me that, Fye?” She shifted on the cool sand. How long had it been since she had felt that silky sensation? Ten centuries? A dozen? She had lost count long ago.

Fye glanced around the desolate landscape. He rubbed the back of one hand with his fragile fingers. “You know what will happen to you if you’re caught?”

“I do,” she said with all the solemnity of a judge passing a sentence.

“And you know what will happen to me if I’m caught helping you?” Every piece of him seemed to jitter in the bright light.

“I do.”

He cringed and plunged his hands in his tumbleweed hair. He shook his head. “Selfish, arrogant woman. You will be the end of me, Lyra.”

She looked away, embarrassed by his display of emotion. “You say that so often. I begin to think you don’t believe it.”

“I could say everyday that the sun rises and sets. It would not mean that I believe it any less every day I say it.”

“Fine,” she said. “You’ve made your point. Will you help me?”

Fye clasped his shoulders. “Yes, I will help you. But do not blame me if something should go awry.”

“Of course not.” She turned.

“You just couldn’t stay in the sky, could you? Had to come down from your place.” It sounded like an aside, but she looked back at him anyway.

“I’ll not be put in one place because my mobility makes other people uncomfortable. I’ll do as I please and deal with the consequences myself.”

“You really don’t think of anyone but yourself, do you?”

She squared her shoulders. “Why should I?”

Lyra turned and headed to the village, the clump of silhouettes and lights the desert wore as a brooch every night. Her favorite time came when the town exploded in light and color in her honor. She would stay awake as long as possible, watching the dancing lights. Occasionally, when the wind was just right, she caught the faint sound of music.

She reached the town’s gate and paused. Would they recognize her? Had her portraits and sculptures survived all these years?

She knelt in the blue sand and raked it through her hair. She dashed some in her eyes and wiped it over her lips. Finally, she fashioned an airy dress made of the indigo sand and entered the town.

People clad in silk and velvet loped and danced through the streets. Paper lanterns and streamers bedecked buildings and awnings. All around Lyra were the trappings of a great festival, and it was all for her.

“New to our town, miss?” A small boy stood at her feet. A brush fire of red hair stood out on his head, and he fiddled with an old watch chain.

“You could say that.” She smirked.

“You’ve come at the right time. Festival season is the best time of the year.” He offered her his small hand. “I’m Dewey.”

“Why does your town celebrate?”

“Don’t know. We just do.”

Her jaw seemed to double in weight. She pursed her lips. “You’re young. Who can give me answers?”

He indicated the far end of the main street, where a huge crowd had formed. Lyra thanked him and hurried on. She reached a platform on which stood a figure shrouded in a dark cloak.

Lyra pushed through the mass of citizens. She waved a hand in the air, and the hooded head swiveled toward her. “I have some questions for you.”

He nodded, and someone hoisted her up. “Why do your people celebrate? What is the occasion for this festival?”

“Why ask questions to which you know the answers?” He took down his hood, and turned a pair of glassy, bright eyes on her. “They celebrate you, Lyra, and the way you light the sky at night.”

She gaped at this man who had first placed her in the heavens to ornament the night sky. This man who had shackled her to a silent position. This man she had tried to avoid since stepping down.

Fye stumbled onto the stage, hands bound behind his back. He looked at Lyra. “I tried to warn you. I tried. You wouldn’t listen.”

Lyra looked at the man. “I will not go back. You cannot put me back and render me mute. I have a voice. I have a body. It is mine, and I will use it.”

He chuckled, a sound as deep as the oceans from whence he came. “I did not place you there without cause, Lyra. Have you ever asked yourself why you sleep when the world wakes?” He looked at the horizon, which glowed now with coming light. “No matter. You’ll find out soon enough.”

Lyra shifted in her place, not wanting to stay still but not knowing where to go. She stared at the brightening horizon, and a terrible heat swelled in her chest. Never before had she felt such an unbearable heat. Only warmth like being wrapped in expensive furs. Now it scorched her from the inside out as the sun stood up while she realized the answers to her questions.

A moment passed, and Lyra disappeared.

Contests and Possible Ideas

One of my goals for the new year (I refuse to call them resolutions) was to prepare and send out more of my writing.

It’s not so much a fear of someone reading and disliking my work that keeps me from submitting but rather the subconscious idea that if I never submit I never have to deal with that rejection. (Plus I am the world’s best procrastinator.)

So, to try to remedy this problem, I am going to write, edit, and submit a piece to Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Contest. Maximum of 3,000 words in any genre and due by the end of the month. I’m on a bit of a time crunch, as you can tell, so I thought I would approach my readers for a little help.

I am absolutely terrible at deciding on an idea. Below I have a few possible ideas. If you could, please leave me a comment with which one you think I should run with. Then, from today until I submit the piece, I will keep a running record of my progress and thoughts on my personal writing process for anyone who may be curious.

The Ideas:

  1. A godling — small-time god — develops feelings for a human despite his belief that no one notices the small miracles he performs for them.
  2. While changing her car battery, a woman struggles over her sense of self after graduating from medical school with no real feeling of accomplishment.
  3. A teenage relationship from the point of view of the girl’s car.

If you could please spare a moment and drop a number in the comments, I would much appreciate it. Thanks and have a great day, lovelies!

Restlessness and Hot Water

I like to make taking a nice, hot bath a habit. I don’t mean I take one once a month in addition to my daily shower. No, I mean that if I have time off from school and start to feel restless, I will take a hot bath everyday. Most often I am accompanied by a book of my choice, mainly nonfiction or how-to. I let the water gush steaming into the tub, warm up the spot where my back will rest, and sink down with my book held aloft and in a nervous vice grip.

Half the time I don’t even stay in the water long because I start to sweat, and that seems counterproductive. So I typically spend a quarter of an hour soaking in the water and sometimes the bubbles while I read the majority of an essay.
Wondering what my point is? Pretty much this: from time to time, we humans get a little antsy.

Personally, I am a notorious fidgeter, and my friends and family rightly complain that this makes me a horrible companion at the movie theater. (I will inevitably get stuck with the oldest and squeakiest chair in the whole cinema. I swear. It’s science.)

But I don’t just get antsy in the my-leg-is-going-numb-and-I-think-this-is-what-a-stroke-feels-like way. I often get restless when it comes to how I live my life on a daily basis. I start to wonder if what I’m doing is really worth the time and effort it takes to do it. And often times I think it’s not, that I’m just wasting my time and should go do something more important.

Then I remember something a good friend of mine recently told me. During an emotional crisis, I called him just to have someone feel sympathy for me (something I firmly suggest to anyone in an emotional crisis). He said a lot of wonderful, kind, and touching things to me, but the thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life is what he said in regards to our mutual love of writing and my tireless goal of seeing my words published.

“Sarah-Rachael, whenever I feel like giving up on writing and like I’ll never be any good, think of you. You’ve written, what, five books, and you’re only eighteen. You’re amazing, and I need you around. I need you, because you are my motivation to keep writing.”

I paraphrased a bit, but you get the gist. It doesn’t matter if people out there don’t know my name yet. I inspire and motivate someone dear to me, and that is more than enough to keep my butt in my chair and my pen in my hand even if my leg does start to fall asleep.
And if it does, I’ll soak in some hot water and remind myself that the restlessness will pass.