The Power of Words

Disclaimer: The Cafe in the Woods usually do not serve posts of a political nature unless something has pissed off the owner so much, she will drag a soapbox to the middle of the cafe and force the patrons to listen to her rant while waving a serving ladle in a wagging, nagging manner. This only happens on occasion. You need not fear the ladle. But do fear the hot pumpkin soup that’s being flung off–oh, and the rant that follows.

This past Sunday at church, we received voting guides from the Family Research Council. It’s usually standard practice; in fact, I never really thought about it. I always felt that it was good to know where candidates stood and how they were seen from a Christian point of view. These had questions and charts, complete with footnotes and sources, so I was pretty sure that the information they had gathered was from a reliable source.

Then I reached the last page. It just had a grid with a question on top: “Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Abortion?” Then it listed several categories, like “Taxpayer funding of Abortion” and “Provide Care to babies who are born alive after an abortion”. In the boxes next to these categories, they had a column for McCain and one for Obama, showing if they supported or opposed the category. That’s it. Nothing else. No footnotes, no source. Just “OPPOSES” or “SUPPORTS”.

Naturally, McCain was show to be against anything to do with abortion, while Obama was shown to support it.

What was interesting though was “Provide Care to babies who are born alive after an abortion”. It shows Obama opposing it. Now, it just so happened that a couple of weeks before, I was reading a “Reality Check” article that dealt with this very issue. Quoting from the article (you can read the whole thing here) from a television ad:

The ad says: “Sen. Obama, why did you vote against protecting infants that survived late term abortions, not once but four times?”

This needs clarification, a WISC-TV analysis found. First, people need to know what he was actually voting on.

In 2001 and 2003, the Illinois state Senate debated a so-called “born alive” bill three times. The measure was meant to provide extra protection to babies who survived a rare type of abortion.

The bill defined infants born at any stage of development as humans if they could breathe or had a heart beat and said a doctor would be required to make efforts to save them. Obama voted against the bill twice in committee, twice on the floor, on a total of three bills.

He explained to senators he believed the wording of the bill could undermine Roe v. Wade, “essentially barring abortions.”

The article goes on to add that later on, Obama signed onto the “Freedom of Choice” act, which aim was “not to completely roll back the ban on partial birth abortions but to allow them only if the health of the mother was in jeopardy.” Oddly enough, on the FRC guide, it gives the aim of the “Freedom of Choice Act” as it “overturns most state right-to-life laws”.

The same Act. Two different meanings altogether.

Now, obviously, Obama and I have very different views on abortion. But in knowing what I know from that article, it puts the wording that the FRC guide used in a completely different light. Suddenly, everything in that guide was suspect. Are they telling the whole truth, or are they twisting and bending words to present candidates in the way they want people to see them?

But why should I be upset? This happens all the time. The candidates do it. Organizations do it. Hell, the news do it. Nothing’s really unbiased. Why I am so ticked off about it?

I’ll tell you why. Because they’re sending crap like this to the church.

It’s something that’s being preached in all pulpits. “Be educated.” “Know what the candidates stand for.” “Do your homework before you go to the polls.” And then they distribute crap like this, expecting that this is the answer key that you need. Anything that has “Family” or “Values” in it must be right. It’s most likely that many Christians will take guides like the ‘FRC’ to the polls with them, blindly accepting what’s in them as truth.

Oh wait. Many Christians did take guides like this to the polls. Four years ago. And look what happened.

What really ticks me off about this is that these guides pass themselves off as “Christian”. And they’re the ones who are undermining Christian ministries who genuinely serve those people whom those guides rail against. Instead of using reason, wisdom, and love to have people make honest decisions, these guides use fear-mongering, deception, and sly twists on words to force Christians into run blindly to the polls, and you better vote their way or else the country will fall into death, despair and flames and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!

Recently, a friend of mine let me know about a letter that was put out by the Focus on the Family Action called “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America”. I read it, thought about it, then sat down to write this post.

On the one hand, I don’t deny that our country is heading down a slippery slope. There’s no question about that.

But on the other hand, to offer something like that and blame it all on Obama and a “Far-Left” Democratic government? It’s not only wrong, but it’s downright hypocritical. What exactly is the writer trying to gain from this? For people to stop and think? To get people to start boarding up their windows and doors? And what makes him think that a 2012 McCain America would be much better? I’d like to see a letter from that period, just to see what it’s like.

Oh wait. We happen to be living a McCain America at this very moment.

So to all those “Christian Family” organizations that are supposed to have “my” best interests at heart: watch your words. All the hate and fear-mongering you’re spreading is doing nothing but making the rest of us Christians look like fools. And it’s not going to sit well with you when you give your accounting to the Lord on Judgement Day. If you’re going to reach out to Christians, do it the right way: provide solid facts, and let us decide. No word doctoring. No fact-hiding. No bias spinning. Do your homework so we can do ours. “Wisdom is proved right by her actions.” (Matthew 11:19)

Postclaimer: This has been a political rant by yours truly. The opinions expressed within this rant completely reflects the opinions of the Cafe itself and should be taken as such. Yours truly is now off to tend to her soup before it starts to burn.

LaShawn’s Project Status Update (or working on my 5th final draft…)

So right around yesterday as I recoved from a full day of hanging out at the Circle M farm by cooking roast chicken and cheesy rutabega, a thought occurred to me as I looked out and to my shock saw tiny flakes of snow flying by the window:

Oh crap. November’s coming up isn’t it? That means I gotta spend the whole month focusing on Willow!

Ever since I learned about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, I’ve been using the month of November not so much as a month to put my butt in a chair and crank out a 50,000 word novel, but to focus on the novel I already had, Weeping of the Willows. The first year I did it, I cranked out 50,000 words worth of new material for my book. Ironically, a good deal of that material got stripped out in the first reading, but I still think it did me some good.

Last year, I don’t think I participated. Things were crazy for me that month, what with the possibility of selling our house and moving to Madison and all. It’s a miracle I got any writing done at all during that time.

So here it is, a year later. At the moment, I’m still reading through the first draft of Willow. It’s been slow going, partially because I do it at night, when I’m more likely to be tired and ready to blow it off. Partially because I’ve been focusing on my short story She’s All Light. Yes, yes, I know. A few weeks ago, I said that I was working on my final draft and once it was done, I would send it to Writers of the Future. No ifs, ands, or buts. I was done with it.

But then something happened.  As I worked on the final draft, one of the supporting characters, which in previous drafts had been pretty sublime and quiet, did something so unexpected and bizarre, I actually stopped working and backed away from the laptop. It still gives me chills thinking about it; I don’t want to say that it was violent thing she did, but in the framework of the scene, what she did was something that made me–and the other characters–jump. And just like that, it came out of the blue. As I was working on the final draft.

Well, of course, when a character does something that gives you chills, that changes the whole nature of their persona in the story. There’s repucussions. You want to know why the character did it. You want to know how that one single act impacts the story from that point on. And I knew that I couldn’t call it a final draft anymore, because the story had changed. Which means that I need to do some more work on it.

Luckily, we had a writer’s group meeting, so I brought my “final” draft in. Turns out that I don’t have to rewrite the whole story from scratch, which is a great relief. However, the group confirmed what I felt after finishing the ‘final’ draft–the sections I had to change were so strong on their own, it made some other scenes unnecessary. So basically, I need to do some cutting.

Which is fine. My word count for this story had been pretty high, roughly around 12,000 words. Cutting out some scenes will trim it nicely. The hard part will be structuring the story after those cuts. I’ll have to take a couple of weeks to think on how the best way to do that…

And now you see my dilemma? For me to do this, I’ll have to either put aside working on Willow, which is something I don’t want to do, or I’ll just have to continue doing what I’m doing now, which is spend the afternoon working on the story, and the evening working on Willow.

Then again, it’s not like my writing schedule is set in stone. I can be flexible. The WOTF deadline is not until January 1. I don’t necessarily have to wait until November to focus on Willow. I can start doing that…well…today…

So how does this look: this week, I’ll focus exclusively on Willow in both my afternoon and evening writing sessions. Then, next week, start working on the She’s All Light cuts during the evening session. It means I’ll be putting more of my energies on working on Willow still, but in switching the two, it will help me focus on something new at night. At least, that’s the theory. Then, when the story is done and finally out the door, go back to doing Willow twice a day until I’m done with the readthrough. My goal is to start working on actual revisons at the beginning of 2009. (Oh, and what fun that will be…)

I’ve realized that this means that I will have spent the whole of 2008 working on two things: She’s All Light and Willow. Doesn’t make for a productive year, does it? Well, I don’t feel terribly bad. Actually, I have written other stories for fun, and there are several that I want to focus on when I get the chance (I may actually focus on one after I get SAL out the door–it’s a flash, so it should take up much time). But in light of all that’s happened this year, I’m just grateful that I have the chance to write at all.

So thank you for being with me as I sort all this out. All of this will pay off, I promise you when both of these stories get published. Don’t know when, mind you, but I can tell you it will happen.

Book Review: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

So after this year of reading books for weeks, maybe months at a time, I finally get Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and what do I do? I devour it in a week.

It sucks because this was a book I wanted to read slowly. Getting a Gaiman book is always a treat, and I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time. I feel like I’ve sit down to a nice filet mignon dinner, smelled it in great delight, then somehow channeled Cookie Monster: plates and knives flying everywhere, going “ARRRRRRRnyum-nyum-nyum-nyum!”, until I come out of my gluttonous haze, hair mussed, crumbs and fragments everywhere, thinking, “Wha? huh? Where’d it goooo?”

The reason why I read this book so fast was it drew me in, mainly because Gaiman always tell a good story, but this was a story using nearly an all-black cast. But it’s not blatant, with his characters talking slang and stereotypically putting their love groove on–well, okay, there’s Fat Charlie’s father, but I deal with that in a bit.. In fact, in the case of the main characters, you don’t even know they’re black until you’re well in the book. Fat Charlie, by all accounts is a proper British gentleman who just so happens to be black. I’m pretty sure his fiance is also black, mainly because her mother has been described as “a skeletal Eartha Kitt”. There’s also a point in the book when her skin is shown to be brown, but you’ll have to read the book to see which part she shows (it had me cracking up all the way off my futon).

So we have the British black, and then we have the Florida black, which mainly consists of old black women, who takes care of things after Fat Charlie’s father dies. They pretty much act, well, like old black women, and I was impressed by how Gaiman handled them without letting them slide into stereotype.

But what is this book about? It’s about stories. It’s about myths. It’s about African tales that most of us had forgotten about, which briefly made its reappearance in the Brer Rabbit tales, and then sunk back into obscurity. It’s also about the power of family and being horribly, horribly embarrassed by them, and passing on that legacy, for good or ill.

Fat Charlie, aka Charles Nancy, is a man who is puzzled all the time. He just wants to live a normal life, but he never seems to really enjoy that life. He lives it just for something to do. However, he does know he wants to stay away from his crazy father, who drinks and dances and wears goofy fedoras. It was his father, in fact, who called him “Fat Charlie”, and though Charles detests the name, whenever someone finds out about it, it always sticks.

When his father dies in a spectacular use of karaoke and a crooked finger, Charles suddenly learns he has a brother named Spider, who is the exact opposite of Charles: he’s smooth, he’s eloquent, he’s debonair. Things happen around him. And it appears that he’s the one who inherited most of their father’s powers. For their father was Anansi, the trickster spider-god.

I understand that this book is a companion to American Gods, which I have not read yet, but this one has more humor. That’s certainly the case. There’s a lot of wit and fun, starting with Spider deciding to have fun with Charles’s life, to Charles discovering  his own self. There’s birds and ghosts, and that annoying boss whom you can hear the insincerity in his catchphrase, “Absatively!” There’s also stories about Anansi, which may or may not be true (one story had me scratching my head, thinking, I could’ve sworn I read that once as a Grimm’s fairy tale…)

The only time I got pulled out of the story was when Charles Nancy landed in jail. Being a black person, if such a thing happened to me, I would have been deeply worried on how it would reflect on me as a black person overall. After all, the statistics are significantly higher for black people to go to jail more than white people (I remember my hubby once showing me that the ratio of black men in Wisconsin sent to prison over white people was 17 to 1). However, there was an absence of that worry in Charles Nancy. Part of me wondered if it had to do with it being that Charles was completely overwhelmed by everything that was happening to him (losing his job, his fiancee, not to mention his closet space turned into a bedroom set in a completely different part of the world). But another part of me wondered if this was because, Gaiman, being caucasian (though a British one at that), didn’t have the experience to consider it. Or maybe he did and chose not to make an issue of it, choosing to keep the book light in nature. Which makes sense. I suppose I’ll have to ask him that the next time he’s in Madison. 

This gets 4-3/4 spiders out of 5 (yes, that’s my rating. What of it?). This is one of those books makes me wish I was a famous writer so I could write it myself. Maybe one day, when Hollywood realizes that the world is more multi-cultural than they think, Anansi Boys will get made into a movie. I have hope. Hey, if we can get a black president into the White House, then certainly we can get an all-black cast fantasy movie. It’s just a matter of time, that’s all.

Oh, and by the way, Neil, I am absolutely serious. The next time you’re in Madison, WI, let me know. I’m dying to buy you a cup of coffee so I can pick your brains out about Anansi Boys and writing in general. Well, not necessarily pick your brains in that way…

The Difference Between Artists and Writers (or Why Can’t I Dress Like That?!)

So last week I was in the kitchen at my job when one of the younger girls came in and the first thing I saw were her white knit legwarmers.

There are many, many people who should not wear legwarmers. I am one of those people. Put them on me, and it will make my legs look even more like oversmoked hams. This girl was not one of them. They looked good on her. Really, really good. She looked hip and chic and so cool that I was completely distracted from her skirt, which she had made herself out of a Halloween sweater that had a white picket fence on it. She simply cut out the Halloween parts, kept the fence, sewed it into a skirt, and voila.

As I stood there, mind exploding, one of my co-workers came up to me and said. “Nope. Don’t even try it. It won’t look good on you. She’s an artist.

Ooooo! Ouch! Right in the gut!

It just so happened that the Sunday before, I had a chance to go to the Madison ‘Open Studio’ tour. This is basically where all the artists in the town and the surrounding areas open up their studios and homes for the public to come in and see their work and the rooms where they were created. I only had a chance to visit a couple of homes–I only learned about the tour the week before, and the only time I had available was a couple of hours on Sunday. But it was fascinating, going into different homes to see artwork and photographs and textiles–the last was very interesting; the artist showed us her a loom upstairs that she used to weave thick rugs. It was big, all wood and strings and ball bearings, like a cross between a piano, an wooden armoire and one of those photo kiosks you see at the mall (forgive the metaphor, but I’ve been working on She’s All Light all week. My metaphor conjuring is tapping on empty at the moment). I wish I had more time to spend there. Weaving on looms looks to be a very interesting craft.

Anyway, I’m going to all these artists homes and I’m thinking to myself, writers can be considered artists too. Why can’t we have an open studio to show off?

But we all know the answer to that. Writers are artists, in the degree that we create art. The thing is with artists, their medium is all visual. You go into a room and see, with your eyes, a piece of artwork on the wall, you instantly recognize it as art (unless it’s one of those paintings that’s all black, or a statue done by Takashi Murakami. In which you’ll go, “Huuuuuuuuuuuuh?”) For writers, the art we create is mental. We whip up tapestries that can only be seen with the mind’s eye.

So while most artists can have a sketch pad with them, they still need a space of their own in order to make their art happen. Writers don’t need that. Our creating space is in our heads, and it can be as large as the universe or as small as a molecule. It doesn’t have to be concrete. Ideas are our paints, imagination the brush, and entire worlds are the canvasses, stretched out to infinity.

It still sucks, though because really, who’d want to go in and see a writer’s studio? In my case, that’s currently the kitchen table. Granted, I have an awesome view outside our apartment, but I doubt anyone is going to come in to peruse the half written scraps of stories I got on my laptop. Probably the closest I could get to displaying my work on a wall would be poetry–and why would I do that when I could just as easily send it to people in an email?

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against artists. I had genuine fun doing the tour, and I loved going in to see their creative thought processes on display. It’s just that people assume that, being artists, they can dress and act however they want. Them being artists gives them the license to act as eccentric or farm from the beaten path as they can. Oh, they’re artists. They got creativity up the ying-yang; therefore, they can do whatever they want.

Writers, on the other hand, are watchers. We dress normal. Since we watch the world for material, we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. We make ourselves as unobtrusive as possible. We blend.

Except in the case where we’re doing a reading on our work. Then hey, we can dress however we want. Because we’re reading our art.

I’m looking forward to that day. True, I won’t show up in legwarmers and a sweater skirt, but hey, I’ll find some way to be styling. It’s artistic!

Writerly Rumblings

Now that my part of the Southland Tales recap for the Agony Booth is done, I can now re-focus (good grief, how many times have I done this already?) on the final edit of She’s All Light. I just want this to be over. Bleah. I’m going to write flash fiction for the next nine months after this.

While I was working and writing and grieving and juggling life, October somehow snuck up on me. I realized that next week is Madison’s Book Festival, starting next Wednesday, October 15 and ending Sunday, October 19. It will be interesting to see how this is handled, seeing that it’s more a ‘book’ festival rather than a writing festival–I wasn’t impressed with the workshops they offered at first. But going back to the website today, I saw they just announced a series of forums that discuss the art of writing and the nature books hold on people today. That looks more promising.

And speaking of websites, it appears that the one for the Midwest Literary Festival, the one held in Aurora, is down. Clicking on it just gives you a server index, with a 401 error if you click on the only folder available. The City of Aurora’s website has no mention of it either, not on the website or their fall newsletter. Which can only mean that the Festival is no more.

That’s quite a bummer, since the previous Festivals were some really good ones with some real good authors. I hope that writers in Chicago were able to find an alternate place to go (where are all the nice people at Twilight Times going to go to now?). I still hold out the hope that when I become a rich and famous author, I’d be able to go back to the festival to claim my roots.

Until then, I’ll stick with the Madison Book Festival. Oh, wait, there’s Wiscon too! Say, now that is something to look forward to. Hmm…I better get my registration in for that…

Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund

Oh, I have been reading so sloooooow lately!

I wonder if I should blame this on the book I read in April, Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. She advocates slow reading in order to distill how a book is written and put together. I just can’t seem to gobble down books like I used to. What takes me two weeks to read has now gone into a month, maybe month in a half. In some cases, like Disturbances in the Field, it was agonizing.

But in case of the book I just finished, Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette, there was no way I could rush through this book. This is a book meant to be savored.

I’ve always been fascinated with Marie Antoinette. Naslund says at the end of the book that it’s like “a reverse fairy tale–not a story about a deserving poor girl who became a princess but…a princess who lost her position and power, even her life.” I’ve seen Antoinette’s story in anime form, with the Rose of Versailles, and I’ve seen it in movie form with Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (and that shot of the blue converse sneaker in among all her other shoes is probably the most jarring shot in a movie I’ve ever seen–and what really endeared the movie to me).

So I was quite pleased to enjoy this tale in book form, and Naslund does not disappoint. The entire book is an exercise of luxury, written from Marie’s perspective. If she kept a diary, I’ve no doubt it would be similar to the style in Naslund’s book. I had to keep reminding myself that while the events that occurred was true, the words are fiction.

Despite that, I was drawn into Marie’s world. Interesting that three of the books I’ve read this year dealt with court life–this one was probably the most idyllic. Part of that is due to Naslund’s characterization of Marie–a woman who is drawn to beauty in everything she sees, including her own self. At the beginning of the story, as she steps out of her Austrian clothes to put on French clothes and her new French identity, for instance, she focuses on her toenail touching the last part of her Austrian past:

“It is the littlest toenail of the most little toe on the left foot that lastly brushes the fabric of the House of Hapsburg. All my being rushes into this insignificant toenail, not so big as a shiny sequin or a flake of trout skin. My toenail is like the loop on the letter e at the end of a word: Dauphine. Auf Wiedersehen–my little toenail whispers to the silk. To think, that it is the tiniest toenail so honored, the last part of me tangent to home!”

Yes, Marie is certainly fixated on herself and her happiness, a flaw that Naslund makes apparent often with her fascination of how she looks, her sudden (and sometimes overwhelming) interest in people that make her happy; and the just as sudden weariness of them. But she also has a love for all things sensual–not in a sexual sense, but things that invoke all of her senses (only one chapter bends this rule: ‘A bath, 18 August 1777’. It’s probably the only time when Neslund’s writing truly does border on the erotic, with delightful results–for Marie, that is). She finds luxury in everything from a diamond bracelet with the initials “M. A.”, to the simple desire of having two apples in a blue bowl. That the bowl has to be blue shows how the desire of beauty is interwoven deep in her. That it is apples she crave shows her desire, surprisingly, for simplicity.

Mind, she loves beauty, not indulgence–it’s interesting that when she is under some type of emotion, she can barely eat–preferring to sip a couple spoonfuls of broth over eating lavish dinners. We know that despite her high rank, she preferred Petite Trianon to the larger, more opulent Versailles. Neslund creates delicious bites of Marie’s hunger for beauteous simplicity by the way she focuses on small things: slices of oranges floating in water, the way her skirt rustles and feels as she walks. Neslund lets Marie focus on one sense at a time, letting her enjoyment stem from that particular sensation.

Of course, this is part of Neslund’s Antoinette’s downfall. Her desire for beauty at times is too idyllic, an escape from reality. The book does a good job mirroring the movie (I don’t think Coppola used this book as a basis for her movie–she used a biography written by Lady Antonia Fraser) in that we see Marie always enjoying life, always having parties, making googly eyes at Fersen, not wishing to know about the outside world, or re-enacting what she thinks the outside world is like. The faux village she builds so she can pretend to be a shepherdess–I truly doubt the peasants appreciated the fact that the milkjugs were made of porcelain…

At the same time, however, Marie’s focus on beauty distracts her from the anguish of being married at 14, but having her marriage consummated at 23, which we don’t see until midway through the book (and when we finally do see it–I must confess, I said “Yay!” Come on Louis–what is wrong with you?!). Oddly, the love between her and the king is both frustrating and touching. She also has to deal with horrible and escalating rumors about herself (which she naively cannot comprehend why the people of France are mad at her). As she grows older, the real life does intrude into her idyllic life at last, starting with the death of her child.

One thing the book does touch on (and the anime), but not the book, is the affair of the necklace, which Marie wasn’t even implicated in, but helped bring about her downfall. Her bafflement over the whole thing is done very well, and we also begin to see the emergence of a harder Marie, one who begins to have more of an interest in politics, and finds herself to be more shrewd than her less-than-stellar husband. Sadly, it’s too little too late. We get drawn into her downfall, as her surroundings become less opulent as she goes from Versailles to the Tuileries to the Tower. Yet still, she attempts to find beauty in the smallest things.

The ending–and of course I’m not spoiling it; we all know what happened–is still filled with beauty and also with dignity. We still see a Marie still involved with herself as she prepares for death–though this time it is achingly poignant. And we also see a dignity that is surprisingly gracious. Out of the other media I’ve seen about Marie, Neslund takes us right to the gallows, right up to the point where she lays her head on the guillotine’s block. It is very poignant, and that Neslund uses Marie’s actual last words seals it with a tenderness that stayed with me.

(Sadly enough, I was reading the end of the book when my co-worker’s suicide happened. I think that’s another reason why the ending touched me as it
did).

One day, when I have money to spend, I would love to have a place on my bookshelf dedicated to Marie Antoinette. I would put the entire DVD set of Rose of Versailles (which has not been released–yet), the movie Marie Antoinette, and then this book. This gets 5 apples in a blue bowl out of 5, and though Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake,” I heartily say, “Bring it on! and pile on the whipped cream! Lots of it!”

More Thoughts on the Writers of the Future Contest

So I had a little more time to ponder my Honorable Mention for the contest and wanted to get my thoughts down.

I didn’t mention anything about entering the contest because it was a last minute thing. Before, I didn’t feel that I was at that level of writing to get in it. Plus it seemed like such a hassle–instead of emailing your submission in, it had to be printed out in a special format and mailed before a deadline. It just seemed too much work. Plus, the fact that it’s sponsored by L. Ron Hubbard put me off. I’m still sore after the whole Battlefield Earth thing.

But I bided my time and did some research on the contest. I also scored a couple of the anthologies from my library and skimmed through them. The stories were pretty good, and plus it wasn’t just all science fiction as I thought–there was some good fantasy stories in there too. Then around the beginning of May, a couple of weeks before we moved to Madison, I had a short story rejected and I thought, what the hey? Send it in to Writers of the Contest. It won’t hurt.

So I did, with the expectation that the most I would get out of it would be an Honorable Mention. Now, if I understand the Honorable Mention category, those are the stories that have something going for them, but are lacking something that would push them over the top into the Semi-Finalist category. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I got nothing. I’d probably feel pretty bad and get all dramatic, saying I’m done with writing and going into full-time organic farming. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, though when they started listing the first sets of HMs, I did get a little nervous. Strangely, the fact that I was on the final list makes me feel pretty good. I don’t know what being on the final list really means–if it meant that it took them that long to decide on the entries, or if they just stuck them all in boxes and my story just so happened to be in the last box, I don’t know. I’m going to pretend it’s the former. It’s more motivational that way.

Since entering the contest, I’ve been checking out the WOTF forum and I’ve just listened to AISFP #63, where Shaun Farrell interviewed the winners of last year’s contest. Plus, the WOTF website has a 10 minute overview of the award ceremony (winners of the contest are flown out to Los Angeles where they attend a week-long workshop plus the ceremony). At one point, it had me in tears when Brittany Jackson won the Gold Award. A black female artist! How awesome! It made me want to rush out and buy the book just so I can have her illustration on my bookshelf. (Well, the book trailer made me want to get the book anyway, but her illustration would be a nice bonus.)

So my excitement for the contest has gone considerably up. I think I’ll continue sending stuff to the contest. I already have my next submission in the works–I just got to finish it up and send it out. Of course, I think every writer that enters the contest has the goal to keep submitting until they win or disqualified by a professional market printing their story. I think my little fantasy involves learning that I’m a finalist at the same time I get a notice that Realms of Fantasy has accepted another story.

A pleasant futile dream. But it’s still fun.

Here’s the WOTF Awards Ceremony from 2008.