May 31, 2012

Writer's Digest contest

So, um, this happened.

Last fall, I got into a bit of a lull on my writing. I got pregnant, felt like absolute crap all the time, was in the middle of a manuscript revision that felt like pulling teeth, etc, etc, etc. So I started writing short stories to give myself a break. I'm a huge fan of Laini Taylor, and I saw that she and her friend Meghan Genge had started a site called Sunday Scribblings with a weekly writing prompt, so I started going there to pick up inspiration.

Underneath each weekly prompt, people post links to their writing for that week, whether it's poems, short stories or whatever, but I was always too chicken to actually post my own stuff. I've been an editor for over ten years and have had some of my nonfiction writing published for various work-related things, but I was terrified to put my fiction out in the wide, wild interwebs. It felt too much like spilling my brains out for the world to see or going outside naked or something. So I'd just write little stories or snippets or whatever and keep them in a file. I figured one day I'd pretty them up and submit them somewhere or maybe even get a new book idea.

At any rate, one week the prompt was "The call," and since writing about a phone call didn't seem frightfully exciting, I decided to let my brain wander and see what else popped up. And for some reason, I thought of birdcalling. Don't ask me where it came from -- I'm a little random sometimes. I'd heard vaguely about birdcalling competitions but knew absolutely nothing about them, so I just started making stuff up. After a bit of Googling, I determined there wasn't really any kind of competition circuit like the one I was imagining, so I just went with the idea and let it run. I found a couple of websites where you could listen to birdcalls, and then I picked them at random to include in my story -- either birds with great names like the black-capped gnatcatcher or calls that sounded really cool and I thought would be fun to describe in writing.

After a couple of evenings, I had what I thought was a pretty fun little story, and into the file it went. A few nights later, I started poking around on the internet to see what I could possibly do with the story, and I discovered that the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition deadline was only a month away. It seemed like too good of a coincidence. So I polished up my story, took a deep breath as I sent my very first piece of fiction writing out into the world, and submitted it. I knew the contest got an absolute ton of entries and didn't really put much hope into winning but figured it was good practice to start sending stuff out.

I can't even tell you how shocked I was when I got an email this February telling me I'd won first prize. I was home with my daughter when I got the email, and I immediately started laughing/shaking. I called my husband at work, and I sounded so freaked out when I asked him if he had a minute to talk that he thought something terrible had happened to our kid. Then I cried for a bit and laughed most of the rest of the afternoon. I truly didn't expect this kind of reception for my first attempt. I'm pretty sure it was beginner's luck, but everybody I say that to tells me to shut up.

My story is now up on the WD website and will be published in an anthology this summer. And I'm just pleased as punch.

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