Sunday, May 29, 2011

Highs, lows, back up, down and up again

When I came back from my South Africa trip last August, it was my goal to really take my writing seriously to the point of making it reality. No more dreaming, no more talk...straight up action. That meant writing everyday; attending conferences; but most importantly, entering contests and submitting manuscripts. It's the only way I'll ever get published. And the scariest part of writing...possible (and most likely) rejection.

I submitted to my first contest this year in February for the WOW (Women on Writing) Ezine Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest. The piece had to be a minimum of 250 words and maximum 750 words on any topic. Only the first 300 submissions would be accepted. Elaine Spencer, Literary Agent with Knight Agency would be the final judge. And who knew, maybe she'd love my piece SO much that she'd write me personally wanting to see more of my work and then sign me on (a girl can dream, right?). I submitted Hit (read my May 29 post "Hit" here). Let the worry and wringing hands begin.

I received an email on March 26 that I made the first cut and beat out 200 other submissions. Woo-hoo! In your face!!! Of course I was elated. I might just get my first real fiction writing credit. I could also win money! Something to finally offset all these writing expenses I've accumulated (credit card debt anyone?).

Every time I received an email from WOW, my heart skipped a beat. Then it deflated when it was just a workshop advertisement. Knowing that the final judging should be done around April 30, once May arrived and no "You won!" email arrived I was pretty much without any hope. But then I argued with myself that maybe the voting was delayed, maybe there was still a chance. I'd peruse the website for any mention of winners, with no luck...just a statement to check back in May, even though it already was May.

Deep down I knew I'd lost. They would have contacted me by now if I was in the top twenty for my bio and picture. And then one Sunday when I innocently surfed the site, the winners were listed. All twenty. None were my name. Oh yeah, and on the same day I also found out that I'd lost the Carteret Writers 20th Annual Writing Contest. Talk about hitting a low.

Today, a week or so later, I received a critique from one of the round table judges. It was $10 to enter the contest and an additional $10 for the critique. I hesitated opening the email, afraid of what some stranger thought about my story. I was provided a score (1-5, 5 being the highest) in four categories. My scoring was as follows:

Subject: 5
Content: 5
Technical: 5

I'm perfect! Was I reading this right? Yup, that's right, I'm perfect! But if my work is so darn good, then why wasn't I in the top 20? Then I realized that this was just ONE judges point of view. Maybe every other judge thought my piece sucked (see how quickly I can take great news and turn it into a pity fest).

You may have noticed that the above is only 3 out of 4 categories. Under "Overview", a score was not received but rather the following comment:

I really enjoyed your story. You did a good job of subtly infusing the word “hit” into your story, but it has a big impact. I also like the way the story starts with her revelation and slowly disintegrates, finally ending with denigration and hypocrisy. You wove a lot of elements into a short story—nice job. Thanks for sharing!

Okay, so I didn't win in the top twenty. But I DID beat out 200 other submissions. That deserves a pat on the back. And at least one judge enjoyed my story and thought it was "perfect". Hopefully I can ride this high for more than just a few minutes.

On to the next WOW contest, due May 31...wish me luck!



The following is my submission to the WOW ezine 2011 Winter Flash Fiction Contest on February 28, 2011.

by Sonja Thomas

I pull another armful of clothes from my closet and add them to the pile on my unmade bed. "God and I are no longer on speaking terms."

Julie raises an eyebrow. "Why would you say that? We just rocked your last church choir rehearsal."

"My love of singing has nothing to do with him." I hold my favorite punk band's t-shirt against my chest. The Celtic triquetra symbol is barely legible after a million washes. I throw the tee into the plaid suitcase. "Life sucks and God doesn't give a damn."

Julie shakes her head. "Jesus, Kelly, tell me how you really feel."

I roll my eyes. "I'm all right with it. I've made my peace and moved on." I yank a few more shirts off their hangers and toss them into the suitcase.

Julie picks up a navy baby-doll dress and eyes it up and down. "You've outworn this. How about donating it to my closet?"

"Whatever." I shrug.

She digs around in my jewelry case and pulls out my silver chain with the key heart shaped pendant. I rush over and tear it from her grip.

Julie leans back. "What is your issue?"

I sink onto the bed. I stare at the necklace cradled in my cupped hands. I look up at Julie as tears streak my cheeks.

She falls onto the bed beside me and strokes my brown curls. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"No." I shudder. "I should be happy. I have a free ride to NYU. Who wouldn't be ecstatic with the opportunity to chase their dream? But..." I pause, take a deep breath and exhale. "It's the anniversary of the accident."

Julie claps a hand over her mouth. "I totally forgot. Kelly, I'm so sorry." She wraps an arm around me and lays her head on my shoulder.

I shut my eyes. My thoughts drift and replay that awful moment from thirteen years ago. Raindrops pelted against the windshield. Mom warned Dad to slow down. Dad laughed, said not to worry. I fought falling eyelids in the backseat. Mom smiled at me, the heart shaped key pendant dangling around her neck. A horn blared and tires screeched. The car swerved. Mom screamed. The oncoming car's headlights blinded me. We hit. I fell forward, only to be strangled back by my seat belt. The next thing I saw was the midnight sky filled with a glowing full moon. An unrecognizable voice said, "We're right here with you. Stay with us, Kelly."

I open my eyes and shake away the memory. I rise from the bed, drop the necklace back into the box, and close the lid. I march back to the closet and resume packing.

As I put more clothes into the suitcase, Julie lays a hand on mine. "You don't have to do this right now. I can help you later tonight or even tomorrow. Your train doesn't leave till late."

"I know, but I need to keep busy." My hand quivers. Julie squeezes lightly. I inhale deep through my nose, pulling in the tears as deep as possible. "I appreciate you being here, but, I'd really like to finish up on my own. Okay?"

She nods, but I can see in her eyes that she wants to say so much more. She hugs me as my arms remain numb by my sides.

"I'll be by tomorrow to take you to the train station. Love you, Kelly."

I force a half smile and close my bedroom door behind her. I bolt to my dresser and open the jewelry box. I hesitate as my eyes glance at the necklace. I pull out the fake bottom and remove a small black pouch. Inside is a folded note, lighter and joint. I light the joint and inhale deep. My throat burns. I cough and take another hit.

I chuckle. My ex gave me this bag of goodies after I'd broken up with him because of his drug addiction. I unfold the worn paper.


I hope you know I didn't lie to hurt you. I thought I could handle everything and keep it separate from you. Here's the last of my stash as my way of saying I give it up to hold onto you. Give me another chance.

I love you.

I crumple the note and toss it in the trash. Just one more hit. And then I'll move on.

thanks for reading,