"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
Contests abound in the kidlit community on Twitter. I always enjoy trying my hand at them. They are helpful for a lot of reasons.
#1. They encourage me to write.
#2. They force me out of my comfort zones regarding content, genre, number of words, etc.
#3. They offer amazing prizes if you're good enough to win (goals. . . )
#4. They build community as writers read each others' work, offer comments, retweets, shares, feedback, etc.
#5. They are FUN!
There are probably many more reasons to participate, but these are enough for me.
This contest is called 50 Precious Words. Hosted by Vivian Kirkfield, author (and person) extraordinaire, it is exactly what it says: You have (ONLY!) 50 Precious Words to tell a whole story!!! Characters, arc, etc. . . .Beginning, Middle, End . . .50 words! You can read more about Vivian and her inspiration for the contest as well as guidelines here: www.viviankirkfield.com
I became active in the Twitter kidlit community one year ago and this is my FIRST time entering Vivian's contest, but I had lots of fun brainstorming and writing this one. It's called
Bioluminescent fish line the midway,
At the underwater fair.
Octopus tentacles reach
To hold the mounts,
On the ocean carousel.
Giggle, and beg,
“One more time!”
Poor, dizzy Octopus is
spinning out of control,
Ink clouds the carousel
At the underwater fair.
My 54th birthday is looming large this week, and honestly, I would skip it if I could. . . It seems so wrong to celebrate a day without her that is only possible because of her. My first birthday without her. I didn't expect it to feel this way. I never really thought about how birthdays would feel without her. It is not the first sad birthday I've had, and it won't be the last, I'm sure, unless I die before the next sad one ;-) Amidst the tears of having a birthday without her, I'd love to celebrate this week, all the birthdays I had with her. . .
Mama grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who had grown up during the Great Depression. Frugality and simplicity were the fabrics of her life growing up. Birthdays in our house were not often full of presents and abundance or frills, but they were always special.
Every birthday we got to choose our favorite meal for dinner. Usually, mine was chicken and pastry. It was a family favorite and another testament to Mama’s excellent cooking. Soft, tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken with a rich flavorful broth and clouds upon clouds of fluffy white pastries (Some call her style dumplin’s, but we always called them pastry.) It was always served alongside mounds of white rice to soak up all the thickened chicken juice. Usually a veggie rounded out the meal -- sweet peas or green beans or something green (often from our garden via the freezer).
And there was always cake. When I was in middle school maybe, Mama took a cake decorating class, so for a few years, we had very fancy cakes! Cakes shaped like Mickey Mouse and decorated to the hilt to make it look just like him -- cakes with beautiful roses, and all kinds of beautiful decorations. Sometimes, it was family favorite cakes -- like carrot cake -- or, for me, pineapple upside down cake. Whatever the flavor, and whatever it looked like, Mama’s cakes always had the most important ingredient -- LOVE!
There were also always cards -- carefully chosen and lovingly signed -- sometimes in Mama’s handwriting; sometimes in Daddy’s, but always a beautiful sweet card full of love.
Sometimes, we had parties. Certainly not every year -- and not the ornate events of today’s kids. Second grade, I think, Mama planned a party for Dale (my younger brother) and me together (both our birthdays are in February-- his the 2nd and mine the 24th) So we had our party right around Valentine’s Day -- we had heart-shaped candies and our friends came over to play and bring presents. (I remember particularly a Play-Doh Fun Factory that year -- it was well-used! :-) It was a rare treat to have a party and took a lot of extra effort and expense on Mama’s part, and looking back I really appreciate those efforts.
Also, in second grade, I remember Mama taking me to birthday parties of friends as well. That was a special treat too! I remember attending Greta’s birthday party in Sunset Terrace where we played croquet and Greer’s birthday downtown where we played musical chairs and I was enthralled because her house had an UPSTAIRS! None of that would have happened without Mama’s willingness to get a little gift and haul me over to a friend's house.
As we got older, we were able to plan our own parties, and Mama tried to help and accommodate us if she could. When I turned 16, I had a big party at our house -- a sleepover for the girls. I still have a picture of about 6 of us piled up in the bed under the covers. I don’t remember all that we did (although I think I remember Kim losing her contact down the sink), but I have very fond memories of the party itself and Mama’s help and willingness to make it happen.
She and Daddy allowed me to plan an 18th birthday party in “the barn” (upstairs play area for Dale and me above Daddy’s workshop downstairs in a log barn Mama and Daddy had built.) I invited all my friends and we celebrated big for my 18th!
As we grew into adulthood, birthday celebrations continued and morphed. At some point, we began having family oyster roasts to celebrate Dale’s and my collective February birthdays. We would buy a bushel of oysters, which required copious rinsing and scrubbing to get the ocean-y grunge off. Mama would scrub and rinse, and then direct our scrubbing and rinsing, until we got enough cleaned that she could begin to cook them. She would fill every big pot and pan full of clunky gray oysters and roast or steam them to salty perfection. Sometimes she would fry some fish or shrimp alongside -- or make hushpuppies. Sometimes it was just oysters and saltines. She was always ready to help us with those stubborn shells that wouldn’t release -- either wielding her knife or throwing it back in the pot to coax it open. Finally, Dale confessed, after years of doing birthday oyster roasts, that he didn’t really care for oysters, so we gave up that tradition, but those are special memories!
Birthdays may not have been elaborate affairs, but they always came with love and effort on her part to make it a special day in some way or other.
One thing is for sure, birthdays will never be the same again.
This was not part of the book I created for Mama, but as I was reflecting this week on some blessings, and thinking about LOVE, I wanted to offer these reflections:
Mama’s love was a tough love. She had high expectations, and while, growing up it felt conditional; in retrospect, it was not. But you can bet disappointing her had big consequences -- stern looks, ear thumps, spankings, switchings, lectures, missing out on favorite things, and so much more. At the time, those didn’t feel much like love. Honestly, to a kid’s heart, they seem more like hate. But as a first-time mom, Mama always did the very best she could for me, and she always viewed her job to help make me into the best person I could be. That is love, too.
Mama, though incredibly intelligent and very talented, viewed it as her job to be a stay-at-home mom. Since we were home together all day every day, we had the opportunity/misfortune to see each other’s imperfections up close and personal consistently. I often disappointed her and she often disappointed me. I wish I could say that I was a great daughter and she was a great mom all the time, and we loved well 24-7, but that would be a lie. Here’s what I know after 53 years of walking alongside my mom.
Mama wasn’t the most affectionate mom in the world. (Her mom was not very affectionate with her, either). She didn’t give compliments easily. I’m not sure whether that helped CREATE my need for Words of Affirmation, or if it is simply one of life’s ironies that she wasn’t good at the thing I need most. The letter she wrote us is precious to me because it offers some affirmations that I don’t feel like I got from her as I was growing up. And honestly, looking back, it appears that perhaps her love language was quality time and acts of service -- and I wasn’t particularly adept at offering those, either -- especially in those atrocious teenage years.
The thing is that with (at least some) mothers and daughters, grace and forgiveness is the most amazing currency, regardless of your love language, because we ALL make mistakes. As I met a friend for coffee this week, she asked if Mama and I had a chance to talk about our forgiveness and grace for each other. My answer was Yes, although it was not the tearful outpouring of emotions you might think or expect. Over time, mostly through my writing (go figure!), I shared words of apology, forgiveness, grace . . . and in her matter of fact way, she shrugged off those deep conversations with some of her favorite comments: “Oh well, that’s life.” “Life’s not fair.” etc. Of course, since we are both criers, there were also smatterings of tears and hugs amidst her attempt at a lackadaisical response.
I wrote this poem for her a number of years ago (2009) for Mother’s Day:
On days like today, I think of the gifts I’d like to give,
But, instead of giving, I’d actually take away –
The discomfort of 9 months of waiting,
The long, hard hours of labor,
The 6 weeks of crying, sleepless nights.
I’d take away the sibling squabbles,
The skint-up knees and temper tantrums.
I’d take from you the sass and attitude
I gave back then – wiping out their memory.
I’d remove all the nights of missed curfews,
The lies told, and the worries I brought.
I’d lovingly scrape away all the hard times
Throughout our lives together, leaving only happy memories.
But then, when I came to now,
Our relationship wouldn’t be the same. . .
Those challenges made us the mother and daughter we are.
Yes, I have regrets, and things I’d take away,
But it would change who we are now –
The friendship we have and the love we hold dear.
I hope it’s enough to look back on those days
As building blocks that helped create
The woman I am today, and the relationship we share.
I hope you know
That I appreciate the love that wound itself through
All the memories, good and bad,
And brought us to the place we are today.
While conversations surrounding my writings to her were not gushy and affectionate, they were understood between two hearts that loved well, as best we knew how, and two hearts that learned to give and receive grace and forgiveness for all of our imperfections.
I’m thankful for friends who remind me how blessed I am to have had such a loving Mama for so long, (when she lost her Mom at 14) and that we were so blessed to have had the time, the desire and the fortitude to share our thoughts on love, grace and forgiveness.
And in those moments when death was inevitable, and slowly and painfully stealing her from us, I am so thankful that our last words to each other were, “I love you.”
Books, Books, and More Books (Part 3 of A blog series devoted to the incredible legacy my mother created.)
With humility and immeasurable gratitude, the fact that I was reading the dictionary at 4 and was reading above my level before I ever started school is a testament to Mama’s teaching, guidance, and provision. I am so sad that I don’t have actual memories of her sitting down “teaching me to read” -- or pictures of us reading together, but there were obviously lots of teaching moments. There was also provision of lots of reading material.
The Books of Childhood
The earliest books I remember were Little Golden Books, Rand McNally Books and Little Elf books. We had a plethora of these perfect-for-kids books. Every Christmas and birthday brought more, and sometimes, I even got them "just because". I had fairy tales, poems, Bible stories, animal books, nature books: Trees, Children’s Book of Poems, Prayers, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Night before Christmas, and tons more! I loved those books, and many of the ones that survived now grace my shelves as well. In Mama’s shopping times, she was always on the look-out for inexpensive books.
In 1969 and 1970, Mattel came out with Upsy Downsy land books and toys. I was in love! I had several of the books and toys, spent hours upon hours reading the story books, and still have several of these on my shelf as well! The bright colors and quirky characters were perfect for me and were either an indication of my uniqueness or an instigator of such :-)
Mama also signed up with Parents Magazine Press to receive books periodically and these became the staple of my childhood. My all-time favorite from this series was “Miss Suzy”. I’m sure Mama read it to me countless times. I have read it to myself, certainly, more times than I can count, later to my brother, then to my sister, later to my students, and most recently to Chandler and Kyrah, my niece and nephew. When I finished reading just the other night as they are 8 and 10, they both said, “I love Miss Suzy.” I said, “Me, too,” and oh, how I do!
There were other really fun books in that series -- Marigold Garden, The Monkey’s Whiskers, Donkey Donkey, and the Ice Cream Cone Coot. I am so thankful for Mama’s insight and how she nurtured early on my ability to read and my love for reading.
Before there was Google
Mama also made sure there were reference books in our home growing up. We always had a dictionary and later we got our set of World Book Encyclopedias. Oftentimes on a Sunday afternoon or at night during dinner, a question would come up that no one immediately knew a sure answer for, so before we could ask “Siri”, we asked World Book. We looked up oceans and sea creatures and biblical history and anatomy and physiology and all kinds of animal questions and plant questions -- and all the questions we go to Google now for we went to the World Book then. We used those encyclopedias for school projects and to answer questions and sometimes, yes, I even read them just because. . . . maybe that made me a little weird, but that's okay with me.
Books and Records
Before there were Books on Tape or Audible books or any of that, there were Peter Pan records and books on record. Mama made sure I had plenty of these as well. The favorite one that I remember was “The Wizard of Oz”. On the flip side, it had “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard” songs. I loved reading along with the records, and I have to believe that was part of the learning to read expressively. Mama provided excellent role models for reading beyond herself through the books on record!
A Legacy of Books
Mama was not much of a reader for the last really long time, but back in the day she loved reading and kept a small collection of books. As I got older, she began to allow me to read some of the books she had read and treasured. I have the 2 Victoria Holt books that she had held onto and her copy of Gone with the Wind, among others that she shared with me. Reading and loving books is a legacy and I am so very glad that she built that legacy!--
A couple years ago for Mama's birthday and Mother's Day, I gave her a gift -- a book that I wrote just for her. The thing is, Mama was hard. Anyone who knew her will tell you she was tough as nails. When she passed last month, and people were sharing memories, they used words like fiery (red hair), formidable, independent, strong. All of those are true. They were kind enough not to use words like harsh, difficult, stubborn -- but those are true, too. None of us are all light -- or all dark. Both live within us. It wasn't always easy being Mama's daughter -- especially not her first-born. Nor was it easy for her to be a first-time mom. I wasn't an especially easy daughter -- particularly when I reached about 12. Mama and I seemed to butt heads 24-7. I didn't learn to fully forgive and appreciate Mama until I was about 30 years old. For the last 23 years, we shared a loving and respectful relationship that I treasure. This gift was meant to let her know that I had such love and respect for her, but also lots of happy memories. She often got shafted because she was challenging, the disciplinarian and somewhat hard-to-please. Daddy was fun, creative, carefree, and much more nurturing, so he got the lion's share of affection while I was growing up, and Mama got pushback and arguments and little affection or respect from me. I wanted her to know that I did appreciate her and knew the contributions and the sacrifices she had made for me --and for our family.
When I wrote this I had no idea that she had written a letter to us -- her kids (and spouses) about 10--12 years ago (It's not dated, but we think it was written before she went in for major surgery around that time, as she was contemplating the reality of what she was dealing with and that she might not survive it.) We found the letter after her passing last month. Here are some excerpts: "I love you all more than my words could ever say. . .I'm not good at expressing my words. . . .I hope in your heart of hearts that you all know just how much I care for each one of you.. . . I am so very proud of each of you for your own accomplishments!. . . I now need to apologize for any hurt I ever caused you and any inadequacy I may have caused you to feel. I never meant it to be that. I am truly sorry. I have always wanted only what was best . . .please forgive me for all my wrong words, actions or deeds. . . .I am so very blessed . . .whatever you endeavor to do in the future, go for the mountain tops, stars, space, etc. and I'll be there in spirit supporting you every step of the way. . . ."
Whew! Even as I type those words, tears are streaming all over again. What a beautiful gift that letter is! And interesting the correlation to my introduction to this book for Mama:
"Mothers and daughters have a special -- and challenging -- bond. I can’t speak of it from a mother’s heart as I’ve never been blessed with children, but in this volume I want to share some of my favorite memories with my mama. Our relationship was hard-won -- I gave her fits as a baby -- she says I was colicky for the first 6 mos of my life; I was her wild child (which she didn’t share until I was 52?!?!?). I never stopped talking; I was precocious and smart and boy-crazy from an early age and all around difficult. By the time I was 12, hormones hit, and the relationship hit rock bottom -- and honestly -- it stayed there for a really long time. She made mistakes, and I made mistakes -- and we did a lot of things poorly during that time frame. There are lots of things I would take back if I could -- and she probably feels the same. I don’t want to belabor all of that in this book. I want to use my gift of words to let her know how much I appreciate all the gifts she gave -- even the difficult ones. I want her to know that all my memories are not of food, and that I have just as many special memories of her as I do Daddy and Grandmama. Most of all I want her to know I love her and treasure her. I want her to know I forgive her for all of the inadequacy (and I’m praying she forgives all of mine. . .)"
I hope you'll continue to read along over the next few weeks as I share the beautiful memories and the ways she blessed me and my family through the years with all of her gifts, talents, and heart -- and in spite of any inadequacies and difficulties. She wasn't easy, but she was amazing, fiery, formidable and strong, and I hope in all those ways, I am just like her. . . .
Four weeks on this side of forever with Mama on the other side. It seems surreal. At least once a day, I've thought of calling her or stopping by to fill her in on something, only to realize that's a luxury I don't have anymore. Almost a month of wading through the waves and eddies of the grief cycle -- being dragged under, rising to the surface, treading water, swirling in a maddening whirlpool of emotion. Reliving memories, feeling guilty, wondering if we did the right thing at so many places along the journey, wondering how life would be different if we had made different decisions. Putting one foot in front of the other, crying and trying not to cry. A time of condolences and kind gestures, and of people who should care but don't seem to. It's been an interesting time, a mixed bag of emotions as grief always is. I've grieved enough to know. Yet, every grief is different and takes on a life of its own. I forget (and how blessed I am that I CAN) from one grief to the next the blinding fatigue -- getting up in the morning knowing you've slept but feeling more tired than when you went to bed. I forget how the memories creep in every crevice of your mind if you don't keep it busy with something else. I forget the heart-wrenching guilt of what-ifs and whys. I forget the utter emptiness that is grief.
Losing Mama added watching my daddy grieve as I've never seen him grieve before. I traded watching her suffer for watching him suffer. It's the worst part. As their daughter I know deeply the affection they shared. As a wife, I can imagine the empty bed, the empty house, the vast emptiness of a missing half, and feeling you'll never be whole again. Tears stream as I write how it must feel -- to be without your other half after 56 years of being together.
And, because of COVID -- and just life, there have been SOOOO many other deaths in this 4 weeks -- people I know, people who had spouses and children. It's incredibly overwhelming and at times, it has paralyzed me. My creativity has been at an all-time low -- requiring energy I do not have. Notwithstanding the state of the world or the affairs of this country I love. Trying to teach in a Pandemic with all the trappings. It has been a dark 4 weeks. Ironic at a time that is supposed to be full of light. Three major holidays of this season focus on light -- Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. And yet, this has been such a dark season for me. It is not devoid of light, however, even though it's dark.
Hope shines. In the midst of darkness, hope shines. It is a beacon. I choose to place my hope in a kingdom not of this world -- God's eternal kingdom. I have a strong faith. My parents instilled it early on. As I grew older, I made it my own. It's been tested and purified. It's waxed and waned at times, but because my faith is strong, Hope's beacon shines.
A friend who shares my faith and hope was lamenting on her own grief recently, saying she knew she shouldn't be sad, but she was. But NO! Faith and hope don't take away the sadness. The grief is the love we felt and the hole that is left. We weep and grieve, but not without HOPE. Hope is what guides us THROUGH the grief. Hope is what we have to look forward to on the other side of the grief.
The scriptures say it this way:
It has been the season of contests on Twitter! Giveaways, writing contests, and more! I'm thrilled to share this story which is an on-going story of The Woodsy Woodwinds. These little characters are really capturing my heart and I'm enjoying their stories. I hope you do too! The word limit for this contest was 250 and mine checks in at EXACTLY 250! Everyone who knows me will NOT be surprised by that fact ;-). Big thanks to my critique partners Bonnie Kelso and Aundra Tomlins for helping me whip this little story into shape! Here are the deets for the contest if you're interested:
Huge thanks to Susanna for offering these writing microfiction contests! They are great fun and help us kidlit writers hone our "every word matters" skills! I'm excited to read everyone's stories. It's always amazing how differently we respond to pictures and prompts. That's the joy of creativity!
CHRISTMAS COMES TO HALIBROOK WOODS
Rudy Raccoon was excited for his first Christmas with the Woodsy Woodwinds forest band! He chatted with his fairy friend, Twink, “I’ve decorated this tree with everyone’s favorite foods as a surprise, but something is missing!”
He pulled out his list:
Peanut butter pine cones covered with bird seed - check!
Clusters of dried berries - check!
Apples - check!
Dried clover bunches and carrots - check!
Lots of nuts - check!
Strands of popcorn with cranberries - check!
“Is there something for everyone to enjoy when we untrim the tree?” Rudy asked.
Twink nodded and jingled.
Rudy looked up to the top of the tree and saw the stars in the sky!
That’s what is missing!” he said to Twink.
Twink did a sparkly somersault.
Sticks crunched as Rudy walked around, thinking.
He and Twink found the perfect twigs and glued them together with pine sap, tying the corners with pine needles.
“YES!” he shouted, shimmying up the trunk of the tree to the tippy top. He tied it on with a vine and scurried down to take a look.
“It’s not big or bright enough for anyone to see. That will NEVER do.”
Twink said, “I can help!”
There were twitters, giggles, and skitters as Twink flitted to the top and sprinkled sparkly fairy dust on the twiggy star.
As the star lit, music filled the clearing. All the forest friends were thrilled with Rudy’s surprise.
With Twink’s help, the magic (and the music) of Christmas had come to Halibrook Woods.
One of the things you hope as a writer is to influence someone -- to change their life in some way. Maybe it's simply to bring a smile or a giggle, to bring new knowledge, or to encourage. I have a mission statement as an author that pretty much says that -- I want to use my words -- spoken and written -- to educate, encourage, exhort, edify, enlighten, entertain, etc. The short version is that I want to use my writing to make the world a better place. That's what happens when we share positive stories. During the recent Fall Writing Frenzy on Twitter, many KidLit authors shared. Fictionalized accounts, rhyming stories, lyrical pieces, emotional journeys. They were awesome! You can check out those entries here: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/fall-writing-frenzy-entry-form/
I loved all the entries I read. Some made me laugh. Some made me cry. Some made me shake my head at the sheer creativity! But, there was one -- that changed my life in a small, but significant way. Enter Pie Night! Meredith Flory wrote about a family tradition in her world. My family thought it sounded like a fabulous idea, so we borrowed their tradition and made it our own. You can read her entry about their Pie Night here: https://www.meredithflory.com/home/creative-work/fall-writing-frenzy-2020?fbclid=IwAR2hs5icRSUdLppHOeLGCbF_lHp45Pde0ZTIaNYN07VNwDPBFQzZcLVDE58
My husband, sister, and I all set to work to create our own Pie Night. We chose the night before Thanksgiving. We needed to do a real supper, for protein's sake. . .so Shane and I made a big pot of chili. We ended up with a plethora of pies! Far too many. . . :-O but it was super fun. We ate chili, nibbled on small servings of pie, and watched Home Alone.
Home Alone has been a tradition of our family for quite some time. At some point during the season, we try to all gather to watch it together. Oftentimes, we'll watch it twice -- once on our own to enjoy the story, and once all together to watch my daddy watch Home Alone. He laughs until tears stream down his face. And it doesn't matter how many times we watch it. In fact, in one of my earlier posts, I talked about giggle fits on a Sunday afternoon, and that was precipitated by Daddy thinking about Home Alone. We laugh so hard. It's wonderful family time and a great tradition!
It's a great tradition made better by the addition of Pie Night! This year, we had Millionaire Pie, Banana Pudding "pie", pumpkin pie, apple cinnamon swirl pie, salted caramel chocolate pecan pie, and pumpkin cream cheese pie, as well as mini espresso chocolate pies. Oh, what pies! This is our new tradition -- the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is Pie Night with Home Alone. Although perhaps next year a few less pies might be more prudent :-). Or perhaps we need to have multiple Pie Nights :-O
We shared our new tradition with friends and now, they celebrate Pie Night also! It's not life-changing in a universe-altering way, but it has enriched our holiday season, and that of others - all because someone shared. Meredith wrote her story, and it allowed us to write a new chapter in our story.
That, my friends, is what writing and sharing do. They help us write our own stories and create new memories that will become the stories of tomorrow. Because we write, someone is smarter, happier, not feeling so alone -- or more full of pie and laughter.
And that is a great goal, so keep writing.
It has been a busy writing season this fall! We had #FallWritingFrenzy and #Halloweensie, along with a bunch of other fun little chance contests, conferences, trainings, and pitch parties . . . I'm currently part of 4 regular critique groups, in addition to some pop-up groups here and there. It's been a crazy fun and busy time!
I got no agent/editor love on any of the pitch parties in which I participated. Winners for FallWritingFrenzy and Halloweensie were posted this week, and I was not on either list. I sent out a query that I hoped was at least going to be a, "Yes, this has potential, but it needs some work and polishing." Instead, it was a, "Unfortunately, these stories lack structure and focus. . . sorry, but NO." Some might say, "Maybe it's time to give up." Some might say, "Well, at least you gave it your best effort." Some might say, "You're a little old to be starting on a new career path."
I say, "Nope." Even though I didn't "WIN", I didn't LOSE. I gained a lot from all these efforts:
1. I gain PRACTICE. Every time I put fingers to keyboard or pencil to paper, it is practice. Every time I exercise my brain in a new way, it is practice. Every time I stretch myself out of my comfort zone, it is practice.
2. I gain KNOWLEDGE. Sometimes, it is knowledge about myself or my writing skills. Sometimes, it is knowledge about the process of writing. Sometimes, I gain knowledge of how this or that platform works. Sometimes, it requires research about topics, which gives me more knowledge for the next writing.
3. I gain EXPERTISE. Every time I put myself out there, it's a new experience that adds to my expertise. The more I try, the stronger my expertise.
4. I gain CONFIDENCE. OK, this one is a bit of a double-edged sword. Losing can definitely put a hurting on my confidence. I'm human. It's hard. But I think of it more this way: Every time I do something, the next time gets easier. The first pitch party I ever did was nerve-wracking! Now, they're just another opportunity. I've gotten better at the process by doing it over and over. It's easier to put myself and my writing out there because of the practice, which leads to confidence.
5. I gain PATIENCE. I hear new writing friends talking about "waiting on pins and needles" to hear back from a query or in a pitch party. Through participation, I have learned patience. I do my best, then, I let it go. I wait. I've learned that often it's a NO. The more they happen, the less devastating they are typically.
6. I gain THICK SKIN. It's imperative in this field to have thick skin. Not so easy for this empathic, heart-on-her-sleeve, take-everything-personally, wounded person. Did I mention I'm human? :-/ But the more No's I encounter, my skin toughens -- like doing gymnastics or playing guitar, we have to develop callouses. The trick is to keep your skin thick and your heart soft.
7. I gain HUMILITY. It's easy to win. Not always so easy to lose. If I can learn to be a gracious loser, it will make me a more gracious winner when my time finally does come. Both are equally important, and we will encounter both many times in our lives. We need to be gracious whether we win or lose.
8. I gain EMPATHY. I don't ever want to forget what a NO feels like. If I experience them enough, that experience will be indelibly imprinted on my heart. It will help me be a better friend to people who are in the midst of a NO. This is not just true in my writing, but in my spiritual walk as well. Sometimes God says NO and it's hard. I need to remember that feeling in every area of my life because it helps me to be a better person.
9. I gain BULK in my writing. Every piece I write is another piece to pull from later. A poem that may become part of an anthology. An idea that may become a story. A story that may become a book. A character that may show up somewhere else. I add to my portfolio. I add to my cache of stories. I have more to work with.
10. I gain FRIENDS. I didn't say "followers" on purpose. I think we're so caught up in numbers in our world. I favor quality over quantity. I won't lie. I love seeing my follower numbers go up. There is a sense of accomplishment in that, but it can be a false indicator. I TREASURE those comments that indicate people's hearts resonate with what I write. I love hearing that I made them laugh, or made them feel better, or encouraged them. Life is short, and we never have enough friends. This is a tough road, and we need people to hold our hand on the crappy writing days when we don't feel like a gracious loser. We need people to remind us our voice is vital, and our stories are different from everyone else's. We need people to tell us that someone out there needs a story that we are carrying it. Then, we need to write that story. The one that will make someone laugh, heal, grieve, move forward, cry, overcome jealousy, smile. The one that will touch someone somewhere.
If our writing is doing any of that, then we are not losers, my friends. We are winners every single day. Keep writing the stories of your heart, and I'll keep writing mine. When the time is right . . . it will be a YES!
Oh, and one bonus thing I've gained:
11. I've gained hours of entertainment by reading all the amazing entries for ALL these contests! Such awe-inspiring, funny, sad, moving, informational, silly, awesome stories. I'm thankful I didn't have to be a judge ;-) Thank you to all of you who are writing the stories of your heart! I've smiled, laughed, and cried right along with you -- whether you "WON" or not ;-)
This year, I have been enjoying entering tons of little writing contests! It's been a blast, has challenged my writing, helped me hone my skills, and think outside the box. Halloweensie is the latest writing contest, and the challenge was to write a kid-friendly, Halloween-themed story of 100 words or less with a story arc, using the words (or variations on) skeleton, creep, mask. The link to the contest (and the other amazing stories) is here: https://susannahill.com/blog/ I hope you enjoy my little humorous buggy piece about Boneita. It's exactly 100 words. Happy Halloween!
DON'T BUG ME!
Boneita’s a skeleton with a bone to pick!
She’d never liked insects then or now. Her bones rattle and eye sockets bulge as she remembers the bugs that decomposed her. First, flies. Then beetles! Shudder!
Why won’t they leave her alone now that her bones are bare? She can’t mask her disgust as they crawl along her tibia -- their tickly feet creeping in and through her ribs. But this Halloween, Boneita has a secret weapon!
This October, flies flee and beetles bolt -- because she’s a black-belt skeleton in “fly-swat-do”. Now, Boneita is a happy skeleton and nothing “bugs” her anymore.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles the kitty. I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!