Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Definition of Surprise

On Thursday I dragged in late from my Writer's Critique group, and heard the "plink"..."plink" from my answering machine. Messages on my home phone are rarely good. I stabbed the button and heard a cheerful message from my mother. While it played I opened the door to the garage and hauled in my computer from my car. The next message began. "Hello Melanie, I think you will find this an interesting message. You are a finalist in the PNWA Literary Contest in the Mainstream category..."

I froze. My mouth dropped open. While the message continued I slowly lowered my computer bag to the floor and just as slowly raised my hands to my mouth. Heat blossomed over my face and down my neck and my knees wobbled. I sat.

I played the message again to make sure I didn't recognize a friend's voice, playing a joke. I played it again to make sure it wasn't a wrong number. No, the woman said my name.

My eyes filled. My next reaction, after playing the message yet again, was to question the sanity of the PNWA contest panel, and lastly, wonder if they had not gotten any other entries. When I was a child and played Monopoly, whenever one of us drew, "You have won second place in a beauty contest. Collect $10" we all taunted the recipient with "And you were the only one who entered."

Still not positive such a thing could happen, I logged into my computer and brought up the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association and clicked on the Literary Contest section. There, on a sidebar, the option "2009 Contest Finalists" loomed. I clicked on it and there, under "Mainstream" my name boldly proclaimed my entry, "The Pirate's Reckoning" was a finalist.

I stared at my phone, my hands folded between my knees, and calculated the time; nearly midnight on the east coast. My daughter rarely answers her phone and I cannot remember if I even tried. It is best to email her, she has told me repeatedly. My sister, who lives an hour away in Oregon, was probably just getting up on her vacation in France. In shock, I emailed Carolyn Rose, the instructor instrumental in teaching me how much I didn't know about writing, and forcing me to learn. I emailed my family next, then my critique groups, and then my friend, Lili Saintcrow, author, and Mel Sanders, author and bookstore owner.

Mel and Lili both emailed within seconds, as if they had been waiting with their fingers poised over the keyboard for my announcement. The three of us celebrated electronically. Not as good as face-to-face over a margarita, but oh, so close.

I've been wandering around for the last two days, bumping into walls and stepping on discarded shoes. Hobiecat and Schooner took it all in stride. This is right up there with having Ray Orrock dedicate an entire newspaper column to me in 1984. Maybe even better. Certainly more frightening.

In all honesty I never even once envisioned being a finalist. I entered the contest merely for the experience of sending off my precious written baby, and for the two written critiques from the professional and prestigious Pacific Northwest Writer's Association.

What does the future hold?


  1. The future holds ONLY good things. Congratulations!!

  2. Congrats. When can I read the book?


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