Saturday, January 10, 2009

Only where's the lamp with fish-net pantyhose?

I got me a Major Award.

Only there’s no lamp.

What there is is validation. And a luncheon that is a pat on the head. And the chance to grant the church rights to use my poem forever, for whatever they want.

It’s called the “Deseret Dramatic Recognition Award,” and it comes from the Church Cultural Arts Committee. Which I’m sure very few of you even knew existed. I didn’t even know it existed until right before I sent a couple of things off to them. The announcement seeking “submissions” was vague enough that I didn’t really know what I was submitting to. Was it a contest? Was it for publication?

But I had a couple of poems sitting around that were religious enough that they didn’t really fit anywhere (except maybe the Ensign), so I said, “Why not?” and sent them off.

And forgot about them.

So things seemed even more mysterious when I got a nice official envelope from the Church Cultural Arts Committee, and the envelope contained what seemed to be a form letter, the kind that gets sent to everyone who enters a contest. It said stuff like, “We’ve made a decision; we had such high quality of entrants this year; enclosed is a list of winners; enclosed is list of judging criteria to give you a better idea of what we look for; we encourage you to enter next year.” The same kind of form letter I have received several times before from other contests. I skimmed it and tried to remember what contest this was that I had apparently entered. I chucked the paper into my paperwork box to file away. Then I picked it up again, just out of curiosity about whether anyone I knew had won. And there was my name on the list of winners!

Go figure!

I think it was a rather strange way to inform me. Two weeks (or more) later I got an official invitation to the luncheon honoring the winners, and a form in which to grant the Church eternal rights to use it. (My poem, “Sacrament Prayer” won, and another one, “On Leading the Singing in Primary” was a finalist.)

So, apparently, I have “won” the chance to let the Church use my poem. And a luncheon.
Do you sense a sort of “Is that all?” whininess here? Maybe there is some. I suppose. A little. I don’t know what I was expecting and I feel a little sheepish to realize that I am disappointed. But I’m beginning to think that maybe the Church is trying to teach us that we should write for the joy of being able to share with the Church. Which is not a bad reason to write (I run over with admiration for Sally deFord for her generosity.) It’s good for me to search my soul to examine the real reason I write.
Is it for the chance at prize money?

Heavens, no.
I think.
(Though it is always, always nice. And I always spend prize money on my writing.)

Is it for the fame? The boost in self-esteem to think that people like what I wrote? (In other words, would I be just as happy hearing that people loved my work if it never had my name on it?)
I don’t like to admit that, but I haven’t completely purged the tiny urge to prove myself, to use my writing as validity.

So this whole thing is probably very good for me.

(And yet, here I am proclaiming it on my blog, so at least SOMEONE will know about it. Sheesh!)
I do have to say that I have gained one very good thing from it (and this is further proof of my enormous ego--or deep insecurity, both of which are sometimes the same thing): that is, it is unbelievably thrilling to say to people, “I won a prize from the Church”--as if my work has now become officially sanctioned or something. A big part of my thrill comes because many of the people that I would say such a thing to are a different demographic than the ones who have appreciated my work before. They have never heard of any of the magazines I’ve published in (except the Friend) and haven’t been impressed at all with the other prizes I’ve won. But, by golly, they’ve heard of the Church! Suddenly people who have never cared to read anything I’ve ever written want to read the poem that won this honor. (Unfortunately, it’s one of my more boring poems.) But I can’t deny the way I swell when people who never cared before suddenly perk up their ears.

So I guess I’m capitalizing on it in just the way that its organizers probably hoped I wouldn’t.

Ah, well.
p.s. They want to know whether I would prefer to read my own poem or have one of them read it. I struggle with this--always have. I can read other people's work just fine, but reading my own work is torturous for me. I shake. My lip twitches. My voice quivers. The paper I'm holding shakes. I have told myself I will take all opportunities to read my own stuff because I NEED TO GET OVER THIS if I want to be a real poet. But, geez, this is one of my most boring poems ever. It's not the same as reading something with a punch (like the boob job poem, for example). I try to picture myself reading this, and the deathly silence that follows after (because, did I mention that it's a boring poem?) and I think I can't handle it. I think I'll let someone else read it.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! But I agree that they should have given you a lamp.

Kathleen said...

Congratulations, Darlene. I can totally understand all of your feelings about this, but I'd like to mention one thing that may help a little with your perspective: the law of consecration.

Even though we aren't living it to the full extent, we do covenant to keep it, and, in a way, the whole point of the Lord giving us our gifts is so that they can bless others and build up His kingdom.

Try to think of the lamp you didn't get as the light within?

Jane said...

Congratulations! At the very least you should have gotten a lamp.

Laura said...

I totally feel your pain. The first time I won I was so excited to find out when it would be in the Ensign. But then I found out it wouldn't necessarily ever be published. The luncheon makes up for it, though. There is a good spirit there and a lot to learn--at least for me. You are so much more mature as a writer and a person you may not be as impressed :)

Oh, and they do give you a certificate.

And, I really liked the way they staged my poem last year. (The first year they didn't even read the poems, just gave out a booklet.) It was fun to be in the audience and see it from a new perspective and watch the other audience members as they responded and listened.


Melinda said...

Congrats again. You'd think they'd at least guarantee publication...But a certificate is good. :-)

Sue said...

I had to laugh about the privilege of allowing the Church to use your work any way and any time they want to. I have always found that honor kind of humorous, too, but my solution is that I happily send things in to the Church when the inspiration for them has come from a church calling, assignment or experience.

At least the Church seems generally willing to grant permissions when you want to publish your work (owned by them) elsewhere.

Oh well, it's a gift, right? So consecrating it seems appropriate to me, most times, anyway.

Darlene said...

Good point, Kathleen. I need to get in the mindframe of consecration.

Laura, I would like to read your winning poems. (I know there's more than one.) I wish you would be there this time to sit by me.

Thanks for stopping by, Sue.