I finally feel free to tell you about the BYU contests, because last night was the awards dinner, so I guess it's public news. I've been reluctant to tell anyone because there was no official announcement. I didn't know whether, for example, those who hadn't won had found that out yet. And it would be dang awkward if they were to find out from ME.
And that's sad. It makes it hard for me to have my moment, if you know what I mean. The thing is, the only people who can know what a big deal it is to place in a writing contest are the other writers—and they are the ones who a winner has most likely beat out. So success is a lonely thing, when it comes to writing. Especially poetry, since no one reads the stuff anyway.
So, the news is that I won the following:
Second place in the Vera Hinckley Mayhew poetry contest.
Second place in the Hart-Larson poetry contest.
First place in the
chapter) contest. Academy of
First place in the Elsie Carroll essay contest.
I won't make the slightest attempt to disguise the fact that this was a big deal to me.
I think I've said here how hard it is to go to workshop and get trashed, time after time. This semester has been difficult for me in terms of my self-esteem as a writer—and as a teacher. I have been at the point of despair. And, as I mentioned, I had to read at the English Symposium a few weeks ago and was terrified, because the other poets in my session are SO GOOD. Getting the news about the Mayhew the night before the reading enabled me to read with confidence the next day; I see this as tender mercy from God, truly.
I know that it's not that big a deal to anyone else, but I felt that the validation from this enabled me to hold up my head a little in front of my classmates (well, those who know, I guess, since there's been no public announcement) and my professors. Also, it's nice to have something to point to when I fear that people wonder what it is I’m doing at school. But most importantly, it's nice to remind myself that sometimes my work shows a little glimmer of value.
I guess I won't give up after all.
Another thing: the essay contest win was a big deal to me. Because it launched some questioning about genre (I won it with a short essay that had begun it's life as two poems that weren't working well) that led to my idea for my big Paper that's due in two weeks—the paper that is supposed to be the beginning of the critical introduction to my thesis. I see this as another tender mercy, because I had really been at sea about what to write on for my critical intro. I have been blessed.
I know that if you've read this far, you are one of my true supporters. Let me just say here that I am extremely grateful for your support. This writing thing is a lonely endeavor with meager rewards. It's nice to know I have people who care and who are rooting for me. It can make all the difference.