Once upon a time, a long time ago, I decided to make a brave second attempt at submitting something of mine to a literary contest. The first literary contest I’d ever entered was most likely a scam.
I had to send them my piece and then twenty dollars and then last year’s winner would choose this year’s and then I didn’t hear back for several months after the deadline and the typeface on the rejection postcard was crooked, and by then it didn’t matter anyway because the crying was already done—Oh writers! We do get into our ‘I NEEDZ PURBLISHED!’ shennanigans now and then, don’t we? That stupid scam became the bad ex-boyfriend throttling my future shy attempts at contest-writing.
So, this second time around selecting a literary contest, I went on the recommendation of a colleague, and then I closely examined his—its references first. NPR was wonderful. They were making this short, sweet and easy: writers were welcomed to craft a blurb inspired by a photo posted on their website. The winning story would then be read on the air during their radio show. After much nervousness, I got to work, discarded draft after draft, wrote down to the deadline, close to midnight on that very night—and was ultimately intimidated out of entering the contest by a long stream of consciousness someone with the University of Iowa had already submitted.
Yep. There’s not really a happy ending nor a moral to this story. It just sucked that I didn’t even try. Well, here’s what I would have entered, below (the Target reference is something I added this morning).
109 Harvard Street, NW
Washington, DC 20017
Ms. Anderson’s Flying Coffee
1455 Colombia Road, NW
TARGET, Washington DC 20017
Dear Ms. Anderson,
I’m afraid to explain how, in a blare of childhood memories and adult angst, I was propelled, blind, almost through that window–almost, because I was stopped by the glass and felt my way toward the oxidized door handle, eventually, to pull. Still more disorienting, other than the taste presently in my mouth, is that I conjured the fool sense to revolt. Why, on Earth, did I ever believe an adult temper tantrum could be honorable at this time of the morning? Yes, this is a coffee shop, but no, my rage wasn’t for lack of caffeine. I honestly believed, in that moment–I’ll call it insanity– that my adult palette or any extension thereof–would be satisfied by eating a piece of your newspaper.
“This is me, Mom, misbehaving!” I may have yelled.
No, I don’t have a problem. It’s just that I hadn’t eaten paper in a really long time. Maybe not since childhood, and that isn’t fair. Why had I ever stopped? Because my Mom said No. That must have been the reason. What a stupid reason to stop. Well, I suppose it does make more sense for an adult, not to give up when it comes to ‘No, young man, failure is misbehavior and you know it.’ A kid shouldn’t eat paper, I suppose. Mom just wanted me to come up normal. But that’s just it, you see. When I realized I wanted it anyway, no matter that the place was full of people in the middle of the morning rush, that I hadn’t amounted to anything, in any case? It occurred to me that I might as well yell, and eat paper. Wouldn’t you?
Okay, so, maybe I do have a problem.
You should have heard Mom’s hysterics over the phone when I told her. I didn’t want to tell her, but she had so many questions about when I was going to pay this bill or that–I’m responsible for the family’s bills. Mom doesn’t enjoy using a computer and she refused to learn about going online when I already knew how.
And so, this is me, using the computer to ask you to please help me out. You seemed like a nice person. If you could show more mercy than my mother has, such that her son would lose his nerve, push into a coffee shop and start shouting obscenities while destroying another human being’s–newspaper. Ms. Anderson, you wouldn’t just relieve the minds of the kind officers down at Ward 1 police station, you’d restore my faith in, well, humanity.
I am so, very sorry.
There could still be a moral to this story. It might involve entering the NPR 3 minute fiction contest this year. It might also involve going on Maury Povich for writers and making that first contest take a paternity test so I can finally settle up whether my entry really was ‘not the best authored.’
Maury, shuffling cue cards: “Random Skeevy Writer Contest? We have the results…”
RS (he has a faux-hawk): “Yessir, I’m ready. I been waitin’ two years to get this thing here settled.”
Me: “You are gonna pay for what you did to my creative ego, RS! You are gonna pay—Look,” I point to the big screen, a wrinkled page of printed text lined up against the face of RS-in-faux-hawk, “There’s even a family resemblance. His submission guidelines look just like what I followed in my story, exactly the same…”
The audience fawns over how cute Random Skeevy contest and contest entry are together.
Maury: “RS… you were telling the truth—this story was not the best authored.” and now, pointing to me with full condemnation, “You are NOT the best author!”
And this is where I stop writing crazy things for the day… hehe…