First Place Winner of the 2017 Utah Original Writing Competition

Written by on October 8, 2017 in On Writing

September 19, 2017. It was a long day. Things had gone wrong from the start. My morning coffee was weak and I had so many interruptions I was unable to get any writing done. I had to make several difficult phone calls. I missed my exit on the freeway and was late for an appointment. By four in the afternoon I was done. I was just putting my apron on to fix dinner when my phone made a little notification noise.

What now? I thought, ready for the worst. I glanced at my phone still tying the apron strings behind me. Congratulations . . . first place . . . cash prize . . . awards ceremony. I stood there holding my phone in one hand, my other hand over my mouth. I cried. And then I smiled. My memoir had won first place for book-length creative nonfiction.

I completed the manuscript for my memoir, Not in My House in February of 2016 and was carefully researching, selecting, and pitching my memoir to agents for nearly a year. Rejections had steadily arrived to my inbox. I thought I understood, before I began pitching  to agents, that publishing is a business and agents are seeking books that will sell and make money. I thought I was ready for the rejections with logic and reason by my side. I steeled my nerves to handle the “no thanks,” that I knew was part of the pitching process. But I was wholly unprepared for how it really felt when another human being, read my vulnerable and most personal experiences, and then said, “Nahh. This just didn’t resonate with me.” It hurt in a new place, an internal organ that had sprung up during the writing process, an appendage to my heart groping for validation and acknowledgement. The first rejection was the hardest. At least after that, I knew what to expect and how to prepare myself when it arrived. They have gotten easier with practice. I always send out my query to another agent whenever I receive a rejection so that it doesn’t feel like a permanent statement about my work; so that disappointment is at least in equal proportion to hope.

I guess I just want to say to all of you writers out there, don’t quit. Don’t give up. Submit your work with reckless abandon. Okay, maybe not reckless abandon but be brave. I am still searching for the right agent and I am still prepared to receive whatever number of rejections are required to find the agent that can take my book and ultimately my career in the direction that it was meant to go. I don’t have any idea how long that will take. I will keep writing and keep submitting. Winning this competition is humbling to me. It reminds me of how important words are, how they must be written and spoken with integrity. It reminds me that I am ultimately writing to be read. And I hope that my work will be of use in the world.

Original Writing Competition

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  1. Meg Kinghorn says:

    This is a great statement of persistence and courage! I am so happy about the recognition, and I’m confident that it will help propel you to where you are meant to go! I am honored to call you a friend, and fellow writer!