I entered a contest a few months back. I picked through my essays from last year, chose the best ones, pressed the upload button and promptly forgot about it.
I didn’t have any expectations. I’ve entered a number of contests, mostly with no results, and this was a national one, with people submitting from all over the US. But you won’t know if you never try, so I sent it off and paid no attention to when winners would be announced.
About six weeks ago I was sinking into the loveseat, having gotten everyone else in the house to bed and the kitchen cleared up enough that I no longer wanted to cry, and I pulled up my email on my phone. There was one about a contest that didn’t look like spam. I opened and skimmed the first paragraph. Something about pleased to inform and a finalist. I went back and read more slowly, and clamped my jaw shut. The boys would be out of bed like a shot if they heard me shrieking in the living room.
I settled for texting several friends I knew wouldn’t be sleeping yet. IN ALL CAPS. They were appropriately excited for me, and wanted to know what place I’d gotten. I didn’t know. I wouldn’t know until it was announced at a banquet in Buffalo. YOU HAVE TO GO, they said, every one of them, and for once in my life I listened.
I’m very pleased to tell you that I placed second in the nation for general interest essays, online, not-giant websites. At the reception after the banquet, my new friend Byron ordered me to put “national award-winning essayist” on my LinkedIn page that very night. I’m working up to it.
You can see my name as an award winner all official and everything on the NSNC website, and the judges’ comments are below.
Zollinger approached her two subjects with sincerity and grace. In a piece about the death of a friend’s mother, we recognize the power of welcoming other people’s children into our homes and our lives. In a piece about losing an adopted child, we recognize the power of even small gestures of friendship.
Readers, friends. Thank you for taking this ride with me and saying nice things about what I write.
I can’t remember who, but some writer said he knew he was getting somewhere when he went back to read stuff he’d written a year ago and it no longer made him cringe.
Maybe I’m getting somewhere. I’m still really proud of these two, even if they hadn’t won me a prize.