by Karen Hoover
Last Weekend's LDStorymakers Writing Conference was one of epiphany and change for me that began with a clip from a movie Jeff Savage showed us. In it a coach blindfolded one of his players and had him carry the weight of another player on his back while crossing the entire length of the football field doing a "deathcrawl." The boy thought he was going half-way, but the coach urged him on until he discovered he was in the end zone.
What made this so powerful to me was that I almost failed in my writing "deathcrawl" this year.
I love the LDStorymakers Conference. It has brought me some significant validation and the people I have met there have welcomed me into their group and made me feel like a real writer. The first chapter contest they sponsor is the only contest I've ever placed in, let alone placed high.
In 2007 I won first and second place in Fantasy. In 2008 I won first in Fantasy. This year I thought, "I've won enough. It's time to give someone else a chance to get that validation." I was okay with that until I asked some of my published friends what they thought about that and one of them in particular said I needed to enter. This wasn't the kind of thing to bow out and be selfless with. Awards went to those who deserved them for their effort and talent and if I didn't enter she was going to kick my butt.
So, I decided, what the heck? But I told myself if I was going to enter, this year it was going to be my best work. No more winning on first drafts I was too lazy to polish. This year I worked hard to make my submissions as perfect as they could be. I sent it out to critique friends. I listened to their suggestions. I even took my story and read it to the Jr. High Writing Club my friend Shanna asked me to co-teach with her and they were some of my best critics. After all that, I wrapped up my babies and sent them off.
When the contest winners were announced Saturday afternoon I thought I was going to have a heart attack before they got to the end. Of course the two categories that got the most submissions were the Youth and Speculative Fiction categoies, both of which held one of my submissions. I won nothing in the Youth category so held my breath through Speculative and fought disappointment when they reached the end and my name was not read.
So many times since losing my mom I've asked myself why I write. Did I do it for her? Was it her encouragement that made me reach for that goal? Eventually I realized that my desire to write had little to do with her and everything to do with me. But it was a long, arduous journey that made me finally realize this path is one I'm supposed to be on. As we neared the end of the contest announcements, I doubted myself again. Was this really what I was supposed to do with my life? Was I going to be satisfied if I ended up living out my publishing career as an "almost?"
And then the end of the announcements came. "The grand prize winner is . . . 'Newtimber' by Karen Hoover!" I buried my face in my hands for a moment, absolutely shocked. For that moment I reached the end zone. I had done my best work and it paid off. As a result I have opportunities to publish and a referral to an agent. I do not know where my path will go from here, and I am sure I will find myself crossing that football field many more times in this career I have chosen. But for today, I succeeded and have the knowledge that I endured to the end. For the moment I can rest in the end zone.