I try to go up to Vancouver, B.C. once or twice a year, for a purely self-indulgent vacation of spa visits and art galleries and meandering through the Granville Island markets. You know how people will say, upon visiting a city for the first time, that they felt an immediate affinity for it--completely at home there? I have deep love for New York City, and a swoony infatuation with Paris...but Vancouver is the only place I've ever felt that immediate click. It has the physical beauty of Seattle, but there's something so much more vivid and multicultural and...continental, about it, somehow. I suppose I'm lucky that it's convenient.
So I visit, usually at least in late summer...and every year I pick up the brochure for the Vancouver International Writers' Festival, and then curse myself for not better coordinating my vacations, because I always manage to miss it. This year, I noticed the invitation to their short story contest, in the back. What the hell, I thought, and sent off a story I'd been kicking around for multiple years at this point. It had been a long time since I'd submitted anything anywhere. Despite my 2006 NaNoWriMo total flameout, however, I'd been trying to goad myself into better writing habits again.
I got home to a voicemail last night from one of their coordinators, last night--she'd sent me an e-mail, which the NerdCo servers had blithely routed into junk mail sight unseen. Get this: I won the damn thing.
No, really! No, REALLY! I screamed so loudly the cats leapt and scrambled and crashed into each other, fleeing under the bed. I did the English major's version of a touchdown dance in my kitchen, playing the message over and over again before calling up my e-mail and rescuing the original notification. I called and e-mailed a lot of people and it was kind of late by then so if I woke any of you, jabbering like a monkey...well, I've had 24 hours to calm down and I apologize. I was very, VERY excited.
I still am. This is my first fiction publication, truth be told, and I am over the moon. Bless you, my adopted enlightened city to the north!
"You realize what this means, don't you?" my mother said.
"That I am in the wrong job?" I asked. Don't worry, I have not yet quite planned to retire on my $350 CDN.
"Well, no. But...now you have to keep working towards your dream," she said. "You have to keep writing!" Aw, look at my mommy, coming out of nowhere to play so astute a card!
Full disclosure: this is actually the second contest I've won based on the written word. The first was when I was about 12, and triumphed in my age division in the "Why My Mom Should Be Queen for a Day" essay contest sponsored by a local mall, for Mother's Day. (Steve: the following Avocado Green-tinged memories are for you, man!)
In the early 90s, this particular shopping center, University Village, got a major makeover, with boutique facades, an Apple store, two day spas, a gigantic Barnes and Noble. When I was a kid, though, this was the crap mall, a straggling row of assorted meek dives two blocks from our dentist. We'd go to the Hole in the Wall donut shop after our six-month fluoride treatments. (What do you mean, dentistry + donuts = idiocy? Shut up.) Anyway. I tore the contest entry form out of the back of the weekly sale flier and sent in my essay by stealth; probably I had to steal the stamp from the dish on top of the refrigerator. Heh. I don't remember what I wrote, only that my mom cried when they called to tell her, and hugged me blubbering in a mortifying manner. (Twelve, remember.)
The stores in the then-seedy mall had also donated a variety of gift certificates and other prizes. Most have faded from memory...but I do know that Mom got herself a purple silk blouse--tres chic!--and that she was also allowed to choose from a selection of record albums. She picked Kim Carnes--the one with Bette Davis Eyes on it. On vinyl. Good times!
Anyhoodle...as weeks go, it's been a good one.