Well. Last fall my hubby came home and said he’d been listening to CBC Radio. This was not a huge surprise – he’ll listen to anything to keep his mind occupied while driving so he doesn’t nod off. It wasn’t surprising that he listens to CBC either – he loves a good story, or good gossip, or good music. But it always makes me smile because when I met him I had to introduce him to anything non-“redneck” or “rock’n’roll”. Okay, so ballet didn’t go over very well, but he happily follows me to musicals, plays, concerts, readings. So when he announced that he was listening to CBC I had to smile because it’s just one more piece of evidence that a) he’s not a pureblood redneck or rock’n’roll junkie, and b) I won!
Anyhow he said he’d been listening to CBC Radio and that he’d heard about a contest: CBCWrites. Had I heard of it?
Had I heard of it? Of course, I’d “heard” of it! I looked at him skeptically, like, “How long have we been married?? Have we met?” Seesh. I told him about CBCWrites and CBCReads and that, yes, I’d heard of it. Oh, he said, are you going to enter?
I cannot remember precisely what I was doing at this moment and this is unfortunate because it seems like it should be one of those “What were you doing when…” questions. I do know I was in the kitchen and he was leaning on the counter munching on something because I remember seeing him framed against our picture window behind him and that little crumbs were falling to the counter I’d just cleaned. I remember looking at him blankly like I hadn’t heard him right. I remember being a little frozen and then returning to my obviously mundane task and saying something like *snort* What would be the point of that? You have to be in the bigger leagues to even consider something like that. Likely I snorted again to emphasize the ludicrous nature of the question. He shrugged, because it meant nothing to him, and said something about how he just thought I was always looking for places to put my writing. Probably he walked away at this point. Now I made that last bit up because I can’t remember what happened exactly at this point. Except that within an hour I was online checking out CBCWrites!
At this point I must reveal my lack of personal insight and how my brain resists this insight no matter how many times it’s revealed to me. I mistakenly believe myself to be noncompetitive. I have this idea, from I do not know where, that I am not interested in forms of competition, that I don’t compare myself to others, that I am above such nonsense. I believe myself to be enlightened, one who notes one’s own progress by means of setting personal goals and devising clever plans and marking progress on calendars and progress charts. I consider myself subscribed to the idea that all prizes should be intrinsic, that it’s the journey which holds the reward, the experience itself that has the value; external prizes are for those who can’t motivate themselves to rise above their current statuses! It’s all nonsense, of course, but I don’t really recognize that most of the time.
So there I was: glasses sliding down my nose, eyes peeling over the terms of the competition, perspiring just a bit, and then I got to the prizes. Ooooohhhh! The prizes! And when I clicked the little link to the Banff Center’s Leighton Artists’ Colony I think right then a little spittle may have fallen from my lower lip… perhaps. Maybe. I’m not sure. I wasn’t paying much attention to my personal level of agogedness right then. I immediately sought out and readily found the links to last year’s winners’ pieces, published, as promised, online by CBC. I devoured them with urgent appetite and then went back for more leisurely seconds. Satisfied that I could not compete I sat back and called out to hubby, Can’t enter. They’re looking for drama. All my stuff is ridiculousness or memoir-esque. He grunted in reply, being absorbed in one of his coveted Clive Cussler novels.
Being thoroughly persuaded that I couldn’t possibly enter such a lofty competition I opened my files and began searching for something, anything, that might contend with last year’s winners. *scour scour scour* And then I found a little piece written several years back for one of my Master’s courses, a response to a prompt: grab the first book nearest you, go to page 106, use the 28th sentence as your first. Thank you Michael Crighton, A Case of Need, Signet, 1969: “Don’t you know about…?”
Maybe…. perhaps…. with some tweaking. I printed it off and brought it to the next meeting of my Writers’ Group. I know the name is unoriginal, uncreative and uninspired, but for describing a group of writers nothing suited better. So, I brought it to my Writers’ Group and they critiqued, and I tweaked and voila! I sent it away. For several days I juggled thoughts about what I was doing (teaching English), what I had done (entered CBCWrites!), what I was supposed to be doing (teaching English) and what I had done (risked life and limb not to mention tenuous self-esteem on a grandiose venture that I hadn’t a chance of winning anyhow and exposing myself to be the fraud that I fear I may yet be!). It’s very difficult to be me sometimes, but I managed eventually to put the whole gambol out of my head.
And then enter Wednesday, February 13th, 2013. My hubby – a determined harbinger of hope – brings in the mail and casually tosses a letter my way. I glance at it, precursorily, and say without a moment’s thought, Oh, another rejection letter! And in my best imitation of rejection letters everywhere I begin before I’ve even torn the seal on the envelope, Dear Evonne Garnett, thank you so much for your valiant efforts to appear adequate blahblahblah…. I release the contents and clear my throat. Standing upright and formal in the center of the living room, donned in torn jeans and loose moccasins, I read, Dear Evonne, /It gives me great pleasure to inform you that….
I look up. Hubby is sitting in expectation, ebook paused, raised eyebrows.
I retrieve the letter from the floor and begin again: Dear Evonne, /It gives me great pleasure … **pleasure?? They never start with giving great pleasure!!** … It gives me great pleasure to inform you that your story “Tracing the Shadows” is one of the 32 works long-listed for this year’s CBC Short Story Prize.
I stop. I re-read. I hold my finger to each word to make sure I haven’t missed the critical ‘not’ somewhere. I read again. I pause. I grin. I look at Hubby, still sitting in expectation, twinkling eyes added to his still raised eyebrows!
Well! Will wonders never cease?? And miracles do happen. And I believe in God. I have been long-listed with CBCWrites!!
They went on to urge me to keep this under my hat until the 18th when they would be going public with the list. I complied with that for about 20 minutes before calling my mother, who, at 79 can still get quite excited about the remarkable accomplishments of her offspring. And then I contented myself to memorize the letter until the next morning when I told a fellow teacher and member of the aforementioned Writers’ Group. I needed to tell someone who would fully appreciate my excitement. And then I held off for a full ten hours before telling two other teachers while decorating for the school’s Valentine’s Masquerade Dance. They were suitably congratulatory. And then I did very well to keep it fully to myself until the next day when I realized that there would be no school and I wouldn’t see my colleagues for a full ten days hence and by then the news would be stale and so really, I had to divulge the secret and swear them all to secrecy, to which demands they fully agreed. That evening Hubby and I needed to run an errand and, dropping in on a friend to deliver a gift and finding her in the midst of a dinner party with an all grown up former student who used to write and I, asking if she still writes, and she, asking after my life, and … well, it came out there too. But Saturday morning a friend called from Florida and another emailed from Vietnam and they, being out of country, couldn’t possibly spoil the surprise for the Canadian masses holding their breaths for Monday so I told them too. But Sunday I kept the thing all to myself (except for my sister who called because she’d heard from my mother, and one of my brothers who asked me to go to on a short trip with him and his wife to a neighbouring city the next day but I had to explain that I couldn’t because I had to be home to see if … well, you understand, I’m sure.) and resisted posting anything here or on Facebook!
And then, Monday morning, bless CBC’s hearts, they were good for their word and posted the list and released me from my secretive hell. And so, here I am. And all that to say that I am not competitive! This is really about the process of becoming. But I’m holding my breath until the short-list comes out, and I’ve bookmarked the Leighton Artists’ Colony webpage just in case….