Saturday morning on our way to Indiana, in a train ride, Tom and I talked about the email he received from an editor about being a finalist in a short story writing contest in an ezine. My husband was really excited about this because as a finalist he was already assured of having his story published, it will be his 12th. Tom never thought of the possibility of winning it. The most he hoped for was 3rd. This was the first writing contest he has ever joined in.
I even kidded him that maybe it was a Nigerian scam and the next email would say: “Congratulations, you have won 3rd place. But before you could claim the prize you must first deposit $200 to our account.” We chuckled at that.
Sunday afternoon, after Evan and I arrived home from watching the Cars 2 movie, there was a voicemail waiting. It was from Tom calling from his cellphone. He told me that he was at the beach and that we might be going out to dinner because there is good news. This was said in such a neutral tone that I thought he did place third. I was already happy for him.
When he arrived we even talked about other stuff first before I asked, “so did you get third place?” Leaning casually against our dining table with a small smile he answered, “I got the first prize.” “Really? Really?!!!” I asked two times because I couldn’t believe he could stand and talk so calmly like that while I was bursting with happiness.
Literary writing, just like any creative field, is very subjective and to have your work recognized takes a combination of talent, persistence and luck, really. Of course a degree, networking and sponsorship helps too. Among the last three, Tom has only one of those – a degree in English (he has a Masters in Public Administration which is not relevant). It is more challenging for Tom because the market nowadays for fiction writing is mainly geared towards women, as he has been told by a few literary agents. Unless he writes novels about teen vampires, his dream of getting published is very slim.
Still Tom continued to stay true to his passion and write stories that he enjoys writing. So this recognition is a wonderful validation to his talent. The online journal is still young at 3 years old but reputable with a Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Book Awardee sitting in its advisory board. The judge of the contest is a famous writer whose works have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Story, The Autumn House Anthology of Poetry, and The Best American Short Stories. In fact Tom is an admirer of this judge which was why he joined the contest.
Here is an edited copy of the editor-in-chief’s email to him:
I am totally delighted to inform you that I just heard from D- H- (the judge) and he has chosen your piece to win the S- (name of the ezine) $1,000 award for fiction. I will forward in the next email to you his comment. I am especially pleased because I also would have chosen your piece, but I did not tell him that, of course.
I loved the premise, the inventive European quality to your piece, the irony, the elegance of the sentences.
Many many congratulations…so many writers submitted with multiple books and publications!
I will not be announcing your win on our Website until later this afternoon or this evening, so please do wait to post this news until tomorrow. Thank you for that consideration.
So…S- (name of magazine) will be publishing your piece in its Summer issue, due out in late July. More on that soon. I just couldn’t wait to tell you.
Next email, D-‘s comment.
D- H-‘s comment here:
“C- I-” (title of Tom’s story) is compelling from the first sentence to the last. It’s a narrative meditation on identity; it’s smartly crafted and sharply written; its turns are surprising and illuminating, and its conclusion makes a reader feel richly rewarded.
I asked Tom how he felt after reading the above. He said he was hyperventilating and needed to get out of the house. Which would explain why he was at the beach.
I told my husband, the most satisfying about this is that the recognition will be associated with him forever. This will always be part of his resumes, cover letters, bio etc. And this could be a tremedous boost in getting his other works published, possibly a book or 2 in the future. I certainly hope so.
I am so proud of him, nobody could be more deserving too.