The very first slot machine I ever played did not win anything. Even in that disappointing moment I felt the universal sagacity in this. As everyone knows, if you win the first time you’re hooked.
This is why I see all writing contests through a filter of rosy glass, because I won second place in the first one I ever entered. In all fairness the contest was made for me. The Young Adult category only asked for the first chapter to be submitted. And I am excellent at first chapters. I’ve been writing stellar first chapters since middle school. I have more first chapters than stains on my white couch, and I have three kids.
I won a cash prize, one hundred dollars, and a letter that offered congratulations. The letter, which I still have somewhere, says something like, “This contest was formed to encourage unpublished writers to continue in their efforts.” And, holey-moley did it! It came at a pivotal moment when I was deciding how far I wanted to take this whole writing thing.
I have since learned that most writing contests aren’t something that experienced writers pursue. And some of the worst ones are little more than money-making scams.
Still, there is something about hitting that slot machine the first time. So, I enter when I have something that fits. And when it’s put on by an organization I know with a reasonable entry fee.
So today I submitted three entries to a Kindergarten Story Contest. For someone who has no deadlines, no agent, and no editor I find it helpful to write to a word count and a deadline. Like any good exercise I can feel the healthy working stretch.
So now I am on a high and I will use this wave of adrenaline and ambition to drive my writing until the end of nap time. I also might congratulate myself with another cookie. Yes, I said “another”. This makes it sound like it could be cookie number two, but it would really be cookie number four.
(Winky emoticons to all you mothers, you know you eat a congratulatory nap snack, don’t pretend you don’t.)