by Gloria Richard

Reprinted with permission from original post July 25, 2011 on ROMANCE & BEYOND

I am a slut. A novice, certifiable, basket-case RWA writing contest slut.

Before I ventured down this new path, I ran the idea past my CPs.

Go for it! What’s the worst that can happen? You get detailed feedback from trained, experienced judges. You might even final!

Three words crazy-glued themselves in grey matter behind my
right ear. It was not an oh-my-gosh-I-might-even-final-pink-highlighted-goose-bumped visceral. The words sprouted wings and soared from ear to shining ear, gained momentum. “Might even final?” “Might even final?” “Might even final?”

I—a delusional perfectionist with more self-defeating behaviors
than Shirley Temple had ringlets in Good Ship Lollypop—internalized those words as a challenge.

Sherry snapped my validation-hungry garter and spared herself. “You’ve looked at it a gazillion times. Follow the rules. Pay your fee and send it. You. MIGHT. Even. Final.” Sherry knew me too well. Worse, she knew Gracie.

Gracie, my borderline OCD inner editor, had her way with my beginning pages so often, my beaten and battered write-forward-new-page-construction
crew enrolled in line-dance classes.

Still, a little tweak couldn’t hurt. A fresh look by new CP, IMC2 Dallas Grad Laura, seemed a prudent choice. She endured a cycle of “how about this” rewrites—not unlike my propensity to season stew until a taste-tester shouts “eureka!”

The TARA (May 1, 2011)

It was a dark and stormy night—no joke, it really was—two
hours before the TARA deadline. Forced indoors, chased from my private writing spot on the patio, I couldn’t find a place to work. Television distracted. I closed myself in a bedroom. Young lab Molly whined.

I went upstairs. Too quiet. I needed white noise—the sound
of rain. I tromped downstairs, entered the garage, raised the doors, dusted off a teetering barstool, cleared man-clutter from the workbench, and positioned my laptop.

Then, I absorbed the sound and smell of the rain, did one last check for typos on critique-generated revisions, and indulged in a full screen read before I saved my VERY first contest entry to Rich Text Format. I relished the moment “rich text” shadowed my WIP title.

A time check confirmed those murky submission details required immediate attention.

Rich Text didn’t equal Wonky Format. Phew! Why didn’t you save TARA URL and where is that sucker panic attack. Found it. Phew! Need to pull RWA member number from the clutter of rattled brain cells at thirty minutes from Contest Slut Career disaster.

Woo-hoo! I remember it! Should I double check? STOP!

My entry crossed the TARA finish line with twenty-six minutes to spare.

The MOLLY (May 15, 2011)

First contest down. Two weeks until the next one. Thirteen additional
ms pages to deep edit plus a synopsis stood between MOLLY and me. Easy-flipping-peasy. I tackled it in phases.

The Lollygag Phase consumed four days. I updated TARA for MOLLY, chatted and emailed about my near miss, created a list of all contest entry and response dates, and I played with the WORD synopsis.

I spent time on semi-anagrams for synopsis (results bleeped). I named my disease (Synopsioliosis), and the emotive hit (synopsophobia). I
mentally crafted a letter to MOLLY coordinators seeking contest modification
due to a recent Synopsilectomy.

The Gag Phase consumed me. This was not my first synopsis, but this was my
first Contest Synopsis. My brain froze as if I fell asleep with an open mouth
directly beneath an open lever at YOGURTLAND.

I knew my story. I had everything required to write the synopsis.
Everything but the confidence to plant it on the page. Bless Sherry and Laura.
They stuck with me. They forced me to put those words out there. They coached, critiqued, encouraged, cajoled and gave me a WTG! It’s good.

Yeah, but is it eureka good? STOP!

The TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) Phase kicked into overdrive when I began to format a new document for my official MOLLY submission with a whopping four hours remaining.

“You know what would be really cool?” I thought to myself. History suggests this type of thought is hazardous when banging up against a deadline, especially after my brain begins its auto-disconnect cycle. So, with
common sense at record lows and brain cells struggling to move, I chose to
format headers on my submission pages to include section breaks. Unique headers and page numbers for Synopsis versus Manuscript might earn a contest judge WOW!

Things did not go well. I should have abandoned the plan after an hour, but I would not abandon the plan. At midnight Central (10:59 MOLLY time), I copied and pasted the synopsis and ms pages into the MOLLY entry
document. My great ‘hook’ fell four pages past the page count maximum.

At 11:26 MOLLY time, I had four pages to cut from my submission, a blank entry form, and PayPal not yet processed. The rest of the story is a series of inexplicable errors—including initially billing HODRW rather than paying them, and performing an insane (H)ACK! search-and-delete mission.

My entry hit the ST/RS coordinator’s inbox at 11:59 MOLLY time—one minute to spare.

THE MAGGIE (June 10, 2011)

Following are a few things you may take away from the tale of The MAGGIE. First, if you ever have a MOLLY experience, maintain an Excel spreadsheet detailing your contacts and the date(s) you whine to them about opportunities lost.

Second, get out of the house (as I did) with a quick “I’ll see you when I see you and you’re on your own for dinner,” if your entry is not complete by mid-afternoon on deadline date.

Do NOT move outside at Starbucks using your battery while the store is still open. It’s handy to check remaining battery life against Starbucks’ closing time.

ALWAYS tip well at Starbucks. My SBUX let me recharge while they finished their closing chores. I had nominal battery power when my laptop
rejoined me outside, when the baristas locked up and left, when I sat outside alone with my “not again” agony. (They DID offer to stay with me, too! I love my Starbucks team.)

There was a good breeze that night. Especially the one that carried my “whew” as I hit SEND on my entry ten whole minutes before deadline.

I am pleased and proud as the tip jar at SBUX to report that the next two contest entries went in with HOURS to spare. I have only two left for 2011: The Golden Pen—not due for three whole weeks—and the Golden Heart.


So, how about you? Have you dipped your baby in the contest pool? Leave your tell-all tale of woe or wonder or victory. For crumb’s sake, don’t leave me alone on the TSTL podium. You write fiction, throw me a TSTL bone—even if you have to lie.

2 thoughts on “ShoeBox”

  1. The first guest, the first to sit on the virtual hammock and sift through the shoe box and scrapbook and enjoy a s’more. I am privileged, honoured and humbled. Thank you for the tour!

  2. I just got back an contest from a southern state: 55%, 80% and 100%. Can you believe it! This beats my previous 63% and 100% scores in the same contest. I have some work to do for sure but judging is so subjective! Take the good, take the bad that resonates or is oft repeated, trash the rest. Love you site, Susannah

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