9th Annual FundsforWriters Essay Contest for helping make this contest a resounding success. I couldn't be prouder of the results and the winners. It's when I read those essays that I realize why I do this contest. People pour their hearts into these pieces, these stories. Some make you wonder why a few of these individuals aren't well-published and known across the Web. I envision people striving to spin words into stories, turn thoughts into communication. They teach school, sell insurance, fix computers, fight crime, take care of elderly parents, carpool kids, and go through life like everyone else. But in their bedrooms, studies and kitchens, they dig down into themselves to enter contests like mine. They want to write.
Contests offer a barometer. Even honorable mention is hope. It's a nod that what you fight to write at night, on weekends, at dawn before the family is up, your effort is deemed worthy. I'm honored to be a part of that process.
But I always hold my breath when announcing the winners. Out there, some of the entrants are holding their breaths, too. Most will be disappointed, having cmoposed their best work, knowing they've exposed their abilities to judgment, in hopes of taking a prize. They have a deep burning desire for validation.
The winners are always surprised, never expecting to win. I giggle aloud as I read their emails, both of us so proud at the outcome. I write the checks, pen more congratulatory notes, and shoot them off, knowing the money will come in handy for the expensive holiday season.
A few others will write me and say they enjoyed reading the winning essays. That is validation for me, for the competition I've worked so hard to perfect over the past nine years. Some ask why they didn't win, what the judges thought, how close they came to becoming a finalist. A random one or two will disapprove.
How I wish all the entrants could see the contest as a positive experience, win or lose. It's an effort, a trial. And it's more than a random selection process. It isn't a lottery. Well, maybe it is in one regard, in that the entrants can't select the judges or the theme. But at least entrants have a fighting chance, by exercising their gray matter to write to deadline, meet a word count, and capture the essense of a given topic. Each contest participation is a lesson in writing better.
And if they do not win, they have a completed piece to add to their file, to submit to another contest, an anthology, even a blog. They've made a few more steps on that path to publication.
It really is a win-win experience. And looking at it through those positive eyes give entrants an even greater boost toward making themselves successful as writers.
Thanks to all involved - winners, non-winners, judges and readers. It takes all of you to make this happen.
Feel free to read the finalists and winners. Congratulate them. Show them that their writing made a difference.
ENTRY FEE CATEGORY
1st - $300 - Matthew Lee Gray - "In the First Paragraph, In a Recliner, In California"
2nd - $100 - Zachary Hawkins - "Note: Things to Remember"
3rd - $50 - Gail L. Jenner - "Whispered Confessions"
Honorable Mention - Libby Walkup - "This is the Story"
NO-ENTRY FEE CATEGORY
1st - $50 - Harriet Jane Robarts - "The Artist"
2nd - $30 - Amber Herrick - "The Pot of Gold at the End of the Austistic Spectrum"
3rd - $20 - Charlotte Lucy Latham - "In Love, Reading"