Many of you know that I entered a short story contest a few months ago hosted by the Rooglewood Press. The challenge was to write a retelling of Snow White in any genre we chose–but there was a maximum of 20,000 words. Most of you know how verbose I am as a writer, so I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it was for me to hold myself back and write a story at 20,000 words or less. It was easily one of the toughest things I’ve ever done as a writer.
But the result was The War Within–possibly one of the best stories I’ve told.
The War Within takes place during the Civil War where everyone was treated by how they looked on the outside. Much like Snow White was. For African Americans, having dark skin often meant being treated either cruelly or with condescension. For Snow White, being beautiful meant being jealous of and almost killed because of it. I wanted to explore a part of history I hadn’t before and bring out the true identity of any person–black or white.
On March 30th, after three agonizing months of waiting, the results were revealed. I did not win nor did I even become a finalist. But I was an honorable mention.
See those comments from the judge who read my story? Those two little sentences have meant the world to me this past month!
You see, some people thought I would have been disappointed. But honestly, to be recognized by a real editor who knows nothing about me or my past work, was such an honor and privilege in itself…it really felt like I won that day. From now on, anytime I doubt myself or my writing, all I have to think is: “Gutsy and brilliant!” and I’ll immediately feel better.
Every aspiring writer or self-published author seems to be waiting for their “big break” when a publishing company or an agent finally picks up their story and decides it’s worth working on. When they sign the contract. When they sell thousands of copies. When they become recognized.
As for me? Yeah, I’d love it if I got “really” published one day. That’s definitely a dream of mine. To be paid to write? What a life that would be. But until then, I’m content just writing stories that come from my heart. Stories that need to be written, but not necessarily read by the masses. There is no feeling like typing with a flourish “the end” after months or even years of hard work putting a novel together. No contract, check or recognition could ever compare with that feeling of accomplishing something important to you.
That’s why I feel like I already won. Even before I got the honorable mention. Whether I get really published one day or not, I wrote something and it was good. What more could I ask for?