Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
…something really terrific happens.
At an Oregon Writers Colony meeting in Portland last summer, I participated in a break-out session about where to submit your writing. One suggestion for non-fiction was the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Figuring that they might hearken back to their Jewish roots, I wrote and submitted a piece called Learning Chutzpah. Nothing happened: no acknowledgement, no rejection, nothing.
I wrote of how, in the mid-1970s, my husband, three kids and I managed to stay in the temperate San Francisco Bay Area instead of moving back to frigid upstate New York. It all depended on me and I finally got a job as an inventory control clerk at a company on the periphery of the about-to-transform-the-world high tech industry. That’s when I discovered that knowing how to learn, how to analyze, synthesize and communicate is the fundamental value of a liberal arts education. Combine that skill with a little audacity, nerve and perseverance, and a person can exceed her (or his) wildest expectations.
Well, I still don’t give up. With helpful suggestions from my small critique group of Oregon Writers Colony members, I worked on the story a little more and submitted it again this spring to both VoiceCatcher and the Willamette Writers Kay Snow Writing contest.
I was thrilled when Carolyn Martin, Managing Editor of the VoiceCatcher website wrote back within a couple of weeks to say that they’d like to run the piece. She said Assistant Editor Marlene Kate Dalziel would be in touch to help whittle it down to the requisite 1,000 words.
I enjoy working within the Procrustean bed of word limits; it’s an entertaining game. But I couldn’t figure out how to cut just over 2,000 words to 1,000 or less. Then Marlene came up with a brilliant solution: they would run it as two parts. It was fun “being edited.” Marlene’s idea for the “break point” was much better than mine. Then she wanted a couple of bits expanded. Part I should be on-line sometime soon. I can hardly wait.
I confess that I didn’t open last Friday’s message from Willamette Writers until Saturday, thinking it was one of the regular bulletins. But no; it read: “Congratulations! Your entry Learning Chutzpah won 2nd place in Willamette Writers Kay Snow writing contest for nonfiction.” Wow! I get an award certificate, I get to attend the awards banquet on August 3, and I get a check for $150. This is a big deal and I must figure out how to make the most of it.
I need to figure out why, exactly, did both VoiceCatcher and Willamette Writers like it? And then I have to figure out how to do it again–and again. Right now, though, I’m surprised and happy.