Talk about a weekend of ups and downs. This last Friday through Sunday was the Rose State Writer's Short Course in Midwest City, Oklahoma. It's a small, but intense gathering of writers, aspiring writers, agents, editors, and practically everyone with an interest in the publishing industry. It'll take me several blog posts to cover all of my experience, but it is definitely worth sharing.
I attended the convention's debut last year where I won an honorable mention in the poetry contest, pitched to an agent for the first time, and met some amazing aspiring writers.
This year was even better.
Friday kicked off the weekend with an introduction by William Bernhardt, the New York Times bestselling author, organizer of the Rose State conference and, most importantly, the best writing teacher I have ever had the pleasure of studying under.
Guest of Honor, David Morrell - author of First Blood and creator of the Rambo character - also gave a great introductory speech. But for me, the most exciting part of the evening was the announcement of the contest winners.
Like I said previously, I won an honorable mention in poetry last year. This year I submitted to three categories: Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Writing for Young Readers. While I was very disappointed about not winning any recognition in poetry, I was thrilled for my mother, Claudia Wagner, who won an honorable mention in the new category, Flash Fiction. Then came the Writing for Young Readers category.
I waited without much expectation as Bill Bernhardt read the list of winners going through a considerable number of honorable mentions to second place and - finally - to first place. Instead of immediately calling the names of the winners, he read from their entries.
I felt almost numb as Bill's deep, expressive voice read out:
"They took me to the interrogation room again the next day. The room was entirely white. I’d never noticed before. Though it was the same room I’d been questioned in, it seemed somehow different. Why did they bring me here again? There was nothing left for me to tell them."
My words. My book.
My friends started cheering before I fully comprehended what was happening. I'd won. I was shaking as I got the certificate and check for $100. I'm still not sure I've completely processed it.
My book - the book that took one year of my life, that has cost me tears and time, that I poured myself into until I had nothing left to give - my book won.
And that's not a bad feeling.