I’m hoping this is an appropriate place to boast a bit about my accomplishments. Because some things are just hard to work into a normal conversation. The opportunity to say “That reminds me of the time I won a first place at the Arkansas Writers’ Conference,” just doesn’t come around that often.
So, I’ll say it here. RIP , Emma Lou Briggs, one-act play by Dorothy Hatfield, won a first place at the Arkansas Writers’ Conference last weekend! The contest was sponsored by the Association of Senior Arts Programs. One requirement was it must deal with seniors’ issues.
An essay, When Shared, A Challenge Can be Fun, placed third in the Grand Conference Award contest. The requirements were to write an essay that “elaborates on a theme of a photo or drawing directly or indirectly … defend it’s legitimacy … make it stylishly entertaining, as though it were in a top-notch magazine.” With those criteria, do you wonder that I regard that third place certificate much like I would a Pulitzer? The picture, by the way, was from 1951, a group of family and friends installing a television antenna on top of our house in Denison, Texas.
But, more about that later. Stay tuned.
Encouraged by the honorable mention a short story earned in a contest, I tightened the writing and sent it off to a magazine.
The plot featured a fifty-something professional woman dealing with the declining health of her elderly father. On a trip to see him, she experienced an epiphany through an encounter with a stranger beside the motel pool.
As the words fell onto the page, I pictured a Candace Bergen look-alike: trim, attractive, capable and strong.
In a few weeks, the US Mail brought a contract from a national magazine for seniors. What a head rush! The envelope also included a check – payment on acceptance!
After more waiting, I finally received my complimentary copy.
Whoa! The illustrator had drawn my middle-aged business woman about thirty pounds overweight, sitting by the motel pool in a housecoat that must have come from Second Hand Rose. I had described her hair as shoulder-length, caught in a clip. The artist had fashioned it into a short bob from another generation. What happened to the person I wrote about? Did the artist even read my story?
How ludicrous! Could I show this to my family and friends? Would I want to include it in a clip book?
Darned right! A national magazine paid me an impressive sum and published my story. I had already cashed the check and added the credit to my resume. So what if the magazine’s staff artist re-visioned my scenario.
I had become a published writer!