Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekend VI: of people, places, and literary things

Remember how, in primary school, your teacher always emphasised that a nouns are always people, places, or things? Well, that definition perfectly sums up my weekend -- a whirl of people, places, and things. On Friday, my mother's aunt and uncle came to stay from their home up north. They are such a fun couple and inspire me heaps. They are active, healthy, vibrant, and involved in their children's, grandchildren's, and great-grandchildren's lives. They're lovely and it was great to spend some time with them.

On Saturday they headed off again and Mum and I spent the day pottering. My dad and small brother set out on a boy-stuff adventure and spent happy hours at a motorbike swap meet. Meanwhile, Mum and I baked and tidied and watched snippets of Doc Martin and I tried not to think about the coming evening.

But evening came at last, and, with it, the cocktail party to announce and toast the winner of the writing contest for which cause my valiant red pen had edited and scribbled and scrawled.
Good thing: we got to dress up and wear pretty clothes.
Bad thing: each finalist had to prepare an acceptance speech, just in case. Argh!

With butterflies hovering too flightily for comfort, I arrived at the library where all was in glorious array for the gala event. My first thoughts were of self-abuse for thinking stupidly that it would be a good idea to come on my own. At this kind of occasion, I tend to take refuge in talking to my own family or friends instead of others, so I decided to go it alone and be more sociable. For a moment, I regretted it, then I spotted one familiar face and decided to burst (sedately) into the many mingling circles.

We sipped drinks and chatted until the formalities began, and we were all surprised when not only the winner but each of the ten finalists in the manuscript competition was called forward to be awarded a gift and have their novel introduced. I was in such a daze I didn't even hear what the judge said about my little story. I'm regretting that; I would love to have known how she described it.

At last, the moment of truth came. There was an actual envelope with the actual winner's name in it, and they actually opened it with all the deliberation you see at the Oscars. The winner was Desmond, a dear man in his late seventies whose gentle wisdom has been a delightful influence during the year of workshops. I'd said to Mum during the week, "If there's one person I would love to see win, it's Desmond." When he did, I was so thrilled.

He made the sort of speech only such contented, dignified, humble people can make, and when I went to offer a congratulatory kiss and tell him I'd hoped it would be him all along, he broke in before I could speak and said, "I had my fingers crossed for you." I hope his story gets published; I can't wait to read it.

In the millions of times I thought it over beforehand, I reached the conclusion that I would be thrilled if I won the contest (because of the many opportunities such a prize would provide) and thrilled if I lost (because I wouldn't have to make a speech; seriously!). So, although there was the strange letting down of pent-up nerves afterwards, I was content.

While it would have been empowering (I hate to use that word but it fits here) to have someone say, "Yes, I think you can write," -- and another part of me wonders, "What if there is nothing redeemable at all in my novel?" -- at the same time I am convinced that I would keep writing anyway. Even if the judges had said, "There was one story which actually made us embarrassed for its author," I don't think I could stop. I might for a little while, but not forever.

So now it remains to keep honing and to keep learning -- with all this wonderful year of education to hang over me like the benevolent shadow of a great mentor.

I realised this morning that Saturday's event was my first real Literary Thing. Does this mean I'm a grownup now?


  1. I understand totally what you mean about half wanting to win and half not wanting to. Making speeches -arrgh!!! The only speech I ever made (and it wasn't even a proper speech) was at Cassandra's wedding, and it took a lot of effort to make it. So totally know what you mean. Good on you though for being so sweet about losing - your turn of winning will come, I'm sure!!!

    Love you!!!

  2. That is so lovely that Desmond wound up winning! He sounds like such a sweet person.
    I can see why you didn't want to have to make the speech you wrote.;)
    Does your family happen to remember what was said about your novel?

  3. danielle! sounds like life is amazing for u! congratulations on all the writing stuff!
    i wish we could have a proper catch up so i could hear all about whats been happening. i am going to be having some time off soon so i will be able to do some emailing/facebooking/blogging etc! love u!!!


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