Friday, July 28, 2006

Rise of the zombies, call of the contestant

Every West-Coaster I know here at Atlanta is walking around bleary, exhausted and wired. Eileen is carrying it off admirably, but my eyes are so red I look like the evil undead.

But then, I am the evil undead, so what're you gonna do.

Happily, though, I'm behaving myself. I know, brace yourselves, sit down, I'm actually having a good time even though the place is absolutely crawling with people I have to be nice to.

But they're people like Chandra, who is a Cherry and from her posts on the Forums, a top-notch writer (not to mention the one who corrects all the bad information I pass around like a drunken sailor), and best of all, she lurks here! I love lurkers. I love you all so much I boycotted Delurking Day because baby, if you want to lurk, I support that.

Although I wouldn't say no to a little love by email.

But I digress. What was I talking about? Oh: Complete exhaustion; also, contest results, which I will have tonight. So at lunch today, I met three women from the Chicago RWA, who saw fit to make me a finalist in their writing contest - probably while wearing beer goggles ("Hey! This one swears on every page! Let's make her a finalist! Bring that beer bong over here, Esther") ------ -

---- and tonight they're having their cocktail do/awards ceremony where I will find out whether or not I am, in fact, a weiner.

When I told them I was one of their Anointed, they advanced on me. "Who are you? Which category? What's the name of your book?"

They looked like they wanted my blood. Eileen and I backed up a step and grabbed our plastic knives just in case things got ugly.

Then the one on the left held up a binder that was red as the gates of hell. "You know I have the results right here," she said.

"You grab it, I'll hold her down," Eileen said. This is why Eileen is my friend.

I told them I'd written FMT and the one in the middle gave me a dirty look. (See swearing, above.) The one on the left - the one with the binder that is as red as my most egotistical, base desires* - looked focused for a minute, like she was trying to place me, and then looked back at me.

Then she fixed a smile on her face.

It was not that "You may already be a weiner!" smile. It was also not that "I've got a secret!" look. It was that, "Oh, right, you're going to be disappointed" look.

Then she said, "You know, it's just casual. It's the kind of thing where, if we run out of champagne, we run out of champagne."

In other words, we're not buying more champagne for you, you loser.

All of which leads me to believe, friends, that I'm not going to walk outta there with a two-foot-tall crown on my head, draped in jewels and lauded for my fabulous first however many pages.

I mean, OK, the crown and the jewels thing might happen, because God knows I love to accessorize. But I won't be bearing the Golden WhoseyWhatsit they will give to the winner, I suspect.

But? That's OK. It's already been an incredibly good conference. All this would do would be to make me impossible to live with. Like my husband doesn't have it hard enough already.

Here's the deal: Contests are great, but they can get ahold of you like the worst kind of publishing jones can. They can make you think it's all about the external stuff, the rewards, the recognition, the buzz - when really, those are false gods.

They're like crack, actually. It's no longer enough that you know you're a good writer - other people have to know it, too. Other people have to worship at your feet, in fact, which is seductive and addicting and incredibly, incredibly damaging. It's a bad thing, giving up that kind of control. You should never rely on other people for your own self-worth.

Unfortunately, lots of people do. You can sense it at big conferences like this one. You feel the vibe of the desperate, the grasping. It's what makes it hard to breathe deeply, and it is fool's gold, believe you me.

So whatever happens tonight, I am going to enjoy the hell out of that free champagne. I hear there is also a chocolate fountain. These, these are the things worth getting excited over.

Well. These things, and accessories.

* My most egotistical base desires come down to this, more or less:

  • Win this award
  • Land incredible superstar book deal
  • Appear on Oprah (goddesslike and suddenly thin and stunning)
  • Pocket enough long green to quit job permanently (and for C to quit his job, as well), buy boat, villa in south of France, and fabulous house on enough land for a whole fleet of mini schnauzers
  • Become entirely new person who is not awash in neuroses and judgement, but who is perfect perfect perfect, all the time.
Careful readers will note that there are things missing from this list, namely:

  • Finish book
  • Land agent who loves my writing and wants to partner with me in my career, come what may
  • Become decent human being at last
  • Stay balanced, love my loved ones and give back to my community, writing and otherwise
  • Accept the craggy, cranky, neurotic me and try to be the best craggy, cranky, neurotic me I can be, rather than chasing perfection, which is boring anyway
  • Find the perfect toenail polish, which I think might be the OPI shade Yellin' for Watermelon. (It's the little things that really matter.)


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