You can control how you go about seeking professional recognition but you can’t control how or when it comes — or what you’ll be doing when it arrives.
The news of the biggest and most exciting contract I ever won came just minutes before one of my best friends called to report a horrible family tragedy that ended with his mother’s death. My teammates went out to celebrate getting the contract; I went to my friend’s house and stayed sat him through a long, sleepless night.
Yesterday morning I sat down to eat my Cheerios and read the Wall Street Journal and was thrilled to find in the Journal an extensive article by jazz critic Nat Hentoff praising Yizkor, the new album by David Chevan and Afro-Semitic Experience with cantor Alberto Mizrahi. A old friend from New Haven, Stacy Phillips, plays in the group. Stacy, a teacher, writer, and performer, is a “musician’s musician” — renowned in the upper echelons of bluegrass, Western swing, and klezmer, but (despite a Grammy and 40 years of professional work) not a “name” who could sell out a venue like the Triple Door or the Moore Theatre.
“Never before have I heard this lyrically powerful a fusion of Jewish and jazz souls on fire,” Hentoff kvelled over the group’s performance. At last! I thought.
Sometimes recognition comes and you’re so sure you won’t get it that you fail completely to react. That happened to me yesterday. I’ve recently begun writing short speculative fiction; the SF field is replete with contests and small magazines for the beginning writer, and I submitted stories to two contests. My goal was to place in one of the two contests.
The first contest, part of Fencon V in Dallas, had the results announced at the convention last weekend. However, I wasn’t at the convention, and had no way of finding out how I’d done. Tuesday evening I contacted a Twitter friend who had attended Fencon and asked him to check the convention program for the contest results. He wrote back:
“The 1st place short story winner was “Dark Running” by Justin Macumber; 2nd place “Undying Love” by K. G. Anderson (you, congrats); 3rd place ‘The Color of Midnight” by Dan Hiestand. Alas, only the winner’s tale was published in the Fencon V booklet. I don’t know if they will post them online.”
I found out in such a roundabout way that it didn’t really sink in. All I could think was: OK, it didn’t get published, all rights remain with the author, so I should workshop this, rewrite it, and submit it to some small ‘zines.
It was only after I told a friend about the contest results and he replied “What shall we do to celebrate?” that it sunk in: A story I’d created had placed in a contest, and I’d met my (admittedly modest) writing goal for the year.
I celebrated by harvesting the basil and making pesto. So there.