Every year the League of Utah Writers holds a convention in which local authors and writers gather to give support to one another and to learn from each others experiences. There are seminars and keynote speakers and of course food--they feed us well.
But perhaps the biggest draw is the award ceremonies. It's an opportunity to shine and be recognized by our fellow peers. There are awards for poetry, short stories, flash fiction, manuscripts, etc...all the way to awards for published authors.
Traditionally published, small press published, and self published authors compete equally against one another. The publishing credentials are stripped away. In the young adult category, a self-published author won the Gold Quill (the highest achievement) over traditionally published authors. I know this author (we were in a writing workshop together two years ago) and I'm thrilled for her. You can find out more about Margie Broschinsky HERE.
For me, this weekend was huge, and I want to take a moment to talk to my fellow writers who are at the beginning stages in their writing career. This story is for you:
I remember going to my first League of Utah Writers Convention four years ago. I was in the newest stages of my writing--having picked it up again after putting my writing on hold to marry and raise three kids. I remember entering the first three chapters writing contest in the General Fiction category, for manuscripts not yet published, and sitting at the awards banquet, watching as name after name of fellow writers were called and people were handed certificates, shiny pens, and plagues. I was in awe of these people and I was hopefully that I, too, would have my named called and become apart of this elite group. I wanted validation that what I was doing was not only the right thing for me to be doing but that my writing was good.
My name was never called. I didn't even get an honorable mention. Na-da.
At the time, I was hurt and became doubtful of my writing. I worried I was wasting my time and that maybe I should throw in the towel.
That was four years ago.
Do you want to know what happened to those three chapters I'd submitted? I polished them. I reworked them. I had them professionally edited (along with the rest of the manuscript). Now I want you to scan back up to the top of the page and look at the picture of me holding DESERT RICE in one hand and a GOLD QUILL certificate in the other (oh, and don't forget to look at my cool new pen). That's what happened to those manuscript chapters. It won the highest award for a published author in the General Fiction category. I went from NA-DA to NICE... but it took time and it took work. Above all, it took persistence. I didn't give up.
To top the whole weekend off, at the Saturday night banquet, I was awarded the Utah Writer of the Year award for 2013--the most prestigious award the League of Utah Writers gives to authors. Only one a year. This year, it was me, and I accepted it with pure humility. So all things are possible. We have no idea what the future holds. The only way to find out is to keep pressing forward and hanging in there.
We'd sure hate to miss out on grand opportunities all because we gave up and gave in to our doubts and fears. Don't give up. Please.
Someday you'll be glad you didn't.