Saturday, October 10, 2009

Serendipity

I never believed that things happen for a reason. But the way life is going at the moment I might just start to change my mind.

It has been another rollercoaster week. Yesterday Hubby's business formally went into voluntary liquidation and on Thursday he had signed on, a soul-destroying experience in itself. Then last evening I received the best possible news, that my flash fiction piece was one of the winners in the Tonto Books short story competition and will be appearing in the forthcoming anthology Even More Tonto Short Stories.

I have to be honest, I almost didn't enter the Tonto competion. I was aware of it, of course, as it was mentioned on many writers' blogs. I had looked at my meagre amount of unsubmitted work, but I knew Tonto like edgy prose and I didn't think that I had anything which could even be knocked into that shape. I was also entering into my first major MS relapse at the time, looking for a diagnosis and feeling pretty shitty, so I decided to pass on the competition. It wasn't until the end of July, when I heard the deadline had actually been extended by a couple of days, that I suddenly changed my mind.

I sat in a coffee shop and wondered if I could conjure a piece of flash fiction from somewhere. I knew a longer piece would not be completed in time, as I was suffering from very bad double vision due to the MS. But what could I write? I scrolled through my MP3 player and suddenly decided to start a series of flash fiction pieces based on old song titles. I listed a few possibilities in my notebook. Then I went home and started to write. Two days later, on the competition closing date, I submitted 500 words to Tonto. I had little hope of success and was feeling rather guilty about paying an entry fee knowing our financial circumstances were about to change (though the fee was only to actually purchase the book, so was entirely justifiable!)

I wonder why that particular piece succeeded? Perhaps it was because I wrote it very quickly and didn't have time to edit to death. Perhaps some extra depth came out of being very ill at the time of writing. But most likely it was just luck, that my piece appealed to the judge in some way and worked well alongside others selected. I'll never know, of course. I guess it is a lesson that we have to learn as writers, that there can be so many almost random reasons for success or rejection. I guess too that is why we need to grow thick skins.

Right now I feel as if the parts of our lives have been thrown up into the air and we are just waiting to see how they will land. It is scary but at the same time exciting, and as the Tonto result shows, anything might happen. Perhaps it is all for an as yet unknown reason.

9 comments:

Lane said...

Big congratulations!

And no not luck I'm sure. Just a great story. Well done.

B said...

I can't wait to read your story :)

Lane's right - not luck. You've been working at this, and you've been (rightly) recognised.

I'm glad you've had some good news on what must be an otherwise horrible week.

SueG said...

What an amazing time it is for you. Difficult, but amazing. Congrats on the story. That's terrific news!

SpiralSkies said...

I don't think I believe in luck. Unless you take the route that the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Looking forward to reading it - I'm a big fan of spontaneous writing. Glad your cloudy week had a silver lining.

JJ Beattie said...

Bloody brilliant Cathy. I'm so pleased for you.

Casdok said...

Excellent!! Well done you!

emma said...

Congratulations Cathy! I can't wait to read your story.

Calistro said...

Congratulations!

When I used to enter short stories it was always the pieces that came 'off the cuff' that would place rather than the ones I laboured over for hours. I think they work better because the words and emotion flow out of your naturally instead of being forced.

I bet you can't wait to get your hands on the anthology :)

Cathy said...

Emma - thanks, I'm looking forward to reading your story too :)

Calistro - yes, I'm sure you're right about the more spontaneous writing having more emotional honesty. I think it's going to be a great anthology, judging by the contributors whose names I recognise.