Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG: My Tears and Joys as a Write Club Contestant

I was with my parents, taking my son off the island for an appointment, and noticed the beautiful clouds hanging motionless in the summer air, right over the green pastures. The imagery spoke for itself, and my story hit me.
I'm entering WRITE CLUB 2013!!
I was under the pen name ALONE, letting my sisters, parents, immediate family, and some friends know because this was BIG doings for me. First writing contest ever!
The first few rounds, after making it to the top 35, found me in a surprising depression. I was excited the votes were highly in my favor, but my support system became a tumbleweed blowing through the dry desert.
I was "alone". Irony at it's best.

It felt like no one was following my progress but myself. I had to literally tell people how I was doing, what round I was in, how close it was, how scared I was... did I not just express how important this was for me?
In fact, after telling my dad about my standings one time, he threw my happiness into the cold bitter wind with a "I wish you would take what ever energy you're using for this writing thing and use it to go back to school. You know, my friend's daughter who's your age..." I tuned out wishing I could hightail it home to a nice cozy pillow calling my tears.
I AM thankful for my kids asking, "Mommy did you win? Did you win?" every week through the contest. My husband's undoubting encouragements and treats for when I'd move on to another round. And two red head blog friends that were a God send telling me not to give up, never to doubt myself, and hold my head up high because my writing was worth it.
(You two know who you are!)

I am FOREVER grateful for the critiques, both good and bad/ harsh and nice, that were given in the comments during the bouts. I kid you NOT, after reading them, I used those towards my MS Living RunAway, causing me to revamp the voice, and multiple scenes.


I knew when I went up against the English literature writing style of Muleshoe (TEX), I was beat. I laughed when I saw the votes, but was proud it wasn't too much of a beating.  I finally lost in the semi-finals even though I had one last piece that I couldn't wait to make public for the finals...but oh well...I'll just store it for now.
FIND yourself people that understand and want to help push you to where you want to go in your writing career. Those are the ones that will be your safety net, that you can fall into when you're falling the hardest. There are no rips in their net, but a hand underneath pushing you back up on the pedestal that you deserve and deserved to stand on all along.


Laura said...

I tend not to discuss my writing with anyone in my family too much, because I feel like they wouldn't really understand, and of course I'm afraid that they think it's a waste of time.
The other day, though, my sister surprised me by saying how proud she was of me, of my blogging and my writing, of completing all of the goals I set for myself. It really touched me that she even noticed, let alone cared, that I did these things. She's my safety net :)

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Writing isn't like physical labor that leaves you tired but happy with your progress. Writing is mental, it is putting your whole inner self out there for everyone to see.

Congrats on Write Club! That is *SO* amaZing!!!!

Keep doing what you're doing. The talent is there. I can see it. Grow a shield that you can pull around you like a shell when naysayers thump you. That'll always happen.

Cheers! You are one fantastic lady.

Nicki Elson said...

Save that un-revealed piece for the next WRiTE Club! And you've just learned a very important lesson in this writing thang---your writing isn't going to be as important to anyone else as it is to you (and yep, lots of non-writers in your life will look upon it as a waste of time). When you keep writing despite all that, it means you're meant to do this. But yeah, God does seem to send us cheerleaders right when we most need them. :)

Pat Hatt said...

Congrats on making it so far. Just have to tune out the negative nelly's and away we must go

Chris Fries said...

I think the only people that really understand what writers go through are other writers. While I sometimes beat myself up for the time I "waste" blogging instead of writing, I think the support and understanding I've received through my blog from fellow writers has really been a Godsend. It's what drew me back to blogging after a long hiatus.

And I'm very glad that WRiTE Club was a positive experience for you -- it has been for me, also. I've learned a lot by trying to review and put into words why a piece connects with me. It has honed my analytical skills and enables me to apply them to my own writing. I've learned a lot from the other reviews and comments -- seeing what works with them and getting different perspectives on a piece of writing. And I really learned a lot last year when my writing made it to the finals where I lost to Mark Hough -- it was agonizing at times as I fretted over each and every vote that came in. ;)

So I totally understand where you're coming from. But regardless of any 'well-meaning' comments from your dad or others, take solace in the fact that you ARE a writer. And a good one! Your work as "Alone" was great -- you survived the initial cut of prejudging (and I had your piece as one of the top ten out of those 75 entries) and you made it past multiple rounds. By the later rounds, I think personal subjectivity takes over in the readers minds -- the writing is all very "good" at that point, and it just comes down to personal preference as to style and subject.

So hang in there!

Oh -- And I'd love to see that piece someday!

(Also -- stupid GooglePlus! I used it to connect you your blog and then realized afterwards that I commented on one of your posts from months ago, lol!)

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Congrats on making it to the semi-finals! That's impressive just in itself.

I have found that in life, we need to become our own best cheerleaders. Most other people are too involved in their own lives to be terribly interested in ours.

Rena said...

Yeah, pretty much when I talk about my writing around my family, they say "Sure, but get a real job" (I'm a part time teacher right now). I know that they understand how important it is to them, but they think it might as well be me trying to win the lottery.

Congrats on making it so far in WRiTe Club.

M. R. Buttars said...

Congratulations on Write Club, and having the courage to enter! :) A good support system is key. My mom, sisters, and awesome husband often tell me they wished I'd quit stressing about writing and just write so they have more to read. ;) I'm glad you have people to do that for you as well.
Keep up the great work!

Julie Luek said...

Holy moly-- sounds like you did amazing and made it really far! Wow-- what an affirmation of your writing skills.

On the other matter, ugh, why is it people we love and need can sling the most hurtful arrows, right to the core of our hearts? I'm glad you have immediate family surrounding you with encouragement. Helps protect against the other hurts.

M.J. Fifield said...

I don't really discuss my writing with anyone other than other writers. More because I'm a big chicken, but I do have some family who are wonderfully supportive.

It's great that you have such supportive immediate family—and that you did so well in your very first writing contest.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Glad that Write Club was such a positive experience for you and also that you have such a supportive family.

Suze said...

Hey, pretty girl. I submitted my Middle Grade narrator for Write Club this year and didn't even squeak into the action at all. The fact that you went as far as you did speaks volumes, Tams. You must know that. (I think you do.)

And let's take your pop's words and just let 'em slide, slide, sliiiiiiiiide off that writer's back. Yes?

When you comin' off the island, again?

Nancy Thompson said...

I loved your piece & wasn't surprised at all by how well it did. I only wish everyone had a chance to read your other one. It's great! And you know I'll always be here to hold your hand. We writers cannot make this journey alone. It's way to scary & bumpy a road. But definitely keep putting yourself out there. The longer you do, the less jarring those bumps feel. Keep on swimming!

Chrys Fey said...

Getting to the semi finals is amazing! Congratulations!!!!

When I read what your dad said, it reminded me of my dad. A few months ago my dad asked me if I was still being a "bump-on-the-log". It really hurt me because at the time my sister was graduating from college and he was very proud of that, but I'm just a writer and apparently that's equivalent to being a bump-on-the-log.

You're right that you have to find your safety net. I find that (other than family and friends you can count on) bloggers and writers are the best safety net. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations you made it that far!
Sorry not everyone in your family is so supportive. Now you know who to avoid in the future when discussing writing. Let your husband and kids cheer you on.

DEZMOND said...

ah, yes, us in the writing business often don't have family's support. My mother would be prouder if I worked in some factory as a blue collar worker than she is as me as a professor and a book translator with 30 books behind me :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Very inspiring post. I really appreciate my supportive friends and family.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Only writers get it. To everyone else, we're just slapping words on paper...a skill they're pretty sure a monkey could accomplish if given a keyboard and a dictionary.

I remember seeing Billy Idol in an interview and he said his dad threw him out of the house and told him this whole music thing would get him nowhere.

Nobody knows. Follow your heart. At least your hubs has your back. Some writers don't have that.

And I hear that one red-headed (though she calls herself blonde) is smoking hot and soooo freaking smart. You're a lucky girl!!

Brandon Ax said...

I think that is the best part of blogging. Most people will not understand this writing thing unless it is making a bunch of money. It is nice to have people around that "get it".

Andrew Leon said...

It's a difficult thing. I had the arts squashed out of me when I was a kid because I was so good at math and science. People don't understand.
It took me a long time to find them again.

ilima said...

What a great accomplishment, Tammy! Way to go! It's so true we need to find people who will lift us up. This writing thing is too brittle and tender for us writers to have anything less.

klahanie said...

Hi Tammy,

You have a lot going for you. The naysayers can only make you more determined. Sometimes the naysayers come from the very people we would think would encourage us in no matter what we do.

You have a lot of support and I'm proud of you. My family hardly knows I have a blog and my step-dad thinks my stuff is hardly worth reading anyway.

Do we care, Tammy? Hell no, you have the naysayers and yet you have all these yaysayers. Be well, Tammy. Keep surrounding yourself with positive people. Yes, even me.

Gary :)

Donna Hole said...

Hello Alone, I'm Gordon Holmes :) It was a great contest.

I know what you mean about feeling alone with all that writing angst. My family and co-workers listen politely but shake their heads at my obsession.

That's why we blog, and interact with other writers who understand us.


Sheena-kay Graham said...

I know those parents. Yes mine would want me to be just about anything but a writer. Unless the job was minimum wage. I swear working 9-5 in an office is a badge of honour in that house. One I'll never have or want. But I'm glad you have support from your kids and husband. I had to go online to find mine and thank GOD I did. Congrats on making it so far Tammy.

Lexa Cain said...

Parents can be very judgmental. They're people, too, with hangups and faults but can really mess up their kids. Brush it off and glory in being part of an awesome online community that loves and supports you.

Emily R. King said...

Brave post, Tammy. <3 <3 <3 Keep going, sister!

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey you!

I never knew you
Were in WriteClub you

Is that a Haiku, u?

Sorry for being silly, but I had no idea - and I'm super excited to hear YOU had a positive experience from it all.

Nice one, Scribe ;)

T. Drecker said...

Semi-finals is awesome! Seriously, be proud :)
I'm nervous to discuss my writing with my family (the support was great in the beginning but dwindled down to a tiny spark over time). I definitely don't say much to anyone outside my immediate household. I'm so thankful for all of my online writer buds. It'd be a horribly lonely journey without them.

Lol! Next time, hold your contest in my face so I can come and cheer you on every day :)

J.L. Campbell said...

The last paragraph in your post is telling. Those supporting you helped make the journey worthwhile. Good advice that. Congrats on going the distance!

Have a great weekend.

Pk Hrezo said...

Tammy, I'm so proud of you for sticking it out! It can be so hard, and we become so vulnerable with our precious heart and soul posted for others to lash. I entered so many writing contests when I was first starting out, and some would leave my ego flailing in the wind, but I garnered what constructive feedback was available and kept writing. It's the only way. the important thing is to keep putting your words out there. It's okay if not everyone loves them, and there'll always be a better writer somewhere--for all of us. But the experiences that come with sharing our words and letting others critique them, prepares us for the real publishing world, where reviewers and critics will rip us to shreds at any given chance.
You're smart to surround yourselves with people/friends who encourage you--that makes all the difference. And btw I think i told you how neither of my Write Club entries did very well. You made it way farther than I ever did with early stories, so be proud, girl! You're a writer. And we love you! :D

Melissa said...

Parents think they're being good parents when they say stuff like that, but sometimes they're way off the mark.

Sorry your feelings were hurt, but I'm happy for you and thrilled to hear you made it that far in the contest. Good for you for going for it. :)

Elise Fallson said...

Oh I wish I had known you had entered I'd have cheered you on with go-go boots!. I did Fight Club last year so I know how stressful it is... even though my never got picked to go into the ring.... long story...anyway, congrats on getting so far through the challenge! I'll have to go back and check out your entry. Now, let me just tell you girl how precious it is that you have a hubby that supports your passion for writing. That is soo important and wonderful!!! The parents... I guess it's difficult for non-writers to truly understand. Anyway, hugs to you and write on! (:

Crystal Collier said...

Aw! Tammy, I love you! Lady dude, I'm totally proud of you! I LOVE DL's contest and read along last year and the one before. Unfortunately it's been a crazy couple months for me--starting from March on when this publishing thing became a reality. We have seasons of insanity, eh?

Sherry Ellis said...

You did well making it that far! I'm glad your family was supportive!

S.K. Anthony said...

My family doesn't know about my writing or that I'm published, I know they wouldn't get it. I'm glad your husband, like mine, is supportive. And how cute that the kids kept asking ;)

And congrats on making it that far!

Tammy Theriault said...

A big heart full of hugs and gratitude for everyone's amazing comments back! This is definitely where the writing love is!!!

Lynda R Young said...

Your experience is very similar to my own. I love your advice. True words.

Suzanne Furness said...

I can sympathize Tammy. I don't really have many folks in the 'real world' that get my writing thing! Thank goodness for the blogosphere and some people who understand how important it is to us.

BTW think we went head to head in that first round of Write Club. I was Ruby Red! Well done on making it so far, I enjoyed the competition. said...

You wrote this so evocatively, Tammy, I was with you on the roller-coaster journey. I'm with you, now, in excitement for how far you got. The semi-finals - that's fantastic - especially for your first attempt at it!

Sometimes the ones we expect support from the most are the most disappointing. But the love and support is always there, somewhere.



hey you have a great blog and great post! xx


hey you have a great blog and great post! xx

Dana said...

Congratulations on making it so far! I didn't have the courage to enter, and I so admire all of you who did. :)

I don't tell a lot of people about my writing, mainly because I'm afraid they'll just see it as a hobby and not realize just how important it is to me. I have very supportive parents, though, and I'm grateful for them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tammy - fascinating to read - and that's why I'm sure WriteClub has to be a good idea .. and Don was amazing at his organisation of it ..

Well done on getting to the semi-finals .. I'd say that was a win ..

Good for you and it will hold you in so much stead .. cheers Hilary

Julia King said...

That's amazing how far you went in the contest. Congrats! I'm sorry about what your dad said about your writing. You just keep on writing regardless. Having a support system of like people is truly essential. :) Great post. I love the heart pictures.