I didn't win the American Icon grand prize. Didn't win any prize. But I had a lot of fun--even despite the fact that the thing lasted four and a half hours instead of the two to three I was expecting. And, of course, it was educational, which was probably the biggest reason I went. Gotta learn new things in this craft, always. Not just to stay fresh, but that's part of my passion for writing: the idea that you're never done learning.
The winners were actually people who didn't really introduce their characters or the novel's premise really, but gave humorous anecdotes or intense action sequences. That was the most interesting thing to me. The judges all told me that they were most definitely intrigued and wanted to read more. And I'm thinking, "Sweet! I just did what I'm supposed to do when pitching to an editor!" But I didn't even get one of the fun, gimmicky awards. I think it has to do with the nature of reading something aloud vs. the editor reading from a sheet of paper. The winners may have changed if it wasn't a reading aloud contest.
And I discovered how difficult it is to breathe while nervous, pregnant, and undergoing Braxton-Hicks contractions. I had planned to look up at the audience and the judges while reading, but all my energy was focused on clearly reading while getting the oxygen I needed into my system. That was fun.
The really great thing about this was almost all of the readers were excellent readers, so every reading had its own level of entertainment. And there wasn't really any bad writing in the bunch. Good craft all around. There was no wincing to be had, although when the judges praised something I couldn't stand about a piece, I did gag a little. But, tomayto, tomahto.
All in all, it was a good night, and I spent it with good company from my local critique group. We traveled the farthest to get there, and we even didn't get snarled up in rush hour traffic. Well, not enough to make us late, anyway. I do highly recommend the experience if a similar opportunity presents itself to any of my writing readers out there. Definitely a good learning experience, if nothing else.
So that was the dream I was chasing down to let me stay at home after Andrew's born. Didn't get it. Now it's up to Mark's poker skills and his fruit flies.