Lessons Learned From Not Winning

Well, I did not make third place in the fiction contest. New Year’s Day I popped open ye olde laptop to see my story at sixth. Part of me wished I’d done a bigger last-minute self-promotion piece, but frankly, I was on an airplane for seven of the last hours of 2012, and once I landed I thought, who is voting for stories at ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve? No one, that’s who.

I expected to feel more disappointed, but I don’t. The contest was a very cool experiment, but it was also, as promised, in the beta stage. My submission wasn’t perfect, either. So I chalk up the experience to having learned a few things. Here they are:

  • It’s important to have a great title. “Shunyata” becomes very evocative after you read the story, but it’s probably meaningless to 98% of readers, initially.
  • If everyone else is posting an image, post an image! Even if you can’t figure out how to do it (ahem: I should have asked). Mine was the only story in the top ten that didn’t have an image.
  • Consider length. I submitted a 15-page story. The story in the #1 slot was more like six.
  • Contests are sometimes based on popularity, and sometimes you just aren’t the most popular. Medium’s contest was exciting, technologically-forward, a great premise. But at the end of the day reaching the top three had a lot to do with how Twitter-savvy one was and how much support one could garner using social media. I’m not a dinosaur, but I opened my Twitter account just for the contest, and have barely used it. I might not have been the ideal entrant. I keep wondering whether all the entrants around me were under 25, but maybe now I’m just being paranoid.

Thank you so much to everyone who voted. I know the format was not ideal–you clicked “recommend,” you never knew if your vote went through, you had to have Twitter. These were not great circumstances for everyone, but I appreciate the support nonetheless. Onward!

Happy New Year.

Vote for Me! (Or, the Shameless Self-Promotion Plug)

Well. Last week as I was frantically packing for a loooong Thanksgiving drive to Southern California I also managed to submit a short story to Medium’s Fiction Writing Contest. The story is called Shunyata. And I really hope you’ll read it. Then, if you like it, I hope you’ll vote for it. The system is a little tricky, but basically, you read; then you click “recommend.” Here is where it gets tricky. Once you hit recommend, you’re then asked to sign in to your Twitter account. I know–I didn’t have a Twitter account either. As far as I can tell, there’s no way around this but to get one. And then you can vote! (And if you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @SusieMeserve.)

Here’s a teaser.

On the first Monday of last June my girlfriend Carrie?s mom got diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer and was dead the following Tuesday. It was one of those reverse miracles, an absolute mind-fuck. Me and Carrie flew to her parents? house in Cleveland for the funeral. It was the first time I?d met her dad. I never met her mom. We didn?t really do parents so much.

?Steven,? Mr. Weathers said to me. ?It?s good you?ve come.? I towered over him. Carrie said, ?Oh, Dad,? and embraced him. I stood there patting the back of her leather jacket like an idiot, because I didn?t know what else to do.

I had known Carrie for what seemed like forever?two years, by then?but, it turned out, wasn?t, because you don?t really know someone until you?ve seen the photos their parents keep of them around the house. There was Carrie, on the piano, on the mantelpiece, in her dad?s study: blonde, blue-eyed, full-lipped, high cheekboned, a little pudgy. There she was in her band uniform. There she was in fake pearls and a pink taffeta dress at junior prom, smiling behind unfamiliar lipstick, like a little girl playing dress-up. There she was in her parents? bedroom in a crackled photo with Tommy, her brother who died in a car accident when she was a senior in high school. When pressed, Carrie would say his death was probably what made her stop being a good girl, start smoking, start doing drugs, start wearing leather and motorcycle boots to class. The house in Cleveland suggested wealth and togetherness and wholesome family values, not my Carrie: cocktail waitress, smoker, heavy drinker?into taking long drives and suggesting we stop and fuck on the hood of my car.

Which, as far as I could remember, I had never refused.

And here is a photo of a Thanksgiving table, Southern California style. I hope everyone had a lovely day–I am grateful for many things, and for you, readers.