Eric Hoffer finalist

I received this e-mail this morning. I’m sure you can hear my YIPEE wherever you are.

Dear Hoffer Award Entrant:

Congratulations. Your story has been selected as a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Prose Award. This is a very small group of stories from among thousands of submissions. The final round of judging will unfold during the spring, culminating with the announcement of the Hoffer Short List during late summer and the release of the winners in early fall. . .

I had forgotten about this contest. I submitted my story GOOD GAME in May, 2009, to be considered for the Hoffer Award and then received the following e-mail in July of 2009.

The editors would like to inform you that your story has passed the first round of editorial review. Less than 20% of the stories make it this far. Congratulations. The review process is long and thorough. By the end, we will have an entire year’s worth of selected submissions to consider for the prize and anthology. You will hear back from us between May and July about the next level of judging. . .

I had thought I was out of the running. I assumed that because I wasn’t notified last July that the story didn’t make the final cut. Fortunately GOOD GAME has not been accepted elsewhere. I think it is my best work to date and I am honored to be in the final cut. But, even though the story is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, it has been rejected by 18 different magazines.

To quote JA Konrath, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up…published.”

It is sometimes difficult to keep writing and submitting without getting discouraged, but days like today give me the steam to keep rolling. It also substantiates my decision to resign from my day job. After four years of developing tests for Measurement Inc., Tuesday is my last day. I realized that developing tests was draining my energy and keeping me from my fiction writing. I have had a new novel in progress for more than a year–it is not even half finished. I have a sketchy draft finished and several random chapters filled in, but I sometimes go for more than a month without working on my fiction. I had to make a change. I will still work as a contractor for MI, but I can set my own hours, can work from home, and the biggie: I won’t have to travel.

Okay, back to laying out pages for Pig in a Poke. I have about half of them done. We’re set to go live on May 1. So exciting!

More on the creation of GOOD GAME:

In August, 2008 I wrote the GOOD GAME during a severe drought . From a former blog: “Good Game” is the story that I’m most proud of. It is about a chess player who is paralyzed and sinking into depression, who is visited by his dead father. I wrote the first draft in my spare time before and after work, and on the weekend. Originally, it was to be a piece about a woman with a personality disorder who suffered from drug dependence. This is completely different from the end result. One afternoon while doing chores around the house, I decided she should be paralyzed. I decided to change the gender of the main character to a man to reach the readers who play chess, predominately men, as previously posted.

Congratulations Winner!

The title of this post is the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday. I thought it was a spammer offering me money if I’d only provide my banking information, so I almost deleted it. I am happy that I didn’t. My speculative fiction story “To Live Again“,won $100 and first place in Write Around the Block’s January short story contest. I have never won a contest in my life. I am thrilled.

To Live Again“, holds a special place in my heart. It is the first story that I wrote back in 2002–a dog story with a twist. Second, as I previously posted, it was the first of my stories to appear in a print publication, so it became one of my milestones. I think that seeing that story on the printed page will always be my greatest thrill.

Those of you who know me will realize that “To Live Again” is loosely based on my life. The woman in the story who learns to take charge of her life through her dog is me. I drew on my own experience in an abusive marriage to create Allison’s character, who is too frightened to get out of bed and turn on a light at night. And during the day, she is too scared to leave her house. Then she adopts Vanquisher, a scrappy pit bull terrier mix facing euthanasia.

And so the story was born. I modeled Vanquisher after my dog Buddy, who I am sad to say, most likely came to the same fate as Vanquisher did in the story. Heavy sigh–if he hadn’t, there would be no story.

When I learned that Write Around the Block accepts previously published stories, I revised the story–the first version rambled a bit and had some other issues–and submitted it to the contest. I am thrilled that it won.

I will never consider “”To Live Again”” to be my best story, but writing it helped me learn the art of writing fiction. It will probably always be my favorite, especially because Harry and I recently adopted a black lab. Alex is sweet and mischievous and as beautiful as Buddy was ugly–like Sam in the story. He is intelligent and makes us laugh every day, especially when he squeaks his little plastic bone and does tricks for food. I love him, but he can’t completely fill the void in my heart left by Buddy.

Here’s to strays, shelter dogs and rescued dogs who continue to rescue their saviors.