Going into this holiday season, I didn’t expect to write a blog post until January. But an incredible (to me) thing happened.
On November 30, 2017, I received an email from Pink Kayak Press that I had been selected as a finalist for the 2017 Kayak Author Award (prize of $500). I was 1 of 8 finalists chosen (<< They announced it on Twitter too, but I just saw the announcement on their website! Look, my name and book are listed!! Omg!!! Aahhhh!!!).
This news both astounded me and filled me with ire; ire at myself.
Back in September, I entered the first 3,000 words of Steel Kissed into this competition. At the time, I believed in myself and my work so, just in case I was chosen as a finalist, I planned to finish my manuscript by the December 7th deadline so I could submit it. I needed the deadline to put the pressure on myself (I’m a weirdo that works her best under pressure).
But somewhere along the way, I began to stop believing in myself. I told myself I was crazy for even thinking I had a real shot at being chosen (despite my fans/critique partners/following on a private website and the support of my friends and family). So I slowed down (I never gave up–I have this story inside me to tell, to write–I just slowed (way) down. I took the deadline out of the equation).
And wouldn’t you know, I was selected as a finalist?! Professionals in the industry (I don’t know who, that’s anonymous but I’m under the impression it’s authors, editors, publishers, and/or agents) judged my work and deemed it worthy of selection. I also received a critique (which I’ll share with you soon)!!
My work, my previous belief (and drive) in myself, was being validated. And while I was flabbergasted and excited, I was also mad as hell.
Because I still had approximately 30,000 more words to go. I was only half finished.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known the ending of my story (how it all comes together and circles back to the very beginning), my characters, and my world; I just needed to flesh out/brainstorm key plot points and write it all down.
But to write 30,000 (never mind polishing it up by editing it and have my critiquers read it) in 7 days was impossible for me, even with herculean effort and my renewed validation.
So I let people know what happened and what I had to do. I’d given up before I even tried.
But my boss gave me two days off of work. My colleagues PUSHED me to give my all. My crit partners let me forego my obligations to them. My family pushed me and offered their brains for brainstorming, my dad watched my little girl, and everyone else offered genuine support or took part in their own way.
I couldn’t let anyone (or myself) down when I saw the outpouring of support even knowing 30k words was impossible.
I managed to write 12k-ish words while traveling for work, being a single mom, and dealing with life. Altogether, I was able to write/brainstorm freely for three days.
In well over 48 hours (but under 72), I had a total of 4 hours of sleep, a shit ton of coffee, two RedBulls, and a 5-hour Energy and even went to work the day the manuscript was due.
I was able to get out of work early that way, and before I napped (because I had to pick-up my daughter), I did email them.
I did not want them to feel disrespected/time and effort wasted/taken advantage of, etc.
I explained how grateful I was, that being selected gave me the push I needed, restored faith in myself, but most of all: awed me in the outpouring of support I received from so many people to help me make this happen. This had been the greatest gift because up until now, I never really had such support in my life (in general) and always wanted that. Being selected finalist made me recognize that I finally obtained what I had always desired.
I did attach what I managed to finish, minus a few chapters because they were rougher than the very first drafts of my first 3 chapters (which is saying something!) though I expect no one to read it. (SIDE NOTE: And skimming over the new material–while the ideas and stuff are there, it’s all really, really rough and parts of it are trash so maybe I shouldn’t have included as much as I did–but it’s material I didn’t have before, and I can improve upon it, shine up my diamonds in the rough).
That same day I received a reply back from them!
They were touched by my email and they would ask the judges if they would like to read what I was able to provide anyways (but I couldn’t be selected for the $500 prize of course) and provide me a one-page critique!
If anyone agrees, I’ll receive the critique at the end of the month with the other finalists!!! AND I can still claim I’m (and my book) a 2017 Kayak Author Award finalist (on my query letter and on my book should I ever get to publish one day)!
I told them ‘thank you’, but that they truly didn’t have to go the extra mile for me (during the holidays no less!). They’d already given me the greatest gift, a gift I didn’t know I needed, and I have been moved beyond words.
All of this is an accomplishment and award all on its own and I couldn’t be more proud or happier (or less angry)!
For the curious, the crit I received:
We recognize that not all writers, and especially those from traditionally marginalized groups, have access to critique groups or beta readers. Because of this, initial round judging feedback for your work has been provided, below. Note that this feedback might change after the final entry has been read.
Steel Kissed by Mercedes Veronica
Romance: Assuming the love interest is Derik, the attraction is good, well-introduced. Ziva seems to find multiple men attractive in the first pages, though, so uncertain whether it will be Derik.
Characters: Ziva is well done. Not completely sure about the others. They seem a little too pat, too easy/supporting in perfect ways. Not problematic yet but will depend on how the rest goes.
Pacing: Great, tight flow of action interspersed with the right amount of dialogue. Not sure yet about the worldbuilding. Sometimes it has the appearance of an info dump. Would need to read more.
Favorite line: Our small, tattoo-like symbols were like a brazen open-carry policy.