Until last year, I never had the nerve to write. A family tragedy inspired me to document the story of my husband’s cousin, a priest who was seriously wounded in Iraq. The essay was relatively simple and took little time. I posted it on a writer’s website and received positive feedback. That was all it took to get me hooked!
Soon after, I found a contest that I wanted to enter. The advertisement said I would get paid to write! All I had to do was come up with a 10,000-12,000 word short story and pay the small entry fee. Not a problem. My power with words so astounding, I believed that I could produce that in a day—two tops. The ideas began to flow and I mapped out my masterpiece. I sat down at the computer and flexed my wrists. Time to cash in. They words began to form, one paragraph then two. Now what? Staring at the screen, I drew a complete blank. I checked the word count. It read 167. That could not be right, could it? A persistent cry of “MOMMY!” made its way down the steps. Oh, well, I had my start. This could wait until tomorrow. Satisfied I flicked off the screen.
The days that followed were much the same. I would turn on the screen, add a few paragraphs or lines until I was needed somewhere else. The laundry really does call your name when it escapes the boundaries of its bins, you know. I began to have ESP when something else HAD to be done.
The two-day project was still in its infant stages two weeks later when I finally began to get serious. I took an afternoon and shut out the rest of the world. Amazingly, the story began to flow and the word count began to grow. This was it! I could see the characters and I knew what was going to happen, now the rest would be a breeze. I could just sit back and wait for the money to roll in.
It was another four days before I had the chance to revisit my award-winning story. My kids had been sick, the church needed painting and our school needed 4 dozen pies for its bake sale. Today was the day. I was going to work uninterrupted until I was finished. Hours later I sat exhausted, spent from pouring my characters so brilliantly onto the page. I just needed to come up with the ending and edit the piece, and then it would be ready. I could hardly wait!
Finally, I sat down and penned an ending to my masterpiece. This was it. Only four days to the contest deadline. I was ecstatic.
I sent my treasured story to a friend for some editing, sure that there was not much that could be done to make it any better. I receive it back the next day filled with red marks and a note: Good start, this has potential. Keep working on it. Emily.
I was mortified! Chagrinned, I made the changes. I wondered if I should even bother sending it in. Reluctantly, I paid the entry fee and sent it off.
I had almost forgot about my little story several weeks later. Life had gone on. I opened the mail unceremoniously.
“Congratulations! Your short story entry has been chosen as an honorable mention in our 2004 contest! Your contest winnings of $50 are enclosed. The entry will be published in our upcoming anthology. Please sign the attached contract and return as soon as possible.”
I danced around the room. My story was being published! AND I was being paid $50! All for just 10,000 little words! All for just writing a story! I could do that again, all it would take would be a couple of days. Then again, $50 for 10,000 words minus the entry fee...oh well, I was never all that good at math. I ran to my computer to get started.