From Our Staff | August 21, 2013

Today’s blog post comes from Rachel Yoder. 

Winning the contest will not make you happy. It might make you happy for a period of time, for a night or a week or a month or a springtime, but of course the writer’s drear will inevitably set back in. But bask in that miraculous moment of happiness. It happens so rarely. Go outside on Christmas Eve and let out a kind of embarrassing scream at the clear sky and jump up and down in your heavy boots, kick around some snow in your Midwestern in-laws’ driveway as they watch, amused. Back on the overstuffed sofa, feel the slight ebb of the bronchial gurgle in your lungs. Relax into the breaking fever, the long-awaited good night of sleep. Wake with the knowledge of winning as it alights on your forehead. It’s Christmas Day and here is the only present you wanted.

Winning the contest might, at first, make it a little bit weird with your writing friends. Buy them drinks and get them drunk. This will kill the brain cells that need to be killed.

Winning the contest will unveil the kindness of the writing community at large. Writers you admire will congratulate you. Writers you don’t know will email to say they read your story and liked it. You might feel part of something, part of a tribe or movement or moment in history, one of many who all believe in something, who have a calling. It might sound a little hokey but, goddamnit, sometimes we need hokey. The cynicism and irony have a way of clogging up everything. Winning the contest might make you sentimental and that’s okay. Maybe it’s even healthy. Winning the contest will remind you how it feels to be part of something bigger than your own petty goals and failures.

Winning the contest will probably make you question the very concept of the contest. It’s so subjective. Anyone could have won. You were lucky.  It just so happened the story you wrote spoke to the judge who was judging it. The stars aligned. You will think winning the contest doesn’t really mean anything about the story you wrote other than it was in the right place at the right time in front of the right people. And maybe this is all true, but still. Stop being so self-effacing for just one minute and let yourself think you are good. That you are a writer who wrote a good story. Don’t worry: the self-doubt and self-abasement will naturally reemerge, perhaps even more strongly than before. (Sorry.) Don’t worry about growing too smug, too big for your britches. Pride goeth before the fall and all that. Perhaps winning the contest was a lesson in learning how to be reasonably, graciously proud.

Of one thing we can be sure: if you win the contest, you will be five thousand dollars richer. And five thousand dollars is five thousand fucking dollars.

Winning the contest will not make you successful. Sure, the agents might write, but they will be looking for a fat fat novel or confessional memoir about a childhood spent in a Mennonite commune. You will have neither and will wonder what you’ve been doing for the past ten years. You like writing short stories, but maybe it’s time to start a novel. Will winning the contest make you start to write a novel? It might. (Sorry.)

Once you have won the contest, you will have always won the contest. That is to say, six months later, at a summer barbecue in someone’s back yard, a guy will approach you and accuse you of having won the contest that he also entered. He will be jokingly embittered, but, underneath, actually embittered. There will be an awkward silence. Offer to get him another beer. Then beat him at badminton.

Winning the contest will not cure your carpal tunnel. It won’t make coffee work again. It will not make you a better lover or daughter or friend. You will not keep you from ripping off your fingernails. It will not make you a morning person. But it might add a few more boards and nails, a solid slab of foundation, to that small rickety shack inside you. I have been building a place to live and here is the roof. The wall has been reinforced. Look how pretty these curtains are. They curve around the breeze and tint the sunlight pink. I sewed them myself.

You can enter our Editor’s Prize Contest Here.

YoderRachel Yoder edits draft: the journal of process, which features first and final drafts of prose and poetry along with author interviews about the creative process. She earned an MFA in Fiction from the University of Arizona and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow. Her most recent work is included in the anthology Writing That Risks: New Work From Beyond the Mainstream from Red Bridge Press. She lives in Iowa City.