Read the fine print! Writing Competitions, Stress and Relief (or “if it can go wrong, it probably will!”) by Ilona Rapp 02 23 15

chaos illustration avator

Chaos is the Mother of Solace

I am going to skip to the conclusion and announce that I successfully submitted my three entries into the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Unpublished Contest two days ago. It was, of course, the final day and the final hour of the deadline.
Yes, I did plan on completing everything a few days earlier, but of course I was still editing on Friday morning. The truth is you can’t plan for everything, and small details such as work and family obligations tend to take front and center when there is still a day or so to go and you really have the whole day off to gather everything together. The following saga, (or should I say synopsis) is all about the best laid plans!
Here’s what I didn’t plan on:

1) Our printer died the weekend before the big day. Okay, so I “quickly” researched new printer options (really it only took about five or six hours) and found a replacement printer at the local office supply store. Done, right? Do I have to say it? WRONG! It’s not so simple to set up a new printer and figure out how to use it, not so difficult either, but it was time I would have liked to allot to formatting and proofreading my work. Needless to say, I did manage to print out some test pages and I assured myself that everything was working fine. Shall we move on?

2) The new online version of Microsoft Word has…a few glitches with my Windows 8.1 computer. Somehow, figuring out those sorts of compatibility issues lost me nearly a night’s sleep. Once everything was running and I could pull my work out of WordPad to format and edit it, I thought I was golden. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t save half of the time. I finally figured out that I needed to paste as text. Oh how I miss the days when I could count on Word to read and save from all other Microsoft formats! Unfortunately my old dependable computer was retired in shame when XP became “outre”. In summation, after editing the first 27 pages of my novel and a one page synopsis, adding appropriate headers and formatting everything according to instructions I returned to my saved page and found an entirely different draft than the work I had just so painstakingly completed….. No comment. I repeated the process, this time making a WordPad copy to keep things safe BEFORE I pushed Save. This time, of course, it saved seamlessly and I needn’t have bothered. Okay, the hours have gone click, click, click and it is now close to the time I should have left the house. It should be okay though, I mean, all that’s left to do is print my work (on my nice new printer which is ultra-fast and clean) and print out my submission forms, fill them out, grab a checkbook and be off. (It’s now 2:40 pm). So, here’s how that went.

3) Okay, since three is my lucky number, I will add the unexpected events which increased my stress level, but ultimately saved the day. It’s not really a spoiler, because I already shared that the submissions were entered on time. First let me add a small caveat to the mix, I was also delivering my good friend’s submission after pushing, and harping and almost forcing her to take time out of an extremely busy schedule to write a synopsis of her wonderful young adult first novel. (She’s currently writing her third.) She delivered it to me late Thursday night and I couldn’t face her disappointment if I failed to get it submitted on time. So, as you see, the stakes were pretty high and i was considering giving up on my own submissions and just delivering her’s. Just as I pushed save, the phone rang. I am on call for questions from patients 24/7 so this was to be expected, but really this was the fifth call in a day and the only time that happens is when I have a deadline. As I mentioned,  I should have expected it. The call, thankfully, took only a few minutes to work out, but I realized my phone battery was almost dead (you guessed it, the charger wasn’t plugged in correctly). so the fifth caller actually saved me, because I needed the phone to whisper sweet directions into my ear or I would never actually find the drop off location. Okay, breathe!

Next, my beautiful daughters reminded me that they had a sleepover planned, and my husband reminded me he was heading to a friend’s birthday celebration. Oops. One look at their faces told me it was a bad idea to reschedule the sleepover. My husband, not liking the way my jaw was clenching, my eyes were tearing and my hands were shaking. suggested I just call and see if I could hand everything in later. I kindly (not really) explained that there were no exceptions, and set off, finally, to push print and see how quickly I could pull everything together. My son was looking at me with a little fear in his eyes when I burst into the study.

solace, contest submission illustration

Solace Born of Chaos
(how order is conceived)

4) Print did not work. Unplug, replug, nothing. My son actually found the hidden printer icon on my laptop and we realized I was sending my files to the old printer. I fixed the destination and two sheets flew out of the printer, then everything stopped. Yep, paper jam! Somehow a small sheet of graph paper volunteered for page two of my novel and botched up the next sheet. Okay, open computer, pull out paper jam, check all one hundred sheets (no more graph paper) and start printing again. With my son’s help we soon had three piles of collated sheets for my novel submission. Then I pushed print again, unfortunately, just after looking at the time. It took me way too long to realize I had not chosen the correct printer, again, but I finally printed out my short story submission, my poetry submissions and three entry forms.

5) The clock was ticking and I quickly filled out the entry forms, and filled out four checks (because I tore one to pieces as I ripped it from the checkbook in my haste). I noticed a checklist on page two of the form. To still my beating heart, I started ticking off the items on the list, just to affirm I had remembered everything. I had memorized the entire guidelines, so I was pretty confident. You’re right, I hadn’t noticed that they asked for colored sheets of paper to separate the three copies of each submission. OOPS. I have children, so normally this shouldn’t have been a big deal. Could I find colored paper when I needed it in a hurry? Of course not! Looking at the time, I had to admit defeat. It was now 4:30 and nearing rush hour, no way would I get everything done, and I still had my friend’s submission to drop off. My girls rushed down with their backpacks, oh yeah, I had to drop them off too, lucky the phone was charged. My husband remained nearby doing anything he could to help, but mainly gaining unearned dirty looks. He interjected that I should call ahead, if nothing else to tell them I am on my way. It normally takes around forty minutes to drive out there, but this was rush hour, so anything goes. Well, he was right. I called the office and the president herself answered, offering kindly to leave a box out for me if I am running late. Tears threatened to fall, the sun came out, I took a full breath and my girls rushed in with a pack of construction paper. We trimmed each piece with scissors and I worried it was unprofessional, but what could I do, at this point it seemed ridiculous to return to the office supply store for letter sized color paper. By five o’clock we were on our way. My phone whispered perfect directions in my ear, my girls kept me company, and we got to drive in the express lane! We got there in thirty five minutes and received a big smile, and a slow careful overview of our submissions to be assured everything was there. On the table, was a stack of construction paper, in case we hadn’t noticed, and a jar of paper clips. Done!

6) We stopped at a quirky toy store, found a magical Unicorn

family silhouette

It takes a community to deliver a contest submission on time!

and Pegasus priced within budget, My phone still had power and we received smiles from everyone we met, Finally, we ventured back to the city, for their sleepover and my thank you’s to my boys.
There are many morals in this story, but reading the fine print is a good one, as well as calling ahead before giving up. If I did not have my friend’s submission I might have simply surrendered. This time I did not push send, but I pushed print and delivered my work out into the world! Yaaay!

Just one little word about my writing group, the Pacific Northwest Writing Association.(PNWA). So far everyone I have met has been positive, supportive and happy to be helping out other writers. The group has an impressive array of interesting speakers, editors, authors, publishers and agents in their monthly meetings which are recorded and free for members. The Writer’s Cottage is a lovely haven of use to newly published authors for author signings and it is a gathering place for review groups . The spectacular aspect to their competitions, however is that you are provided with a two page critique for each entry It is the only such contest I have ever heard of, and it means that every participant will be a winner.

The End.

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