When Life is Full of Validation and a Lot of Tea

So, remember that time I wrote a slightly inspirational, depressing entry about being an unpublished writer? Well, turns out the thing I was being emo over was a misunderstanding on my part when I looked at the website. A week or so after posting my emo entry, I got an email telling me I’d progressed to stage two.

About a month later, I got an email telling me I was one of 13 finalists.

And yesterday, I got a call. It went something like this:

Me: [at work] Huh, phone number I don’t have. Weird. *click* Hello?
Woman: Hello, I’m calling from The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. We’re excited to let you know you won third place in our Prize in Ethics!
Woman: [stuff about the honor, things, trip to meet the founder, etc.]
Me: [crying a little quietly. Concerned coworker isn’t sure if someone has died or if I am happy but I’m too shocked to smile.]
Woman: So congratulations again!

Then there was much rejoicing. And shock. And calling my mom. And my mom screaming. And calling my professor. And a lot of excitement. And then I posted a status on Facebook and got 87 likes (a personal record–I’m still hoping it’ll go up to 100). And then I ordered pizza and watched cartoons to celebrate.

I cannot begin to say how surprised and honored I am. This essay would not exist without so much help from my good friends and writing mentors–and especially not without my professor’s prompting and guidance. As someone who 1) Didn’t know what creative non-fiction was until last semester, 2) Never thought that creative non-fiction would be something she’d like to do/be good at and 3) Was convinced for a long time she sucked at essays as a general rule, I’m flabbergasted. And really encouraged. And really excited. And really into using the word really.

More to come on that.

Tonight was Honors Convocation at Berry. I knew I was getting an award, and had a pretty good idea which one it’d be. But I was still really happy when I got called up for the Eleanor B. North Award in Creative Writing (for “the student showing the most promise in creative writing”). I am always plagued with the feeling that everything I write isn’t lyrical or interesting enough to be good.

President Briggs leaned in while he shook my hand and said, “Congratulations–I know you’ve worked hard for this.”

I’d say that’s almost an under-exaggeration! Since coming to Berry, I’ve completed one full, 80,000 word manuscript (and completely edited it and submitted it to agents, the whole shebang, before deciding to let it sit and wait), written another 70,000 word manuscript, written about 60,000 words for a third manuscript, and completed+done intense revision for my most recent 75,000 word manuscript. That’s approximately 720 pages of creative work alone, not counting my numerous workshops or academic writing assignments.

But even with all the time I put into it, I wouldn’t be nearly as experienced as I feel I am without the help of numerous professors, but particularly my current creative writing professor, who I swear has taught me more in two semesters than I’ve learned in three years.

I know I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I’m excited to keep working. But it’s good to think about this week, put my hands on my hips, take a deep breath, and feel a little validated.

Also, after accepting my award I accidentally stood up at the wrong time with the wrong group of students during an acknowledgment part of the ceremony, and afterwards buried my head in my friend’s lap from embarrassment. So don’t worry, my natural talent for doing stupid stuff will keep me humble.


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