The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

So I Guess I’m a Semi-Finalist (The Thesis Blues–final?)

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I got word late last spring that the National Council of Teachers of English was again holding a writing contest for middle- and high-school teachers.  It was in conjunction with the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, which is a pretty swanky gig for the few writers who are accepted to it each year.  I’ve applied and been rejected in years past.  This is an annual contest anymore, and the genre changes each year.  I submitted fiction three years ago; this year the call was for creative nonfiction.  I happen to have a masters degree in CNF, and a pretty respected book-length piece of CNF that I might have written about in here in the past, so why not tee off?

So when I was out in Iowa last summer, which I may have written about herein, I dusted off the old thesis.  By “dusted off,” I mean that I edited the holy hell out of it to fit the requirements of the contest.  They’d take the equivalent of 40 double-spaced pages, and I totally maxed that out.  In the end, I had reduced the overall piece by 56%.  I pretty much re-branded the entire work, but was also forced to cut out most of the personal angle of the story and focus on my subject, Jim.  Still, I felt I had a pretty damn good story overall.  It was a labor of love to get back into the work that consumed my life six years ago and brush it up with skills I have developed in the time since then.  Turns out I had a lot of ways to ratchet the piece up and make it better.  That included writing a preface and finding chapter divisions with titles that pointed to themes.  I felt pretty good about it, which was about the 33rd time I’ve felt good about that writing from so long ago.

I had high expectations.  Like, winning the entire contest.  That would have meant a free trip to New York City, a ticket to the awards banquet, and some recognition I would have warmly embraced…  not to mention rubbing elbows and sipping cocktails with some highly regarded names in writing.  Why not Jeff Burd, huh?!  So I checked the results last week…  and it turns out I didn’t even make it to the finals.  Bummer.  But time spent writing (and rewriting…  and rewriting…) is never time wasted.  It was nice to be reminded of my experiences from 2008-09 and to work on a document that did more to build my writing chops than anything else I’ve written.  It was even nicer to see how that writer back then is a shadow of my current self.  I’ve come a long way because of my dogged determination to practice, practice, practice.  I love to practice.

Maybe next year.

Written by seeker70

October 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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