It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this space opening the nonfiction challenge. For the longest, the challenge grid, as it was called then, opened on Tuesdays, so if I got a little behind because of life, I could always research and write my Tuesday posts while my kids were in school on Mondays. This thing I’m doing right now, typing on a deadline while I’m supposed to be putting my kindergartner down for the night (as he is waxing on about zombie dinosaurs and complaining of a loose tooth) is new and kind of thrilling. Will I make it? Will life delay the opening of this week’s challenge? Will I be killed by a zombie dinosaur in my sleep?
This is actually what writing pieces of flash creative pieces, especially mostly true stories, feels like to me. It’s hard for me to stay in a regular writing groove, so when I finally open a draft window to write, every single distraction flies through my window like a fireball. Will I make the challenge before it closes to submissions on Wednesday? Will it be my best stuff or will it be the best stuff I have on me right now? Then comes the major decision: do I submit it?
I have two what I call “forever stories”. Stories that I can tell over and over while finding new ways to tell them each time. The first is about my daughter Jordan and how she is overcoming her traumatic brain injury (overcoming is the wrong word, let’s go with adapting to its bullshit ways) and the second story is that of my paternal grandmother and how she was perfection in every way even through the Alzheimer’s that stole her from me. Over and over I’ve told one or a combination of both stories in the nonfiction competition with relative success. They are each so intimate and powerfully moving to me, the paper comes alive, it seems, as I type. Sometimes, when I have very little to say, but I still want to “get on the grid” I will pull one of those stories from my brain and coast on in.
But what about all the other things that have happened to me over the past four decades? Why am I not as skilled as getting those events onto the page? However darkly, I see the humor in my dissolved marriage, taking care of three kids, dating in the modern digital world. How come I can’t write about them as powerfully as I can my forever stories?
Because I don’t practice telling them, and therein lies the rub. When I whip something out for the challenge and submit it through our process an hour after hitting publish, shitty first draft be damned, what am I hoping will happen? A collection of oohs and aahs in my comments? A top three finish in the vote? A book deal (because obvs).
It won’t hurt for me to hold on to these essays I am not used to writing well. It definitely wouldn’t hurt for me to hit the yeah write coffeehouse for a little feedback on where I may have lost the reader. There can be only good in the revision process since yeah write isn’t going anywhere. There will be a challenge waiting for me when I know bringing my best stuff also means it’ll be the best in the challenge.
Maybe I’ll see you this week, maybe I won’t. But I’ll read and vote and learn from the others who had their revisions ready in time. It’s the courteous thing to do.
Nuts and bolts for this week’s nonfiction competition
- Optional prompt: how did you two meet?
- Word limit: 1,000 hard count. We raised it from 500 plus 100 words grace, so no more grace
- See this week’s kickoff post for more information
- Still confused? Email your favorite yeah write editor at email@example.com
- Click the blue button below to add your submission to the first round of the competition