Monday, May 11, 2009

And the winner is?

Winning. It is an interesting concept. What does it mean? Could it be that the term is relative? Could it be that each of us has our own, personal definitions of winning, or is it a universal kind of a term? Perhaps it is all wrapped up in culture....

In America, we have a very certain idea of what it means to win. There are even rules and regulations on how we enter in any kind of contest, and if those rules are broken we can take the win away altogether. What power! How many "cheaters" win everyday and remain unexposed and therefore unworthy of the win? Is is bad form to expose them? I think so. I think we all cheat at things all the time and when we expose the cheaters we are sore losers on one plane or another. I did it yesterday. Weak, weak, weak and very just, by the way. And now... now I feel bad. Like an anti- winner. Like the un winner of all time. Loser is not a big enough word.

So what contest am I speaking of? I will explain further down the page. First we need to define the idea of "the contest." Wars are contests. Games of all kinds. These are not subtle. A contest is a contest, of course. But what about those hidden contests? Gardening, clothing, teenagering, living. Who is the better parent? Who has the lusher lawn? Who is skinnier? Who is wittier. What book wins the prize? As Americans we make contests out of everything. Everything is a dare. This mindset is what brought us where we are, it spurred on a revolution, it gave us our nation. But.... we can't seem to get past it. Some of us try buddhism... I know I do. I am not a buddhist or anything, I am catholic. But I do try to lessen my competitive nature. Why? Because we can't always win, and I know my flaws, and one of them is being a very sore loser. When I was little, if there was even a chance that I would lose a game of Chinese checkers or Monopoly, or Clue, I would simply flip the board. That was that. I didn't even care about the clean up.

I have to admit there are many ways that I have grown. I understand the value of coming in last. Bearing and then raising my kids has given me humility and I hope the value of grace. I can breathe deep and admit that all sorts of people do all sorts of stuff better than I do. I try not to go in that dangerous opposite direction that some do when they exercise the skill of humility. I try not to get overly self deprecatory... all that does is explain to the world that you are either extremely insecure, or trying desperately to overcome your completely competitive and vain nature. I am neither insecure, nor willing to expose the other option, so I try to strike a balance.

In my writing, I hit delete a lot. I read back what I write and I try to figure out where I am being what I call "Indulgent." I practice the art of erasing myself. It is fun, but even that is a contest. A contest I am having with myself about how I can teach myself to be less competivie. Hmmmmmm.

So yesterday I found out I didn't win a tiny contest. I don't usually enter them because I don't like to lose and as I am teaching myself the art of myself, I can keep from losing if I don't enter. But.... I am trying to break into this publishing business and some agented and published authors are beginning to put little contests on their websites as a marketing tool. Brilliant. It compels us, those of us who are un agented and unpublished, to enter them... think about it. What if the entry is so good that it not only wins, but the author who ran it shows it to her agent and... and...! Yeah.

So when I posted my own entry and re-read it I knew I didn't win. I knew it because there was a huge typo, and also, I read some others and realized (using every zen bone in my body) that many were better and so be it. But I was curious to see who won, so I went back when it was judged.

The winner broke the rules. The entry was supposed to be 75 words, and the winning one was 114 words. I know because my game flipping self went unchecked, and I cut and pasted it into word to find out. Yuck. THEN when I found out that it was an unjust win, I thought for exactly 1 second before I posted, nicely because I have learned the art of manipulation, that though the entry was brilliant, it was 114 words by the way. I also lied and said I wasn't a sore loser. Which I am, only not so much that particular contest because I knew my chances were small.

Why did I expose the error? Because that is what most of us do. When we are, like six years old. Here is what I think. I think that I have been really lucky. I wrote a book. I am almost done with my second book. I have agents interested in book number one and I have read that even a bit of interest is not the norm, and yet.... I still haven't won the competition in my own head because the rules of the game that I created insist that the win is being published. Anything else is the dreaded honorable mention. So my theory of why I spoiled the fun and wrecked the contest is that I am in a bad mood over the whole damn process.

What is my resolution? Nothing. The only thing I can do is try harder to keep track of my insane need for justice in a decidedly unjust world. It is all we can ever do, when we think we have made a mistake. All we can do is decide to try not to make it again.

One qualifier to all of this: It is sometimes very important to be the tattle tale. Some injustices are so horrible that it is heroic to point out the wrong, or flip the board.... but there is a social rule to that one as well. It has to do with harm. If any one is ever harming anyone or anything else, this idea of keeping quiet turns into cowardice. One must always expose harm. Always.

But when there is no harm, there is no foul, and in the case of my tiny tantrum, I behaved badly. And in case you are wondering, karma got me anyway. The author/blogger did in fact give the prize to someone else, and I feel bad, and I hate feeling bad. But the thing that made me really giggle, I mean giggle and look up into the sky and say "thank you for the lesson in humility," is that she mentioned me in the reason why she was changing the winner. She mentioned that " Sharon politely pointed out..." Sharon? Yeah. The whole idea was being noticed, right? In the end, I couldn't even get noticed by exposing the injustice. Lesson completely learned. Crazy.

And now? Over and out from the time out chair.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hey, don't be so hard on yourself! I mean really, what kind of an idiot post rules to a contest then doesn't follow them? And you did point it out very politely, as opposed to someone else who shall remain Anonymous because THEY didn't have the guts to put their name on their little rant.

    Next time, the rules to my contest will be as follows:

    1. There is no word limit. However, the one and only judge has a notoriously short attention span. Consider brief and pithy to be to your advantage.

    2. All judging shall be biased and subjective, dependent on the mood I am in at the time I read your entry. Since this is also the way most people buy books, you might as well get used to it now.

    Please note that my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I type these rules. Had a blast with the contest, have now corrected the results, and I do hope you'll join in when I get the guts to do it again, because my agent does indeed read my blog, almost certainly read the winning entries, and has the memory of an elephant savant. Write something she liked and I almost guarantee she'll remember your name when you query her. Unlike me, who typed Sharon, then went back to make sure that was right, then fixed it and put Suzanne, but apparently not before you read the damn thing.

    Kari Dell

  3. LOL. I feel your pain. I'm glad you pointed the error out.

    I actually had a judge of a large manuscript contest say that she was sorry that I hadn't won because in actuality, I had and the contest was rigged. She resigned because of it.

    In all sincerity, I never expect to win, so it doesn't bother me to lose. The stats regarding the likelihood of being published are so low, I just consider it like I would a lottery win--I'm hopeful, but not expecting it to happen. I have a great agent, so that's enough for now. As they say, "You can't win if you don't enter," so I just keep plodding along waiting for my winning ticket. If it doesn't happen on this manuscript, maybe it will on the next one.

    Chin up. It's rough out there, but it gets easier. :)

  4. Suzanne,
    I feel horrible to cause you so much anguish. I didn't read the rules as well as I should have. I really, really didn't mean to cheat the contest, I totally missed the word count in the rules. If it makes you feel any better yours is one of the ones I really liked.

  5. All! Thanks so much for reading my post! I think it was a REALLY good lesson for me. And I love a puzzle. I hope to enter many more and to be a much, much better sport. I am also so happy to have put my toes into this writing community. I feel at home with all of you.