Thursday, April 16, 2009

Motherhood, novel writing contests, and timing

Timing is everything. On the same week I came back to work from a three month maternity leave, my novel, The Truth About Dating, advanced to the quarterfinalists of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Out of 10,000 submissions, I made it to the top five percent. Winning the first round of that contest really took my mind off leaving my children behind to go to work. Over the next month, with the first three chapters of my novel posted on Amazon, 61 people wrote reviews. Some were by friends and family, but many were from strangers. I loved checking for new reviews and reading them. I started to believe that a day might come when I wouldn’t have to leave my children behind to go to work. I could envision a life where my work was upstairs, in my study, writing. I held on to that vision when my husband called me at work to tell me that our three month old son had rolled over (accidentally, of course), and when my 21 month old daughter wouldn’t let me kiss her hello when I came home in the evening.

Yesterday, Amazon announced the top 100 semifinalists and my name wasn’t on the list. A month ago, I celebrated my 41st birthday on a Sunday, went back to work on a Monday, found out I’d made the quarterfinalists on a Wednesday. And yesterday my roll in the contest was over. I was just a 41 year old mom who was back at work, leaving her kids behind for 42 ½ hours a week. I found out the news, and twenty minutes later I was at work, fitting hearing aids on a patient. I’m lucky to have the kind of job where I can lose myself in what I’m doing. I was so busy, fitting the aids and teaching my patient how to use them that I completely forgot about the contest until an hour later, when my patient walked out the door. I stayed busy all day, and didn’t allow myself any self pity until I started my walk home.

“I’ll just be sad for the ten minute walk,” I decided. I listened to Tori Amos through my MP3 player and indulged in a little self-pity. A few blocks from my house, I spotted my husband, walking toward me with my son and daughter. My daughter was toddling along, holding his hand. When she spotted me, she screamed with glee. Then she started running toward me. I thought of all the blessings I’ve had this year. I birthed a healthy baby. I and my family are healthy. Bush and Cheney are out of the White House. Pallin is not in the White House. In the middle of an enormous economic crisis, my and my husband’s jobs are secure. I wouldn’t trade any of these things for winning the Amazon contest. Which doesn’t mean I wasn’t terribly disappointed, but sometimes it helps to put things into either/or compartments in my head. I turned off my depressing music and picked up speed as I headed toward my family. When I reached my daughter, I bent down to pick her up. She pulled her head away from my kiss and started to cry, reaching out her hands toward my husband, saying, “Daddy. Daddy up.”

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