Back in college, when I first began to write, I entered contests. I was new to the idea that I COULD write, and one of my instructors advised me to enter the college essay contest. I won an honorable mention, was invited to a reading, and elicited a few chuckles from the audience with my piece on gossip.
I was hooked.
I went on to win a few awards in UofM writing contests, always for essays. Then I joined the working world – as a writer for an engineering company – and the time and inclination to enter writing contests ended.
Nearly 20 years later, I watch friends in my age group die suddenly from heart attacks, suffer through cancer ordeals, and struggle through other horrific life changing events, and I have to ponder that age-old question about the meaning of life, or more specifically, the meaning of MY life.
What happened to my goals and aspirations as a writer? When will I write that novel? or that book of poems? When will I take time to write anything at all?
I’m part of writing groups on LinkedIn, I read Brain Pickings, I read daily numerous emails announcing newsletters and updates to writing sites. Finally, one caught my eye. I received an email from Writers’ Digest about new writing contests. Eureka! I’ll start entering contests, which will provide me with some incentive to write. Contests provide motivation: I love a challenge. They provide guidelines and goals: I can never decide WHAT I want to write about. Back in school, I loved getting a new essay assignment. As those around me groaned, I relished being told what to write and having a deadline, to boot.
For my first contest in nearly 20 years, I chose the Fish short memoir contest. The only actual pleasure writing I’ve done
in the past few years is to write genealogical biographies of some of my ancestors and close relatives of the past generation. I also wrote my dad’s obituary last year. The memoir contest is a good fit.
Everyone must have a memoir. Not an autobiography. Too many rules. Too much adherence to fact, to structure, to convention. A memoir gives licence – to interpret, to create, to fabricate, to make sense of a life, or part of that life. Go for it! Write a piece of your life, send it to Fish. Who knows, it might be published.
I entered two essays. The judging takes place next month. Wish me well!