I like surprises—but it has to be a good surprise. I don’t want to hear the dog just stole my son’s burrito and hid it in the clean clothes pile…or someone stole my bike again. Those kind of surprises are detrimental to my health, raising my blood pressure.
As a writer, I get surprised any time I submit a story or novel for publication. Anticipation builds as I wait for an answer. The publishing industry is overcrowded, too many writers competing for too few spots, so the response time could be six months after submitting a story. Sometimes I’ve gotten a response in a week, but usually I wait over two months, checking my email and snail mail with persistent hope every, uh-hum, two minutes. Too much anticipation isn’t fun. When I least expect it, a reply glows from my inbox of a thousand emails not yet deleted. My hope waivers from “Maybe it’s a yes and they loved my story and can’t wait to publish it” to “It’s got to be another rejection.”
I know it’s a no if the letter begins with a “thank you for submitting your story.” I don’t have to read any further; it’s not going to be a good surprise day. A “but” is coming. A week ago I had a double surprise of two stories not placing in a top literary journal contest. The emails started with a thank you. You’re welcome.
Yesterday I almost choked on my Raisin Bran as I saw my name next to 2nd Place in the Best of the Best Faithwriters contest. I hit a grand slam homerun—a good surprise day! Of course after the excitement wore off, my next thought slipped to pessimism. “What if people read it and think it’s ridiculous? It didn’t deserve to win.” I have to bounce back and remember the judges liked it enough to paste a ribbon to it…and that’s a good thing. Now I won’t have to pretend it doesn’t bother me that I didn’t win on my birthday of all days. I did win a place right next to the 1st place author I’ve admired since I started writing for Faithwriters. That’s a pleasant surprise. I’ll have to cling to that until the next response arrives. Or I could focus on the blessings in my life—my preferred option to moping.
After all, where does winning a writing award or getting published fall on my life importance scale? Not too high. Someday I’ll meet God and my earthly awards won’t matter—only the heavenly awards will remain. The best surprises I’ve encountered in my life were not related to writing: “It’s a boy!” four times and “It’s a girl” once. Those were good days.
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward everyone according to what they have done. Matthew 16:27
It’s refreshing to realize God won’t care if my rejection letters outweigh my acceptance ones. He has his own judging scale and surprises beyond what I can imagine.
********Links to Francy's "Best of the Best" Faithwriter's contest stories: