Monday, February 3, 2014

Beautiful Stories

Today, I want to write a little post for all of the Five Glass Slippers participants, both those who ended up with stories in the collection and those who did not. Just a few thoughts and reflections, hopefully for your encouragement.

Announcing the winners of this contest was, for me, tremendously exciting . . . and also rather sad. You see, I am a novelist. Which means I have an active imagination and a (possibly overly-developed) sense of empathy. I've also been in both the winning and the losing position of the publishing life.

Which means I could easily feel the emotion of those who saw their names listed that day . . . and I could just as easily feel the disappointment and even depression of those who did not.

It's so hard to write a story, to love a story, to put your whole heart into a story. And it's even harder to send it out for strange eyes to look over. And it's hardest of all to have decisions come back that aren't what you'd hoped for. That rejection letter. That list excluding your name. That award with some other story's title listed underneath it. It's easy to start feeling as though the problem is you. You, as the storyteller, aren't good enough.

But let me remind you, gentle reader, that writing a story is not about winning and losing. It's about writing a story. It's about love of those characters, love of those themes. It's about vulnerability and courage. It's about enjoyment of the language and the magic of expressing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations that exist purely in your reader's mind.

Remember--storytelling is very different from publishing. Publishing is a business. It's practical, unemotional, based on concrete numbers and a dash of instinct. It's about risk and investment.

Believe me, I see both sides of the equation. I've been on both sides of the equation. I've had work rejected by publishing houses because they felt it was too much of a risk for the market. I've also had work accepted because it struck a particular publisher as worth the risk. I've won awards because judges thought my story breathtakingly beautiful. I've lost awards because judges thought my story completely stank. (Same story! Seriously. And those judges who hated it posted nasty reviews all over the Internets expressing their hatred, which is beyond embarrassing! LOL.)

So, dear writers, believe me when I say I understand your joy at success and your disappointment at loss. And I felt invested in each writer who sent me a story. I felt a kinship. I know the courage it took for each and every one of you to put your heart on the line and submit a story, hoping to see it succeed, fearing it would not.

Remember this--you wrote a beautiful story. You wrote from your heart and to the best of your ability. That is a success! It may not have been a "winner," and it may not have been right for this particular publishing opportunity. But you wrote it.

So I want to make these little statements about some of the stories that didn't win . . .

There were two stories that made me cry. And neither of them made it into the collection.

There was one story that utterly grabbed me by the eyeballs and fastened me to the screen so that I couldn't look away until I saw how it turned out. And it didn't make it into the collection.

There was one story that I read so quickly and kept trying to scroll down to find more because I didn't want it to be over. And it didn't make it into the collection.

There were five stories that had me laughing so hard my sides hurt. And they didn't make it into the collection.

There were three stories that took my breath away with their three very different presentations of magic, demonstrating creativity I had never before seen . And they didn't make it into the collection.

There were four stories that felt so authentic to the time period presented, I could have believed the authors lived and walked in those times. And they didn't make it into the collection.

There were four stories of such unique genres, I could hardly get over the authors' cleverness at fitting them into the Cinderella storyline. And they didn't make it into the collection.

There was one story that I and two of the other readers would (if pressed) possibly have named our very favorite of the whole contest. And it did not make it into the collection.

There were thirteen stories that I tried so hard to fit into a collection meant for five, shuffling around to find the perfect combination. But no matter what I did, eight of those stories could not fit, so they didn't make it into the collection.

All that to say, dear writers, there were only five winners. But that did not mean that the rest of you did not succeed! You wrote wonderful stories. You wrote beautiful, hilarious, powerful, fascinating stories that ultimately reflect the beautiful, hilarious, powerful, fascinating people you are. I felt as though I got to know a little bit of your hearts as I read your work, and I thank you for that opportunity.

Keep writing! Keep supporting and encouraging one another. Keep loving those tales and those characters, enjoying the gift that is your personal creativity. And in this way you will be a winner. A conqueror of worlds.


Unknown said...

Thank you, Anne Elisabeth, for the kind words! I wanted to tell you that my parents, who supported me all the way through the contest, have inspired me to write a fairytale retelling for them, a picture book or novella. It combines their two favorite fairytales, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. So this contest inspired me to write TWO stories, both of which I love dearly. : )

Tracey Dyck said...

Thank you for the beautiful words of encouragement, Ms. Stengl! This post is appreciated. :)

Unknown said...

<3 <3 <3 Anne Elisabeth, I feel as though you've reached through the computer screen and given me a huge bear hug. This post is absolutely beautiful, and full of such truth. Thank you for sharing how this contest has affected you and how beauty is in the "eye" of the experiences stories offer to the reader.

Meredith said...

Mrs. Anne Elisabeth, this is such a very beautiful and encouraging post. Thank you so much. I love the emphasis upon how everyone is a success. I have been inspired to rework my favorite submission, "Eleanora's Quest," possibly embellishing more on certain points and fleshing out my favorite character from that story. Thank you. I've also had a few ideas for "Pamela Pumpkin," mainly the idea of looking into alternate POV'S. This might necessitate a whole new title change, but that's the beauty of creativity, isn't it? On that note, is it possible to look into your editing service?

Now you've made me want to read every single story that was submitted! So, everyone, please don't throw those Cinderella tales away! I beg you all to polish them and never give up. God bless. This post really came at a great time.

Hannah said...

Thank you so, so, so much, Anne Elisabeth! Your understanding and encouragement warmed me straight to my toes. Now I want to read all the stories! I'm really looking forward to the next contest. :D

Anna said...

Thank you! :D Although I was a little disappointed I didn't win, I was relieved too. Since I'm plowing through my second semester at community college as a fourteen-year-old, I was wondering how--if I did win--trying to do all that publishy stuff would work out with school. I'm also planning on expanding my novella because I felt like so much was missing. :) When I finished the first draft, it was 5,000 words over the limit. I had to cut sooooo much. Already, I can see God's grace in His deciding not to let me win. :)

Thanks again for this post! I'm SUPER excited for the next contest!!! :D

Chelsey said...

Thanks so much for this! I decided far in advance that if I did not win that it was ok because this contest made me go out of my comfort zone as a writer. I am a very short-attention span writer, most of my stories average 1,000 words. So to write a story that had to be a minimum of 5,000 words was a great experience for me. Thanks again and can't wait for the next contest!

Emily said...

Wonderful post! So inspiring! I didn't end up entering this contest because I had too much on my plate, but I'm looking forward to the next one. Hopefully I'll have more time! I wish there was some way I could read these stories, they all sound soooo amazing!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Truly warmed my heart.

Jenelle said...

:) thank you, Anne Elisabeth, for your kind words.

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Thank you for this. And I want to thank you again for hosting the competition, because I enjoyed the whole process. I wrote a story that I loved writing and I enjoyed the experience of submitting it. If it hadn't been for this contest, the little half-formed seed of an idea that had been lingering in my mind for a while might never have become a full-fledged story.

But of course you know you're driving us wild with curiosity now, don't you? Not only do we wonder if our stories were the ones that made you laugh, cry, etc., now we envy you for getting to read all of them! :)

Jenelle said...

Thank you for the contest. I almost didn't enter. After all, I had just moved with my husband to start a new pastorate. I have three little girls who keep me on my toes. But the last week of December was pivotal for me. My sister and I drove to the post office to mail in the submission form. I had only one page completed of my story. I debated even mailing the form in. But my sister reminded me that I would never forgive myself if I didn't try. She was right. And believe me, my resolve was tested at every turn. We all got the flu that week. Still, I wrote and dreamed and wrote some more. And I pounded out that story even when I thought I couldn't. What a week! What joy and a rush to finish something! Now I realize that all the excuses holding me back from trying were just that....excuses. I learned so much from this contest. It was worth it no matter the result. And my husband is buying me a computer so I can write every day :)

Therru Ghibli said...

Thank you so much for this post! I actually found submitting my stories and simply being apart of the contest a treat! I can't wait for the next one!

Emily Chapman said...

This was beautiful. Truly beautiful.

I did not enter the contest, though I considered it. I'm really excited for the release of this collection, however! Especially since my dear Rachel Heffington's story shall be in it. :)

Oh, I also heard rumors that you were planning another similar contest. Is that so, or is it all hush-hush at the moment? ;)

::hugs in Christ::

Rebekah said...

Anne Elisabeth ... thank you. You justy p[osted exactly what God has been telling me ever since I began the story I sumitted (which, didn't win.) o it feels good to have more than just HIm saying it. ;)

@Anna: What you said, about going back and fixing up your novella, is just what I was going to say! I looked over my novella a few days before the winners were announced, and I thought:"Good heavens! Did I REALLY cut THAT out?!?"

Rebecca said...

I didn't get to enter this contest, and it broke my fairy-tale loving heart. (Working full-time in the summer and then transitioning into my first semester of college spelled doom for my submission.) Yet thank you for this post. It is a great reminder for me about the reason I write at all. It's been a tough year as far as my writing has been concerned. I've had time to do nothing but crank out essay after essay. Your words were an encouragement as I journey through this obstacle-laden region of the writerly experience.

And although I didn't actually get to finish anything, I walk away with FIVE new story ideas that would never have come to me if I hadn't spent time trying to complete a submission.

Thank you, Anne Elisabeth, for your support and encouragement of the young and aspiring!

Anonymous said...

Aw, thanks for the lovely words, Anne Elisabeth!! It's always nice to know my stories aren't a complete waste! I truly enjoyed this contest, and had some cousins and aunts (and my mom) who enjoyed editing my story, :). Your decision to launch the Five Glass Slippers contest, spurred forward my decision to write a Cinderella story, which I'm glad I did!
So thank-you for caring! :)


Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Emily, who asked if there was going to be another contest--YES! There absolutely is! This one was too much fun for us not to repeat the experience. And we have plans to make this next one better than the last! It'll be another fairy tale, but the details are secret until June 1. :)

And to the rest of you--I wish I had the time to write each and every one of you a personal note telling you how much I enjoyed your stories and which bits I liked best! But you may just assume yours was one that made me laugh/cry/gasp, etc. Because it probably did! :)

Molly said...

I loved writing my story so much. I was so excited about the whole contest, when the winners were announced I basically freaked out. My dearest friend Clara had made it! I wanted to say (for randomness' sake) that I was not disappointed when I didn't make it, I was just really happy for everyone else.
But my favorite part of all, was this post, reading how much you enjoyed the stories.

Unknown said...

Now I sure feel disappointed I didn't get to read the other ones you mentioned. They sound remarkable. :) Particularly the ones that made you cry.

Rachael said...

Dear Anna Elisabeth,

Thank you so much for your post. As another very clever person has already put - you said what God has been teaching me through this - that it's okay not to be the winner all the time (perfectionist self always believes that it must have been failure on my part).
But your words were like an email hug (trying right now not to try as I write this at the train station)... and I'm totally going to pretend some of those comments were about mine.
God bless,