Last month, I was named one of the winners of a creative writing contest at my college. They selected five pieces and I was the fifth. It was awesome. It was unexpected.
I don’t usually put myself out there. Well, okay, yes, you are reading this blog which is expressly my inside thoughts being put out there. But this is different. This a conversation. It’s not a story I invented and crafted and refined. I made a world and told its tale. A good enough story to be held up along with four other very, very well crafted works.
They asked me to read from it, which I had forgotten about until I got the email letting me know I was one of the winners. For some reason, reading something I wrote in front of people is way scary. And I say this having had many years of improv experience! I’d take pretending to be a lizard that is also a lawyer over reading a short essay I wrote any day. One thing is playing in public. The other is sharing a secret conversation you had with yourself.
The reading went fine and I chatted with folks after the ceremony. One of the committee members approached me and said how much he enjoyed some choices I had made and I thanked him. I confessed that part of me was still detached from the whole experience. “I’m still getting over that adult people read this and liked it.” I said, blushing furiously. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that it was a student committee. That idea was really comforting. But the committee was all faculty. The teacher sort of laughed at me and said something like, “Yes, adult people read these.” Embarrassing. But hey. That’s on brand for me.
There was another experience with a writing contest I had when I was much younger. I’m talking like 5 or 6. I knew I liked to tell stories and had learned about a small writing conference at a college near by where we lived. I boasted to my teacher that I was planning on going to it. She asked me to report back.
Things went awry. That was many years ago, so the details are fuzzy. But there was family conflict and at the end of it I wasn’t going anywhere. The feeling of disappointment and shame are still attached to the memory, though probably mostly because of my actions afterwards.
The teacher asked me about how the conference went. There was a writing contest for the young age bracket that I had planned to enter. The true story of what happened wasn’t what I wanted to share. So instead I informed my teacher that I had won third place, if my memory serves me, “of pretty much the whole thing”.
Oh, little Lauren.
My teacher was excited and we informed the class. But when I struggled to explain what I had written, she was on to me. My mother was called and came up to the school and I burst into tears when the truth was revealed. The phrase “very disappointed” was tossed about. I sobbed about not wanting to share about the family fight and not knowing what to do and the situation revealed itself to be more complicated, much to my mother’s chagrin.
A sad experience, true. But it didn’t stop me from writing. I continued to invent worlds to adventure in. Places to spend my time. While the root of all this may lie in childhood escapism in its purest form, the stories I create now are like little vacations in my brain. This story that was selected for the contest is a pretty shining example of that. It’s a girl with an ordinary life that takes a turn for the dramatic and unusual. A common tale, though laid out on an uncommon path.
The story selected for the contest was actually based on a dream I had. It was so vibrant and real. I tried my best to document it. I tried to take the reader there into my dream. I’ve gone on some really terrific adventures in my dreams! I’ve joked that my subconscious is the greatest author I’ve ever known.
I have so many other stories I could tell. Stories from my waking mind. There’s no one stopping me from telling them, now. No one other than myself. If this win meant anything, it’s that my secret conversations need to end up on paper. I should tell them if for no other reason than to give someone else the chance to come along with me to some other place. A place that no one can bar them from.
Off I go.