Zambian Independence Day & A Conference Begins

I hate letting myself down, so I’m kind of grumpy right now because I feel like I let myself down. I had a hard time getting going this morning because I am still struggling with sinus stuff, but I did eventually get out to do the grocery shopping and then come home to start getting ready for the conference.

I also celebrated Zambia’s 50th birthday by picking out the national anthem by ear on my autoharp. Hopefully I can get it down well enough to play it on Sunday when we have our celebration. Fortunately it’s a pretty easy tune.

I ended up being in a big rush to leave, and I barely got to the university in time to check in before my first class started. I couldn’t get a parking space anywhere near the student center, so I parked on the far side of the dining hall, thinking at least I’d be close to where we had the dinner. Wouldn’t you know it–they had the dinner in the student center this year!

So anyway, the primary reason I signed up for today’s classes was to hear the keynote speaker. I went to her classes and although the content ended up not being at all what I expected, I did learn some valuable information.

After the second class we had the dinner. I followed what has become an established pattern for me. I walked into the room, scanned the tables and did not see anyone I knew. So, I walked up to an empty table at the front and waited to see who my table mates would be. Slowly, the table filled up. Two sweet ladies sat on my left. Two faculty members sat across the table. The seat on my right was the only one unoccupied when the organizer of the event ushered the keynote speaker into that spot.

It was not as much fun as you might think. I tried mightily to initiate and continue a conversation, and she answered my questions politely, but it was clear she would prefer to be left alone. The lady on my left, however, whose name I have already forgotten, was very interested to hear about my memoir and even wrote my name down so she could find my book in the bookstore. That made me feel a little better.

I was dreading the moment when the winners of the writers’ contest would be announced. I knew my chances were not good. That week before the deadline was the week that I was so, so sick, and my brain was hardly firing on all cylinders, or even any cylinders. I knew the story I came up with was crapulent, not to mention trite and lame, but I was unable to think of anything that wasn’t just as bad. I felt a little better about my essay. I wasn’t feeling well enough to do it justice in the time I had, but I didn’t think it sucked and I thought it might scrape into third place if I was really lucky. I wrote a poem that was so abysmally bad that I added two others that I wrote while not sick, in hopes that they might have a better chance.

I figured that poetry was probably the least popular category, so therefore maybe one of my three poems had a chance to place. In fact I wonder if there were more than five or six in total! The poetry prizes were announced first. One of my poems won second place and another won first (the two I wrote while in full possession of my faculties). So, the good news is that I will at least get back what I spent on entering the contest, and even a little of the cost of the conference. (I feel so guilty about spending money on conferences! But I really feel I need to go!)

The not-so-good news was that my essay didn’t place at all, which means I was really wrong about it being not crappy. It also means that I have nothing helpful to add to my resume. Don’t get me wrong–I am thrilled that my poems received recognition. But I’m not actually a poet. I’m a blogger and novelist who dabbles in poetry for fun because I just love words so much. I can’t put “placed in a poetry contest two years in a row” on my resume because if an editor sees that, he or she is going to think, “why are you trying to sell me a novel if you’re a poet?”

So that’s why I feel like I let myself down. I feel like I should have knocked myself out working on my entries in the summer when I had a little more time and was not deathly ill, and then maybe I might have produced something worthwhile.

At least I can be happy for the people who did win. Truly. I did not know any of the essay winners, but the story winner was a writing acquaintance of mine and in fact when I knew she had entered I thought it quite likely that she would win. Her story was also the grand prize winner. I know she’s a pro and I’m sure she earned it and I can’t wait to congratulate her tomorrow.

I came home and put my feet up and did a breathing treatment because I’m still struggling with respiratory issues and in fact was coughing a lot today in class. Good thing I thought to stock up on cough drops. I’m determined to make the most of tomorrow and just focus on how to improve from here. It’s just a really good thing that when I sat down to write my first book ten years ago, I had no idea how much discouragement lay ahead of me. . . .

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