Saturday, June 28, 2008

I demand a recount!

Here's the deal:
All day long I've been thinking about this open mic contest. (The rules: drop your name and a buck in a bowl; if your name is called, you get to read your writing. More bucks means more chances to be called. Best writing wins by popular and secret vote. Wins the money, too.) Practiced my reading. I knew, just knew my name was gonna be called. And I'm gonna win, too, I knew. All day long.

I dolled up. Straightened my hair (the first time since the QRB panel). Even put on a little bit of makeup. (I didn't even do that for Andre!)

The first on line, I slapped five bills on the table and took five name tickets, scribbling my name w/ a shaky hand on each one. As prospective competitors purchased their name tickets, I watched as some put down ten, twenty dollars. Hmmm... this was going to be a challenge. So I listened to my gut and purchased two more. Seven was a lucky number, after all. Especially for me, being the seventh child. But, being a twin, I was also born second. More on that in a moment.

The first two names drawn were the twenty-dollar people. And the reader was an experienced voice-specialist, for lack of a better word. She knew how to use the mic, what to emphasize where, and so on.

And then Stacey called my name.
I laughed. Of course my name was called. I knew it.

I went to the podium and was surprisingly nervous. Thank goodness they couldn't see my ankles shaking. I tried to keep my voice from wavering, but I didn't read as well as I wanted to. Then again, that's me and my perfectionism coming out, probably.

My excerpt was well-received (read an excerpt from my second novel). Four more readers were selected, and no one was bad. I had competition, for sure. If I wasn't voting for me, I'm not sure who I would've voted for. They were all quite impressive.

We voted on slips of blue paper and turned them in. I wasn't so certain anymore, but I knew I still had a good chance.

I didn't win.

Later, when a bunch of us convened at Tripps, Stacey nudged me and congratulated me. "You came in second," he said. "By one vote."

One vote!!! (Well, two, actually. One more would've tied it.)

It felt good, actually. I originally didn't want to know how I ranked for fear that I would've been dead last. It made me feel even better when several came up to me afterwards and said, "I thought you had it locked up."

But here's the thing: I can't help but wonder if that little shade of doubt that crept in had anything to do w/ it. We say our actions follow our thoughts. If I had just kept saying, And I'm gonna win, too, would I have? Years and years ago, when I traced back the patterns of my life, I noticed that I had a lot of seconds: Second violin, first chair. First violin, second chair. Second level and grade, NYSSMA (a music recital from grade school); second place trophies in soccer. Understudy for the lead role in the school play. And so on. And I wondered if this had anything to do w/ my birth pattern, being born second. And I've wanted to break the pattern ever since discovering it. I'm not sure how well I've succeeded, especially after tonight.

Now seriously, I don't want a recount. I'm not bitter. Second place is good -- I mean it, everyone's writing was terrific. Top notch. I'm willing to bet that all the tallies were close. To come in second and so close to winning is awesome. It's affirming. It just also makes me wonder...

Here's the more important thing: tonight I got an even better validation. With each of these events, and each of these opportunities to be a part of this community of writers (and I always say I'll go to Tripps for a minute or two, and wind up staying for a couple of hours, having a great time...), I feel more and more like I belong. Tonight I felt like more than "aspiring writer" -- I felt like an author. Totally rocks. I gave out and collected business cards, announced that Faking It was "coming soon" (gotta get that cover art done!), and met more really great people. It was just so affirming. (The chocolate peanut butter cake wasn't so bad either.) I'm just so grateful to Stacey, who has gone out of his way to be of service not only to me, but other writers, both professional and aspiring, and to QRB-- it's hands down becoming my favorite place to be in NC, the Caribou in Raleigh running a close second (sorry, Caribou -- I feel your pain! haha) and UNCW not far behind.

I can't wait for Faking It to be ready and for sale. My "getting aggressive" campaign is working. Lovingly, peacefully, allowingly. Thank you. Namaste.

But dammit, I really am gonna win next time.


Sarah said...

i always loved listening to you read in class - you're quite good, and if my classes were any sample, then i'd say you have a lot of practice. so don't get in your own head next time. win or lose.

and, now that you've scoped the crowed out a little, you'll be able to know ahead of time what pieces might be suitable (ie scenes from the first novel that might drop a few bombs).

and that way you can say, "here's a favorite scene from upcoming novel, soon to be published *cough* takemycard *cough* buyitnow *cough cough*."

The Purple Panda said...

Well gee, thanks. I love reading to an audience, actually, and I actually told myself to leave my ego at the door before I walked in the store. I'm sure it was fine. (and btw, I recommend you start practicing too, wink wink...)

And I think I chose well. It was a good excerpt to read -- short and funny and poignant all at the same time, and we only had 10 minutes. I'm not sure which excerpt I would use next time (I had considered the "adorable" scene from FI, of course), although you can be damn sure I'm thinking about it already, haha!

What was also nice was how many wanted to talk about the excerpt afterwards; told me that there was more to it than just the funny lines. I was touched that it spoke to them. Validating.

Next time I'm gonna pay people a buck to vote for me!!!

Stacey Cochran said...

I thought you did great, Elisa. I will say that I've administered four of these events now (between Raleigh and Wilmington), and the winning pieces each time have been the pieces that received the most laughs.

For a Live Open Mic Contest like this: short and funny seems to win.

At least that's what I've seen so far.

The Purple Panda said...

Thank you, Stacey! I appreciated that you took the time to tell me how I did last night.

These things are so much fun. :)

MitMoi said...

You did not betray ONE SHAKING appendage the whole time you were up there!

Next time - First place. Unless I read ... (practices positive thinking)

The Purple Panda said...

haha... thanks, Mit! And yeah, you've got to enter next time -- put in ten tickets!