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The Power of Cheese Grits

June 23, 2010

Notable News from a Year Ago, June 23, 2009: A week after my win at Author! Author! I’m still reveling in the sweet spoils of victory.

You thought it was about the prose and it was really about the polenta.

A week ago, nay, only seconds after I had completed last week’s entry, something happened in my writing career that has never happened before — something that, for the briefest of moments, almost convinced me to scratch what I had written and craft something else entirely.  The email from Anne Mini of the Author! Author! blog looked foreign in my inbox and my feelings about it even more extraterrestrial.  But the fact of the matter is: I’ve done it.  At last.  Seven years after beginning this, I’ve placed first in a writing contest.

Granted, the competition for this award probably wasn’t as stiff as some of the others but, at the same time, I have to say “The Words Not Written” was potent unlike any contest entry that came before it, even the much heralded (at least in these pages) “How to Change the World”.  I wouldn’t have been able to write “The Words Not Written” without having written “How to Change the World” first — that was when the authorial breakthrough occurred — but it stands on its own for one reason and one reason alone.

The Author! Author! Contest, which I heard about only a month ago and whose blog I have been reading only since December of 2008, included no monetary reward and, as such, was the first contest of that nature that I’ve entered in years, maybe even ever.  Previous to this, a Contest didn’t rank if there wasn’t at least a $1000 first place award affixed, and therefore perhaps at least a $250 award for third — you know, just a little dough for my troubles.  And yet, the moment I put cash prizes second (nay — cash wasn’t even in the same friggin’ zip code when I wrote “The Words Not Written”!) I produce my best work, and accomplish a major goal.

Must be some profound lesson in that.  I’ll spare you the ignominy of spelling it out.

What I will tell you is that, even after I had written and submitted “The Words Not Written”, I wondered what people would take away from it.  It’s an intricate essay; full of layered meanings and surprising trapdoors like foxholes; tongue-in-cheek sarcasm that could be mistaken for humor; an offhand reference to my passion for cheese grits (among other things); and, I hoped when I wrote it, an unmistakable truth that shone through at the end like a ray of light from the heavens.

Yes, I wondered what would happen when people read my essay, what they would think, what they would say.  Yes — even before I learned that I had won — I had a feeling for what that something would be.  It wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be the unmistakable truth, because the essay was written from an insider’s perspective, with inside jokes and references to things non-publishing types could care less about.  Some would get it undoubtedly but not most, and, from my family not many at all, if any.  So, assuming readers liked it, or felt the energy in it, there would have to be something for them to latch on to, a common denominator that resonated much longer than slick prose and heady allusion.  Call it the Everyman Denominator, and I knew what it was from the beginning.

Cheese grits.  When it was all said and done, I figured the only thing people would remember about me, and about my essay, was the fact that I loved cheese grits.

It’s only been a week but one of the comments from the readers of Anne Mini’s blog made reference to this, and my wife’s aunt sent email congratulations that make me shiver at the thought of the gaylords of cheese grits that I will have to endure the next time I visit New York.  I love cheese grits but damn!  I’m afraid now for whatever remains of my capacity to digest dairy products.

So what’s the lesson here?  The lesson here is that writing is not about the money; it’s about the food.  As long as I know the secret now I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but boy am I ever going to miss cheese grits.

d last week’s entry, something happened in my writing career that has never happened before — something that, for the briefest of moments, almost convinced me to scratch what I had written and craft something else entirely.  The email from Anne Mini of the Author! Author! blog looked foreign in my inbox and my feelings about it even more extraterrestrial.  But the fact of the matter is: I’ve done it.  At last.  Seven years after beginning this, I’ve placed first in a writing contest.

Granted, the competition for this award probably wasn’t as stiff as some of the others but, at the same time, I have to say “The Words Not Written” was potent unlike any contest entry that came before it, even the much heralded (at least in these pages) “How to Change the World”.  I wouldn’t have been able to write “The Words Not Written” without having written “How to Change the World” first — that was when the authorial breakthrough occurred — but it stands on its own for one reason and one reason alone.

The Author! Author! Contest, which I heard about only a month ago and whose blog I have been reading only since December of 2008, included no monetary reward and, as such, was the first contest of that nature that I’ve entered in years, maybe even ever.  Previous to this, a Contest didn’t rank if there wasn’t at least a $1000 first place award affixed, and therefore perhaps at least a $250 award for third — you know, just a little dough for my troubles.  And yet, the moment I put cash prizes second (nay — cash wasn’t even in the same friggin’ zip code when I wrote “The Words Not Written”!) I produce my best work, and accomplish a major goal.

Must be some profound lesson in that.  I’ll spare you the ignominy of spelling it out.

What I will tell you is that, even after I had written and submitted “The Words Not Written”, I wondered what people would take away from it.  It’s an intricate essay; full of layered meanings and surprising trapdoors like foxholes; tongue-in-cheek sarcasm that could be mistaken for humor; an offhand reference to my passion for cheese grits (among other things); and, I hoped when I wrote it, and unmistakable truth that shone through at the end like a ray of light from the heavens.

Yes, I wondered what would happen when people read my essay, what they would think, what they would say.  Yes — even before I learned that I had won — I had a feeling for what that something would be.  It’d wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be the unmistakable truth, because the essay was written from an insider’s perspective, with inside jokes and references to things non-publishing types could care less about.  Some would get it undoubtedly but not most, and, from my family not many at all, if any.  So, assuming readers liked it, or felt the energy in it, there would have to be something for them to latch on to, a common denominator that resonated much longer than slick prose and heady allusion.  Call it the Everyman Denominator, and I knew what it was from the beginning.

Cheese grits.  When it was all said and done, I figured the only thing people would remember about me, and about my essay, was the fact that I loved cheese grits.

It’s only been a week but one of the comments from the readers of Anne Mini’s blog made reference to this, and my wife’s aunt sent email congratulations that make me shiver at the thought of the gaylords of cheese grits that I will have to endure the next time I visit New York.  I love cheese grits but damn!  I’m afraid now for whatever remains of my capacity to digest dairy products.

So what’s the lesson here?  The lesson here is that writing is not about the money; it’s about the food.  As long as I know the secret now I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but boy am I ever going to miss cheese grits.

Notable News from a Year Ago, June 23, 2009: A week after my win at Author! Author! I’m still reveling in the sweet spoils of victory.

A week ago, nay, only seconds after I had completed last week’s entry, something happened in my writing career that has never happened before — something that, for the briefest of moments, almost convinced me to scratch what I had written and craft something else entirely.  The email from Anne Mini of the Author! Author! blog looked foreign in my inbox and my feelings about it even more extraterrestrial.  But the fact of the matter is: I’ve done it.  At last.  Seven years after beginning this, I’ve placed first in a writing contest.

Granted, the competition for this award probably wasn’t as stiff as some of the others but, at the same time, I have to say “The Words Not Written” was potent unlike any contest entry that came before it, even the much heralded (at least in these pages) “How to Change the World”.  I wouldn’t have been able to write “The Words Not Written” without having written “How to Change the World” first — that was when the authorial breakthrough occurred — but it stands on its own for one reason and one reason alone.

The Author! Author! Contest, which I heard about only a month ago and whose blog I have been reading only since December of 2008, included no monetary reward and, as such, was the first contest of that nature that I’ve entered in years, maybe even ever.  Previous to this, a Contest didn’t rank if there wasn’t at least a $1000 first place award affixed, and therefore perhaps at least a $250 award for third — you know, just a little dough for my troubles.  And yet, the moment I put cash prizes second (nay — cash wasn’t even in the same friggin’ zip code when I wrote “The Words Not Written”!) I produce my best work, and accomplish a major goal.

Must be some profound lesson in that.  I’ll spare you the ignominy of spelling it out.

What I will tell you is that, even after I had written and submitted “The Words Not Written”, I wondered what people would take away from it.  It’s an intricate essay; full of layered meanings and surprising trapdoors like foxholes; tongue-in-cheek sarcasm that could be mistaken for humor; an offhand reference to my passion for cheese grits (among other things); and, I hoped when I wrote it, and unmistakable truth that shone through at the end like a ray of light from the heavens.

Yes, I wondered what would happen when people read my essay, what they would think, what they would say.  Yes — even before I learned that I had won — I had a feeling for what that something would be.  It’d wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be the unmistakable truth, because the essay was written from an insider’s perspective, with inside jokes and references to things non-publishing types could care less about.  Some would get it undoubtedly but not most, and, from my family not many at all, if any.  So, assuming readers liked it, or felt the energy in it, there would have to be something for them to latch on to, a common denominator that resonated much longer than slick prose and heady allusion.  Call it the Everyman Denominator, and I knew what it was from the beginning.

Cheese grits.  When it was all said and done, I figured the only thing people would remember about me, and about my essay, was the fact that I loved cheese grits.

It’s only been a week but one of the comments from the readers of Anne Mini’s blog made reference to this, and my wife’s aunt sent email congratulations that make me shiver at the thought of the gaylords of cheese grits that I will have to endure the next time I visit New York.  I love cheese grits but damn!  I’m afraid now for whatever remains of my capacity to digest dairy products.

So what’s the lesson here?  The lesson here is that writing is not about the money; it’s about the food.  As long as I know the secret now I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but boy am I ever going to miss cheese grits.

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