When you heard about the Flash Fiction Contest you were thrilled. At last there would be something continental to support the unknown/unpublished writer. You had little experience with stories less than 300 words, but what good is a writer–a human– if they can’t learn?
Self education began at once.
Read read read . You combed the internet for stories and manuals.
Some were amazing like: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Some were bleh like ‘Jumping Through the Window at Dawn.’ You persevered. This was your chance, all you needed were 300 words or less.
You read the manuals and spent hours meditating on their edicts: ‘Bury the ending in the middle’ ‘Don’t force a twist’ ‘Begin the story as close to the end as possible’ ‘Make sure your story has a beginning, middle, and ending’.
As part of your warm up, you open a Flash fiction category on your blog and try writing some stories too. Some are ‘nice’, some ‘vague’ but they are read and you are getting better. What more could you want?
The D-Day arrives unannounced. Thankfully, it comes with a thirty day allowance. You have an entire month to write that one story that will knock everyone’s boots off.
Then you read the voting guidelines and freeze like a pillar of rock. It dawns on you as your belly sinks between your rocky feet, that there’s no way you have a chance in this.
You feel still born, dead before you have seen your first morn. What if Japh applies with this tens of thousands of followers or Linda, with her hundreds of thousands? The thought smarts and disappointment floods your soul. Another wild squirrel chase. Another case of dreams smashed to dust.
Then you remember who you are, who you have always been. You are a writer. Unknown yes, unpublished maybe but you are a writer. And writers write, just like fish swim, and sugar sweetens. You have nothing to lose after all. There are no reading fees, no submission fees, no required publishing credits.
You weigh the options with care and decide there’s nothing to lose. Cowards die many times before their death, you aren’t one. So you start looking for the ‘perfect story’ to send.
You write about five, your friends read and love them. Which to send becomes a problem you sleep and wake up with, for a fortnight.
Then you see Tusabi already canvassing for votes for her friend on Facebook. Before you have even entered, you feel sunk. Like the relay race runner picking up a dropped baton, you hurry and scurry to at least get your entry in.
A panic of last moment tweaks has you spelling trickle and phones wrong. You want to blame home trouble or Tusabi or anything really. But it its too late and it wouldn’t change anything.
Your heart drums a reggae under your cloak of anonymity, who will vote for me? What was I thinking? Is this trouble worth it?
Then you remember all the days you spent asking companies to take an interest in the unknown writers. You imagine that publicity and readers can only be a good thing. You rationalise that one missed 100% of the shots one doesn’t take. You think of all the benefits of vote driven contests and relax. This is a win win.
Even so, you understand the risks: being passed over for a poorly written, higher voted story, being misunderstood as begging not promoting, working like a donkey and having nothing to show at the end. The thoughts send jiggles spinning round your sides. You inhale as deep as you can and let the air out like released balloon.
Voting begins and all is well. Campaign teams form, Twelebs bandy. endorsements, you get your entire family to vote. You are doing great, so it seems, until Tusabi strikes again.
This time it is a totally shocking string of allegations, self-righteous dissociation, and flagellation for the contest. The sponsors can do no right. SHE can! And they had better listen to her. Many other writers chirp in. You read and are shocked, hurt, unhappy and appalled.
For one, Tusabi has an entry in the contest! She was lobbying for her friends and you had no clue … until now. Grappling the overt disdain and ridicule heaped on the prize sponsors by a fellow entrant is numbing.
In a flash, you see the backlash, hundreds (thousands) of writing contest proposals shredded in companies across Africa.
“No, we can’t do anything for that ungrateful lot.”
“Please, the last company that tried that got dressed down and mauled. Schedule a Big Brother Welcome Party instead.”
“Shred this. Quickly.”
And in that instant, your entry campaign paled compared to the consequences of Tusabi’s attack. Something had to be done; someone had to write a rejoinder. Surely, the other writers that entered the contest after reading the terms and conditions would speak out before this attack became the canon on the contest. Surely, they would all see that despite the imperfections in the contest, there were good aspects too. They would realise that we have more to gain than to lose by allowing more writers to get read than sticking our ‘elitist’ heads in the sand.
You watched and waited for days; it became clear that no one was writing any rejoinder. Tusabi’s post was spreading like the Black plague by now. It had been read in at least thirty countries and shared by over 100 people.
Your displeasure overflowed it’s banks. No. Never. You weren’t going to sit back and watch this happen.
Yes, you were in the contest. Yes, you were liable to be flayed for seeking favour. Yes, it might backfire, a little or a lot.
But heck, at what cost? If one contestant can ridicule the prize and get publicity, praise, followers and ‘front end’ contacts in the sponsor’s management, what did you have to lose?
Besides, how would you live yourself, if in the end you find that you didn’t get enough votes, didn’t make it into the less than 1% that is 3/480 and was muted to boot?
You knew the answer instantly.
In five minutes you wrote and published ‘God Bless The Sponsors’ shared it to your friends and DLAP team and felt a boulder roll off your chest. Relief flooded your soul– a fresh wind from heaven.
You didn’t know backlash was coming, if only ….
Check for the next part tomorrow.