If it wins, it will (probably) be published by Tu Books: a small press that specializes in publishing YA speculative fiction by people of color (they also put out the anthology, Diverse Energies, in which I had a story). I am obviously pretty happy about this. Including me, there are five finalists. Those odds aren’t bad.
After the shortlist was announced, I immediately googled all the other finalists, and you know what? They are people just like me. It’s insane. I kind of hope their novels are terrible. I’ve never been in a situation where I would directly benefit from other person’s failure. I mean, I guess when I was waitlisted for Syracuse’s MFA program back in 2009, it would’ve been kind of nice if one of the other admits had suddenly died or something. But, actually, even in that case I was mostly hoping they’d get into Michener or something so they’d turn down Syracuse. In general, the writing world doesn’t really work in this head-to-head competition sort of way.
Although I think my novel is pretty decent and that I deserve to be a novelist, I also bet that if we were to stack up the personal struggles of all of us finalists and measure each person’s deservingness, I wouldn’t be at the top. Thank God it’s not based on personal struggle (man, I’d never win any contest based on personal struggle–luckily for me, most contests are [informally] based on the opposite of personal struggle…the person who’s struggled the least is the person who tends to win).
Of course, from what I know about writing contests, they’re not necessarily head to head competitions either. If people see two entries that they want to publish, then usually the second one gets published somehow. But still, this whole “five enter, only one leaves” thing is an interesting thing to meditate on.
Actually, it’s not impossible that it could be “five enter, and no one leaves,” since Tu Books also reserves the right to not publish the winner of the contest. Since that would obviously be the worst possible result (I’d rather publish no book than publish your book), it’s also the one that I’ve spent the most time worrying about.
In general, I’ve found that success as a writer tends to come much slower than I think it should. I really did think that the first short story I ever wrote deserved to sell to a huge market and win tons of awards. And I’ve continued to think that with every additional short story. Oftentimes, I sell a story to a place that’s, like, objectively difficult to sell to and am like, “So what? This is pretty much where I should be selling.”
However, I’ve learned to anticipate this tendency. Now I assume that I’m not going to get the things that I think I should get (I think I wrote about this earlier this year), and I’ve thus managed, through this backdoor, to appreciate the things that I do get.
So, yay! I am really happy to be a finalist. Someone read the first three chapters of my novel and was like, “Yes, even though I am quite busy, I’d definitely like to commit to reading the rest of this novel.” I feel good about that.
And who knows, in two months, I could be announcing the sale of my novel. That’s pretty cool. But if it doesn’t go down, I will understand.
In some ways, the extremely slow pace at which novels are revised and submitted and sold is a good thing. I’ve already written two novels since writing one (this is the one that I wrote in eight days, by the way), so it’s no longer the torchbearer for all my hopes and dreams. If it doesn’t sell here, then maybe it’ll sell to the next place. And if it doesn’t sell anywhere, then hopefully coming this close on my second novel means that my fourth one will be able to go the distance.