Friday, February 22, 2008

I (kinda) won!

So I got an e-mail about a month ago from Descant magazine. They are a Canadian mag out of Toronto that publishes literature and art. The e-mail said that the poem I had submitted to the "Winston Collins- Best Canadian Poem" award had made it onto the short list. The e-mail asked if I would go to Toronto and attend the award soirée. It said the short list had 17 other finalists on it.
I was surprised to be a finalist but didn't figure I was going to win and travelling mid-week to TO was not a convenient thing to do so I put it all in the back of my mind. About a week later I got another e-mail saying "You haven't told us if you are coming." So I replied that, officially and unequivocally, I was not attending. A few days later I got a phone call from the editor-in-chief. "Are you sure you can't come?" So I explained that having made the 5-6 hour car trip to Toronto once with a toddler had been a real trial and I was wise enough from the ordeal not to repeat it. Also I work (granted I could take a laptop and work en route but I didn't mention that). She asked if I had a web-cam to "virtually" attend. I said no but offered to make a video poem of myself reading the submitted piece which they could show at the event. She said that would be great. So I memorized the poem, set up my little camera in a quiet spot and did about 3 million takes. When I finally had read it through smoothly I took one look at it and went to bed feeling puffy, lispy, stoned-looking, and unwarrantably pretentious. The next day I sent it anyway because I knew most of my insecurities were in my head and would not be so glaring to strangers.
I figured that was the end of it. But the very same day I got another e-mail from the editor saying that someone else was coming from Montreal with a toddler and maybe we could travel together. I called the editor (as she had kindly given me her personal number) and said "Really I would love to come but will not drive it. The train is a great way to go but I can't afford it. I would strongly suggest you recommend this option to the other people travelling there with a child. Thanks for putting me on the short list, blah blah blah."
To which she replied "Are you really sure you can't come? I shouldn't tell you this but you are on the short list..."
"You mean a shorter short list?"
"Yes. And we really hope you can make it to the event."
"Well as I said, I would come by train but I can't afford it."
I had also previous to all this called a friend or two (because, really, I did want to go, even if I had to do some creative financing later) to see if Morgan and I could be put up for a night but it seemed like all of Toronto was leaving that very day for Cuba!
She e-mailed me yet again that day to say that Descant magazine would pay my train fare.
Well hell. They really do want me there. So I made one last attempt to contact someone in Toronto to stay with. It was a go. It turned out that I would not have any work the two days I would be away anyway so it looked like the universe was giving me a cosmic shove.
Morgan and I made the trip. I gotta say, travelling with a kid really makes me empathize a LOT with single moms-it is not easy doing stuff with a kid in tow!
So all this long pre-amble to say I won "honourable mention", which translates as one of two runners up for the prize. The title comes with publication in the summer issue, a year's subscription, a bouquet, a certificate, a bottle of champagne and $250. Heehee.
This is my first lit prize and only my third or so publication.

1 comment:

Claire Roberts said...

I'm really, really proud of you Celia!