“Rocky Mountain High” plays consistently in my head these days as I anticipate my trip to Denver on February 16 for the Writing for the Soul conference. Mom and I will soak up a flood of excellent teaching from topnotch writers and editors, and finally find out who wins the “Operation First Novel” competition!
Connecting with the other four finalists via email has been like a delightful road trip so far. We’re all experiencing the effects of “FSS” (Finalists Stress Syndrome) and comparing symptoms as though we belonged to Hypochondriacs Anonymous. Here are our top five:
1. Friends say "Congratulations, you must be so excited!" and you look at them and think "OK, how they feel probably represents how I should feel, but I'm still too stunned."
2. Friends say "I'm praying for you to win" and you feel the need to apologize to God for them.
3. You worry that your friends will throw up if they see one more link to Christian Writers Guild on your Facebook page.
4. You’re afraid of winning because then they’ll expect you to follow your own act.
5. You pray "God, may the book the world needs most be the one to get picked," and then you cry because you're pretty certain it's not yours.
We tease and taunt each other, but what has impressed me most is the warm camaraderie, genuine encouragement, and humble helpfulness I see among this group.
Peter Leavell from Idaho (author of Songs of Captivity) said, “I'll admit it openly, all of those sum up my exact experiences. I've thought about contacting others who have been through this process, because I was feeling alone. Glad you emailed. We do need to pray for one another. Can't wait to meet all of you!”
Jim Hamlett from South Carolina (author of Moe) said, “You've hit at least half the nails on the head. You made me laugh. And you've reminded me that our communion is not around a contest, but a cause. What a joy to be in such a crowd.”
Kimberley Gardner Graham of Memphis (author of The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia) said, “Ah! I love this list so much. Yes, I’m feeling all of those emotions. What a gift to know we’re all in this together.”
Clarice James from New Hampshire (author of Party of One) said, “Thanks for giving me a laugh and helping me to understand my ‘symptoms.’ Knowing that using our gift is an offering to God is what keeps me going.”
Does this sound like cut-throat competition, trash-talking, or psyching out one’s opponents to you? Certainly, all five of us would love to see our own book published and take home the 20 grand. But we belong to the same team and will celebrate the victory no matter who wins.
I like to think this difference is because of the first word in the Guild’s name: Christian. Not all Christians make me proud to call myself one, but these folks do. What’s more, I am pleased to learn from them and to call them my friends.
By the way, my favorite line in John Denver’s somewhat mysterious song? “Seeking grace in every step he takes…”