I forgot the Wadadli Pen prizes at home. Talk about being
over prepared; they’d been packaged and waiting in my office for a while now,
shifting now and then as I continued to collect the prizes from straggling
sponsors. They were ready. And yet they weren’t here. I run– literally, a run –
from the University Centre to my house, or I hitch a ride, I’m not sure. But there
are detours that seem important and by the time I check the clock it’s after
eight (or minutes to eight) and the awards should have started at six. I make a
run for it but now it’s raining, like monsoon level raining, and for some
reason I’m pointed in the wrong direction, zig sagging the streets of my Ottos
childhood, no closer to my current suburban abode. And how did I end up with
the certificates in my bare hands? Of course, they’re soaked through, bleeding
and clinging to each other in minutes. And there’s a clock there all of a
sudden letting me know that it’s now after nine. Where’d the time go? I
troubleshoot, I’ll just give them the prizes, ask Best of Books to redo the
certificates and have them pick them up at the store. I was trying to avoid
unfinished Wadadli Pen business after June 25th, which is why I’ve
been hounding finalists for their RSVP and running down those straggling
sponsors, but, hey, lemons-lemonade, right? So, I’m on stage and nothing is set
up and I have the ruined certificates in my hand and it hits me that it’s all a
huge, huge disaster. Then I wake up. Of course, I don’t know right away, in the
strange way that dreams have of lingering, that it’s still two days before the
awards and I can lift my finger off of the panic button. That knowing seeps in,
slowly, and, with it, relief.
Barbara at Best of Books asked me recently why I do this
(I think she needed it for press or something; after all the awards are part of
the Best of Books Outdoor Book and Story Fair). Having just collected one of
the major prize contributions, sitting on my living room floor parceling
everything out, I responded honestly that it made me happy, like wrapping
presents at Christmas and anticipating the response. I added the joy of seeing
the stories evolve, remembering how we introduced an editing cycle this
year, making this more than just a competition for a prize and more of a growth
experience for the authors. I was joyful at how improved some of the stories
were afterwards, and I’m thinking particularly of one of the 12 and under who
fleshed out what was initially a really interesting story summary into
something with plot and character. But along the way, I was also frustrated
many times – the dance of expectations versus delivery on those expectations when
dealing with people will do that – and just plain bone-tired as I invested more
time than was strictly practical into something that pays me absolutely nothing
(well, if money is the only thing that matters). But, challenges (and
disappointment re the number of submissions – 40) aside, I’m thankful to the
partners and sponsors who came through (and, in the end, all pretty much did,
give or take). And I can honestly say I’ve imagined the possibilities of where
this Wadadli Pen thing, started in 2004, could go if I stuck with it moreso
during this year’s Challenge and challenges than at any other time. Keeping
current with updates at the Wadadli Pen blog probably has something to do with
it, but whatever the reasons, I’m excited about Wadadli Pen again.
So, why the dream anxiety?
Too much Inception? I did watch it twice in one night
fascinated by the entire premise, its ideas of how dreams work and how they can
spill, through a crack in the psyche, into real life. Yeah, I love a good
zombie movie but it’s the psychological thrillers that stay with me with their,
In the end, I must conclude though that it’s just low level Wadadli
Pen anxiety that my sub-conscious is apparently aware of while consciously I
eagerly anticipate the finish line. And as I accept this truth, it hits me that
this is true of more than just Wadadli Pen.
It is possible to want something with all your heart and to
be filled with anxiety when it is imminent or already in your hand; it doesn’t
mean you want it any less.
But – and this too came to me in those early morning (or
late morning) hours as the last of the Wadadli Pen dream trickled away – that’s
one of the reasons I don’t like to discuss the book I have coming out next
year. You say it and the expectation is that you should be laughing or dancing
around the room with abandoned joy and you have, you are; excited for these
characters to finally get out there – they deserve it – after so much
rejection. It’s not you, it’s me. But you’re also beginning to lean on that
panic button (promotion, publicity, possible failure, possible success, will
you write again). And who could understand that?
Who could understand that though you chose, chose this path,
sacrificed to stay on it, relish the unpredictability that keeps things
interesting over routine that feels like a straight jacket, anxiety is scratching
at your sub-conscious. And maybe this dream about Wadadli Pen of all things,
more pleasure than pain really, is pushing you to own up to that feeling never
mind people and their expectations.
Or maybe it’s just a dream about Wadadli Pen.
Hard to be sure with dreams.
Anyway, the awards ceremony for the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize
2011 Challenge takes place June 25th at 6 p.m. at the University
Centre (Antigua) while the world release of my next book, first full length
novel, really, is set for 2012. And I do hope to keep dreaming.