Congratulations go out to the following authors whose true stories dazzled our judges and have earned them a place in the upcoming anthology:
Karen Cole (First Place), Lisa Braxton (Second Place), Mehk Vijayaragavan (Third Place), Michelle Tupy, Kathryn Minturn, Anita G. Gorman, Mary Langer Thompson, Kirsten Puls, Debbie A. McClure, Sara Etgen-Baker, Tessi Muskrat Rickabaugh, Georgia A. Hubley, Michelle Quirk, Tina Wagner Mattern, Margaret Pascuzzo, Jen Jones, Charlotte Louise Nystrom, Lani Forbes, Joyce Nelson, and Terri Elders.
A SPOTLIGHT MOMENT WITH OUR TOP THREE ESSAYISTS
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett, Editor
Karen Cole (First Place) – “The Makeover”
Q: We want people to love us exactly as we are and yet too often in the throes of a new romance, we try to fashion ourselves into someone we think they could love even more. Why do we do this?
A: For me – and probably for a lot of other romantics – the messaging starts in childhood and especially if there’s any ugly competition between the parents. My own divorced when my brother and I were young and whenever we got shuttled back and forth between their two houses, there was always pressure to “prove” which one we loved best by performing activities and changing behaviors that had nothing to do with anything. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t run indoors.” “If you loved me, you’d wear such-and-such to Grandma’s.” “If you loved me, you’d eat all your vegetables.” “If you loved me, you’d tell me who your father/mother is dating.” I succumbed to the threats and bribes more than my brother did and I think it’s because females have always been taught to be the nurturers and pleasers in every relationship. We want everyone to be happy and, thus, we do things that put their feelings ahead of our own. It’s like we’re on a constant search for the single magic key – the perfect proof – that will unlock whatever affection and loyalty our parents or our partners are withholding from us. As pleasers, we repeatedly make ourselves over into an image we no longer recognize and it takes nothing short of a potent wake-up call to make us realize we were picking all along at the wrong lock.
Q: During the time you dated Jerry, he wasn’t shy about telling you what you could do to distinguish yourself as someone different from his ex. Were there things about Jerry you wished were different, and did you ever ask him to make changes?
A: At the beginning, I so couldn’t believe we were even dating! Lucky me! He had all the attributes that, in my mind, defined him as the perfect boyfriend, lover, future husband. I fell into the trap of every time he was moody or seemed to be even a little upset with me, I’d go out and buy him a present. This, of course, only perpetuated the cycle…and netted him a lot of gifts! He wasn’t interested in my friends (although he expected me to like all his friends), he was condescending to waiters, and he had little patience for anyone who wasn’t impressed with him. I recall one time when he was being curt with a waiter and, as gently as I could, I suggested his comments were coming across as hurtful to someone who was obviously doing the best he could on a night when the restaurant was both crowded and understaffed. Jerry threw his napkin down, told me he expected better service and that if I was going to be so whiny about it, maybe I should go put on an apron and help him. In retrospect, that should have been our last date but I had already become an apologist for a man I thought I could change through love, patience, and understanding. Not!
Q: Were any of the makeovers irreversible?
A: You mean like surgeries? Thankfully, it never crossed the line of having my nose redone, my boobs enlarged or my tubes tied. To be honest, though, my self-esteem at the time was such that I could’ve been pushed to do something I’d later regret. The only reminder of my bad judgment days is a small tattoo – which I’m thinking of using my prize money to finally have removed.
Lisa Braxton (Second Place) – “Short Distance Romance”
Q: One of the lines in your essay was the advice of a co-worker who suggested that you needed to hurry up and find someone “before you age out of the market”. Disheartening at the least since you were only in your early 40’s! Why do you suppose it is that although women live longer, are better at multitasking, enjoy a greater number of social connections, and are generally more resilient at dealing with life’s curveballs that they’re deemed to have a shorter shelf-life than men of the same age (or older)?
A: That is a perception that has persisted for generations, largely because of the media’s emphasis on youth. In television commercials and print advertisements, the women featured tend to be very young. The same goes for the acting profession. In Hollywood, women over the age of 35 generally struggle to get leading roles. These biases influence the way society thinks. However, in reality, time doesn’t necessarily work against women. I have friends, who in their 30s, 40s, and 50s got married. In addition, in many cases, the men they married were several years their junior.
Q: What’s your best advice to single or divorced women who lament that all of the best catches have already been caught?
A: Be patient. Sometimes the best catch is in a relationship that isn’t working out or going through a divorce and he’ll be available in the future.
Q: If your philosophy of romance were printed on a tee-shirt, what would it say?
A: Keep it simple.
Q: If Hollywood came calling to make a movie about your courtship, who would play the two of you?
A: Theater actress Audra McDonald would play me and television and movie actor Blair Underwood would play my husband.
Q: You recently completed your first novel. What’s it about?
A: My yet-to-be-published novel is called, The Talking Drum and I’m hoping to get it published through an independent press or get representation by an agent. It’s a period piece taking place in the 1970s, as the Black Arts Movement came to a close and the modern civil rights movement began winding down. The novel focuses on the lives of three young couples, and explores the themes of race, class, culture, and the pursuit of the American dream against the backdrop of one of the U.S. government’s most controversial programs of the 20th century—urban redevelopment. It is a topic that resonates with many people because either their lives were affected by urban renewal or they know someone who was affected.
Mehk Vijayaragavan (Third Place) – “Well, I Guess There’s Always Harry”
Q: You found your own Mr. Right in a Welsh neurosurgeon. What does he think about the coveted place in your affections nearly being taken by no less than Prince William?
A: He laughs and laughs! It is his funniest story to tell at hospital Christmas parties and he is pleased that my essay’s inclusion in the book will reach even more people and make them smile. Every time Prince William’s picture is in the newspaper, his nurses cut it out and tape it to his office door with a note that says, “This could have been you.” And so one morning he beat them to the punch and put up his own sign with a photo-shopped image of William as a doctor in surgery and wrote, “This could have been him and my patients would all be dead.”
Q: How long have you two been together?
A: Almost five years now but not together in the sense of sharing a common roof. Our decorating tastes are too different! We do support each other’s professional careers, though, and vacation-times together always have the excitement for us of a first date. Maybe marriage someday. We talk about it but are not impatient to change what for us is a solid, good relationship.
Q: And what does your mother think of this arrangement?
A: I did not introduce them for the first two years, mostly because I liked him very much and did not want her to chase him away. The third year he finally flew home with me on holiday. She was off-putting to him at first but he is very kind and sweet (and praised her good cooking, too!) and she actually wept the day we left because he had grown on her. They talk on the phone at least once a month and she sometimes tells him things going on that she hasn’t told me. It is still her plan, I think, to gain him as a son in law. She can be quite stubborn. But so can he! And I love them both for that.
Q: So has she finally given up her quest for a match with the royal family?
A: Funny that you should ask me. My sister Sandyha and her husband Manjul just welcomed a new addition to their family this past Spring, a little girl named Mayra. My mother has started clipping pictures of Prince George who, she says, will be close enough in age when Mayra goes to university that maybe they will have classes together and fall in love. She can still dream, can’t she?
OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
FINDING MR. RIGHT, an upcoming anthology, is currently open to essay submissions from female writers around the world. In addition to publication in paperback, cash prizes will be awarded to the top three authors that win our judges’ hearts. Deadline: May 15, 2016.
We may love the wrong person or cry for the wrong reason. But one thing is sure, mistakes help us find the right person.
A bachelorette friend of mine in Hollywood is thinking of embroidering that on a pillow. Truth be told, the number of mistakes she admits to making in her quest to find Mr. Right could be embroidered on an entire sectional couch. The closer she nudges to 40, the greater the frustration that she’ll either have to settle for less than what she’s seeking (just so as not to be alone) or consign herself to a solo lifestyle and feel as if everyone is secretly judging her inability to attract a soulmate.
Up until the 21st century, it was instilled in little girls that their quest should be to track down Prince Charming rather than focus on the inner journey of discovering their own worth and potential. Certainly my own parents ascribed to a belief that whatever career I chose should be one that could summarily be dropped outside the altar. And who among Baby Boomers can’t recall when advice columnists of the day urged unhappy couples to stay together “for the sake of the children” despite the fact everyone was thoroughly miserable. The mindset of clinging to a mistake rather than learning from it and moving on has kept many a romantic from realizing that true happiness is often waiting in the wings all along.
In the name of Love, people have spent money they didn’t have, made promises they couldn’t keep, lost friendships they once treasured, and defied families that didn’t approve. They’ve been pushed to break down, break hearts and even break the law. They’ve made smart choices that empowered them to become more than they ever imagined and made mind-numbingly stupid ones that left them with far less than they had before.
As Shakespeare so aptly put it, “Love makes fools of us all.” It also makes the world go ‘round and provides no shortage of inspiration for songs, poems, novels, movies…and anthologies.
To celebrate this mystery called Love and all the joys, tears and challenges it engenders, we’re seeking the best of the best true stories in the following five categories:
- Love at First Sight – Getting it right the first time (at any age!) and living happily ever after
- Near Mrs. – Why did something that seemed so perfect turn out exactly the opposite
- Stupid Stuff I Did For Love – A self-explanatory category
- Were You There All Along? – The friendships that blossomed into something deeper
- Table For One – Making a purposeful choice to stay single
Of the 20 best essays chosen for publication, the top three will respectively receive $200, $100 and $75 as well as a feature interview. Entries will be judged on the basis of excellent wordsmithing (including flawless spelling, grammar and punctuation); a takeaway message that resonates and will makes readers smile, laugh, cry and/or reflect on the quest for companionship; and a strict adherence to what we think are pretty straightforward rules.
If you’d like your work to be considered for the competition, the first step is to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line FINDING MR. RIGHT. The email itself should contain the following: Your name and contact information, the category you plan to enter, and the proposed title of your first-person original essay. Upon receipt of your email with this information, you’ll be given the PayPal address to which your $5.00 (USD) entry fee should be sent as well as the Authorization to Publish form which we require of all authors in the event their work is chosen. This form also contains a place for your 75-words-or-less bio (plus a website link) which will appear with your published essay.
The next step is to WRITE that wonderful essay of yours and send it to us along with the Authorization to Publish form. When your entry fee is processed, you’ll officially be in the contest. Although we welcome previously published work, you must own all rights to it at the time of submission. Likewise, you’ll retain all rights to your work after we publish it.
- Participants must be female and at least 18 years of age.
- Entries must be true stories and not a work of fiction. (We’re taking your honest word for this.)
- Entries must be written in first-person.
- Word count is a minimum of 1,200 words and a maximum of 2,000.
- Entries must be submitted as a Word document, single-spaced with a five-space indent, Garamond 11 pt. font, and justified.
- Do not include any headers, footers or page numbers.
- Humor is encouraged. Kvetching, blaming, slandering, or using offensive language is not.
- Entries must be received no later than May 15, 2016 to be eligible for the competition.
- Winners will be announced July 1, 2016 with paperback publication to follow in August of 2016.
We look forward to reading your work!