Some short stories take time. Others, especially flash fiction pieces of around one thousand words or less, are written in a sudden frenzy of inspiration. That’s what happened to me when I wrote Maria and the Angels. The sudden idea – a schizophrenic’s take on the end of the world (or is it?) – and a few striking images combined. I wrote the whole thing out in a notebook, forgot about it, and then retyped it a few months later into a 600-ish word piece of flash fiction. When I decided to enter the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, I brushed it off and sent it along with a longer short story and a group of poems. Maria was an afterthought. I never expected it to win.
So naturally I got a Silver Key. This seems to happen to me a lot. (The guessing wrong bit, not the winning things. That’s tragically rare.)
For a quick background, SAWA is a teen art and writing contest that moves through regional and national levels. Winning a Silver Key is a big honor – that means my piece was scored in the top 10% of my region – but also kind of disappointing. For me, the line stops here. Only Gold Keys move on to nationals, where they have a chance of getting a professional critique or cash rewards. It’s completely selfish to feel disappointed – I’m aware of that – but I can’t help it. I think humans are born always wanting more.
However, that won’t stop me from celebrating just a little, quietly and inside my head. This is one more thing to put on my resumé, one more step into the publishing world. At the beginning of this year, I had nothing. That’s what I call progress.