Why be an artist?

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A good friend of mine very recently shared a post from Facebook where someone shared how she responded to the question of why people should be artists–because everyone is familiar with the phrase “starving artist”–and not switch to a career in technology because that’s where the money is. Her response was to invite naysayers to isolate themselves for 30 days without music, books, films, television, art, or dance–and I would add they should be in a plain make-shift shack or a blank-walled cell so they do not see any architectural structures–and see what life would be like. I agree with her completely.

I believe true artists follow their passion knowing full well that they could remain penniless and unrecognized all their lives, and if they are among the few fortunate enough to be discovered, they might earn something out of it, and possibly be revered after they die. Since the Renaissance ended, history shows that artists are among the most mistreated people–Van Gogh hardly sold any paintings while he was alive; Edgar Allen Poe was penniless, Sammy Davis Jr. owed millions–and the pursuit of any field related to art is discouraged because everyone knows most artists can’t live off their art.

The arts that receive the most attention are performance arts, and yet, unless you are a top-rated film actor or a record-breaking recording artist or singer, or a consistent best-seller novelist, you’re probably scrounging around for a job most of the time. Even big-name stars might be in the limelight for a while, but when the public transfers their adulation to another star, previous stars have difficulty even getting a bit-role and some even end up isolating themselves and living in seclusion because they are unable to live with the loss or their adoring public and the loss of their source of income. Among writers, it is no better. As long as you write books that the public eats up, you’re fine; the moment they find someone else to follow, and you are unable to churn out work that sells like hotcakes, your books are relegated to the back shelf or worse, taken off the shelves. Architects are often not even considered artists, and yet the artistic creations of the greatest architects live on long after their names have been forgotten. How many people still know that the Guggenheim Museum, along with thousands of other magnificent structures, were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. How many people can name the architects of the Notre Dame Cathedral? Big Ben? Westminster Abbey? the Eiffel Tower? I could go on and on, but unless you’re a fan or student of architecture (or a trivia buff) you probably can’t shoot off their names from the top of your head.

Non-performing artists, such as poets, essayists, short-story writers, theatre performers, dancers, crafters, and architects, to name a few, often have greater difficulty making ends meet. While a great number of artists dream that they will be recognized some day and start receiving what their creations are worth, there are still more who simply create art because it is the best thing they do and the only thing they want to do. Thank goodness for all the reality shows where unbelievable talents are discovered, but there are several arts that do not lend themselves to performance, hence more limited and exclusive audiences.

True artists create art not for the recognition they receive, whether pecuniary or acclamatory, but for the fulfillment and satisfaction they achieve from the mere act of creation, because everything they create is an extension of themselves. True art embodies the artists’ souls and the mere expression of artists’ deepest thoughts and emotions is reward enough. For their art to be appreciated and valued by others is an affirmation of their existence. To make money is merely icing on the cake.

 

Stepping into Their Shoes: An Encounter with Immigrant Women

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On the evening of April 21, 2018, at The Guild in Charlottetown, I met eight immigrant women who told their stories in front of a full house. The women were part of a teaching initiative founded in Toronto in 2011, and directed by novelist Katherine Govier, who taught writing workshops to help immigrant women improve their written and spoken English. In the process, the women wrote their stories—centered on shoes, because the project’s home is in a shoe museum and it was the one condition required so they could hold workshops on the museum premises for free. Thus, The Shoe Project was born.

 

The women shared how they arrived in Canada between 2003 and 2017 at different stages of life for various reasons, from love to the pursuit of a better life to seeking refuge from war and strife. Each woman’s story was different and yet the same, because each woman’s story spoke of the same struggle and trauma experienced when a life is uprooted and transplanted in an alien environment. The women were from different countries—Syria, Iran, China, South Korea, Colombia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Tibet—and all were old enough to understand the change, the necessity to leave their old lives and start new ones in a new country. They were old enough to remember all the friends, family, memories, and possessions left behind. Several were successful professional women whose careers were abandoned because their new nation would not recognize their credentials and required complete re-education—something that would take too much time, money, and effort; something that these women did not have the luxury to choose because they had to obtain gainful employment almost as soon as they landed. Employment that often would have been considered demeaning and beneath their station in life in their home country. Despite the difficulty, pain, and depression, these women forged on, put on brave faces, and claimed Canada as their new home, whether in Halifax, Calgary, or Toronto. They created new memories and while they continue to struggle with pain, depression, and trauma, they have found humour, love, and community.

I was eager to attend this performance because I knew their stories would be my story, and I was not wrong. Each story touched a raw nerve in me because I, too, was an immigrant to Canada and still feel what Govier has called a lifelong process of adjustment. I was glad to see so many immigrants in the audience as well, because these were their stories too, and hearing these eight brave women speak was almost as if they were speaking for us. I am glad this project exists because the voices of immigrants need to be heard, especially the voices of immigrant women, who are often unable to express themselves, let alone tell their stories. I am glad there were so many people in the audience and that the performance is touring the country because Canadians need to hear these stories and acquire greater understanding and compassion for immigrants. In most cases, Canadians born in country and who have lived in Canada all their lives will never be able to truly understand or imagine the experience of being an immigrant, let alone a refugee. Stories generated by initiatives such as The Shoe Project are a powerful way to provide others with a glimpse into what immigrants go through just to fit in and adapt to their new country. Hopefully, this will open up the eyes of decision-makers, employers, and policy-makers who persist in antiquated policies and practices that instantly discriminate against immigrants. I was once told it normally takes about 10 years before an immigrant is fully assimilated into the (PEI) community. Not every immigrant can or will wait that long. It is time people step into the shoes of immigrants, even if only for an evening, because an evening can stretch into forever.

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Why PEI Needs Real Math Teachers in Elementary Schools

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It’s been a while since I last posted an article, a whole month and some days to be precise.  I must apologize. Besides preparing for the Seniors College class on stories by Alice Munro, which began three weeks ago and will be in its fourth week Tuesday, I spent every minute of my spare time researching and preparing materials for a Math Camps program for grades 1-12 for the LDAPEI, where I tutor everyday after school. Yup, my main occupation at the moment is tutoring, which is both a good thing and a sad thing. Good, because students who need help and are struggling with reading and math, regardless of whether they have a learning disability or not, get the help they need. Sadly, there are just not enough tutors to help everyone. But that’s not the sad thing. The sad thing is that there are so many students who need the help, and these aren’t just students with learning disabilities, particularly when it comes to math. In my years of subbing and tutoring, I’ve encountered students who insist on performing basic math operations the wrong way because their teacher taught them that was how to do it. Those students will have to unlearn those wrong procedures and relearn the right way; meanwhile, they will experience frustration because they will never get the answers right. I discovered elementary schools do not have math majors teaching math, hence the development of concepts and skills is not approached the way teachers trained specifically to teach math would teach. Where I grew up, we always had a dedicated period for math only and math teachers who were math majors or minors teaching math in grade school; in higher grades, our math teachers had majored in math and were trained to teach math. The basic concepts were ingrained in us so that by the time we were in seventh grade, we had mastered all basic operations and knew our multiplication, addition, division, and subtraction forwards and

Good, because students who need help and are struggling with reading and math, regardless of whether they have a learning disability or not, get the help they need. Sadly, there are just not enough tutors to help everyone. But that’s not the sad thing. The sad thing is that there are so many students who need help, and these aren’t just students with learning disabilities, particularly when it comes to math. (I’ve a different rant for students who don’t learn correct grammar and spelling!)

In my years of subbing and tutoring, I’ve encountered students who insist on performing basic math operations the wrong way because their teacher taught them that was how to do it. Those students will have to unlearn those wrong procedures and relearn the right way; meanwhile, they will experience frustration because they will never get the answers right. I discovered elementary schools do not have math majors teaching math, hence the development of concepts and skills is not approached the way teachers trained specifically to teach math would teach. This is definitely a call-out to PEI’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development: Kids are bad at math because they’re not taught the right way, they don’t have the proper foundational training. Kids need real math teachers from the very start so they develop sound concepts correctly. Kids need real math teachers throughout elementary school because these are the foundational years. If they don’t learn it right at the start, they’ll have difficulty understanding concepts that build on the basics. It’s not like there aren’t any math majors available. If you can get specialized teachers for music and gym, why not math? Math is an essential skill to real life because math concepts are relevant to nearly everything they will encounter.

Where I grew up, we always had a dedicated period for math only and math teachers who were math majors or minors teaching math in grade school; in higher grades, our math teachers had majored in math and were trained to teach math. The basic concepts were ingrained in us so that by the time we were in seventh grade, we had mastered all basic operations and knew our multiplication, addition, division, and subtraction forwards and backwards. We were ready for algebra, geometry, and trigonometry–the basis of pre-calculus, which students in senior high need to understand to complete their GED requirements. If the foundation is weak, students will have greater difficulty coping as the concepts become more complex and the calculations become more complicated. By then, students will have a greater dislike for math than at the onset because of repeated failure and lack of understanding. That is where the idea of Math Camps came from–giving students the opportunity to encounter math in friendly, fun, and practical

If the foundation is weak, students will have greater difficulty coping as the concepts become more complex and the calculations become more complicated. By then, students will have a greater dislike for math than at the onset because of repeated failure and lack of understanding. That is where the idea of Math Camps came from–giving students the opportunity to encounter math in friendly, fun, and practical acpplications that reinforce the basics. And yes, that’s because I was a math major and a teacher trained to teach math before I decided to focus on writing and literature. Math rant over.

The Genuineness of Alice Munro’s Stories

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My fall literature class for Seniors College is three weeks in and we have five short weeks to go. So far, we have read and analyzed three of Alice Munro’s short stories. When we began, half the class knew of Alice Munro, the other half barely knew her, had only heard of hear, or did not know her at all. Of the half that knew her, they had read a bit of her but could not remember much of what they had read or had not read enough to form an opinion of her. Many times, we read literary works—in this case, short stories—and either like them or don’t like them. Unless we look more deeply into those works, we are unable to create an honest, informed opinion about them. At most, we might say we liked the works because they were interesting or entertaining, or we didn’t like the works because of the exact opposite—we thought them boring or uninteresting. The point with classics and works by acknowledged literary giants is that there is more to them than just mere entertainment or surface interest. That would apply to nearly every book in national and international bestseller lists. When does a literary work climb from being a bestseller to a classic, besides being a bestseller year after year, decade after decade, century after century? What is it that prize committees look for in works that earn their authors accolades and the status of laureate? Probably the most important quality a great literary work has is genuineness. Not impeccable grammar or perfect form. Not even masterful sentences or brilliant plots. This is where I bring around Alice Munro’s writing. The one thing that stands out in all her works is genuineness. Her stories are populated by genuine people, characters we can easily and quickly identify with, dealing with situations and problems we have all encountered or dealt with at one time or another. Her characters live real lives in a familiar world and, like many of us do, live mundane lives of quiet desperation or struggle through daily routines and encounters as heroically as they can. She makes readers see there can be pleasure and happiness in the littlest things, despite the hardships we face on a daily basis. She opens our eyes to the ideas, practices, and beliefs that define our behavior and affect our relationships. She reminds us that sometimes, we cannot change who we are, especially when we aren’t aware of why we think, act, or feel the way we do about what happens to us, what we do, or who we interact with. She points a spotlight on relationships in every imaginable form and makes us think about our relationships, how we live our lives, what we do, what motivates us—because it is exactly what motivates her characters and makes them think, feel, and do what they do.

Explain Less, Write More

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When you write, the temptation is to explain everything because you want to make sure your reader understands your story. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned, especially if it has any connection at all to the story you want to tell.

You try to explain your characters’ backgrounds because you know that provides your characters’ motivation, why they behave in certain ways or say things the way they do or even just say whatever it is you make them say. As you do that, you talk about their upbringing, their family and friends, their family history. You try to develop a whole character report, including what could pass for a decent psychological evaluation. You include birth dates, places, schools, past jobs—a complete dossier on each character.

You try to explain the setting because you believe the readers need to see your characters’ environment, the environment of the story, where it is happening and where it all began. You present no less than an historical treatment of the village, town, city, or country your characters move around in. You describe every room, house, street, and building in detail because you don’t want your reader to miss anything.

All that work and you still haven’t started telling your story! All that preparation and the first thing your editor does is chop it all out. All those painstaking details and it gets thrown away. Really, I have seen psychological evaluations that run as long as forty pages. And all for just a single person. And that doesn’t even include a comprehensive background or family history. You argue and agonize and complain and try to sneak the material back in, maybe even dump your editor and find a new one because you think your writing was brilliant and detailed.

It doesn’t matter how meticulous or brilliant any writing is that went into background because that is all it is—background. Any time you try to explain things to prepare the reader for what will happen merely takes away from how much time and space you have to show the reader what is happening—the true action of the story. How do you avoid this common pitfall?

When I teach fiction writing, I encourage students to imagine they are in their character’s shoes—whichever character’s point of view it is—and provide descriptions for anything as the character encounters it. For instance, don’t describe a house until your character sees it, from approach to entry. That way, your reader sees the house from the character’s perspective. Refrain from describing anything inside the house until the character has opened the door and looked in. Don’t describe the upstairs rooms if the character is moving around in the kitchen—unless your character is thinking of the upstairs rooms. If your character never sees the basement, there’s no need to describe it. Unless you have another character who’s thinking of the basement or is in the basement. It’s the same thing with characters encountering other characters. If the character knows nothing about another character and you’re setting them up to meet, don’t describe the second character until your first character sees him or her. That way, your reader also sees others through your character’s eyes. That way, you can introduce action and dialogue from the very start of your story instead of providing details that the reader is likely to forget as the story progresses.

It’s somewhat different with novels, of course, but it also depends on the type of novel you are writing. If you can carry on a brilliant dissertation on the creation and evolution of an island over a thousand years before it becomes populated with people the way Michener did, then, by all means, go right ahead. Otherwise, cut it short. After all, not everyone is a huge fan of Michener.

Why Do I Write?

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I did it! Yes, I wrote a novel in 3 days. Okay, it’s a short novel. But that was expected. The average submission in past editions of the contest expected novels was 100 pages, so I made it with 117 pages. Sure, there were only barely 31,000 words in my novel, but it was chock full of dialogue, which takes up a lot of white space. The point is, I completed the story. Whew.

Did I doubt I could do it? Absolutely! I did not think I would be able to sustain writing for three straight days to reach the 100-page mark. In fact, I managed 4-5 pages an hour and finished the novel 50 hours after the contest began, after I started writing. That even gave me the third day to review, make some revisions, and proofread as much as I could. And I even got some sleep in, meals, and showers!

The best thing that little experience did for me is to give me a little more belief and confidence in myself–something I’ve never been sure of all my life. Now, I know I can sit for three days straight and write away. Well, I actually know I can because I’ve done it before, just never for a contest. So now, I have that confirmation. I know I still have it in me because that passion for writing just pops up every now and then. I know I have it in me because the stories keep on running and growing and expanding in my head. As long as I don’t write them, they continue to plague me and haunt me like ghosts in the ether and skeletons in my closet. That is why I write.

To Be A Writer, Know Yourself

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Writing is a continuous journey that never ends and writers learn constantly from their writing. No one writer can claim to be such if they think they already know everything about writing, everything about what and how to write. If you know anyone who claims that, that person is a total sham.

In reality, writers need to dig deep inside themselves to write. They need to find out how long they can sit at a desk or wherever they like to write. If they can’t sit for an hour at a time and devote that single hour to pure writing, they won’t be able to sit for days on end, writing the stories that haunt their dreams in their sleep or their thoughts when they are awake. They need to know what motivates them to write. If they don’t know why they want to write—nay, if they don’t know what they need to write, they won’t be motivated to finish anything. They need to understand what makes them want to live, because that could be the reason their characters want to live. They need to know what makes others live, because that will be what motivates other characters. They need to know what moves them to act, to do things, to behave in certain and specific ways, because that knowledge is what will move their characters as well.

Imagine how boring and limited a writer’s works would be if they only knew one person. All their characters would think, feel, act, and react like that person. Imagine how egotistic that character would be if the writer thought he or she knew everything. Every story you write is based on something you learn about yourself, about people. Your story started long before you were born and will, most likely, continue long after you die. Your job, as a writer, is to understand the minutest details of your story, how it evolved and unfolded throughout the generations that resulted in everything your are, which means you need to understand everything and everyone involved in your story. Your writing will continue at least (hopefully) until you shed your corporeal being, thus you need to keep up with your life, with everything that evolves and unfolds inside and around you until the words no longer flow from you, because that will keep your stories going.

Every story you write is based on something you learn about yourself, about people. Your story started long before you were born and will, most likely, continue long after you die. Your job, as a writer, is to understand the minutest details of your story, how it evolved and unfolded throughout the generations that resulted in everything your are, which means you need to understand everything and everyone involved in your story. Your writing will continue at least (hopefully) until you shed your corporeal being, thus you need to keep up with your life, with everything that evolves and unfolds inside and around you until the words no longer flow from you, because that will keep your stories going.

Writing a Novel in 3 Days Takes a Village

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Whew! That is all I can say. As many of you know and have followed on Facebook, I signed up for the 3-day novel writing contest that ran from September 2 at 12:01 a.m. and ends September 4 at 11:59 p.m. The average submission expected is about 100 pages of double-spaced manuscript in a standard font of 11 or 12 points.

Why would I do something like that?

My first and strongest motivation was to prove to myself that I could do it. My second motivation was to jump start a new novel, get myself pumped up and inspired to write, especially since I have just completed the sequel to my second novel.

I did not write the third book to my series. Instead, I came up with about a dozen ideas I’d been toying with over the years. I narrowed that down to about half a dozen ideas, and then was playing with a single idea that I really liked. By the time midnight of September 2 arrived, I started writing that idea, but after a page of writing, I figured I needed something with a clearer progression of events.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a script that I intended to develop into a screenplay for a tv show. It was based on a story that had been playing in my mind, developing for several years. I took that script to a workshop and developed a bible for it, with two- or three-line descrioptions for twelve episodes. I had mentioned to a friend that I might just turn it into a novel, or a series of short novels and worry about the screenplays later. I never got to start that.

I pulled out my notes for the script bible and, using that as an outline, wrote the novel for the 3-day contest. I never touched the script and developed the novel completely from the characters and story that had been living in my head for the last 5 years or so.

Thank goodness for typing fast. I churned out an average of 4 pages per hour, so that in 50 hours since I started, I had my novel. My story developed mostly the way I had intended, but by characters did surprise me a little and a development I had not planned for crawled into my story. I don’t feel bad about that, because I quite like the way it turned out.

How did I survive? On coffee, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, apples, watermelon, peanut butter, chips, and pop. For the first time in a long time, I did not turn on the TV and leave it playing in the background as I usually do. I did not even read my bedtime book. I did not check my email.

I did, however, post my intent and my progress on Facebook. The best part about doing that was that so many friends kept me going, cheered me on, urged me on, and supported me throughout this whole weekend. I did start at 12:04 because I wanted to make sure I was well into September 2 when I started. That meant I had not slept since I woke up around noon on the 1st. I kept writing until almost 6:30 in the morning of the 2nd because I wanted to get a headstart and I wanted to see what my pace would be for the weekend. I took my first nap until 10 in the morning, then went promptly back to writing for another 6 hours or so. At that rate, I hit the 70-page mark after my first 24 hours and had about 2 more chapter to go to finish the story. Hurray! I didn’t think I could do it–actually thought I’d be writing all the way to the last minute. The good thing about that was I could catch up a bit on sleep Sunday morning and didn’t get up till 10, so I got a full 8 hours! Then I wrote straight till 6–8 hours of writing! and completed those last two chapters, which turned out to be 3 chapters because of that little twist my characters threw in. That gave me a lot of time to start proofing a bit and beefing up my descriptions, checking for a bit of consistency, all those little things. I got to sleep by 1 a.m. Sunday night or thereabouts, didn’t get up till around 10:30 in the morning of Monday, and worked straight until I finished my first pass around 5:30.

Of course, when I say I wrote straight, that included bathroom breaks and drink breaks, and a snack break here and there, mostly 5-minute breaks after a couple of hours or so. Everytime I reached a logical stop, I’d post an update on Facebook.

I have to admit I wouldn’t have survived as well without my Facebook friends watching and cheering me on–they are my village and they kept me going. Naturally, it helps to be a manic writer. I am so pumped up now, I’m ready to jump into my next novel writing project!

I am celebrating with pizza!

Getting Ready for a 72-Hour Writing Marathon

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The Weekly Writing Post I send out every week is about giving writers links to opportunities to submit writing to contests. A small portion is devoted to conferences, workshops, fairs, or festivals of the literary kind. Okay, so I missed a week again. That’s because I was busy winding down my summer tutoring by writing individual student reviews. I might have gotten side-tracked a bit on a couple of other things as well, including wracking my brains for new novel ideas. That’s because I did register for one of the contests included in this newsletter. Yes, one of the reasons I continue to compile this newsletter is because I do troll the internet for writing contests with the intention of submitting to them. In the 5 years or so that I’ve been sending out this newsletter, I might have submitted to less than 5 contests, so I figured it was about time to get a little more serious about my writing. I was planning to get this edition out earlier because I missed last week’s issue and if I didn’t get it out before midnight, there wouldn’t be an edition this week either, because midnight tonight is when the contest begins (12:01 a.m.) and I hope to complete a novel (the first draft, that is) by midnight (11:59 p.m.) of Labor Day. Talk about celebrating Labor Day. It’s the epitome of the labor writers slog through each time they write any long work.

Setting yourself down at a desk, chair, or whatever it is you like to sit in to do your writing, for 72 hours straight is the kind of crazy thing creative people do. Not a lot of people can imagine writing a novel in three days, but think of it: the aim is to write approximately 100 pages in 72 hours; that’s approximately 1.4 pages per hour, or roughly 4 pages every 3 hours. Double-spaced at 12-point Courier yields approximately 250 words per page, or a total of 25,000 words. If you use 10 or 11 points, you might fit 300 words per page, bumping your total number of words to 30,000. If you use a more modern font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, you could easily get 300 words per page. Considering the numbers, you’re really just writing an extra-long short story or a fairly short novella. That really isn’t bad considering Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea has only 27,000 words; Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men has 30,000 words; Animal Farm by Orwell also has 29,000 words; Dickens’s A Christmas Carol has 28,000 words. All told, you’re not in bad company writing a short novel.

In preparation, I have set out my coffee maker, chopped up a whole watermelon, stocked up on snacks, and had a really solid supper. Will I have time to eat in the next 72 hours? I’ll definitely have to make time, but I won’t be wasting time cooking. I will be taking short walks every now and then to the bathroom or to replenish my coffee or snack bowl, grab a drink of water, or just stretch both legs and my brain. Yes, my fingers too. I imagine typing 72 hours straight will induce some form of cramping. I might even nap if I get out enough pages under time.

There has been a lot of advise online about how to prepare for such a challenge, but the best thing I can say is to just go ahead and do it. Use whatever preparation you normally do when preparing to write, whether it is writing outlines, character and setting sketches, timelines–these will work for most writers because, writing a novel is like any other project, which will benefit from planning and preparation. Unless you’re a manic writer. And then you just sit down and write. That’s really all it boils down to.

Why Submit to Writing Contests?

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Have you ever submitted to a writing contest? About a month ago, I signed up for the 3-day novel writing contest because, yes, I am a manic writer and I felt it would be a good idea because (1) I had nothing better to do, (2) I had just finished revising the sequel to my first novel, (3) I wanted to give it a couple of weeks before I went into another revision to incorporate some suggestions made by a friend and beta reader, (4) I had about a dozen novel ideas festering in my mind, (5) I needed to jump start my writing to get a new novel started that wasn’t the sequel to my series, and (6) I’d been telling myself to start writing and submitting to some contests for years.

The temptation to maintain my manic writing strategy is much stronger than the logical part of my brain that is telling me to start an outline or a timeline or make notes. You have to give me credit for at least writing down potential titles with descriptive phrases to remind me what that book would be about. I have actually gone as far as listing some characters for one of those ideas. Is that what I will write about after midnight tonight? Who knows? There’s a strong possibility I’ll run with that idea, but there’s also a possibility I’ll jump at another idea.

The point is, I’m writing for a contest. It’s not the first contest I’ve signed up for. I’ve submitted to a couple of free contests and even some paid ones with modest fees, but I’m very selective mainly because I have very limited funds to spend on contest registration. Do I wish there were more free contests? Absolutely! However, those free contests also have very modest prizes. Regardless of the prize, though, writing for contests gives us that practice of writing for others, writing under pressure, and submitting our writing to the scrutiny of judges.

I’ve won one major national literary award, so that was a huge affirmation, but it took several very good friends to convince me to submit a play I had written. Winning contests gives us just that—affirmation that our writing is good enough to stand out from the rest. Any other component of the prize—the money, certificates, medals, and contracts—are all icing on the cake.