Eighth grade was rough. Really rough. I was the new girl in town, trying to find my way into friends and fun from the outside. Halloween that year, I dressed up as a bug. I stuffed a pillow in my butt and my belly, made a stinger, had wings, had antennae, and even face paint. When I was picked by the teachers as the costume contest winner, I was booed. Booed. My volleyball knee pads were stolen from my PE locker. I went to my first school dance and stood along the wall while not a single person spoke to me. I remember a lot of crud from that year. The one way to cope was to blow my grades out of the water. I rocked those A's and free personal pan pizza rewards. Naturally, when the AP English teacher from the high school came to "recruit" from my class, I got excited. I mean, squirming-in-my-seat excited. English! Advanced English! I was so pumped! He was there to test us and see if we could make the cut for Freshman Advanced English. I was ready. I was so, so ready.
The assignment was simple enough: we had to write a fictional essay. I don't remember if the topic was assigned or if we were free to choose. I want to say it was assigned, because I remember I wrote about aliens, and that most likely would not have been my topic of choice. He gave our class the guidelines, and stood talking with our teacher in the front of the room while we all wrote. I penned the best fictional story I could think of. Fiction isn't my forte, but this was an opportunity for Advanced English. I did whatever I could to make it count. I handed in my paper with everyone else's, prayed a special prayer over that fictional essay, and waited with eager anticipation for the few weeks later when we would hear the news.
The news came. I wasn't Advanced English material. I didn't make the class cut. I was disappointed. Incredibly disappointed. English was my thing, my niche! I wanted to be an English teacher, for crying out loud. I had tried so hard - my best - to succeed in getting AP freshman year, and I failed. Apparently, I stunk at writing.
Fast forward through time. I made friends. Wonderful friends. School was a lot better in high school than that eighth grade year. I broke out of my shell. I had fun. I won the costume contest every year at Halloween, and no one booed. Then it was time to transition from a junior to a senior. One more chance. One more chance to end high school having been a student in AP English. I don't remember the assignment. I don't remember it at all, and I probably didn't even try that hard, as I still carried the scars from that eighth grader's broken heart.
The news came. I had grown into Advanced English material. I made the class cut! I was in total disbelief. Senior year English was a blast. I finally proved myself.
Fast forward through time. I started blogging. I received a compliment here and there on the things I wrote. I entertained the thought of writing a book. Then I entertained the thought of writing a few books. I've offered up writings to various places, and been turned down. When I was accepted as a contributor to two faith-based blogs, I was actually quite surprised. When a writing contest came along, with the prize being a chance to meet face-to-face with a publisher, I got excited. Squirming-in-my-seat excited.
I submitted my entry. I tried not to get my hopes up, while still being confident enough in myself. I struck a pretty suave balance. There were over 300 submissions and today was the day the winners would be announced!
The news came. They announced five runners-up. I didn't hear my name. Initially I was disappointed, then I remembered they still had five winners to name. Chin up, cheeky! Fifth place. Fourth. Third. Second. One name left to call... First place. That name wasn't mine either. I didn't win. I didn't place.
After the heartbreak all those many (many...many...) years ago of a little eighth grade girl, however, I've learned one thing: Just keep penning. No matter the hurdles or how high they may seem, no matter the mud of life I seem to muck my way through, no matter the placements or contests lost out on, I'm still doing what I love. I'm still penning. Whatever mumbled thoughts come to mind, a person or two will read. Maybe Mom will even comment (again). But I'm writing, and I love to write. The fact that I can when I want and say whatever is on my mind and heart, is truly such a blessing. And one day, in His time and with His story, I might get that book done after all.