A hoarding habit is to be avoided in almost all other areas of life, but not with our writing. Shelve the broken-spine journals. Tuck away the idea-scrawled cards. File the half-paged drafts.
Then, when you read about the contest or run into a call for submissions, delve into your word-wine cellar, brush away the dust, and you’ll discover the perfect line, the luscious paragraph, or the story that’s ready to realize its full strength.
In 2014, I attended the San Miguel Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival (https://sanmiguelwritersconference.org/). The community and event enchanted me and I promised to return one day. Each year since then, when I read the call for submissions to the San Miguel Writers’ Conference Competition, I mined my drafted work and took out the piece that spoke the loudest. My eye and ear could read and hear which lines held true, which clusters needed pruning, and how the rhythm, breath, and breaks needed to fall on the page.
After I worked the piece to the finest finish possible, I took a breath, filled out the submission form. And. Sent. It. Off.
This time, I received the ultimate reward.
Rapunzel Takes a Stand (https://sanmiguelwritersconference.org/rapunzel-takes-stand-susan-thurston/) garnered the prize in poetry. The award included publication of the poem on the conference website, the cost to attend the full conference where I would have the opportunity to give a reading of my work and sell my books, and the privilege of being hosted by a San Miguel de Allende regular.
In a few weeks, I’ll board a bargain flight to join hundreds of other writers and readers in the splendid, many-chambered heart of Mexico. I’ll savor sights, sounds, flavors, and conversations–most of which will be about writing. The experience will inspire new work. After all, I need to replenish that word cellar.