I recently entered a contest for Esquire magazine’s 79th anniversary. They asked writers to submit a story that conveyed plot, theme, characterization, originality, and the topic “Summer”. And all that in a limit of 79 words. Seriously, people? I don’t sneeze with less than 79 words.
As those of you who read my blogs or listen to me talk already know, I don’t know the Cliff’s Notes abbreviated version of ANYTHING. When I tell a story, I go down more rabbit holes than Alice in Wonderland. I can type up stories all day–pages and pages. Blah, blah, blah, blah. But editing them? Knowing which blah to cut out? AACCK!
So I tried to just concentrate on coming up with an idea that would be unique and catchy. I figured everyone else would do beach or boating or barbeque or something so typically summer. I wanted to be different and stand out among the entries.
One day Dr. Smooth and I went to the Magic Kingdom with a dear friend who was visiting. It was oppressively hot, humid, and hellish. Ugh–the crowds, the heat, the sweat, the funkiness. My clothes stuck to me, my hair clung miserably to my head, and my skin felt like it had an extra layer that needed to be sloughed.
When we arrived home, I made the most incredible discovery. WE HAVE A POOL. It was like a mirage in the desert. I really never go in our pool. It’s not heated, and it doesn’t get much sun to warm it. Usually I don’t enjoy submersing my body into freezing water, but that day, it just seemed to call to me.
I dove right in. It was amazing. The water washed over me, taking away the grime, the sweat, the crowd, the heat, the humidity. My skin was invigorated. The sluggishness rinsed away, and I felt revived and alive. I wanted to just stay underneath the water without coming up for air, unencumbered by gravity and the heat of the day. I flipped and floated in some state of nirvana.
And that’s when it hit me….this is it. This is summer. The absolutely unbelievable heat and oppression of the world vs. the sensational, soothing relief of water. This was my idea! This would be unique amid all the bland blah summer passages they would receive.
So then I tried to figure out how to tailor this to my audience. How would I spin this concept for Esquire? And I figured I needed to tie in business, professionals, current news events.
So I wrote, and I tried to write concise, short, and not fluffy. It was over 500 words. I edited. I cut. I gnashed my teeth and hit delete. It was down to 180 words. I fretted. I swore. I edited more. And finally, with a choice of changing someone’s title, I made the 79 word mark.
I submitted it, confident in its plot, theme, originality and characterization. I patiently waited for the date the winners would be announced.
And I didn’t win a thing.
Oh, well. The water still felt great, and I’m still proud of my story. And since I’m not aware of any other 79-word contests that I could enter it in, I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy!
“Five interviews in one day and overqualified for all. I pounded pavement; the heat pounded me. Silk plastered to my skin and dripped into my stilettos. I wanted a nap, but the water enticed me– so blue, rippling, dancing. I didn’t even go upstairs to change. I peeled away sweat-drenched layers and sank. Coolness cleansed away perspiration, failure, humiliation, hopelessness. Underwater, the world seemed right. And that, Officer, is how I ended up nude in the hotel lobby fountain.”