Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Your turn to be appreciated

To Cheer or to Covet? writes author Liz Garton Scanlon of Liz in Ink about other people's successes. I added the question mark, even though I know the answer: cheer. Of course, you always cheer. "And yet," writes Liz. "And yet, it is another writer's success that can most swiftly and surely send us to the darkest little hole in our heart."

This post was in response to the good (i.e. great) news about author Sarah Lewis Holmes' two-book deal with Arthur A. Levine Books. Holmes herself acknowledges that, "that there is no hearing about another person's good fortune without a tinge of 'But what about me?'" Scanlon has a follow up post in which she is glad to discover that, "... It turns out that very few of those 'why not me' moments translate into 'why her (or him)' moments."

The "Why not me?" question is poignant. It speaks to the need for people to take turns being recognized and appreciated. There is so much emphasis on success in terms of being in the spotlight. People who were once famous but now are on the sidelines are disparaged as "has-beens" if they try to make come-backs and fail. In ordinary life, for the majority of us who will never be widely-renowned, it can smart when our best efforts are simply not deemed good enough for the prize.

In my senior year of high school, I threw my energies into the school paper, and strove repeatedly to write the editorial that would rock the county. The only problem was, the co-editor of the paper was already that editorial writer. The opinion pieces I wrote were well-written, but they didn't have that extra depth that made them compelling to print. Then, I wrote a news story about one of the state functional tests everyone had to pass in order to graduate. The writing prompt was to describe a "recreation center." The problem was that the students in the ESL classes came from cultures in which there wasn't a concept of a "recreation center." I have forgotten the details of what I wrote, but one of the newspaper contests to which I submitted the story ended up awarding the piece first place in the county.

The newspaper staff was surprised. I overheard a classmate say, "Alkelda won it?" My advisor was thrilled, as he was the one who encouraged the story in the first place and helped me with finding the sources to interview. He told me, "It's an important story, and I wanted us [the school newspaper] to be the ones to break it."

There was no fame, no great fuss afterward-- at the school awards ceremony, I accepted my 1st place certificate along with everyone else who had won awards in different areas of newspaper writing. Still, it was fine. After all of those fourth place prizes and honorable mentions, I got to be first in one thing, for a little while.

That is my wish for all of you-- that you have your moments where people recognize how hard you have worked and what you have achieved. May you have your turn to be appreciated, and then pass along that turn to someone else with grace and gratitude.


goddess of clarity said...

Wow, thanks Alkelda. Sitting at my desk over my Lean Cuisine, having been twarted in this week's budget meeting and already filled with dread over next week's design committee meeting, that really made my day!

Congratulations on the first place ribbon! (I wrote for my high school paper too, but I certainly never "broke a story.")

Liz in Ink said...

This is flat-out lovely, Alkelda. I'm so touched that you felt the original post deserved a spin-off.
It's been fascinating to me how many people wanted in on this discussion, and how wide and deep it resonates. Everyone wants and deserves their moment in the sun -- even those of us who also want to be ever-faithful to others. It's quite a lot to negotiate, this humanity thing. Isn't it???

HipWriterMama said...

Great post, Alkelda! It is awesome when your work is appreciated and makes a difference to even one person. I think it helps generate the energy to go forward.

TadMack said...

Wow, congratulations! I was editor of both our school papers in high school -- mainly because it was a nerd job and a boarding school and nobody particularly cared who wrote the paper for the parents and constituents -- but when I was in college I DEARLY wanted to break a huge story -- but no, I was reporting on Student Senate meetings. Oh well, no Lois Lane moment, but it's really exciting to hear when someone else gets one! And eventually we all get our moment of recognition -- I, too, hope it comes for those who are a little sad about the successes of others!

jules said...

I love this post. Loveliness.

SamRiddleburger said...

I've got you all beat. My last journalism award, other than weekly recognition trifles, was for a 1995 story.
Since then I have lost countless in-house and state-wide contests.

Meanwhile, my former co-workers at the Roanoke Times have a very good shot at a PULITZER this year...

But I AM genuinely rooting for them.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Goddess: I'm glad this made your day. However--Lean Cuisine? I have a sudden need to send you a dozen spinach pies. You need them!

Liz: I'm glad you liked this post. Your original one really struck a note with me. Humanity is indeed a lot to negotiate.

HWM: I thought of your past "Mopejection Mondays" when I wrote this post.

TadMack: You were editor of two high school papers? That's pretty impressive. I suspect we all wanted to break a huge story at some point. I wish I had been on the college paper, though-- less pressure to win awards, more fun and good times.

Jules: Thanks!

Sam: But you have a book! And Llama with a Hat is going to be big. (What is it really? Do I have to do some sleuthing work and break another story?)

In the interest of full disclosure, I should come forth and admit that I also won a Christmas carol writing contest with a friend of mine in college. It was much more satisfying than the newspaper award, but that's another story.

Cloudscome said...

This is really lovely Alkelda. How wonderful for you to be recognized and rewarded. Your advisor knew what you could do!

One time I won a first place prize for a haiku in a national haiku journal. There was even a $50 check involved. After that I took myself much more seriously, even though I still didn't expect other people to take my haiku seriously. (Or pay for it! :))Every one needs to come in first for something important to them.

Lone Star Ma said...

Lovely, lovely post!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Cloudscome: I'm thrilled that you won first place for your haiku and you got paid for it.

LSM: I'm so glad! Thanks.