Monday, 21 February 2011

Love Divine

I'm crazy about chocolate, and I have a strong sense of justice. So it's probably no surprise that I'm a big fan of Fairtrade chocolate.

A few years ago, when I saw that Divine Chocolate, a Fairtrade chocolate company 45% owned by farmers, was having a poetry contest, I was thrilled. What a great idea! So I wrote a poem and submitted it, but I didn't win. Still, writing the poem was fun. The next year I entered again, but my poem was not picked. Nevertheless, writing that poem was fun too.

Last December, I saw that they were running the competition again, but I was too busy revising a manuscript to enter. And then I saw that Meg Rosoff was judging it and knew that I had to make time. I'd read her book, What I Was, when I was flying to Turkey for the first time. If you haven't read it, I won't spoil it for you, but let me just say that there is a clever twist in it. I'm usually pretty good at anticipating twists, but this one threw a rope around my foot and pulled me right off the deck. Which wouldn't have been enough to make me love the book, but it still amazed me. And the book was great. It was so good that even my husband liked it -- and my husband is notoriously fussy about books.

So I wrote another poem about chocolate and submitted it much the way you write a message on a piece of paper, seal it into a bottle, and chuck it into the sea. I mentally crossed my fingers. And a few weeks ago (after maybe a hundred clicks on the Divine Chocolate poetry competition site, I learned that my poem, I am Divine, was a tied runner up.

And I was overjoyed!

I told my husband I was a tied runner-up and he gave me the sort of look I've grown used to: supportive of my writing efforts, but pitying me in my clueless desperation. Then he looked over my shoulder at the site. "Hey!" he said, "Did you realize Meg Rosoff was the judge?" I told him I did.

"Well done!" he said, shaking his head. Unfortunately, my generally supportive, husband is not a huge fan of poetry in general (or mine in particular).

And although I wouldn't have thought it possible, I was even more overjoyed.

Does that sound just a little pathetic? Five years ago, I'd definitely have thought so. I had big dreams: I wanted first prize and nothing less! After five years of writing and rewriting, and a good, steep learning curve, the honor of being picked tied runner up for anything is sweet. But the honor of being picked by someone who wrote a book I loved is right-off-the-charts sweet. As sweet as justice, and as sweet as the richest, creamiest, most melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, which, as it happens, is what I get for a prize.

Justice, perseverance rewarded, and chocolate. That's not win-win, that's win-win-win.

This is the incredible, wonderful rush you sometimes get, as a writer -- the reward for all the labor, soul-searching, angst, and rejections. And it is very sweet indeed.


Girl Friday said...

Congrats, that's awesome! Did you win a month's supply of chocolate? :D

e said...

Great! Did they reward your effort with chocolate???

Bish Denham said...

Far out Mary! Congratulations. Do you get any freebies? Enough to share perhaps? Hmmmmmm?

Vijaya said...

Mary, to have your poem noticed by an author you admire is the best. Congratulationss!!! I hope you get lots of chocolate as a prize.

AnneB said...

Can't speak for the poem yet, but it's darn good chocolate. When I first heard about Mary's coup I went to the Divine Chocolate website and found several local venues that carry the brand. I've since purchased a bar of 70% dark on two occasions (and, I'm sorry to report, have consumed each bar all by myself, but spread out over a 24-hour period so I can sort of say it took me two days...)

Robert the Skeptic said...

It's always nice to receive recognition for our work - and chocolate is additionally sweet.

Anne M Leone said...

Yay! I love this story, Mary! I know exactly what you mean about how we lower our expectations--just getting recognition for our writing is enough! But then how sweet and fulfilling that recognition is. Congratulations!

Kim Ayres said...


T.D. McFrost said...

A very sweet victory for a writer who never gave up. I hope you tell us with great detail the look on your husband's face when you show him your publishing contract.

I can't wait for that!

Congrats my dear!

Charles Gramlich said...

That's just really cool. Congrats. I tell you, given the number of entries in many contests, to stand out like your piece did here is indeed quite an accomplishment. Clearly she recognized something potent in your piece. Well done.

Kit said...

Well done! And the prize sounds well worth it, besides the honour of being awarded that prize by a great writer.
Reminds me of my girls at a little riding show they enetered. They won rosettes and little prizes of books and things, but were busy eyeing up the packets of sweets given out as consolation prizes to the runners up...!

Carole said...

Well done. Very impressive.

Mary Witzl said...

Girl Friday -- I think I get some kind of goody bag, which is great, but the honor is sweeter still. (Not that I'm giving up that goody bag, of course. ;o)

e -- Yes, they do. I'm still waiting for it, and still waiting to see my poem on the site, but I've waited a lot longer for much less.

Bish -- I will absolutely share this with anybody who makes it out here to my neck of the woods in Scotland! ;o)

Vijaya -- Thank you! The winner gets a year's supply of Fairtrade chocolate, which must be overwhelmingly wonderful. But I'm not complaining!

AnneB -- Good for you, Anne! I'm pretty good at spreading it out too, (wanting to avoid other less desirable spreads). I've purchased a LOT of Divine chocolate over the years and given away almost as much as I've consumed. Winning chocolate from is pretty much money in the bank.

Robert -- Yep! The chocolate is the icing on the cake here, so to speak.

Anne -- When I first started writing and submitting to various competitions, I'm sure I'd have been shocked to see my reaction to this. But you learn to lower expectations, don't you? And that every tiny victory is a sweet one.

Kim -- I'll happily share some with you if you make it out here. Or I'll bake some brownies with it.

T. D. -- Thank you for your kind words! You must be a writer too if you don't think I'm a loser for getting all this thrilled at tied runner up.

My husband is very supportive of my fiction writing, but my poetry is not his cup of tea. If I ever get a poetry contract, he'll keel right over. But then again, so will I.

Charles -- Thank you! I was excited when I heard how many people had entered this, but then the contest was free and open to the general public, and I'm guessing a lot of them didn't realize how much work a poem needed. So I may have tied by default, but that chocolate is still MINE!

Kit -- Sometimes the consolation prizes are much nicer than the big prizes themselves, which are usually things like rosettes or certificates. The judges imagine that the honor of winning is a reward itself, but that's not so much the case for ten-year-old kids, is it?

Carole -- Thank you. It isn't really all that impressive, but I'm happy with myself for having learned to be thrilled with trifles. ;o)

Kim Ayres said...

I'm currently on 15g, 3 times a day, Fair Trade Equadorian 85% chocolate. I've read a couple of reports that it can help people with ME/CFS - but it has to be 85%

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- While I don't envy you the ME/CFS, if you've got to take any kind of medicine, how great that it's chocolate! I'm glad they haven't done something stupid yet like extracting the theobromine and putting that into a pill instead.

angryparsnip said...

What super fabulous news.
The author you admire, one of the winning poems, and chocolate !
I am the only women in the world who does not adore chocolate but I have several friends who do. So I know how wonderful all of this prize must be for you.
Enjoy and congratulations !

cheers, parsnip

Mary Witzl said...

AP -- Thank you so much!

I've met four people in all my life who didn't like chocolate. One was a doctor in Yokohama, two were Turkish students, and one was a secretary I worked with in New York. You are number five and my only regret is that you guys don't live any closer to me, because I could really give you a hand with all that unneeded chocolate! (You don't happen to like liver and lima beans, do you? ;o)

Angela Ackerman said...

Congrats and Kudos! Poetry is not easy, not by a long shot. I hope you got some sweets as a prize, but if not, still a big feather in the cap, IMO.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

J.Ro said...

You have a blog award!

Lynne said...

congrats! it takes a hell of a lot of effect into writing a poem ~or at least it does for me.~ And to be in the top for something is even more wonderful. Hope you win it. I love chocolate too...are you going to share it with your husband if you do happen to win? I don't know if I could. LOL

Mary Witzl said...

Angela -- Thank you! I got a tee shirt, a signed certificate, and a big box of chocolate. My cup runneth over, but the honor of this still trumps any sort of material prize.

J.Ro -- Yay, a blogging award -- thank you!

It's good that I'm still getting my fair share of rejections: from now on I'll just think of them as ego-blasters.

Lynne -- It's hard for me too, like trying to figure out a puzzle. The rhythm has to be right, all the elements have to harmonize, and the whole combination has to work in a way that tugs at your heart and stays with you. The worst thing is that now I can see the poem's faults, but it's already written.

Yes, I did share my chocolate with my husband. He might not like my poetry, but he puts oil in the car, occasionally gives me foot rubs, and has even been known to clean the toilet.

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

Good for you! Chocolate (the dark stuff) is supposed to be good for you, and I too love it and it's the only candy I eat.

So, keep up the choclate habit and good luck!

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Marcia said...

Congrats!Enjoy the chocolate!