Winner! Winner! Winner!

When I was a teenager, every year I’d go with my girlfriends to the State Fair. We couldn’t wait! Midway rides that made us all urpy. Cotton candy. Corn dogs. Enough dust to kill your sinuses for a year.

There were BOYS!

Oh, but the Midway games — now, THAT was life. There was always some leering guy in a stained white T-shirt, with a home-grown tattoo snaking up his neck, whose job it was to lure us to his game. Not that a gaggle of teenage girls needed luring. There were stuffed animals. STUFFED ANIMALS! We couldn’t pull our babysitting money out of our pockets fast enough. There were Coke bottle ring tosses, magic rubber ducks swimming in a water tank, basketball hoops just a squidgen smaller than the basketballs, little plinky guns with wobbly sights, balloons to dart, stacked-up dishes to toss dimes at. It was ALL there.

My favorite was the water pistol that shot a loopy stream into the mouth of a plastic head with a balloon on top. The better the aim, the harder the stream of water, the more the balloon filled. First one to burst their balloon got a prize. If you won enough times, you got the big stuffed animal. As the guy in the T-shirt and tattoos handed over your prize, he’d yell out over the crowd, “Winner, Winner, Winner.”

WINNER … WINNER … WINNER!!!

That’s how I felt yesterday when my cell phone rang. I was in the middle of J.C. Penneys looking at new beds for the guest bedroom (to match my darling new chairs and to-die-for bistro table). It was Pam Binder, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association calling to tell me my poetry entry was selected as one of eight finalists from (as she put it) an unprecedented number of entries. The winners will be announced at the PNWA Seattle conference in July.

WINNER … WINNER … WINNER!!!

The rest of the day, I felt like that teenage girl again … walking through the State Fair Midway with a big stuffed animal in my arms and a spot of corn dog mustard on the corner of my smiling, laughing, still-can’t-quit-smiling, mouth.

I’m humbled and stunned to be a poetry finalist this year. I figured last year’s finalist spot in Literary Fiction was a fluke. The other finalists were credentialed … published … polished … wowzy-wowzy really good writers. PNWA receives thousands upon thousands of entries in their well-respected yearly contest. Each entry is carefully considered, with agents and editors scrutinizing each word until only the best of the best are deemed worthy to fill a Finalist’s slot. This year, they selected only eight finalists in each category. To be one of eight out of all those hopefuls is more than amazing. But don’t let my cheezy smile fool you — I am overwhelmed.

So, to all my writer friends, I wish you your own Midway water guns that shoot far and straight, that always hit the center of the mouth, that always fill your balloons to bursting. May YOU be awarded the big stuffed animal to carry around for the day. May you too walk through J.C. Penney screaming into your cell phone, “HOLY CRAP! A FINALIST? ME?” Then may you wear the same cheezy smile the next morning because you’re so struck that you wrote something that someone else liked and because there’s so damned much humility in a simple string of connection between a writer and a reader.

But mostly, may you too hear those magical words —

WINNER! WINNER! WINNER!!!


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