It’s almost the end of the first week of the 14 Day Writing Challenge. Today’s prompt: Write about an achievement you’re proud of.
I’m blessed to say that there are several different things that quickly came to mind: I got healthy and walked/jogged a half-marathon two years ago, my first class of middle schoolers graduated high school this past May, I ate a dried mopane worm from Zimbabwe (which is more than can be said about any of my friends when we were in middle school).
However, I can’t resist choosing the one with the most humorous story (even though it’s from nine years ago). And it has to do with writing. (How apropos.)
During one of my lit classes during senior year, the professor mentioned that there was a poetry writing contest coming up. The criteria: to write an imitation poem for a Sharon Olds event to be held by the alumni association.
Normally, I was too shy to enter contests, but this one caught my interest. Back in my first poetry class, one of the assignments was to write an imitation poem. One of our options had been Sharon Olds, and I had picked her for reasons I can’t remember anymore. It was one of the best poems I had written (in my opinion) and I’d always kept it in my back pocket, hoping for the right venue to share it.
So, needless to say, when I found out that this imitation poem should feature her style, I knew I already had the perfect entry. One of my biggest concerns — coming up with something worthwhile to enter — was already out of the way. I actually asked for more information, sent in my poem, and waited patiently for a reply.
It came a few days later. Much to my surprise, I had been accepted. I was invited to come and read my poem at the event in front of everyone. The nervous excitement was almost too much to handle. To think, I would read an imitation poem I had written in front of the poet I had imitated!
My mom bought me a new outfit just for the occasion — a black cropped jacket, lace shirt, and skirt that looked very writerly and adult. Family and a few friends marked the date on their calendar. I practiced reading my poem about the fallen space shuttle Columbia over and over in my room.
Finally, the day arrived. My parents, brother, husband (then fiancé), and a couple of friends had all come to support me. This was a big moment.
When we arrived, someone was waiting and the door to direct us to the room. We walked down the long hallway and found ourselves in a small conference room with four large, round tables, a lectern, and a few people standing around awkwardly. I saw several of my professors, including the one who had assigned the poem in the first place. But I didn’t see anyone who looked like Sharon Olds.
My group took over an entire table. The other people sparsely filled the other three tables, and we waited for the event to begin.
A few minutes after it started, I realized why so few people were there. Sharon Olds wasn’t coming. She wasn’t ever expected in the first place. It was just a poetry event about Sharon Olds.
I was only one of two students chosen to read a poem that night. Perhaps that made it easier, since half of the audience had come specifically to see me. (Literally.) While other people might not have been amused with the situation, I reveled in it. I was proud to be chosen (even if the other student and I were the only ones to submit a poem). I was proud to give my first official public reading. And I’m still proud that I have such a hilarious story to go with that achievement.
Before I left, the alumni who had organized the event thanked me for participating. As a memento, they presented me with a box donning the university’s logo. Inside was a pen. Nothing terribly fancy. Just one for the alumni association. With a bemused smile, I gladly accepted it.
Now, the pen sits in the box on my writing desk along with the schedule that has my name on it. It might not be as grand of an achievement as I first thought it was, but it’s still a proud moment I’ll never forget.