Friday, March 12, 2010

The Dog Ate My Homework - Really

One of my most anticipated advantages of living in Utah Valley was being able to get my stories out there, and since I write about being LDS, I was most looking forward to participating in the LDStorymakers conference which is being held in Provo in April. It's a two-day conference at the Marriott where successful LDS writers will share their experience. The prospect of going to this conference added to the "died and gone to heaven" feeling I've had since we moved here.

Since there is a contest associated with the Storymakers conference, I decided to go for it and enter my trilogy in the "first chapter" contest. Almost giddy, I registered for the conference and sent the entries electronically, following the rules as I remembered them. Alas. I was wrong. When the contest chair got around to distributing the entries to her judges, she emailed me with the startling information that I had A) left my name on the entries, and B) the entries were too long, over the limit of ten pages.

Yikes, says I.

I will insert here a little backstory. On the last Tuesday of February, Roger and I were asked to speak in church that Sunday. It was short notice, but we are new in the ward and expected the invitation would be coming, since others new in the ward have been speaking recently. I wrote my talk on Wednesday, and then while Roger was gone Thursday night to do his tutoring, I sat down to check email before tackling a rewrite of the talk. Imagine my heart-stopping horror when suddenly the computer screen went black. I could still hear audio, and see a shadow, but it was too dark to see the cursor. Friday morning we went out and bought a new computer (part of a planned future purchase now accelerated by desperation), asking if they could please print out my talk, which they did, and have the data transferred from the old computer to the new one before Sunday, which they also did.

In the meantime, I had revised my talk and was ready to revise and print Saturday when I discovered the printer wasn't hearing what the computer was telling it to do. A sweet kind man from our ward came over and did his best, but after an hour we decided I could email the document to him and he'd print it out and bring it to me. Which he did. At 10:30. On Saturday night. I have always depended on the kindness of computer geeks, and I always will, but this fellow didn't have Mac experience and apologized all over the place for it. (On Monday I talked to a Mac techie half an hour on the phone and got nowhere, so I went online to the HP website, downloaded some new drivers, and voila - printed material. Happy ending there.)

Back to the contest entries. Maybe since I was new to the contest, the chairman allowed me to A) take my name off the entries, and B) shorten them before re-submitting. So I did. Four times. She kept emailing me back as if I were deliberately causing her great grief and frustration by ignoring her instructions. Which I wasn't. It was that darned new word processing program that I didn't know how to use, which came with the hard drive on the new computer. It repeatedly DID NOT save the changes I made, and the unchanged document was transmitted four times.

Add now the complication that Elin and Randy came to look for a house. They are moving from Illinois back to Utah this summer and stayed here while they conducted their search for a few days. I thought the contest entry problem was solved, but on Tuesday, I kept sending as requested the documents without my name on them. That evening about 9, after I got back to the computer, there was a stern email from the contest chair that said the entries still had my name on them, and if we didn't solve this problem by 6 p.m. my entries would be disqualified. I emailed them once more without my name on them, explaining that I hadn't been at my computer all day to get her deadline, and that I had really been sending them as she requested but my new program was apparently sabotaging me.

That was the last time I heard from the contest chair. I hope she finally found some white-out, or a marker with which to blot out my name. Maybe not. I'm probably disqualified. She warned me. If I'm going to get my trilogy published, it won't be because the first chapters made a big splash in the LDStorymakers contest as I had hoped and dreamed.

I bought a Microsoft Office program the next day and now everything is just fine fine fine with my word processing capability. Changes stay changed. I will now sign up for the three lessons I'm entitled to as a new iMac owner and learn how to use the other features built into this new contraption.

My one consolation about the contest is that I have paid for a consultation with the acquisitions editor at an LDS publishing company who will be at the conference in April. I have pitched books to editors before, and perhaps I can present myself and my work in our best light without having to plead for mercy because the dog ate my homework.


Mary said...

Aaargh! Computers create such love-hate relationships for too many of us. I've only ever heard good things with Macs, so it's nice--while I sit here at my PC--to know they occasionally have their failings. I'm glad you are up and running again. Maybe having the difficulties with the contest is good writer's karma; it seems that a lot of authors struggle to get their work noticed.

jwise said...

That's why I HATE getting a new computer. It always has a new fancy something that either doesn't work or I don't know how to use. UG. The latest version of Word is no exception. We had it on our last laptop and I COULDN'T EVEN USE IT! I had to ask Preston (who used it), "Where's save?" "Where's open new document?" Etc. UG. Well, I hope you can make the "splash" you're going for one way or another.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

As the contest chair who was emailing you, I just wanted to say I didn't mean to come across sternly, but I really was trying to help you, as well as the other 200 entrants and we were on a very tight deadline. As you can imagine, this was a very busy time for me, but I felt like I tried my very best to get your entries to follow the rules and I'm sorry it didn't work out.