On Friday I posted about reading at the Francelia Butler Conference at Hollins University. It was the first time I shared my poem publicly. I know, I know, I post poems here all the time. BUT there is a net of safety there. I don't have to see your faces when you read my poetry. I don't hear your comments like "She thinks she's a POET?!" And of course, I share my poetry with all of my fourth graders all of the time. But once again, there is a net of safety there. They think everything I write is wonderful, which is probably why I've continued to write poetry all of this time.
This summer I have been writing poems, not just for me, but I got brave enough to share with other people. I grew up overseas and the collection of poems I'm working on is based on some of my experiences trying to fit in and be comfortable in multiple cultures, yet still be who I am. The poems are set in Salem, Virginia, ChiangMai, Thailand, and Penang, Malaysia--three places I have spent significant time.
A few weeks ago I submitted some of these poems for consideration in the Francelia Butler Conference. My poems were chosen, which meant that I would be one of seven people with creative submissions to read aloud at the conference. Seven critical papers were chosen also.
I was a bundle of nerves because I knew there were poets in the audience, and I wondered if they would know I didn't know what I was doing.
This year's theme was a Dr. Seuss theme, because Philip Nel, author of The Annotated Cat:Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats and Dr. Suess: American Icon, was the keynote speaker. Fellow students performed a Suessical Musical between readings, and it kept the day lively and fun. There was a silent auction, in which I won three things: a picture from The Tale of Despereaux, a lovely photograph of a clemetis donated by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, and a book of poetry by Billy Collins.
There is always a winner for each category: creative, critical, and art. After listening to the amazing stories crafted by my six other fellow readers, I knew I didn't stand a chance of winning. That's what's so amazing about Hollins--being in the company of so many good writers that you admire. I am always very impressed at how much good writing is produced in such a small group.
But when the winners were announced, they called my name! Yes, I won the Shirley Henn Award for Creative Scholarship. Wow! I was humbled and surprised!
Even if I hadn't won, this reading gave me a chance to share my work publicly. Several people came up to me during the break and shared how much they liked it. Two people introduced themselves: one is from Taiwan, and one lived in Malaysia, and both said they related to my poems. What a huge compliment. That's what I was hoping for. Other people were kind enough to just give me words of encouragement. Thank you! Thank you!
Hollins students are the ones who actually narrow down all of the submissions to a list of finalists. Then other writers actually judge the finalists. When I read the list of judges, I was so excited. The judges were: Bruce Coville, Steve Jenkins, Kerry Madden, Claudia Mills, and Janet Wong. I'm fans of all of their work, and it was an honor just to have them take the time to read something I had written.
The Memoir Monday prompt was to write about something that you did that you didn't think was possible. Believe it or not, this was it. I really never imagined I would share my poetry with anyone but my students. Now, thanks to a lot of encouragement from my friends at Hollins, I have the courage to share it with others.