Over the years, I wrote short memoir pieces, primarily for my UCBE writing classes. Afterward, when I read those pieces, I was embarrassed about my past-life. Also, I was insecure as few students in my writing class hassled me about my “way of writing” and Indian settings and words in my stories. I was told often that my “writing wasn’t America.”
Once I attended a MeetUp for writers, the organizer asked all to write on demand. And when I couldn’t, he made laughed at me. (Nowadays I see him in my critique group.) I was so unsure of my writing abilities that I contemplated for years before joining a local chapter of California Writers Club. In the club, among writers who had written and published umpteen books, I felt unaccomplished and small. I didn’t participate in the club’s open-mics, as I questioned the value of my memoirs.
Even though the club’s newsletter informed about places to submit and writing contests, I didn’t submit anywhere. How could I voluntarily let strangers judge my work? I wasn’t afraid of rejection. I just didn’t want people to judge me because of my abusive parents. Also, I was embarrassed that the world would learn about the shit I waded through to become a normal human being. But mostly I feared that no one would comprehend Indian settings and culture.
My husband supported me and pushed me. And gradually, I started reading at the open-mics. Usually, after my reading, others would make conversation with me. Few sympathized and told stories of their past. Few didn’t make eye contact. Few patted me on the back. But there was one, let’s call him Dave, who questioned the veracity of my memoirs. Dave said that I looked and talked extremely different from the girl in my writing.
I was taken back by his assessment. It bothered me for days. Eventually, I understood his standpoint. Physically I didn’t resemble the ugly girl my mother saw. Emotionally I was stronger than the twenty-seven-year-old who was beaten to the inch of her life. But this incident helped me realize that I had successfully rebuild my life. I started seeing myself from the viewpoints of others. I realized that I can’t spend my time worrying about others opinion of me. also, if I don’t share a story, I would not move forward, and I wouldn’t write new stuff.
So, two years ago, I gathered my courage and submitted a memoir piece–“A Single Stroke of the Pen”–to the Literary Arts of San Mateo County Fair. It took me forever to understand the rules of the submittal. Even though I received an Honorary Mention, I was delighted. (A rewrite of “A Single Stroke of the Pen” was accepted and published in two more publications.) I volunteered at the fair. I did a reading. And (surprisingly) I was one of the panelists at the Winners Panel. I met other writers; I didn’t feel judged or weird.
Last year, I wrote my first fiction story and submitted it again. I wasn’t anxious. Nobody would judge me for a fiction piece. Also, I didn’t have any expectations. “Uniqueness under My Pillow” received the first place as the California Writers Club Writer of the Year award. I was ecstatic. I did a happy dance and immediately enrolled in a fiction writing class at UCBE. I wanted to explore my potential.
Mostly, I wanted a photograph where I stand under the first place ribbon, with my name in bold letters. I wanted to frame the photo and hang it near my writing area. It was the best confidence boosters ever. But I couldn’t go to the fair. I was taking two concurrent writing classes and my husband was traveling for work. I believed that my writing win was partly his. He tolerated and supported me through all my writing hiccups. I just didn’t want to go to the fair without him. My dream was squashed.
This year, three of my writing pieces were awarded in the Literary Arts of San Mateo County Fair. This year, I visited the fair. I took photographs under all my winning and displayed entries. I read a short part of my winning memoir piece. But mostly this year, for the first time, I wasn’t intimidated by other writers. I didn’t feel small or unaccomplished. I felt that I had the right to be there. I didn’t feel that my writing is “too Indian.” I had confidence. I wasn’t ashamed that one on my submitted entries, didn’t win anything. For the first time, I was okay with myself in the midst all other super accomplished writers.
This year, I drank to my heart’s content for all my past and latest accomplishments.