Sunday, May 11, 2008

Are you an old friend, and are you googling me?

I ask because I google people from the past, sometimes for the oddest reasons. They don't have to be people I miss, or even people I knew very well. But if their names stick with me, especially the unique names, searching for them online becomes an odd, repetitive habit. It can bring back heavy memories.

I feel as though in a more natural world we ought to be able to move on from the past without it haunting us in vivid words and pictures, but the internet floats it up like debris on a river after a storm. Also in a more natural world we wouldn't constantly move on from people and be forced to meet new ones all the time -- we'd be more geographically stable.

Wouldn't we?

Ah, what difference does it make? Why can't I let it alone?

This isn't a literary question, really. Back to the publishing stuff next.

PS: If you are googling me from the past and you're the kid in the painting, please drop me a note.

Competition, part two

After that post about competition and art, I remembered judging the Maryland Writers Association fiction competition again this year... it is either my third year or my fourth, and the entries are always great. Some are publishable, and they are all worth reading! MWA is such a supportive and smart organization. I spoke at their annual writers conference a few years back, but didn't tell them them a little secret -- that was my first writers conference ever! Normally I'm highly allergic to the usual writer-industry stuff (and a later visit to another gackawful conference reminded me why), but the MWA is different/better. Visit them, and if you have a few Andrew Jacksons burning a hole in your chinos, make a donation...

Stomach aches and contest entries

Oh the resistance I have to the concept of "competitive" art. Whether it is writing, painting, music -- the notion that art wins prizes, and that there is good, better, and best expression rubs my fur backward just a bit. I acknowledge that certain accomplishment is genuine, and should be rewarded. But what if three wonderful novels are entered into competition, and they are all quite different? How is one the "best" of the three? And even more complex, what about the politics of the competition? Once I walked off of a journalism judging committee because first-, second- and third-place votes were all given the same weight, and since we each voted for a different first-place work but we all voted for the same third-place work, that author won the grand prize! It was absurd, and the institutionalization of mediocrity. I complained to the head of the awards committee, who shrugged and said it wasn't worth her time to weight the votes and try again. So several excellent journalists who had earned our various first-place votes walked away thinking they didn't make the cut, and one obvious third-placer is out there now putting "Grand prize winner" on his c.v.

So why after all that kvetching did I choose to enter the Arts Club of Washington's first-ever playwriting competition this year? First because I admire the organization. Founded in 1916, it is the oldest arts club in a city that desperately needs more focus on the arts in general. It has been tireless over the years in promoting opera, cultural programs, photography, and overall cultural literacy. Washington is a city of vast artistic treasures, yet not nearly enough practicing artists of national or international acclaim. There is room for many, many more, and in a city this financially flush there should be generous funding available as well.

I've heard some fanciful souls refer to Washington as "Paris on the Potomac," and it can sometimes resemble that city in its L'Enfant design if you stand in just the right spot, sip enough vin rouge, and squint. The Arts Club of Washington is doing what it can to make that hazy half-vision a full-fledged reality, so I wrote a play just for them, and submitted it, and prayed...