As many of you know, I’ve signed up for a contest over at http://neilgaiman.bookperk.com/engine/Details.aspx?p=A&c=29933&s=7776799&i=1
Essentially, the winner gets to talk to Neil Gaiman on the phone. Oh, and also have a part in the Audiobook being made for the 10th anniversary of American Gods. The second part of the contest involves an analysis of skill, but this first part is just a popularity contest. I feel guilty plaguing people daily with my pleas for votes, so I’ve decided to reward everyone, voters and nonvoters, with a blog entry to accompany each day’s plea from now until May 2. It’s hardly NaNoWriMo, but, as I’m reportedly quite entertaining, it should be a good read.
For this first entry, I thought I’d explain why entering a contest like this is so uncomfortable for me and why I nonetheless want it so bad I hurt when I think about it. First of all, my discomfort. I hate competition. I don’t like much in the way of organized sports, and I disagree with the predominant view that competing is somehow good for people. I think competition is inherently bad, and that it sets up a society where we value winners over losers and where winning becomes more important than loving, befriending, and learning. But I’m not stupid. Ours is a competitive society, and I’ve just got to live with that.
I was an unpopular kid. Growing up smart, female, and outspoken in Brown County, OH, pretty much guaranteed me a berth in the non-entity category. Add to that my complete failure to be anything resembling a Christian and I was doomed from the start. So part of my hatred for competiton comes from growing up picked last and having only a few good friends. Now, those friends are very good friends, and I still have every single one of them, which is pretty fucking awesome, but it was a lonely childhood.
And, naturally, it was a reading childhood. I read everything and developed a particular love of fantasy and sci fi. I confess, I didn’t do much graphic novel reading when it first developed as a genre, even though comic strips and comic books have always been just about my favorite reading. So I missed Neil Gaiman’s Sandman until after I read Neverwhere in 1996 at the age of twenty, at which time I went back through his catalogue.
In addition to reading throughout my childhood, I also wrote. I’ve written since I was ten, when I composed everything on an old Remington Rand manual typewriter. I’m about to see my first novel published, something I’m very excited about but can’t talk about much yet, and I still read as avidly as ever. As such, though my writing is rarely in the fantasy genre, Neil Gaiman is one of the real heroes of my life. So much so that I’m willing to enter a popularity contest to try to get to talk to him. “Popularity” and “contest” are two words that, when put together, make me cringe. I mean shuddertime cringe. I’ve never been good at “popular”, and I’ve never liked “contests”.
So it takes a lot of wanting to make me enter something like this. But when I saw the contest, I went out and bought a microphone and downloaded software from audacity at once. I want to speak to Neil Gaiman that badly. The contest is technically about reading and speaking, and to enter, I had to record a clip of myself reading a paragraph from American Gods. I did several takes until I was satisfied and posted that without any nervousness at all. I have a good speaking voice, and I’m not hesitant about having it heard in public. But the first round of voting really has little to do with skill. In the first round of voting, anybody with an account at the publisher’s website can vote once daily, and the top twenty vote-getters will advance to the second round of voting, when talent actually matters. Now, technically, talent matters in the first round, too. But, let’s face it: with nearly a thousand entries, people are getting votes from their friends. Especially those of us who entered on the contest’s first day, who are automatically pushed to the last results pages. So I have to put myself forward every day asking people to vote for me in a popularity contest, and it scares me shitless.
My wanting this so badly scares me shitless, too. I usually do a good job keeping my hopes and expectations firmly in check, as I otherwise spend all my time in a twitchy, nervous state. But I am having dreams about this contest. Serious Dreams.
When I was a teen, none of the guys who I wanted to date would have dated me, and I didn’t want to date those few guys who were interested in me. SO I had a LOT of relationships-in-my-head. I’d imagine going out with some guy. And then I’d dream about it at night, only to wake up disappointed the next day. I started chanting “no dreams no dreams no dreams” to myself at night to make this painful experience stop, and since then, the only real guy I’ve dreamed of is the one I married. (Note: I have a fetish for the animated series Voltron. Keith? The driver of the black lion? Yeah. He shows up in my weird dreams all the time. But I’m never let down because the guy is a figment in the first place.) But I’ve been dreaming about this Gaiman contest the way I used to dream about boyfriends.
I’m standing in a sound booth reading from a teleprompter.
I’m talking to Neil about my part, asking him what the seed for American Gods was, and what he feels is the hook to my section of text.
The producer [a redheaded man named Kevin, who wears these black t-shirts with string ties and baggy pants] is saying, “Slow it down. Remember, you feel like you’re going more slowly than you actually are.”
And I wake up from another bout of night sweats with my heart racing and the reality of my bedroom filtering in. And I ache, because I have not talked to Neil, there is no such person as Kevin, and I want to win this popularity contest so badly. If I lose in round two, I’ll be hurt, but not crushed, because I’ve listened to some of these submissions, and there are some really good speakers. But if I lose at this level, I know I’m going to feel sad because what it really boils down to right now is popularity, which I’ve always struggled with. Right now, I’ve got this conflicting emotions thing going on, where I gape, amazed, at the huge number of people who HAVE voted for me (I’m at 115 votes after five days of voting, which just makes me feel SO happy), then sink when I see how many more votes I need to be “popular enough”.
So, in closing, please, vote for me. Vote every day between now and May 2. Share my pleas with your friends. Share a link to this blog with your friends. I’ll try to add a new blog post daily to reward you, and I promise to make the writing worthwhile.