I had a very bad experience at my first job out of college and I moved back home to recoup. What was going to be a temporary layover in my life journey, ended up being two years. (My whole life is filled with long stories, so I’m just going to keep moving forward with my Delilah story.) I turned twenty-four a month after I moved back home. Then I turned twenty-five and twenty-six. Still at home. I remember going on a date and later that night, my dad said, “Victoria! He is a redneck!” But who else was I going to meet in a redneck southern town? It was slowly dawning on me, that I needed to kick myself out of the house. But I still didn’t know how to do it.
One morning, before I moved out, I woke up and a title for a book was given to me by God (the Universe). It just flowed through my mind. The Dating Dilemmas of Delilah Dunnfield. It would be about a southern girl approaching twenty-five and realizing if she didn’t leave the small town, she may end up an old maid. Her mother told her all through her growing up years that “all the good ones are gone by the time you reach twenty-five.”
It came from the fact that my mother told all of us kids (five) that all the good ones are gone by the time you reach twenty-five. Well, there was no hope for me, I was already well into my twenty-sixth year. But maybe my character would have better luck than me and I could live vicariously through her. So, I started writing a novel in October 1996. A novel about a young woman coming of age in her twenties. I had no idea at the time that I had been a part of a collective consciousness forming the genre Chick Lit. “Bridget Jones” was published in 1996. But I didn’t know this until the movie came out in 2001. I read a couple Jane Green novels in 1998. I still didn’t know the significance of these books. I was still writing my book.
I moved to Memphis in November 1996 and then moved to Atlanta in November 1997. Still collecting experiences to add to my book. I went to a Microsoft Office seminar once in Atlanta with one of my first corporate jobs and I was telling the instructor about my book. When she heard the title she said, “That sounds like a best seller!” I have never forgotten that. And why should it not be? The book was Inspired and given to me by God. This story means so much to me. I will never give up on it.
I moved to Denver in 2000 and met some amazing creative writers. (Which is a whole other blog story.) In 2005 I found out about Pikes Peak Writers Group and their annual writing conference. Wow. I had never joined a writing group before. I had just been floating around trying to figure things out on my own. I went to the conference and was so amazed. I found my people! I never knew life was so LIFE before. I never knew how I could be so connected to my dreams before!
I had not completed “Delilah” yet, but I joined a class taught by a coveted literary agent to gain feedback on my first few pages. Boy, was I slashed and trashed. No one volunteered to read first, and I had so much confidence in my story that I decided I would be brave and go for it. I read the first three pages with confidence and then she tore it to pieces. I wanted to crawl under my chair and die.
“Nobody laughed because we didn’t know what was going on!” On and on it went. I personally don’t think anyone was listening to me, because they were probably too nervous about reading their own story. And I can also say, NO ONE volunteered to go second.
I dragged my little story and broken heart home with me and began re-working it. A couple of months later I saw an email come through from Pikes Peak Writers to enter a contest, mimicking American Idol. You could read any place in your book that you wanted to read from. It had to last three minutes. And the sign up was first come first serve. I immediately signed up. I had two weeks to prepare for the event. I bought crazy pajamas to act the part of Delilah. I re-worked my favorite chapter (Welcome Guests) to read for the three-minute time slot and I memorized it. I could not wait for everyone to be introduced to Delilah the proper way.
My friend who lived in Colorado Springs invited me to spend the night at her house and I invited her to be my guest at the event. We sat at a table in the back of the room. There were a little less than a hundred people in the room and I think fifteen contestants would read. There were four judges, one being a Hollywood screenwriter, one an editor, and two authors. I think my number to read was twelve. So I had a long wait. I was very nervous. I left the table to go change from my dress into my pajamas. When I got back to the table my friend was gone and none other than Ms. Slash and Trash herself was sitting in her place! Gulp.
“This seat is saved,” she said. She recognized me and my lame beginning. Sigh.
“Oh, it’s my table and my friend.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. She just asked me to make sure to save the seats.”
“Okay. Thanks. Hi,” I nervously smiled.
Sit. Sit. Sit. Wait. Wait. Then my friend, Pam finally came back over and started a conversation with Slash and I. Whew.
Halfway into the readings of serious literary stories, or young adult fiction, the Hollywood screenwriter hollered out to the room, “Anyone got any Chick Lit out there?” I raised my hand. Oh my goodness! I was the only one, and he was really wanting to hear my story. Then it was my turn to read. I stood at the podium with a spotlight shining on me and ninety people in front of me. All eyes were on me. Gulp.
I decided it was best not to go from memory, but to just read from the paper. (Of course, since I had it memorized, I just used paper as a guide.) I did all the voices and Southern accents and dramatizations. After the second sentence the whole room burst into laughter. YES! Take that, Slash!
Laughter rang out throughout my whole three minutes and I was in heaven. At the end the judges took turns telling me their opinions. It was all so good. “What a way to meet your dream guy- in handcuffs with your mail!” “How many of us have had our underwear stolen from the laundry?” Everyone agreed it was hilarious and relatable. The only real criticism was that I needed to expand more on one area when the cops come to the door. (Which I later did, in a way that really happened to me in fifth grade and I doubt those judges would have ever guessed it would have worked so well.)
After the remaining three contestants read their stories, the judges left to deliberate on the four main prizes to be given. First thirty pages to be read by Donald Maas… People’s choice (voted by everyone in the room), first thirty pages to be read by Slash and another thirty-page reading prize by another agent.
My name was called. MY NAME WAS CALLED! I got up to walk to the stage and then they had me turn around and told me I won the Ms. Slash and Trash prize. (Of course, they used her real name.) Oh my goodness!