I have a story to tell you.
Are you sitting down?
Me too. Only I have Pop Tarts sitting across from me, mocking me, daring me to lose my cool, but I am better than that.
I sit on the sidelines these days and listen to the people around me as their lives revolve. I cheer for them, I keep their secrets, I pray for them when they need it, I hope the best for everyone, I stay their friend even when they aren’t truly mine, but the one thing I always try to do is to stay quiet when things bother me. I try not to complain because I am grateful for the opportunities I have and each breath I take. That said, I came across an opportunity with the Romance Writers of America – Music City also known as Music City Romance Writers.
I decided to enter their contest. I wanted to hear feedback on a story. I wanted to do something that I could believe in. I could’ve been the best writer they had seen or the worst. My books could be something someone reads or they could be what someone tears up and burns when trying to start a fire at a campground. In my current mental illness funk, I knew the outcome was a coin toss, but yet, I still wanted to have something to hope for so I entered.
Now the part I want you to pay attention to is here:
Now, I currently have four novels almost completed and I have four contracted anthology pieces I have started, but at the moment my heart and soul are not in them. Not yet. When working on multiple pieces side by side like I am I put my ideas down, and then I go back and pour myself into it. I bleed into my books when the ideas I have finally come together and I can see the beginning and the end. Haven’t gotten to that part yet, so I decided to make the painful decision to cut my income, pull Unsteady from all markets, and enter her in the contest.
Then this came nearly an hour after I sent in my file:
Normally, I sit on the sidelines and don’t say a thing. Normally, I stay to myself and bury my disappointments deep, but having had a negative experience before I decided it was time to speak up and defend myself.
The contest eligibility stated must be “unpublished and uncontracted at the time of deadline and during the contest itself.” It never said must be unpublished prior to the contest and frankly with these contests wording is important.
We are all writers, we should know how to write it correctly!
I sit on the sidelines and say nothing so that I don’t cause problems and yet today I am now a problem for someone. I’m in a position I don’t want to be in, but I don’t back down when something is wrong.
I know I am not supposed to let things like this get to me, and maybe it’s because I’m sick, maybe it’s because I am suffering through a depression spell, or maybe it’s because I am tired of being quiet that I decided to push the issue.
Then came the responses from someone higher up:
You read that right… Even though they admit that it needs clarification, I am still disqualified. I am cast out like I did something to offend them.
I am no longer a member of the RWA and easily set aside like day old coffee, but yet I still believe we can work this out… but with bitterness now entwined with my feelings I’m not sure I want to.
What would they say if I made it clear I have alternate files I could send in?
Y’all at this point I wished I had my own law practice, I wished I had a way to show them they were in the wrong. There was no verbal agreement, there were no other rules listed on their webpage, so if I had the ability we would be in mediation.
Let’s be real, had I done anything other than take what they dished out the book would have never made it past round one anyway. They would have punished my work because they got put on the spot with a obvious writing mistake.
Technically “unpublished” has been around since the 1600s, but it doesn’t matter this contest didn’t specify what they wanted. As with anything you find in the tiny print, the TOS if you will, they have to be correct and accurate. This was not.
I know some people will say things like let it go, move on, or who gives a F*ck, and that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Maybe I am an idiot, maybe I don’t get it, maybe this is my fault, but…
They neglected to accept responsibility after admitting to their mistake. They stole any hope I had that we could work together, they stole my faith that something good (or educational) might happen with this, they took my opportunity away for no other reason than because they could.
Unsteady has been removed from the market at my own loss, but this is a lesson learned for me. I hope for anyone that plans to ever enter any contests with the RWA Music City reads this prior, consults an attorney and get more detailed instructions, or my advice is to walk away.
I owed it to my readers to explain what happened. I owed it to my fellow authors and betas who helped me decide which story to send in. I owe it to anyone who has ever been singled out, cast aside, or made to feel like they were nothing from someone to tell the story and warn them because this should never happen to anyone else.
Bless their heart, they aren’t a bad organization, but this has definitely left a bad impression. I asked multiple questions, I sent in everything they told me to, and I obliged everyone involved, and still I am punished for their mistake.
I do have plans for Unsteady, though.
Just sit tight and wait and see what I do!