A "Dear Me" conversation continues. (2nd Place winner.)
Written for and winner of 2nd Place in the 2010
'How do I get into such scrapes?'
I heard the Bailiff call out, "All rise."
'So this is it,' I thought, watching the panel of judges take their seats on the bench. Will I be allowed to continue my support of WDC and pursue my dream of being a writer, or be relegated to literary obscurity with millions of others who let their dreams slip away?' I looked down at the papers in front of me, wondering how this came to be.
'It was you, wasn't it?'
No, it wasn't.
'Yes it was--you and that "Dear Me" letter you made me write last year. If not for that, I wouldn't be here fighting for my future.'
Okay, it was me! But you'd have no future if not for that letter. It defined you, gave you purpose and direction; it made you a stronger writer, and all things considered, a better person.
I thought back to the goals I'd written--my aspirations for 2009. Who knew then that I might have to answer for those lofty ideals? Looking down at the stack of papers in front of me, I saw the Summons that started this nightmare.
* * *
You are hereby summoned and required to serve upon this court of the WDC Community at Nine O'clock in the morning on the First of February, in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Ten, an answer to the complaint which is herewith served upon you. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded in the complaint.
What a way to end a great year. A complaint? Against me? Who would have....
Why was it issued at all? After everything I've done on and for WDC in this past year, I'm being tried for failing to live up to the standards I set for myself.
Can you believe this? my silent voice cried out, furious.
'No, I'm speechless.' That surprised me; I'm seldom at a loss for words, vocal or written.
You need to fix the events and dates for your defense firmly in your mind before that trial.
'Yes, Jace, I know,' I thought, shaking my head. I can be so damn pushy. 'I don't think I'll forget this past year anytime soon.'
Still, you never know with all you have going on, you might forget something important. Write them down ... now!
When I first read the charges, I knew I was guilty. They had been ambitious goals indeed, but I had extenuating circumstances. The court needed to hear these points before they could render an informed decision, and I could proceed with my goals for 2010. I wondered how many dreams had been dashed or bolstered by this court. I would not be a victim.
I had 31 days to plan my defense.
* * *
"You may be seated." The Bailiff's words cut my reverie short. "The Honorable Annette , Ⱳƹ₿~ŴitcӉ 2021 , and NanoWriMo2018 Into the Earth presiding."
"This tribunal is now in session," Judge NanoWriMo2018 Into the Earth said, as she banged her gavel against the sound block. "We are here today to adjudge the actions of Jace with respect to the WDC community, and whether these actions merit continued membership in this august organization." She stared hard at me, and said, "Bailiff, please read the charges against the accused."
I read my own charge sheet as the Bailiff cleared his throat.
Charge 1: Conduct unbecoming a writer, to wit, failing to prepare and submit four items for publication.
Charge 2: Making a false statement, to wit, failing to write an additional 1250 reviews before the end of 2009.
"Jace , how do you plead?" asked Judge Ⱳƹ₿~ŴitcӉ 2021 .
"Guilty, Your Honor," I replied, surprising myself ... and the judges. "Specifically, guilty with extenuating circumstances. May I explain before you pass judgment?" I watched each judge carefully, looking for some small sign of support for my efforts to defend myself. I thought I saw Judge Annette nod.
I'd spent a lot of time online at WDC,and had some measure of contact with two of the judges, but was chagrined to realize I had taken no time to get to know the third. I took some comfort knowing these judges would be consummate professionals and would judge me fairly, or they would not have been selected for such an important position.
I was nervous; I never liked public speaking, being much more at ease with the written word. My hand shook as I reached for a glass of water trying not to spill it, and took a drink to calm my frayed nerves. I closed my eyes for a moment and said a quick prayer.
"It is true, Your Honors, that I set some ... uh, ambitious goals when I began 2009. And if you check the record, you'll see that I accomplished most of them. I wrote almost fifty short stories and poems; entered more than twenty contests, placing in many of them, including a first and second place in two "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest" and winning the "WYRM's Gauntlet" ; and completed NaNoWriMo '09 with my second novel."
I could see that the judges were not very impressed; a lot of folks are pretty accomplished with their writing abilities. I tried a different tack.
"Uh, I noticed that I was becoming a glory hound--I wanted all the bells and whistles, the awards, the acclaim that came from winning contests. I enjoyed ... no, I was addicted to the limelight. What a deception! I finally realized I wanted and needed something more.
"My time and efforts on WDC were not wasted or frittered away. I re-prioritized my goals to include more interaction with fellow members. I organized three reviewing challenges for "The Talent Pond" , which involved almost fifty persons reviewing more than 300 other members. Just watching each reviewer grow in his or her craft was a joy, and I know their efforts were well appreciated by the recipients.
"I was also fortunate to be part of a very successful auction, "Jace's Travel Guide Auction" , which raised more than two million gift points for "The Talent Pond" and "SIMPLY POSITIVE GROUP" . I'm sure you know the presence those groups have on WDC, and how many people they touch."
My passion mounted; I was warming to the task at hand.
"Maybe I didn't make the numbers. But, I gained so much more from the changes I made during this past year. I know I'll be a much better writer in 2010 for it, and hopefully, a much better person. I won't apologize for what seems like rhetoric, or flair, or drama. Isn't that what we as writers do? We write about what moves us.
"Yes, Your Honors, I've failed to do a few specific items that I offered as goals last year. But I submit to you that I've evolved. Today, I am a good writer. Yesterday, I was average; tomorrow, I will be better. That I've become the man I am now must be a testament to the influence of this site on me, and vice versa."
I paused, needing to catch my breath. Picking up a sheet of paper, I rounded the table to approach the bench. Looking at each judge, in turn, I smiled.
"If it please the court, I'd like to offer this page containing my goals for 2010 into evidence." I raised the sheet over my head, and was pleased to note each judge followed the paper. "I will, to the best of my ability, strive to achieve each item listed herein."
"I can't promise that some future event will not cause me to once again change my focus. But I promise that whatever I do will make me a stronger writer and a more ardent supporter of WDC."
Ⱳƹ₿~ŴitcӉ 2021 waved me forward; I handed my list to her, and waited while each judge gazed at it, then gave it to the Bailiff to be properly marked.
"Thank you." I nodded, and returned to my seat wondering whether my 2010 goals would land me in front of this court next year. I thought about the commitment I was making ... I had only three goals this year, and I didn't have to refer to that sheet I'd given the judges.
First, I will give assistance when needed and advice when requested to any member of WDC. While reviews will be the primary mode for this help, I remain open to alternative requirements.
Second, I resolve to become more generous to the members of WDC. To that end, I have set aside a fund, which shall be replenished by a portion of any gift points I receive from contest winnings and reviewing.
Finally, on a personal level, I will select two or three stories with the intent to polish them, and submit them to a publisher. Contest submissions and reviews will be but steppingstones to this end.
I waited while the judges talked among themselves for a moment. Then Judge NanoWriMo2018 Into the Earth spoke.
"Jace , you have spoken eloquently, notwithstanding your aversion to public speaking. We shall consider your words carefully. You'll have our decision by February 15th. This court is adjourned."
I reflected that the crack of the gavel sounded much like a starter's pistol, and perhaps this was the fresh start I needed. Whatever the court's decision, I decided I'd made an eminently satisfying arrangement with myself.
'Yes, Jace, 2010 will be a great year.'