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OWL Awards Ceremony

I’m excited for tonight. Although the Ozarks Writers League (OWL) Conference was cancelled due to COVID-19, we’re still having our awards ceremony online. I’m writing this post two hours before the ceremony. I’ll let you know how I did at the end of this post.

Competition was fierce this year. Half of our members submitted entries into at least one of our sixteen categories. My critique group sponsored and judged one of the contests, and we had a difficult time choosing our winners. All of the entries we received were of the highest quality. It took us a full week to come to a consensus and send our results to the contest coordinator.

During a normal year, we’d all be in Branson tonight. We’d have a nice dinner as a group and then enjoy our awards ceremony. After the conclusion of the festivities, a bunch of us would gather in various hotel rooms and spend several hours talking. Some of us would imbibe in a little wine or spirits, but the important thing is we’d be together.

Tomorrow we would all meet in the conference hall and enjoy carefully chosen speakers who educate and inspire us. We’d have the opportunity to pitch our work to agents and publishers, as well as benefit from pearls of wisdom they shared.

Instead, we’re all at home in our offices, studies, dining rooms, kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms. We didn’t pack suitcases, make hotel reservations, or spend hours on the road.

I’m grateful we have the technology to meet via Zoom, even though some us will inevitably experience computer, internet, or phone issues. Had the pandemic hit prior to the age of social media, we wouldn’t be meeting at all. A virtual meeting is much better than no meeting.


We just concluded our virtual awards ceremony, affectionately dubbed The OWLies. Twenty-nine members logged in, one of whom I haven’t been in many years. I enjoyed visiting with everyone, even though it was a bit difficult to do so.

Our contest coordinator did a fabulous job organizing the event. Yes, there were technical difficulties, as anticipated, but she conquered them quickly. The 2020 president offered encouraging words, as did the new 2021 president.

Now, I’ll tell you how I fared. I’m ecstatic to announce that I won 3rd Place in the Haiku competition! I love poetry, but mine doesn’t get much love. I seldom place poetry competitions, and I’ve only had two poems published in my life. I’m not ashamed to admit that many poets have much better meter than me.

I won 2nd Place in the Humorous Short Story category. This one is really special because the sponsor is one of the funniest men I know. I’ve entered his contest many times, but I never made the cut until this year. I’ve come a long way as an author for him to choose my story as one of the top three.

I was still floating on the euphoria of success over the first two wins when the contest coordinator announced I won 3rd Place in the Flash Fiction contest. Woohoo! This category was difficult because our stories had to be exactly 100 words. No more, no less. It’s even more special because I chose to write about poverty, something that is a big part of my day job.

I was absolutely amazed to take 3rd Place in the O’Henry contest. This one is a mystery category where you need a surprise twist at the end. I’ve entered many times, but this is my first time placing.

It isn’t all about me, though. I love cheering for my friends when they win. They didn’t let me down tonight. Most of them placed in more than one contest. Every contest in which I entered but didn’t place, at least one of them did. They deserved each award they received because they’re amazing writers.

I feel validated in my writing and excited for next year. I’ve been suffering from self-doubt the past few months, and a simple conversation with a few other writers lifted me out of it. No one understands a writer like another writer.

Fellowship is important to us, and Corona Virus has robbed us of far too many opportunities to be together. We are planning to move forward and pray we can enjoy each other’s company in person next year.

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