Be forewarned: this is a parenthesis-heavy post (but don’t be afraid).
First (because chances are, you were directed here by Facebook), I’m giving up the social interaction part of Facebook. So basically, I’m giving up Facebook. Yes, this is in association with Lent. No, I’m not Catholic. Some exceptions: WordPress automatically posts when I update to Facebook, and on occasion, I might use the ‘share’ button on my StumbleUpon toolbar to post a link or two. Also, soon, I am going to be fund raising, and as much as I don’t want to be actively online for a while, I might be utilizing the social network thing to garner financial support. So please, don’t talk to me on Facebook until Easter. I will (most likely) not respond.
Why? You ask. What could prompt you to do such a thing when just a few days ago, you hadn’t even considered the Lenten season (being the Protestant that you are)? Full truth–people are mean on the internet, and I don’t need to deal with it. A couple of people have sent some really nasty messages to me as of late, and I don’t want or need that added stress/drama. So, to all you mean ole cyber-bullies, I’m cutting you off. Also, I do spend an exorbitant amount of time on Facebook that could theoretically be spent in more productive ways (like StumbleUpon…).
Second: The ILP.
“Maggie, I know this sounds crazy, but I have no idea what that means,” you whisper in my ear, afraid to upset the fragile chemical balance of my mind. Do not be alarmed, dear friends. I know that you probably don’t know to what I am referring. Allow me to explain (or sum-up a la Inigo Montoya?).
May I repeat: LISBON, PORTUGAL!
If you’re just tuning in for the first time, I love Portugal. I love it. Apart from the obvious nationalistic fervor that I get from being luso-American, and apart from the skads of relatives I have living in the Costa Azul (being mostly a large number of cousins…lots of cousins), Portugal is, in my estimation, the most epic modern European nation.
Above, you see me with Luís Vaz de Camões, one of the greatest writers of the Portuguese language (or any language) from the 16th century. He wrote an epic poem entitled Os Lusíadas, dramatizing the voyages of Vasco da Gama (whose body is encrypted just across the way from our friend here). I’ve been reading an English translation of Os Lusíadas for a while now (I pick it up when I have time, so rarely, but I’m into the fourth Canto). But the epicness of Portugal is not just contained in da Gama and Camões–it continues, giving us poets like Fernando Pessoa in the early 20th century and contemporary novelists like José Rodrigues Dos Santos and Nobel Prize winning José Saramago (reading A Viagem do Elefante currently). The cultural and literary tradition of Portugal and lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) countries is incredible–and incredibly hard to find in English translation. Which is a Super Great Tragedy of my life, since my level of fluency in Portuguese is not quite up to novel-reading standards.
But we’re not here to talk about Super Great Tragedies, Elephants, or the amazing literary tradition of the lusophone world. We’re talking about the ILP. In particular, we’re talking about me and the ILP.
On a whim one afternoon in late January, having recently arrived at Nyack College for the spring semester, I decided to phone my father and pester him whilst at work. If you’ve ever managed to spend time on my mental ‘Call-This-Person’ list, you know that I can be unrelenting in phone calls until I actually catch you on the phone for a few minutes…or hours… So anywhoo, I called my dad just to say hello, and he answered (Major Win Victory!). After exchanging the usual pleasantries (“This is António Felisberto” — “Daddy!” — “Oh. Hi, what do you want?”), he said something to the effect of “So I read about a contest in the Portuguese newspaper. I’m going to send you and Kaleigh’s emails. It’s a writing thing.” What?! My dad saw a writing contest in the paper and thought to send it to me?! Major Win Victory!! I hope I qualify for whatever it is (last time he found something in the paper for me, I was actually still too young to apply).
SO, the next day, he and my mom call me again and email me the link to the Disquiet Contest and Scholarships page on the next day. The date: January 27th. The deadline: January 31st. The challenge: Write a maximum 10-page short story (or 10-page collection of poems, or 10-page nonfiction work). Four full scholarships and several partial scholarships will be rewarded to attend a writing workshop in the ILP called ‘Writing the Luso Experience’ from June 19th to July 2nd. Entries in English by luso-American/Canadian writers (or anyone ethnically tied to a lusophone country). I accepted the challenge and on Saturday the 29th, I composed ‘Bennett & Georgie’–a seven-page short story about two kids from New York stuck in Virginia (been near the city too long). I think the initial composition of the story and the first/only level of revision I did took a sum total of four hours plugging away at my computer in Connecticut. I had no internet in CT, so I had to wait until Monday the 31st to submit my story and pay the reading fee.
I did not think I had a chance at anything.
So Tuesday afternoon, I received an email from Jeff Parker, the director of Disquiet. I didn’t win the full scholarship, BUT my story was in the top three for fiction. Here’s a fragment of what he said:
I wanted to write to you personally. We very much liked your work. For me particularly Bennet and Georgie was a great piece, exciting and well told and controlled nervousness and all… Talented writers such as yourself, who span both of these worlds, are exactly the audience we had in mind when creating this program. I do hope that you may be able to accept this partial scholarship offer.
They offered me the highest possible partial scholarship, $750 to attend the workshop and seminars.
MAJOR. WIN. VICTORY. (I sure do say that a lot these days, don’t I?)
But of course there’s a catch–If I go to this thing, I have to somehow manage to produce somewhere between $2500 and $3000 to get there and cover the rest of the cost, and that’s assuming I will be able to stay with relatives (oh, please, relatives! oh, please, relatives!).
How will I attain such a large sum of money when I am an unemployed/broke college student facing the constant economic perils of daily life? I don’t know, BUT! – I am determined. I go home tomorrow for spring break, where I will hopefully flesh out a plan of attack with my parents.
Look for my fund raising projects. They’ll be coming up soon…