My paper knife was trudging along the envelope like a plough struggling through rocky soil - hope was trying to lift my doubt.
It was what I feared, yet another rejection of an article. I had spent weeks on the research of this one before I had submitted it to the 'Fem Mag'. It was a very polite refusal: 'Dear Steph ….. thank you for your 1750 word article on 'Ladies' Hats' ..... found it absorbing ….. but, this item is covered by our fashion writer …..Yours sincerely, Giselle Downer.'
I know my limitations – I shall never write a classic or a best seller – I've settled for middle of the road, short submissions to magazine publications. I use the byline Steph to hoodwink female editors into thinking I'm one of their feminine species. I'm sure most smell a rat as I'm rubbish at most women's stuff. Just can't get into: woman trouble, time of the month, tampons and hysterectomies – the things that female publications are at home with.
It's harder to hit the Christian Mags - they want the big hitters - celebrity stars from off the box with followings into the thousands or other well-known Christian leaders and preachers. I occasionally preach at one small church with a disciple number of elderly ladies who hang on my every word. They are gushing in their praise but it's not the route to fame or a key-opener to writing success. Perhaps I need to use the pseudonym Bill Graham or Jack Wesley to impress Christian editors.
Several days later another letter had found itself in my hand and made me curious. It was not thickened by a returned piece of my failed writing and the envelope had the heading 'Opportunity Knocks'. It was for a Christian writing competition with a £1000 prize. The subject was 'Christian Giving' in no more that 750 words.
While writing my competition piece I had thought of how miserly I was as a Christian giver. Mostly, I give just a tenth of all that God gives me – I'm sure that's not enough. I resolved to put my giving up and do something extra too, and decided to discuss it with Gill.
“Remember that writing competition I told you about Gill? Well I've been challenged about my giving and would like to do something special for the Lord.”
“I'll give it a bit more thought, then let you know. I have an idea but I'm struggling with it at the present.”
“Alright! But hurry darling, don't keep me in suspense too long.”
I later spoke to my lovely wife and she agreed my plan. So I made a vow that if I won the prize then I would donate it to a Christian writing organisation with a proviso that it be used to finance subscriptions for budding young male writers who were financially embarrassed. I felt that this would infinitesimally alter the male and female writers' balance and increase the male pen-count likewise.
This decision made me feel great. Maybe God would help me out in winning – give me a lift up the ladder of success. This was real sacrificial giving and just what I needed to boost my ego – that was until Gill reminded me that it was all just pie in the sky until I won. I refused to be deflated – what about giving and receiving or in my case receiving and giving – suppose it's the same!
After what seemed like months I had the letter in my hands that I had been longing to receive with a wonderful heading 'Congratulations'.
I called out, “Gill I think I've won, come here so I can open it.”
“Open what – won what?”
It was the most beautiful letter I'd ever received. My eyes scanned over it and stopped at all the important bits: Dear Stephen, (used my full Christian name) ….. Congratulations ….. Second Prize ….. £500 ….. to be featured in 'Christian Tomorrow'..... Yours very sincerely, John Mates.
“Hallelujah, wow five hundred smackers. I've cracked it – I've arrived. Gill darling we need to go out and celebrate.”
Then I remembered.
And, I kept my vow!
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