How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Soiled. Here’s a word I don’t often see in print. It was common enough in mid-twentieth-century classics, in stories where children ran free much of the day–“Look how you’ve soiled your good dress!” a mother or nanny would scold. I can’t think of any examples (I’m such a lazy blogger, already), but I’m definitely right about this. Perhaps it’s a word the English use more. Martin Amis used “soiled” in a reference to post-World-War-II American anti-semitism–this in a recent NYT Book Review piece on Philip Roth–and I was reminded what a pungent, powerful word it can be. Soiled: corrupt, morally filthy.
When the amazing, inimitable writer-illustrator-teacher Pat Cummings told me about the PB contest organized by Atlantic Avenue merchants (we’re talking Brooklyn here), I thought, “Why not?” It’s a writing contest in my own backyard with cash prizes (a grand for first place!) and a fantastic panel of judges (Bruce Degen!).
Then I sat down to write. Immersed in a MG world for the last several years, I had forgotten all about the easy treachery of the picture-book manuscript. Do you know what I mean? I had an idea. I jotted down a few notes. I wrote a few lines. I liked them. I kept going. In no time I had three hundred words. The perfect length. (Have you noticed how few words BPs have these days?) I stopped, rather smug about doing such a good first draft. I read it over the next day, and it was terrible! Not total crap, but not good, either. And then I remembered my stack of PB manuscripts that were never quite…right. Rapunzel, who got put in the tower because she liked math. The blankie story. The sex book. (If only I were Dr. Ruth, I might’ve sold it.)
Not that I’ve given up. Nope. I haven’t given up. I’m going to keep trying. I’ll send something to the Atlantic Avenue BID. I have almost two weeks…no, actually, I’ve got just over a week to craft this baby. I have nothing to lose, right?
If anyone reading this wants to know more about the contest, go to atlanticavebid.org. The deadline’s Nov. 1 at the stroke of midnight.