I'll admit, I'm not a runner. (The only race I ever ran was in elementary school and I immortalized it in my my novel Well With My Soul - not a pretty finish.) But I remember that excitement that would start pumping as someone handed me the baton and I could see the ending.
The MeeGenius contest I've been involved with now since late November has felt that way in some respect. I shot out of the gate in round one (not knowing what to expect) and was greeted with cheers from the sidelines and many people willing to take that baton and run a while when I would get tired. They rallied to get votes during round one and I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for this little book that spoke of a boy with autism and his desire to be a superhero in his brain.
I was never certain if the final round would include public voting (as the publisher utilized judges when they did this last year), but once it was announced I was a finalist and the fully illustrated books would be open to the public again: we were off.
Endurance and stamina are greatly needed to get through any race. And that is no different when dealing with a three week challenge. You first have to let everyone know that voting in round one does not exclude them from voting again now. "But we've already done this" they say. And you explain their votes helped weed down 400 people to the final 13. You put on your promotional/marketing hat and think of different ways to get the word out to new people. Luckily (and I'm so aware of this), my book has a built in platform as autism affects many, many people. Only this time - the comments section is turned off on the voting board so you don't get to see what those voters are saying about the book. (Those very words helped push me along in round one.) By the second week, you are so tired of talking/begging/pleading...you start to wonder if all around you are completely hating every single time they see the words 'chicken' and 'boy' in your facebook status. The inspiration behind your book notices that everywhere he goes, people ask him to say "Bahcaaaaaah!" - and he does; each time. And you question if you are making it to week three.
But by that last week, something starts to happen. Your friends start to perk up as they too see the finish line. They believe in you and want you to win. They believe in the book and want to see it published. And you get a renewed strength that causes you to press on and ask people to read the book, vote and share the word with as many as possible.
I marvel at my friends during this time. I see who they are and so appreciate them giving of their time in the way they have. I am grateful for each newspaper and online website that runs an article about me and this story. Montclair Times - Hawthorne Gazette - BaristaKids - Dallas Observer - Runnin' Down A Dream - Melissa Goodwin Blog And I am most pleased that I've played a small (very small) part in bringing awareness to autism via kid's lit. Even if it's only been a few weeks of my time.
And that's when I know the race isn't done. My goal is to make this book available to many, many kids so they can share it with classmates to try and understand what goes on in the mind of a child with autism. At least what goes on with the one I personally know.
MeeGenius is helping to make that a reality if this book wins. And YOU all have helped (and continue) with your voting. It's not over. Please keep sharing and we can run through that finish line together, #TeamChickenBoy!!