I’m someone who is fairly accustomed to winning things. Debate rounds, scholarships, jobs, contests. Not NCAA March Madness pools, perhaps, but a lot of other things.

Late yesterday, it was announced that I will not be winning the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. American Dream On missed the cut of the top 250 books to proceed to the quarterfinals.

It feels like a bigger setback than it should. Until I found the contest, shortly before the entries were being accepted, this was never even on my radar. My approach was going to be to try to find an agent. Of course I got complacent about that process once I was chugging along in the contest, starting to feel a sense of destiny or serendipity about the whole thing. So now I’m back at the drawing board and not getting a gift feels like a loss.

Of course there’s also the sting of the rejection, although I don’t know yet the grounds for said rejection. The pitch that I threw together on the last day somehow was deemed in the top 20% of pitches, which fueled my confidence that the actual excerpt, which every reader so far, even the person who hated the book overall, have found to be exciting and something that draws the reader in, would be deemed in the top 25%. Didn’t happen and I want to know why. The pain of anything negative is reduced greatly by understanding its source reasons. It is not knowing why something goes wrong that will drive a person crazy. So I’m a bit in the throes of that until I can grapple with the reasons.

At that point, the reasons will either make sense and give me direction for reworking things, or they will be things endemic to the contest (for example, I do have a bit of a fear that the first 2.5 chapters make the novel seem like it should have been entered in the “Young Adult” category, even though ADO is certainly not a Young Adult work on the whole), which will not bug me too much, though I will regret that such technicalities kept me from a shot at getting someone to read the whole book for this contest. It’s impossible to speculate. It’s even possible I got one rave review and one pan, which would likely not have been enough to put me in the top quarter of books. In which case I can use both the pitch and the rave review to move forward.

Moving forward. That’s the main thing. Getting to a mindset where I don’t even remember this contest as anything other than confirmation that I wrote a good pitch statement, the thing I was least sure of in this whole process. It will take some time, like getting over anything, but I’m not too concerned. The main thing is to not generate a series of misgivings from this process, to not take the opinions of one or two people as more serious than everything else people have confirmed about the quality of the book. To not let this make me take people missing the main allegory of the novel too seriously. To trust my instincts, my work, my efforts. And to keep having fun with the current project.

So it’s all fine, ultimately. I guess the real dream or thrall of this contest was getting to avoid some of the business side of writing. Not having to deal with agents and the monetary side as much. Not having to deal with capitalism’s absurd tentacles infecting the one thing I’ve felt unfetteredly good about doing with my life. But so it goes. Better to face up to the reality now than have it sneak up on my later. I guess.