Last week at the Miami Boat Show, I won my first (and second) writing awards, as part of the Boating Writers International annual contest. The two stories were about topics very near and dear to my heart: Olympic sailing and stand up paddling (with kayaking thrown in for good measure/comparison). And both are great examples of “stories with heart,” the ones that get those many extra hours of editing, the careful word choices, and (maybe most importantly of all), a lot of late night/early morning woolgathering, long after the first draft has been completed.
Olympic Broach: The No Good Very Bad Windiest Day won 1st place in the Boating Adventures category. It’s probably not a coincidence that it was the most agonizing story I’ve ever written. As I say in the introduction, “It’s taken me 10 years to swallow my pride enough to write about what followed. And I’m only going to do it once, so listen up.” Even after I finished the first draft, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to publish it.
After a lot of thought and some of that late night woolgathering, I realized that it wouldn’t ever be “finished” until it left my desk and made its way in the world. We can wonder forever why we write and why we publish, but in the end sharing our own stories (good and bad) is its own reward.
And in this case, it was also satisfying to know I’d bridged the gaping divide between “blowboaters” and the rest of our on-the-water community. Judge Charles Fort called it “A great story told with unusual hubris for a sailor … it captures the excitement of high-level racing.” And one of the judges from another category told me afterward that she’d heard so many great comments about the post, she was going to go home and read it. (I judged the reviews category, and believe me, the last thing any judge usually wants to do afterward is read extra entries.)
Simple Boating: Which is More Fun, Kayak or SUP? Is a dear John letter to the sport of boating. “It’s complicated,” Jane Doe explains as the reason for her proposed breakup with the sport. As a solution, the sport suggests SUP or kayak.
Although I wish I’d made the headline more alluring, I’m proud of this story—and really psyched that it was recognized with a second place finish in the Boating Lifestyles category. It’s rare for me to be able to tie together two seemingly unrelated ideas (generic Dear John letter breakups and simplifying our complicated sport) into a single cohesive post; I wish I could do it more often. But that’s the thing about “stories from the heart” — they can be quite light-hearted, but they can’t be churned out on demand.
These awards both came with a cash prize, but long after that money is spent I will still remember the honor of being recognized by my writing peers for two jobs well done.
And now the challenge is on for 2015…
Read the announcement on boats.com: Recognized. Extraordinary Writing by the boats.com Team
To see what other writers won (including Lenny), read the Boating Writers International press release.