Since I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest last month, I've become entrenched in this alternate reality of authors pacing in a cyber-waiting room. Some, who stress about margins and word count and punctuation and dozens of other things they're powerless to change at this point are the equivalent of the hopeful squeezing their Styrofoam cups charged with espresso. Some profess free love and dance around the forum spouting mantras about how we are all artists on the same canvas. Some burst through the door wielding previous publishing credits--more of a divide and conquer mentality.
With such a broad contest, the diversity of manuscripts is staggering. Religious. Aliens. Coming of age. Epic war-torn tragedies. Self-indulgent literary works. It begs the question: How will the judges receive genre fiction when pitted against more mainstream "literature"? The word "breakthrough" brings to mind popular fiction, but what about the closet sleepers brushed with magical Oprah dust? The final judges are accomplished in the distinctive literary fiction realm, but before a manuscript reaches that point, customers and reviewers en masse will crawl through these manuscripts. Will the demographic of book buyers reflect the end result?
Meanwhile, the countdown clock on Amazon's site reads 64 days until customer voting begins. 18 hours. 5 minutes. 11 seconds. What is it about a precision readout revolving backward that sends people into the most urgent display of human emotion? As if the supply of snark will run out long before the coffee and cigarettes.
Who am I in this waiting room? The one with a laptop clicking thoughtfully on my next project. No spoken words to add to the din. Just the words that count.