If creative writing has taught me anything personally and professionally, it’s taught me to get used to rejection. Not just one or two rejections, either — more like hundreds or thousands.
This is not to be negative. It’s just to say that writers learn pretty early on that they must develop thick skins if they want to survive the game — as well as to say that staying in the default mode of “thick skin” and expecting the worst can actually be very healthy and helpful, contrary to whatever those folks who ooze their sunshiny beams in my dungeon’s direction say.
That doesn’t mean we stop submitting, stop trying to put our work out there, stop pursuing publication and maybe even recognition of some sort — just that most of us do all that, then forget we did it because we know better than to count on anything materializing out of it.
I liken it to the Don’t Pass bet at the craps table (though I’ve actually won on that bet more than a few times).
Plus, we tend to too easily recall the flaws in our work long after it’s “done.” The little things that squeaked through the cracks. The missed opportunities.
So imagine my surprise when into my work inbox flies a note from the people at CASE, an organization related to university fundraising and development work, to let me know that the submission I made at the behest of my boss to their Annual Magazines category won an award.
Well, roll me in rainbows and call me a unicorn!
But before I go any further, let me just acknowledge that, unlike my creative writing submissions, which represent a solo endeavor, the magazine that garnered this award — Innovation, the research magazine of the university I work for — is very much a team effort.
And although I more officially thanked everyone who contributed their blood, sweat, and tears to the publication here, I wanted to share a little off-the-record story (soon to be on the record) that I feel really exemplifies this team effort.
We struggled a lot with this issue’s magazine cover. We knew we wanted something conceptual, and we came up with tons of ideas, but for one reason or another, we had to abandon many of them.
One concept, though, kept coming around again and again: visually placing the university at the heart of the region in which we live and which we serve.
One problem, though: how could we capture that when what we needed was along the lines of an aerial view from a helicopter?
Enter our photographer extraordinaire, Josh Hawkins. Maybe we could get it from one of the university rooftops, he said.
He went to the roof of Building One, which I’m classifying thusly so you’ll know exactly where this is going.
It didn’t work. We saw lots of interesting rooftops of campus buildings, but not much else.
He went to the roof of Building Two, which I’m similarly classifying thusly so you’ll know exactly where this is going.
It didn’t work. More rooftops, but from this vantage point, we couldn’t even tell we were at the university, let alone part of the community.
He went to the roof of Building Three.
And since you know exactly where this is going now, I’ll spare you more details on what we saw, except to say it wasn’t what we wanted to see.
We were despairing and just about to give up on this idea as well when Josh decided to take a ride down to the airport.
Thankfully, he wasn’t going there to jump ship — at least not that day.
He went to the top of the parking lot and started taking shots of the city. And there was the university, right at the center.
One problem, though: the images warped.
“Warped?” you might be wondering. “Are we dinosaurs still using film?”
“Nay,” I reply. I just forgot to mention that Josh was doing all this in the 100+ degree heat of Vegas summers — which, yes, will distort panoramic visuals like he was shooting.
So, for the fifth time for a single photo for one cover, Josh went back out to the airport parking lot — this time in the morning, when the temperature was a milder 90 degrees. Ha!
And so we finally had not just a cover, but THE cover.
And I’m still wowed by this one (of quite a few) examples of the dedication and tenacity that got us there.
So, officially and now unofficially, congrats to all of you who made this magazine not only come together but impress people far and wide as well. You rock!