Rusty Haggard Blog

Victory in Tampa: First Place Finish

Tampa, FL, May 16, 2011—The moment came on Monday night here at Vizcaya, a cool Spanish restaurant in a quiet suburb, with 60 or so writers, poets and guests. We were attending the 25th anniversary banquet for the Tampa Writers Alliance and hoping for a big announcement. It happened!

“First place, book length fiction, Thomas Haggard for ‘A Good Year for the Roses,’” barked the contest coordinator. It was the highlight of a whirlwind trip for Cherie and me. As the winner of the writing competition, I was honored.

That was at 9:00 that night. Fifteen hours earlier, we began the journey with a trip to the airport in Austin and then flew half-way across the U.S. There was little margin for error: our flight was scheduled to arrive at 4:00, the dinner was at 6:30. Any delay, missed connecting flight, mechanical failure, or missing paper work by the flight crew could’ve spelled disaster for making this crazy thing happen. In the end, all went perfectly. We met some wonderful people , had smooth flights and by Tuesday afternoon were back in Austin.

We learned that last summer the Tampa Writers Alliance reviewed how the 15 best writing competitions in the U.S. are conducted. The group then revamped and upgraded their entry rules for the 2011 contest and opened it up to the entire world via the Internet. If an entry did not measure up and accumulate the necessary point total to make it to the finals, they tossed it. That means that the judging was tough, fair and a good measure of where a writer stands in the eyes of the professionals who served as judges. What an honor for me. Thanks, Tampa and the Tampa Writers Alliance, for a great evening and an unforgettable experience.

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