During the summer of 2015, an international essay competition was held to discover the best of the best personal essays about love, loss, missteps, chance encounters, do-overs, and the musing of “woulda/coulda/shoulda” moments that make us so uniquely human.
Unfinished Chapters has just been released in paperback and proudly features the work of 20 exceptional authors. Copies can be purchased directly from the publisher (https://www.createspace.com/5735122) or via Amazon, Amazon UK, and Amazon Europe. A Kindle version will be released later this year.
WHAT THE CONTEST WAS ALL ABOUT
Whether it’s through neglect, distance, misunderstandings or simply divergent interests, who among us hasn’t experienced relationships that either fell through the cracks with the passage of time or never had a chance to fully develop from the outset?
Through the wistful perspective of a rear-view mirror, it’s about all those names we run across in old address books, the brief encounters on airplanes that seem to hint at a future friendship, or the casual flips through high school yearbooks that cause us to wonder if our classmates voted “Most Likely To…” ever actually did.
Unfinished Chapters is an upcoming paperback anthology which will feature the best original essays by writers across the country and around the world in the following categories:
It’s one thing to have an ugly, vitriolic fight, stomp off in opposite directions and vow to never again darken each other’s door. What’s sometimes inexplicable, though, is the sudden “silent treatment” retreat in which your emails and phone calls go unanswered, you get unfriended on Facebook, and mutual acquaintances are stymied as to why the mere mention of your name is met with undisguised annoyance.
This category is about guesses and speculations, dogged pursuits of the truth, acceptance of the loss, and moving on.
Too Late For Goodbye
Is it worse to lose someone to an unforeseen, tragic accident or to watch their health deteriorate from a devastating condition for which there is no cure? In the first instance, there’s the crushing sadness of all the words left unspoken to express true feelings. In the second instance, there’s both a sense of helplessness to make things better and a fear of dealing with one’s own mortality that creates an awkward distance – including avoidance – insofar as finding the right things to say.
This category is about all the words you wished you had said as well as the unfinished business of apologizing for some of those conversations you now regret.
“I Do” It Over
If I had a signature song about my love life during the long-ago years I was single, it would have been Barry Manilow’s Somewhere Down the Road:
We had the right love at the wrong time
Guess I always knew inside
I wouldn’t have you for a long time
Those dreams of yours are shining on distant shores
And if they’re calling you away
I have no right to make you stay
But somewhere down the road
Our roads are gonna cross again
It doesn’t really matter when
But somewhere down the road
I know that heart of yours will come to see
That you belong with me.
This category is all about what you’d do differently to make things work the second time around, including orchestrating the timeframe to meet earlier or later than you actually did.
The Wonder Years
When you’re a little kid running around the backyard with your friends, it’s easy to promise that you’ll stay besties forever. You’ll always like the same games, always watch the same TV shows, always eat the same junk food. It never occurs to you that they could move away, that you could end up at different schools, that – gasp! – they could meet other friends they like better. Nor do such expectations of lifelong camaraderie change when you enter high school. Accordingly, it’s somewhat of a shock when you attend a 20, 30 or 40 year class reunion and wonder why you ever thought you had anything remotely in common. Conversely, how many times have you encountered classmates that grew up into someone fascinating and you look back with a soupçon of remorse that you didn’t pay more attention – or date them – when you were all much younger.
This category is about the classmates that either got away or moved away and left you to wonder how they turned out.
Ships That Pass
Technology has made it remarkably easy to make connections with total strangers. In the old days if you chatted it up with someone interesting on a plane and didn’t want the conversation to end when you landed, you had to find a piece of paper and jot down your contact information. This is assuming, of course, that they were like-minded and doing the same thing. The question, however, was whether you felt trusting enough to provide your home phone number and address. Pleasant as they were on a flight, how do you know they wouldn’t turn out to be psychopaths? And while you could certainly minimize risk by exchanging business cards, how many cards do you end up collecting that you subsequently can’t connect the occupation and title (Waste Management Facilitator III) with the actual conversation you found so riveting (distant cousin of Houdini)? Email has, thus, become a low-risk way to explore common ground. Even so, how often do you wish you’d made that exchange rather than saying, “Well, it’s been fun talking to you. Have a nice day.”
This category is about random conversations that held your attention for their particular duration but were not meant by Fate – or either participant – to go any further.
The competition to discover the best stories for inclusion in the anthology (slated for publication in Fall 2015) is open to writers 18 years and older. Authors of the top three entries submitted will respectively receive $200, $100 and $75 and will be given a feature interview on this site when the book is published. Each contributor whose essay is selected for publication will have his/her bio included in the credits section and receive a free copy. See Submission Rules for details. Contest deadline: July 1, 2015.