You Don’t Have To Win To Be A Winner
by Beate Sigriddaughter

 

Fiction writers sometimes encounter the phenomenon of one of their characters becoming independent and doing something entirely unexpected, even though they invented that character.  Well, the Glass Woman Prize isn’t a fiction, but it is something I created, and recently a piece of it took off in an independent direction that is one of the most exciting things I have experienced so far this year.

Mercy Adhiambo from Kenya submitted her story “The Untold Story” for the Second Glass Woman Prize, and while I didn’t choose it for the prize, the story was one the top contenders.  Meanwhile Kim Robinson from Minnesota had asked, would it be possible to read some of the entries other than the winning story?  I liked the idea and offered all twelve top contenders publication on my website.  Mercy was one of the women who agreed to let me publish her story.  I remember Mercy writing to me one time, apologizing for a belated response to some of my editorial suggestions.  The reason was, she had been detained by the police for a day because of pointing a finger at a rapist in her community—yes, you read this right: Mercy was the one detained, not the perpetrator, who in fact wanted her brought to justice for making his life unpleasant.  I was blown away by Mercy’s courage.  I had learned from her bio by now that she was 20 years old (she is 21 as of this writing).  At age 20 I can imagine I would have been stopped in my tracks, had I come to the attention of the police.  Heck, I am still nervous at age 56. 

Back to Mercy’s published story, however.  Kim was taken with it and began corresponding with Mercy.  But it wasn’t until I selected Mercy’s second story, “The Rich River,” once again as a top contender for the Glass Woman Prize, that Kim excitedly wrote to me, did I know that Mercy lived in a small hut without electricity, that she herded cattle, and yet found time to write and had learned four languages?  At that time, Kim, a teacher in Minnesota, also told me that her school had so far raised about $1,000 so that Mercy can begin college in Nairobi.  Again I was blown away. 

I have meanwhile learned from Mercy that she will begin college in August.  I am so excited. 

This is so much more than I could have done for anyone at this stage in my life, and yet, the Glass Woman Prize was one of the building blocks in this beautiful thing.  I feel as though I am the winner here.  Thank you, Mercy, for your courage and your words.  Thank you, Kim, for your enthusiasm in pulling what strings you could.  To quote James Wright’s poem entitled Today I was Happy so I Wrote this Poem, “This is what I wanted.”    Yes, this is exactly what I wanted.