What a week this has been! Let’s recap the highlights:
Early in the week, I bought a pair of size-8 jeans! These are the smallest-size pants I have ever worn. I had to whip out my cell phone and call my husband and my best friend from the store’s dressing room when I put the pants on and discovered that size-8s now fit. Of course, that made me want to buy 12 pairs of different styles and colors, but I stuck to one pair for now. (Not the greatest photo ever, but we’ve been pretty much insanely busy this week.)
In very different news, I submitted an essay for an anthology of writings by women in their 20s and 30s who have experienced chronic illness, and the editor wrote back to tell me that she wants to use my piece! She’s shopping for a publisher now. More word for you as I get it.
I’m in talks with an editor of a new national magazine (one that will interest many of you) about having a relationship where I contribute regularly. Don’t want to say too much prematurely–again, more word for you as I get it (and as I make decisions about it).
My husband planned a date night for us this past week (Yay, Dan!–I’m usually the planner), which included going to The Alliance Theater to see the second night (ever!) of the play Managing Maxine, about a man and woman in their 70s who fall in love–she for the first time, despite the fact that she was married for 50 years before her first husband died. The play was thoroughly enjoyable. I laughed out loud at numerous parts and teared up at least twice. I highly recommend it for any of you who might be looking for cultural experiences in Atlanta between now and mid-November. (And our pre-show dinner at the nearby Tamarind Seed also proved safe and delicious, as I find Thai food often does.)
Now that I’m doing freelance writing, photography, and other such projects full-time, I knew I had to get my butt in gear and develop a website to showcase my work. I had very particular ideas about how I wanted it to feel (simple, clean design; well-organized; easy to navigate) and function (photo galleries, spots for uploading newsletters and articles easily, different design on different subpages, etc.). Off and on, my husband and I have been working on my webpage for the last month or so; with the design as clean as it is, you wouldn’t think it would take that much work, but it has! I still have elements to prepare and tweak, but it is finally at the point where I’m ready to share it with you. So (drum roll, please!), you may click here to find my new official web home, which is www.sallyashbrook.com. Please flip through the pages, let me know what you think, tell me if reading it inspires any thoughts of the ‘most perfect’ magazine or website or business I should be writing for (particularly if you have connections!), and share the link with anyone who might be interested. (I am planning to eventually move this blog over there, but–all in due time, all in due time.)
But wait! I also have other big news to share here, too.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I each submitted photos for a juried photography exhibition—the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Shots ’08 Exhibition at the Showcase School—here in Atlanta. Two of Dan’s photos and one of mine were accepted into the exhibition, which absolutely thrilled me; there were around 500 photos submitted, but only 77 were chosen for inclusion. We had plans to attend the opening night reception on Friday with some friends, but I knew the reception would be crowded, so I went over a few days early to check out the photos before the official start. They were all gorgeous! I was wowed by the talent of the various photographers whose work was included. I met one of the judges—who just happened to drop in while I was there—and I pointed out my photo to him. “I thought it was good,” he said fairly coolly, and I thought, Okay, so you didn’t love it, but the other judge must’ve liked it, and that’s okay by me! I went home and told Dan that I felt very fortunate to be included in the exhibition after seeing the quality of its photographs. I told Dan that I didn’t want to get his hopes up, but I wondered whether one of his photos had placed, because the director of Showcase had remembered us both by name when I was there. Friday night, we ran to a neighbor’s party for a little while, then came home and got a bit dolled up for the photography reception.
I should probably interject here that, even though my new life of self-employment in freelancing is going perfectly well, and even though I am still thrilled by my decision to take the plunge, I had a bit of a rough day on Friday. Partly, it was hormonal, I’m sure–I felt a free-floating anxiety that I get sometimes (much rarer these days than it used to be–being gentle with myself helps). The state of our economy worries me; I have a husband who will finish his Ph.D. in the coming year (and need employment after that), I’m supposed to start grad school next year, and . . . I’ve just watched the value of our stock investments fall to half (half!) of what they were a year ago. Fortunately, we have plenty of money in general savings accounts, and I do already have bits of income coming in here and there from writing. But Friday, anxiety and self-doubt battled each other for a while inside of me, and I struggled against them until I, at last, calmed down by closing my eyes and reminding myself, “This too shall pass.” (It always seems worse if I get anxious to the point that I think I will never feel anything but anxious again!) By Friday night, I was mostly back on solid ground.
We ran out the door, running late, and met up with a couple of friends who were carpooling with us. We drove over to Showcase for the last hour of the reception. I walked in and saw a couple of other friends who were meeting us there, so I ran to hug them. I turned around to show them where my photo hung in the exhibition, and I gasped. It had a ribbon on it. I squealed and said, “Dan, I think I got an Honorable Mention!” Then I leaned forward to read the purple ribbon, and–
It said, “Best In Show.”
I played it very cool, y’all. I mean, I screamed. And I think I jumped up and down, too—in utter shock. I tell you the truth when I say that I had no concept, at all, of even placing in this exhibition, must less winning the top prize of the night! Then I realized how many people were watching me; I realized there were people there waiting to talk to me. People started applauding. Someone handed me a nametag. The event photographer took my photo a variety of times—with my jaw on the floor in the first few, I think. A large number of people asked me about the history and set-up of my photograph, and many people told me they just adored it. (If I’d been anything but in shock, I could have sold it five times over. Oh, that’s one point I forgot–my photo sold before the show even opened! A lovely staff member bought it.) In an absolute daze, I wandered around and checked out the rest of the show with my husband and friends.
Truly, even now, I’m still amazed I won!
At the reception, the director asked me if I had noticed that when I had been in the office a few days earlier and pointed out my photo to one of the judges, she pinched him to keep him from saying anything. I told her they both deserved Oscars, because I entirely believed their performance (except, of course, thinking maybe my husband had placed!)
So . . . I won a small digital camera, a nice-size gift certificate for photography classes (which the director said I didn’t need–au contraire! There is always much to be learned), and of course the money (80% of it) from the sale of my photo. But more importantly, much more importantly, I experienced a kind of validation of my love of taking photographs, my eye for the photos, and my work at improving my ability to take good ones. And this award feels like a very solid validation of this plunge I have taken into relying on my creative and investigative elements of myself for my income, which I needed. And got!
I’m shaking my head right now. I still can’t believe I won Best in Show out of those photos.
For any of you who might be in Atlanta or who might visit Atlanta any time soon, the exhibition will be up until December 12th. Let me know if you want to see the show! We’re going to take another group or two over when friends and family are in town over the coming months.
What a week!
Now, I will adore you forever if you will please go visit my new (!) website and take a look around. And please pop by again later, as I’ll be adding stuff to it forever. . . . I’m off to query more magazines now.