Wow, what a rollercoaster ride! This contest has turned out to be a lot more emotional than I expected it to be, although I guess I should have known, since the stories are available for the public to read.
I did a lot of online work promoting my story on Facebook and Twitter, and managed to get a lot of people that I know to share my story and vote for it. At first I was nervous that nobody would bother to vote, so I was really happy that they did. I even got a couple friends to add links to my story on their own blogs, and after that I noticed that my ranking went up a bit, so the extra attention must have helped.
My story got some really nice reviews, which was very encouraging. Later, a couple negative reviews were posted. After being upset initially, I read those reviews again and realized that they did bring up some fair points, so I now grudgingly try to consider it constructive feedback. While that can be hard to take, it is useful in the long run.
In case you were wondering: No, I didn't get the nomination for the first round. My story did better than I thought it would, though, and I'm going to try and step up my game this week to get even more votes! I think that getting more links from blogs will be great so that I can get votes from people outside my circle of friends and family ... which might be easy since my family consists of a crazy aunt, her two cats, and my brother who thinks books are a great tool for leveling tables.
Good luck to everyone!