Categories
NYC Midnight Paris Short Fiction Short Story

The Woman Downstairs – A Short Story

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Today, I’m going to share another short story. I wrote this one last year (2019) for the NYC MIDNIGHT SHORT STORY CONTEST. My heat in round one had 3 stipulations. The genre had to be DRAMA, it had to involve PET-SITTING in some form and one of the characters had to be a FIANCEE.

I decided to write a pastiche to Rear Window.

It WON 1st Place in my Round One heat!

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Here’s the feedback I received from one of the judges for THE WOMAN DOWNSTAIRS:

“The writing is top-notch, perfect for the setting. The POV character’s world of the dog and the window reminds me a bit of REAR WINDOW, and the dog is like the cast, keeping her from going out. The drama she watches and the drama she lives come together at the end.”

THEY GOT THE HOMAGE! Yay!!!

Without further ado, here is the story…

THE WOMAN DOWNSTAIRS

“Madame. Pas de cheins,” the waiter says as I sit down. He tsks and points to a sign in the window. It’s of a dog being crossed out by an angry red line. “Go, go. No dogs. S’il vous plait, laissez. Go.”

I thought I would be okay if I sat at the farthest table from the restaurant’s entrance and tied Chewy up to the outside of the fence separating the patio from the sidewalk. I quietly get up, untie Chewy’s leash and make my way along the sidewalk towards Notre-Dame.

I underestimated the strain house-sitting for Stacey would put on me. It sounded like a lovely idea at the time. How could a third-floor walk-up on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île in Paris not be a dream come true? The apartment is mere steps from Notre-Dame Cathedral and walking distance to most other major sights. Even with her little Yorkie included in the deal, it seemed doable. The dog-sitting was incidental, really. Paris was mine.

Robert was supposed to join me on day three so we could spend the rest of the three weeks together. We needed the little vacation prior to the chaos of our impending wedding. Two and a half weeks in Paris together sounded like perfection, a way to get back on track after our disastrous year. I wanted to show Robert the city, have some fun, and put the past behind us.

Alas, he’d have to actually show up for that to happen.

I take Chewy to the little parkette behind the cathedral and sit down at one of its many benches. It’s a perfect place to feel sorry for myself, complete with gargoyles glaring down disapprovingly from above. With no breakfast in my belly and no Robert at my side, my misery is complete.

I pick Chewy up and smother him in kisses. He rubs his face against my cheek and I’m reminded I’ve gone another day without makeup. I never go anywhere without it. I blame Robert. It’s my eighth day in Paris and I’m still alone. It’s my favorite city in the world and because of him, I’m miserable. Every day brings another excuse, another delay in his arrival.

After festering in the shadows of the cathedral for a few minutes, I place Chewy on the ground and we head back to the apartment.

Once inside, I return to Stacey’s kitchen window. The only habit I’ve picked up since my arrival has nothing to do with the city sights. I’ve become fascinated with the woman downstairs, a strange once pretty woman who wears nothing but a graying white camisole that barely conceals her morbidly obese body. Thank God she never looks up. When I originally told Robert about Downstairs Lady, I gave her the name Fanny-Mae. I can be so cruel sometimes. Robert and I did that thing where we create fantasy worlds for the unsuspecting quirky characters we stumble upon. We give them names, spouses, children, problems and dreams. Backstory.

I played our little game over texts this time around. I couldn’t bring myself to send Robert a discreetly stolen snapshot like I usually do, though. Downstairs Lady is different. Taking her picture would somehow steal her soul, her inescapable beauty. I couldn’t insult her honor that way. When I tried to explain this to Robert, he asked if I was okay. “Are you taking your pills?” “You need to stop obsessing over this lady.”

I promised I was taking the pills I never once opened and he promised he’d soon join me in Paris. Our lies canceled each other out.

Stacey’s window looks into Downstairs Lady’s dining room window, where she’s trapped in an over-sized hospital bed in a room not designed for beds. Through her casement windows, which are left open day and night, I can make out the bottom of an ornate chandelier that hangs above her bed. Being in a circular courtyard, our windows are extremely close to each other. I can even catch whispers of conversation.

She eats relentlessly while watching black and white movies on a small TV. She leans up on one elbow and fills her face with the endless supply of food her gorgeous dark-skinned French lover brings to her bed. He’s always cooing sweet nothings in a sexy voice filled with longing. Mon petit ange, mon amour, mon tendre. I decided to call him Henri. I melt each time Henri enters the little vignette the window allows me, or opens his mouth to coo. What must it be like to have his kind of love? I adore how she owns it and how she unapologetically lounges about, erotically certain of her powers. She could lead a revolution. This is why I changed her name to Belle days ago.

I fill Robert in on Belle’s daily food consumption, while I myself forget to eat. I only break my vigil at the window long enough to drag Chewy throughout the streets of this little island. And I speak only when Chewy’s neighborhood fans stop us in the street to worship his undeniable cuteness.

Robert assesses me with each text I send, evaluates my mental state with each of our infrequent calls. I know I’m slipping, but can’t stop it. I struggle between over-exaggerating my fall and disguising its depths. Which side of the scale will bring him to me quicker and which will push him away?

The constant silence reminds me I’m shutting down. Robert calls this Phase One. “I know it’s bad when you stop talking.” I’ve been startled by the sound of my own voice lately, after going hours at a time without hearing it at all. He suggests bike rides and jogging as possible remedies, but this would be a moot point if he would simply join me in Paris. That would solve everything. I think.

***

“Hello?” I say into my cell as I struggle to gain my bearings. My screen reads five-thirty a.m.? He’s done it again. My twelfth day in Paris and he still can’t get the time zones right. “Robert? It’s not that difficult. You’re six hours behind.”

“Emma, I’m sorry,” he says. He sounds overly animated, like he’s been drinking. “I forgot.”

“Why are you awake? It’s…” I do the math. “It’s almost midnight there. You’re never up this late when you’re working.” There’s a din of muffled voices and laughter about him, accompanied by the pounding bass of dance music. “Where are you?”

“Sorry, baby,” he slurs. “I miss you.”

“Robert, hang up. That’s so rude,” says an unfamiliar woman’s voice in the background. There’s a rustle as his phone is jostled.

“Robert,” I say, now fully awake and sitting up. Chewy eyes me with suspicion from the foot of the bed. “Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Just out for drinks with a few guys from the office, Em. Crazy day. We needed a reprieve.”

“Robbie, come back to the party. I’ll smash that phone if you don’t hang—”

The ambient noise cuts off, along with my connection to Robert. I place my cell back on its charger and try not to think about what just happened, try not to think about his cheating or how it led me to my last breakdown.

My head drops onto my pillow and I turn away from the glaring moonlight streaming in through the un-curtained windows. I need more sleep but within minutes Chewy is in my face, licking and whining. He’s been awakened too early and won’t be appeased until he does his business.

Once dressed, I carry Chewy down the spiral staircase to the ground floor. I forego the inner courtyard for an opportunity to explore the awakening city. We make our way through the alleyway that leads to the narrow street and I wrestle with the large creaky door that separates the two worlds.

Finally, something I can love the way Henri obviously loves Belle. Paris. In my gloom, I’ve forgotten how enchanting Rue Saint-Louis can be, and how it comes slowly to life in the mornings. The street cleaners make their way up the sidewalks, spraying down everything in their wake to wash away yesterday’s layers of grime. Tiny delivery trucks crawl up the roadway, dropping off goods to the local stores before the impossibly narrow street becomes too congested for them. Shop doors open and entryways are swept clean.

Chewy offers a few reticent yelps to the street’s interlopers while I attempt to push Robert’s phone call from my mind. His past cheating fills my head and my heart begins to race with the panic of a new certainty. He’s doing it again.

We walk towards the cathedral and make a left at the next footbridge in order to head down for a walk along the Seine. The sky plums above us and I decide we should see the sunrise, now that we’re out in its beginnings. My beautiful Paris.

As I descend the stairs to the path along the river, my cell goes off again. I look at the display. Round Two.

“I’m sorry,” Robert says. “I know how that probably sounded. I’m home now and ready for bed. I don’t want you to think—”

“What am I supposed to think, Robert?” I try to sound level, but it’s impossible. “That history doesn’t have a way of repeating itself?”

“It’s not what you think,” he says, panic slipping into his voice. Panic, with a side of irritation. “You have to trust me. This isn’t fair.”

Come, goddammit,” I say. “If you want to prove something to me, put me first. Put everything else aside and join me in Paris like we planned.”

“I can’t, Emma,” he says. “It’s not that easy. It’s such a bad time here. We can’t seem to get ahead of—”

“Liar. It didn’t sound like you were having a bad time when you woke me up earlier. Were you at the Black Stallion again? Getting your fill?”

“Jesus, Em. Between your paranoia with my imaginary flings and this woman you’re obsessing over in the window, you have no room for anything else. You’re slipping again. Why would I want to go there just to hear more of this? We can trade insults over the phone.”

“Imaginary flings? Really?” I ask. I stop walking. Chewy glances up at me with what looks like concern. I take a seat at a nearby bench and Chewy settles in at my feet. “Cheryl was not a figment of my imagination, Robert. Why are you doing this? I’m your fiancée. We’re getting married in two months. Please put your ‘work’ aside for one hot minute and come? It’s Paris, for God’s sake. No one should need to be convinced to come to Paris.”

The inflection I place on the word work has the desired effect. He runs with it.

“Stop accusing me of cheating. It was one time. I’ve apologized. I can’t do anything else to prove my dedication to—”

I disconnect, put my phone on silent and slip it into my purse. The sun has somehow risen without me noticing. I get up and make my way back to the apartment with Chewy. It’s almost time for Belle to begin her day. I love the way Henri interacts with her. It reminds me that love and tenderness still exist in the world. Perhaps their intimacy had something to do with me renaming her Belle. She is loved and beautiful to him.

This woman won’t leave my head. I can’t believe Stacey never mentioned her. There’s heartache and happiness happening right outside her window and she’s never once mentioned it to me. Perhaps she hoards it as her own little secret proof that beauty exists.

***

Chewy stirs me from my sleep with a low grade constant growl, a sound I haven’t heard in all of our two weeks together. There’s a ruckus in the courtyard below my open window and it’s lit like a fairground down there, enough to fill my room with a soft glow.

I scoop Chewy up and move to the window. The courtyard is filled with firemen, police, and EMTs. They make frantic gestures and speak in super-fast French I wouldn’t even be able to comprehend if I had polished up on my high school French prior to coming to France. The scene is chaotic and their conversation is in a state of escalation. I think of Belle and bring my gaze back up to her window.

More EMTs and firemen. My heart sinks. This can’t be. She’s hidden behind the swarm squeezed about her inside the tiny room. Some work on her as others look around the room and out the window to the crowd of first responders gathered below. They all appear helpless, lost.

Henri storms into the room, desperate, hands flailing. I can hear snips and bits of his words. Enough to feel his love on fire. Through tears, he tells them she is beautiful, asks them to be gentle and tells them she is loved. This much French I can piece together from the little I know.

Chewy’s urgent barks cause all heads to turn in my direction and I’m finally discovered. I scurry away from the window, humiliated, and prepare to take Chewy outside. Making my way through the commotion of the courtyard, I have to walk past the first responders who only moments ago caught me ogling. The sting of my humiliation heats my cheeks. I’m relieved to escape to the street, even though I’m terrified for Belle and desperately want to know what’s happened.

I walk for hours, barely able to keep myself together. Chewy steals glances my way, silently pleading with me to end our walk and take him home. But I can’t go back. I don’t want to know.

My cell rings. Despite seeing Robert’s name on my screen, I answer it.

“Emma?”

“I can’t do this, Robert.”

“I’m at the airport, Em. I came. I’m in Paris. I just landed.”

Now he comes?

“I think she might be dead,” I say, ignoring his statement.

He sighs and I know Henri would never be this exasperated with Belle. He’d have endless patience. “I’m on my way. Okay?”

“I can’t go back there. I can’t see that bed empty.” My words stop me in my tracks and niggle at my mind. They ignite something inside me, but I can’t quite grasp what it is. I bend to pick up Chewy and realize how spent he is. His panting fuels my guilt.

Frozen amid the busy sidewalk, I cuddle Chewy for dear life as the true meaning of my words sharpens into focus. Robert is the there I can’t go back to. Our empty bed is the one I can’t bear to see again. Our time apart has clarified what I knew all along.

“Tell me where you are. I’ll find you.”

“No,” I say. “I’m in Paris. You can’t have it. Paris is mine.” He groans in palpable frustration. But I finally realize it’s too late for us. “Goodbye, Robert.”

I shut down my phone to remove his ability to argue. With Chewy in my arms, I run all the way back to Rue Saint-Louis. I need to know.

THE END

Categories
NYC Midnight Screenwriting Screenwriting Challenge

NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge and Me

And you may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”” ~ David Byrne, Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime

File this one under the category of here we go again, or, my god what have I done?

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It would seem that I somehow (accidentally?) accepted the challenge to partake of the NYC MIDNIGHT SCREENWRITING CHALLENGE. Like it wasn’t enough punishment to subject myself to the SHORT STORY CHALLENGE that is STILL ONGOING. This coming Friday at Midnight (TOMORROW), all the NYC screenwriting challenge entrants will receive an email with the 3 stipulations they must include into their screenplays…which they will then have one week to write. I’ve thrown myself back into the deep end of the pool before I even had a chance to actually climb back out of it. I’m terrified, if not a little exhilarated. I like knowing that I’m not in this alone. I know a few of my fellow writers who are partaking of this madness. Hopefully, we can commiserate together…although there’s probably not enough Kleenex in the world!

The 3 stipulations for the SCREENWRITING CHALLENGE are: GENRE, LOCATION, OBJECT. Here’s a sample of some of last year’s stipulations:

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Yeah, not scary AT ALL. More like, terrifying!

Now…I guess I have a few hours left to figure out the ins and outs of writing a screenplay. They do, after all, offer a crash course for those of us who have never done so! Here’s the handy-dandy link to the NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY. “Shouldn’t be too difficult,” they said, laughing like a hyena as tears of regret spilled from their eyes.

Wish me luck, or at the very least a broken leg or two…

 

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge Trafalgar 24

Reasons Why I Should Have Aced the NYC Midnight Challenge – AND Why I Don’t Think I Did

It’s all in the title. I thought I had trained well for this particular contest. I haven’t done a list in a while. This one is short, but makes for a great jumping off point.

Background: This past weekend, I was busy writing a short story for the 2nd round of the 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Each writer in the challenge is given three things to incorporate into their stories; a genre, a character, a subject. We were then given 72 hours turnaround time to submit a 2,000 word maximum short story to the contest. Round 1 of the contest whittled the pool of writers down from about 4,900 to the 750 writers who took part in this past weekend’s 2nd round.

Reasons Why I Should Have Aced the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

  • I took part in the Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival in Whitby, Ontario SIX TIMES. In this festival, the playwrights are locked inside a castle for 8 hours. In that time, they each have to create a 10-minute play that will be performed in front of six rotating audiences the very next evening
  • I took part in the Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario TEN TIMES. In this marathon, the writers are locked inside a room for 72 hours. In that time, they each have to create a full novel that will be judged by industry professionals in the months immediately following the marathon.
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This is the inside of the cathedral that is literally inside Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. I spent 8 hours inside this cathedral all by myself a few years back, tasked with writing a 10-minute play that was produced the very next evening in the cathedral. Each playwright gets locked up in the room in which their play is to be set. When the 8 hours are over, you are to submit your play to the director and actors. They are, in turn, given 8 hours to rehearse. Then come the audiences! Hundreds of people converge on the castle to see all the plays in rotating fashion.

That’s it. That’s my list. I was so certain that those two things were enough to get me into the shape I needed to be in to pown this NYC Midnight thing. Or is it pwn? Either way, I thought I was going to ace this.

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Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

I have always said that of all the writing assignments a creative writer could have, the short story is the hardest. I have pounded out novels in one sitting TEN TIMES now. I’ve written plays while beating the clock multiple times, for various festivals. And the thing that finally got to me, the thing that defeated me, was this short story challenge.

I submitted with one hour and fifteen minutes to spare. It was a 72hr time frame for 2,000 words. I’m not a mathematical genius or anything, but that’s a far cry from writing 50,000 words in the same number of hours at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. Let’s see…carry the one, add the 3, subtract the 7 and multiply by 11 and what do you get? 694.44 words and hour for the MNM and 27.77 words an hour for the NYC Midnight challenge. The pressure should be stronger at the MNM, shouldn’t it?

 

Above are pictures from one of the many Muskoka Novel Marathons that I have participated in over the years. 40 writers + 72hrs = 40 novels! AND, we typically raise $30,000+ for area literacy programs each and every year.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. The real secret about the comparison between the short story and the novel is that you have to fit the exact same amount of story into each receptacle. And that’s only one of the factors going into my perceived failure this past weekend. You well and truly need to get the whole story into a short story…squeeze 50,000 words into its itty bitty living space and condense them down to 2,000 (or 2,500 , or 3,000 or whatever your limit is). This is not an easy task, and to go into it thinking it is an easy task is folly. The takeaway lesson should be—never be cocky about your ability as a writer. Every challenge is another series of wrenches thrown at you. You’re never ready for hurled wrenches…don’t make the mistake of thinking you are.

So, to review, NOTHING can prepare a writer for an on-the-spot writing challenge. I guess that’s why these contests work so well. It’s an amazing feeling when you push yourself to take a leap into the unknown. And I guess the thought behind the NYC Midnight challenge is… a writer is a writer is a writer. Any good one should be able to take what they’re given and pump out a result that is both entertaining and worthy of a read.

Boy, did I struggle with this one. It doesn’t matter whether you read regularly in every genre or not. If you’re not comfortable writing in each of them and you’re tasked to take one of them on…it’s bound to be difficult. That’s the thing that got me this weekend. By the luck of the draw I received a genre to write in that I have read voraciously over the years, but never once wrote it. I was afloat on a sea of confused desperation for the past 72 hours.

We shall see how this round of the challenge goes. If anything, I’m thrilled to have made the first cut. I can’t imagine that it’s an easy task to move forward in this challenge. I did it, and I should be happy about that. It’s all I can ask for.

To all those who pushed themselves to enter the challenge, congratulations! You took a leap and I guarantee you it made you a better writer. To those of you who moved forward into round two with me, even more congratulations! You did it. That’s an amazing achievement in itself. I wish all 749 of you the best of luck in this next round of judging! If a miracle should occur, I might see some of you in the 3rd and final round. But if not, do your best. You got this!

 

Categories
NYC Midnight Paris Short Fiction Short Story Short Story Challenge

NYC Midnight – Round Two and Me!

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The entrance stairs to my third floor flat in Paris in Rue St Louis.

I honestly can’t believe this, but I get to move forward to ROUND 2 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2019! The first cut of this challenge is the deepest. It just went from over 4,500 writers to only 750 writers in the 2nd round. Just after midnight last night (or, I suppose, this morning) the Round 1 results were posted. Not only did I make the Top 5 in my heat, but I made FIRST PLACE. I know, I’m just as flabbergasted as you are! But after I read the results three (or four, or five) times, I decided I was reading them correctly. It’s right there in black and white, come what may…

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I have been writing short stories quite a lot lately, and they’re always set in cities that I have visited in the past few years. I decided not to stray from that theme with this one. I guess it’s working. My heat in round one had 3 stipulations. The genre had to be DRAMA, it had to involve PET-SITTING in some form or another and one of the characters had to be a FIANCEE. I wrote a story from the perspective of the apartment I actually stayed in while in Paris in 2014. I had the good fortune of being told by the hotel concierge when I arrived at my hotel on Rue St. Louis on the Island that they had a special apartment down the street. He said, “You’re a writer, no? We would like to give you the full experience!” He took me for a walk down the street and showed me a top floor flat with a view to a courtyard below. As if he was afraid I would say no and demand to be taken back to the hotel, he offered me a daily discount to stay in the incredible flat. He had me at hello. I saw the woman downstairs while I was staying in that flat. I put her in my pocket, knowing I would use her at a later date. Thanks to the NYC Midnight challenge, because the prompts called her willowy ghost back into existence.

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See those three windows at the very top? That’s where I called home when I was in Paris. They looked down into the closed circular courtyard below. And…maybe into a few of the windows below, too. (-;

I’m stunned, really…so so happy and excited too. I can’t wait for the next round, even though it terrifies me. I can work around the other stipulations, it’s the genre challenge I fear the most. I tend to stay in my lane as a reader and as a writer…which means I could definitely miss some of the subtle nuances of quite a few of the potential genres I could find myself facing. I shudder to think!

And I won’t have long to worry about the gunshot that goes off and sends a scary genre-bullet my way. THURSDAY AT MIDNIGHT—that’s when I’ll receive the 2nd round challenge. And the 750 writers still alive in this challenge will have 72 hours to submit their 2000 word stories for the next round of judging.

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Nina, a dear friend I met while in Paris for the Left Bank Writers Retreat in June 2014. We spent a lot of our free time together, exploring all of Paris on foot. This is us atop the Arc de Triomphe.

Here’s what the 2nd Round officially looks like:

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I’m so thrilled that I held on to that woman these 5 years. When I run across my potential characters in real life, they sort of haunt me relentlessly until I get them on the page. She was particularly insistent. She’s free now. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart, both for sticking around and for pinch-hitting when I needed her most. Cheers to the woman downstairs in Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, Paris! I am eternally grateful for ‘meeting’ you.

GOOD LUCK TO MY 749 FELLOW ROUND TWO WRITERS! Full disclosure: Every July I travel up to Huntsville, Ontario for the 72hr Muskoka Novel Marathon. That’s right…I write an entire novel in 72 hours. I’m ready for this challenge! BRING IT!

Categories
NYC Midnight Short Fiction Short Story Short Story Challenge

Col. Mustard in the Study with a Revolver – 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

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Okay, not quite the same thing…but close! The 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge kicked off Midnight Friday January 18th. We have 8ish days to submit our short stories for the first round of the competition. Each writer was sent an email with their 3 story stipulations: GENRE/SUBJECT/CHARACTER. The fun has begun. Here’s just a few samples of the first round heats:

Genre                                  Subject                             Character

  • Suspense                       Impossible                            a witness
  • Thriller                         Witnessing a crime             a hypochondriac
  • Comedy                         A raffle                                  a princess
  • Political Satire               Lying                                    a fruiterer
  • Action/Adventure         A standoff                            an engineer
  • Sci-Fi                                an exotic pet                       an interior designer
  • Fairy tale                        repetition                             a gunslinger
  • Suspense                        a secret club                          an intern
  • Drama                             photo shoot                          a composer
  • Crime Caper                    a backup plan                      a fixer
  • Fairy tale                           superhuman                        a cheesemaker
  • Spy                                     mountain climbing            a reporter
  • Romantic Comedy          comfort food                       an x-ray technician
  • Romance                           procrastination                    a social climber
  • Comedy                              a labyrinth                           a meter maid

 

You get the picture. That’s just a few of the heats in the first round. If it was easy, it wouldn’t push us to become better writers, now would it? I purposely did NOT mention my heat in the sampling above. I have a few days left to come up with my story. I’m panicked but it’s a relatively calm panic for now. I’m exploring options, stopping and starting…attempting to find a groove that takes me to a finish line. False starts and retracing of steps are to be expected. I’m leaving myself breadcrumbs so I don’t get completely lost. I’m not worried about having something submission ready by the deadline. I just don’t know if it will be something on solid ground or not.

Good luck to all my fellow contestants! There are A LOT OF YOU! Don’t forget the part of the contest opener email that shared a hashtag for writers to use and connect. It’s a huge community. I’m sure we can commiserate and egg each other on along the way…see you in hashtag land…

#ShortStoryChallenge2019
If you plan on updating your progress in the competition on social media, make sure to use the hashtag #ShortStoryChallenge2019 so you can follow other writers and they can follow you!

 

Categories
NYC Midnight Short Fiction Short Story Short Story Challenge

NYC Midnight & Me

Here we go. I am entered into the 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. It begins at Midnight tonight and it is my first foray into all this NYC Midnight business. This is the 13th annual challenge and I’m pumped for it but certain I’ll fair poorly. I’ll come back and let you know, once I get the boot…but for now, here’s how it works:

KNOCKOUT ROUND ONE:

(January 18-26, 2019), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words

The contest judges will choose the TOP 5 STORIES in each heat and those writers will move on to Round #2. All other writers are given the boot.

KNOCKOUT ROUND TWO:

(April 4-7, 2019)where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000word (maximum) short story.

Whoa. The time between rounds?! I wonder if this is set up this way to mess with the writers’ psyches. I’d much rather prefer to jump right back into the ring, myself. Listen to me…as if I’d make it to round two! Judges pick finalist from this round, as well. And they get to move on to the third and final round. LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIRD & FINAL ROUND:

Remaining writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 17-18, 2019) in the third and final round of the competition.

Begins in January and ends in May. Yikes! The prizes for the winners are QUITE SUBSTANTIAL. First Prize is $5,000.00USD + almost $1,500.00USD value in other writer-related prizes. You can see the whole list of prizes HERE.

The biggest benefit for all writers who enter is FEEDBACK. From the site, here’s the statement in regards to feedback. It can come not only from the judges, but also fellow contestants on the group forum:

Not only does every writer receive feedback from the judges for every story submitted, but a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition.  During the Short Story Challenge 2018, there were over 9,500 comments made on the 700+ stories submitted on the forum.  Click here to visit the forums.

Oh, just so you know…as of this blog post there are still a few hours before the registration deadline. Sound like a great idea? Then CLICK THIS LINK TO GET YOURSELF IN ON THE GAME (Scroll down to the CLICK HERE TO REGISTER button—but registration closes at 9:00pm EST today — Friday January 18th).

The first challenge will be emailed to contestants tonight at Midnight. I guess that’s where the name comes from!

GOOD LUCK, SHORT STORY WRITERS! May the words be with you!

(I’ll be back with my results at a later date—good or bad/head high or tail between my legs. You can’t win if you don’t try.)

Click image below for NYC MIDNIGHT on Instagram:

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