What a great way to get back into the writing mindset!
I made the list! Such a thrill to discover yourself on a shortlist! Rotary Club of Stratford’s annual short story contest winners will be announced at the Stratford Writers Festival on October 19th.
Up for grabs in the contest?
19 and under-Teen
3 Honourable Mentions
20 and over-Adult
3 Honourable Mentions
For me, just making the shortlist is a great reward and honour. I submitted a short story about a lesbian couple struggling with a recent cancer diagnosis and revisiting one of their favourite places on earth for a respite from their harsh new reality. PARIS AT SUNSET AND INTO THE NIGHT made the first cut, and in my book that’s pretty awesome in and of itself!
I’ve just been made aware of the upcoming open-to-submissions date for the next FREE Rotary Stratford Short Story Contest. The 2019 Rotary Club of Stratford Short Story Contest will begin taking submissions for short stories of no more than 2,500 words of any genre on MAY 1st, 2019.
Submission window is:
MAY 1st – AUGUST 31st, 2019
There are two categories, based on AGE—Youth & Adult.
19 and under-Teen (must have parental or guardian consent)
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…
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.
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.
Here’s what the 2nd Round officially looks like:
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!
Two things. The first, I’m thrilled to announce the release of an anthology in which I have a short story! Love_Is_Love released yesterday (Jan 24/19):
Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens
All proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to THE TREVOR PROJECT (The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Lifeline: 866.488.7386.)
My story is called THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE and it follows a trans girl in the moments leading up to her first day of high school.
Here’s some cover love for you! The strength of the Rainbow Fist in the Air is divine:
Sometimes I will re-read a sentence in one of my WIPs and think, ‘what the heck was I trying to say here?‘
This one fact, more than anything else, is good enough validation that we should always put our writing down long enough to come back to it with fresh eyes. The hope is that those fresh eyes will be confused by something/anything we wrote which does not make sense to the reader.
Today’s Tidbit of Wisdom:
If you put it down long enough, you become the reader.
This is the part where I say how lovely it is to edit. Not everyone loves to edit, and, to be honest, my own relationship with it is probably love/hate at best. But when I love to do it, I really love to do it.
This is never more true a statement as when I am editing my short stories. I suppose, because I understand intrinsically that editing is SO VITAL with short stories. I know it’s important with anything we write. And I also know that one could argue that every word counts in whatever we write, whether it’s as tiny as a haiku or as gargantuan as a big ole tome of a novel. Yes, of course all words matter. BUT…with the short story, EVERY. WORD. MATTERS.
You only have so many words with which to build your entire universe within the confines of a short story. None of those words can afford to lead the reader astray. If you lead the reader astray in the limited universe that a short story entails, you will lose them forever. No amount of breadcrumbs will bring them back to the story in one piece. As READER, every breath you take inside a short story needs to count…needs to get you to the end fully intact and alive. Therefore, every word the writer uses factors into the measuring of the reader’s breathing pattern. That’s just a fact of language…one that writers cannot ignore.
I recently stumbled on a line I had in a short story I was revisiting. I was attempting to get it submission-ready, but knew it still needed some work. For a good three or four minutes I tried not only to figure out what it was I originally attempted to say, but also to figure out how the line fit in with the narrative around it. Picture a basket filled with bright red tomatoes, with a great big juicy green Granny Smith apple right in the middle of it. I didn’t know how the apple got there and I couldn’t figure out a way to leave it there in the basket, surrounded by all those gloriously red tomatoes. I had the sense it somehow didn’t belong.
All this to say PUT YOUR WORK ASIDE. Become unfamiliar with it. This is the best way to ensure you are saying all the things you want to say, in the way you want to say them. If you read it immediately after you finish writing it, you might READ WHAT YOU MEANT in your lines…even though the words on the page don’t match up with what it is you were trying to say. DISTANCE MAKES FOR BETTER EDITING.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have an apple to remove from a certain basket I’ve been eyeing suspiciously.
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!
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 a1,500word (maximum) story in just24 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.)
Look for an announcement regarding my latest anthology inclusion. My short story THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE will be published this month in the LOVE IS LOVE anthology. All proceeds from this anthology will go directly to the TREVOR PROJECT. Full details to follow. (-:
In the meantime, I will be re-releasing the 2nd of my novels that was once with Curiosity Quills Press. Half Dead & Fully Broken will re-release in February, 2019. Details to follow.
Further details on LOVE IS LOVE will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!
What follows here is my short story Helen Finds Her Way to After, which won 2nd Place in the 2017 Writers’ Community of Simcoe County’s Short Story Contest. Unfortunately, the WCSC has since become defunct. My short story had been published on their website, which no longer exists. So, I’m sharing it here.
HELEN FINDS HER WAY TO AFTER
Both of Helen’s feet bled steadily as she walked. She fought to ignore the blisters making a nasty soup of blood and puss in the heel of each of her merino wool socks. It was nine a.m. With each passing hour she lost a little more of her will to carry on. She held on to the memory of her ex-husband’s laughter at the folly she displayed in thinking she could make this journey. She carried her daughter Meagan’s doubt, freely given when she had told her of her goal. Their lack of support was perhaps the only thing left to propel Helen forward to Santiago de Compostela. And to the apostle James, whose bones lay waiting for her there, whether she made it to the cathedral or not.
Must keep walking. It had become a mantra Helen hated just as much as she needed. Must keep walking.
Helen’s left baby toenail had fallen off two days earlier, somewhere between Sarria and Portomarin. She had mourned for a moment before bandaging up what was left and carrying on. Must keep walking. Rationality had left her long ago.
“Buen Camino,” a couple mumbled in tandem as they passed her by on a narrow dirt pathway leading to a cobbled bridge. Their walking sticks click-click-clicked as they walked by without looking up from the uneven ground.
“Buen Camino,” she said before reentering her gloomy thoughts.
You may have noticed by now that I relate things to a circle of a few of my favourite obsessions…most notably music lyrics and the Camino de Santiago. Okay, and Paris. Paris is the filter for all of life. Today, while writing a short story for a specific short story contest deadline that is quickly approaching, I stopped in my tracks and said, “What are your intentions?”
That sentence, or variants of it, were heard and overheard on my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago almost constantly. “What are your intentions?”, “What is your intention?” “But what are your Camino intentions?”
Today, I had begun a short story without having intentions. It’s a habit of mine, like watching the sun go down (excuse the gratuitous song-lyric relating). I write without purpose or plan or intention quite often. I always had faith that the story would reveal itself to me as I went along. Whatever I start doing to my characters, they’ll eventually discover a path for the plot, arc, story, etc…and they’ll take it from there. They’ll run with it. Why should I do all the work? I did create them, after all. They shouldn’t be so lazy. They should pull their weight. I shouldn’t have to do everything.
Enter lately. Lately is not a friend to my style of writing because lately I am discovering that stories are fizzling out, ending abruptly in a puddle of purposelessness. I can’t always rely on my narrators and characters to see the story through to the end after all. That’s a nasty realization. Am I getting old? Is my memory slipping? Am I losing my mind?
Or have I just been too lazy to do things properly, and up until now very very lucky that it seems to work out in the end anyway? I’m suspecting this is most likely the case.
Today I full-tilt stopped writing long enough to ask myself, “BUT WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION!?” When I looked around me and came to the realization that I did not in fact have my backpack on–and I was not in fact in the north of Spain on a dirt path following yellow arrows all the way to Santiago de Compostela–I knew that I had struck a chord. As much as pilgrims on the Camino talk about carrying intentions and purpose for their pilgrimage, so too should writers carry intentions and purpose for their stories. We should always ask ourselves what those intentions are. If we do not know, then do we have any business whatsoever even writing the story in question?
This is my new plan. Before I run headlong into a story, I’m going to demand of myself what my intentions are for the story. Not quite the same as Camino Intentions, but the same idea. I won’t rely so much on my characters to figure out the plot path. I should do the heavy lifting. I’m the one wearing the backpack. I’m such a lazy writer, you have NO idea.
On the Camino, we often answer the WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?question with things like I will be okay if I need to slow down today.I will not be judgemental today.I will be kind to others today.I will release something that I am holding onto today. I will breathe today. We choose these daily intentions and we walk while meditating on them.
In writing, I think my answer to the WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? question is quite obvious…even though I have almost never held myself to such scrutiny while exploring story.
Today I set up a homeless guy to spend the night taking refuge in a hidden cubbyhole in a library. It began interestingly enough. I thought it went well, actually. The hoops he had to jump through to pull off the deed seemed plausible. He overcame the odds and tricked the library staff into forgetting him. He made it! Victory. He found himself alone in the library overnight.
Then, once the dust settled and the character glared at me awaiting the next move in his adventure, I hit the proverbial brick wall. That’s when, without thinking, I whispered that age-old Camino question to myself. WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? I have/had absolutely no idea. Getting him locked inside was the extent of my vested interest in the story. Clearly that’s not enough. The STORY has to be about what happens after the set-up succeeds. CLEARLY!
It’s high time I started asking myself these rather important questions prior to wasting several thousand words on a story that is not a story. I don’t need to outline. God knows I’ve tried doing that enough times to know it doesn’t work for me. But I DO need to know my intention. I need to know what I want the story to be about prior to sitting down to write it…at the very least. At the bear minimum I should know what the bloody story is going to be about.
I have to stop doing this to myself.
So, do yourself a favour. And not only at the beginning of your story, but all the way through it. Whether it’s a novel or a short story…or a poem or an article or an essay or a blog post. Ask yourself that all important question at every step of the journey. WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? If you don’t know what your intention/motivation is, figure it out. It’s better than leaving yourself high and dry or leaving your poor character abandoned in a library overnight with nothing to do. You deserve better and so does your character. Don’t do what I did. As obvious as it is that a writer should ask themselves what the hell it is they want to accomplish in a story, they sometimes forget to do so.