Tag Archives: writing contests

A Chiropractor’s Dream

When someone throws out a writing prompt challenge, I generally accept.

Back in January, Susan Bearman kicked off her Annual Writing Contest on her blog, Two Kinds of People (2KoP). Susan is the master at writing about “the folly of arbitrary divisions,” as she says (case in point: this post on Fan vs. Fanatic). And, she makes it look easy. Her open prompt, “[p]ick your own favorite Two Kinds of People topic and write about it,” gave anyone interested all sorts of flexbility. But, what I learned in trying to tackle this prompt was that, well, Susan is a master.

My submission didn’t win – congrats to Deborah Carroll who did (you can read her essay here) – but it was a fun exercise. So, I’ll share: my two kinds of people.

*****

The Chiropractor’s Dream

A guy named Tim Ferriss wrote a blog post a while back describing how he can travel carrying 10 pounds or less. “The name of the game…,” he says, “is being ‘fashionably light.’” I’ve never been called “fashionable,” and, in my mind, “fashionably light” doesn’t even compute. Mr. Ferriss’ post on traveling contrasts with my own practices and solidifies my belief that people on the move fall into two separate camps: those who pack light and those who pack.

I don’t travel light — not on vacation, not when I go to work, not when I return home from the supermarket. I’ve never been a Den mother for any Boy Scout (the closest I’ve come to any Scout is paying seven dollars for two boxes of Thin Mints), but I pledge the Boy Scouts motto just the same – Be prepared – and therein lies my problem. I’m notorious for filling every pocket of a purse and occupying every inch of dead space in a bag. And, while I’m fully prepared for any and all emergencies on a given day, my inability to pack “fashionably light” sometimes leaves me looking and feeling like Igor in “Young Frankenstein” – humped over and eyes bulging.

I could blame my proclivity to over pack on being a mother. My kids are young, so I offer plenty of good reasons why I carry extra notebooks and pens, snacks, bottles of water, and one (or two) bags of tissue. But, “the kid excuse” does little to explain why my bag for work weighs almost as much as my four year old daughter. No, my days as a pack horse began long before I became a mother.

I was nine years old when I received my first invitation to a tea party. My best friend from down the block asked me over for the afternoon and suggested I bring a few of my stuffed animal friends. Like many kids, I possessed a whole slew of stuffed companions, all of them important. With a tender heart and a lot of patience, my mother helped me load each bear, bunny, and doll into several paper sacks (they wouldn’t fit into just one), and she asked if I was sure my friend meant for me to bring so many.

“Oh yes!” I said, emphatic, the word “few” being a relative term in my world even then.

We filled the back seat of her 1979 red and white Mercury with my bags of friends, and she drove from our house at the top of the hill to my friend’s house at the bottom. For all I know, she put the car in neutral and coasted down the hill, we lived that close. Then, she gave up five more minutes of her time to help me unload.

When I read a post like the one Tim Ferriss wrote, I dream of being a minimalist, of standing upright while I walk to work, of gliding through an airport with, say, a free hand to wave at a passerby. I stare longingly at small travel bags in stores like REI, and I run my hand across the face of a cute little clutch at the mall. And sometimes, like last week, I succumb to the dream. I buy a new bag with the sole purpose of downsizing, of lightening my load and correcting my posture.

But, my motto always gets the best of me.

Downsizing is a temporary fix.
Leather stretches.
And, that new bag I’m carrying is getting fatter by the day.

*****

What about you? Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a woman thing. Remember George Costanza and his wallet?….

* The above photo comes from www.moviemarket.com. Search under “Marty Feldman.”

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A Mother and A Writer

I love writing contests.

If I’m not using the opportunity to tighten up a old story, then I’m off creating something new.

And, once in a while, a contest sharpens my focus; it turns my perspective from outward to in. A contest I recently entered did exactly that. It gave me reason to examine – again – why I continue to write, despite the obstacles in life that could easily sway me.

In celebration of She Writes‘s first year anniversary, E. Victoria Flynn hosted a Mother Writing contest. We were asked to write, in 500 words or less, an essay on being a mother writer. The deadline for the contest came during the early days of summer vacation, and my first thought was: Mother Writer? Impossible. Still, I wrote.

Though I didn’t win the contest, I’ve posted my essay below. And, you can read the lovely winning Mother Writing essay by Diana Duke here.

Nothing was lost by thinking back on my Writerly beginnings: blogging about my children. From those short posts, I moved on to my first writing class, my first published piece, and my first attempts at writing fiction.

Thanks, Victoria, for hosting a contest that put Mother Writers in the limelight and gave me a reason to look inward for my own affirmation.

*****

The Whole of Me

Mother and Writer. There are days when, like opposing forces, these two sides of me sit miles apart. They each refuse to accept the presence of the other. When I turn to write, I feel the pull of my children; when I go back to my children, I feel an unyielding persuasion to write.

“What’s the point?” I ask myself, exhausted from the struggle of trying to keep both identities in balance. Still, despite my frustration, I refuse to give up on either: as a mother I can’t, as a writer I won’t.

In Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Margaret Atwood lists several reasons that answer the compelling question: why do it? The answers that resonate with me trace my own journey to becoming a Mother Writer.

“To set down the past before it is forgotten.”

As a new mother, I recorded details: of birth, the first day of school, and the first tooth lost. Details alone, though, never conveyed the rise and fall of my emotions. A date stamp would not remind me of the out of body experience I had when my daughter was born. A picture alone wouldn’t express my own anxieties about sending my son to school. And marking the day the tooth finally fell out wouldn’t hint at the number of days prior when repeated negotiations to “let mommy pull the tooth” failed.

I wove details into stories, so that I might remember the power behind each moment.

“To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be ‘a writer’ unless I actually did some writing.”

Writing about life with my children reignited my love of storytelling. I looked back at my stack of old journals and a well-worn spiral notebook filled – when I was fifteen years old – with stories of girl meets boy.

I always wanted to be a writer, and I realized that to become one meant I had to take action. So, I started a blog, I submitted stories to journals, I shared my secret with others. I became a Writer.

“To cope with my depression.”

Lord Byron said, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

My bouts with depression, though never debilitating, distract me from life. Being a mother pulls me back into the moment. Writing helps me stay there.

“To bear witness….”

To bear witness to my children that in the midst of life, of being whoever we are that day – mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend – we do not have to suppress our creative selves. In fact, embracing my creativity enhances every aspect of my life.

I don’t earn money as a writer or a mother, but each of those daily experiences makes up the whole of who I am.

~

*Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. New York: Anchor Books, 2002, p. xx. Print.

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Submit, Submit, Submit

I’m heading into the heat of summer, but not because the mercury is rising.

With two young kids at home, my days quickly fill up with outside activities and play dates. Writing takes the back burner more often than not. So far, I’ve managed to get a little writing done here and there, but pulling all those bits and pieces together into a substantial story takes more time and energy than I have during daylight hours.

So, for a little motivation, I took some time this morning to research a few writing contests, as well as other places that accept either summer or year round submissions. If you, too, face crunched writing times and need one more reason to tighten up that story and practice the art of following guidelines and writing the cover letter, check out these magazines and sites.

If you’re feeling daring…Narrative Magazine is sponsoring their  Spring 2010 Story Contest. The submission fee is $20, the deadline July 31st, and submission guidelines are online (sim subs are okay). Narrative Magazine is a long shot for me, as they tend to publish works from established authors. But, then again, nothing is gained if I never try. I may be crying about that rejection notice later, but today I’m all about optimism.

Another great lit journal is American Short Fiction. American Short Fiction publishes established and lesser-known writers. They are open for submissions now, but they do offer a short story contest in the fall – rewrite and refine that winning story this summer and save it for September. Their fee for regular submissions is only $2, and they do accept simultaneous subs.

The Adirondack Review is hosting their Fulton Prize for Short Fiction. Their fee is $10, deadline July 31st, and sim subs are okay. The Adirondack Review is a quarterly online magazine and publish works from emerging writers.

Rosebud Magazine is a lit magazine edited by Roderick Clark, of Wisconsin. They only accept hard copy manuscripts for essays or fiction, but poetry can be submitted via email. Also, their reading fee is a mere $1. Rosebud was the first place I submitted any of my work, and I received one of the nicest rejection letters ever. Rosebud is not exclusive to publishing only established writers, in fact – to quote Mr. Clark’s Letter from the Editor:

Even in the most humble submissions, I see a hunger for expression in language, the desire to push words out and pull them in. In this new American voice which I find in every envelope I open is a hunger for a literary culture which is neither exclusive nor simplistic…[a] voice which has a genuine chance to evolve and improve itself on the basis of hearing and being heard. It is Rosebud’s purpose to respond to this need.

If you’re new to the art of submissions, Rosebud is a great place to start.

And, if these few literary journals and magazines don’t fit your tastes or your story, check out NewPages.com and Duotrope’s Digest. These two sites provide a long list of literary journals and magazines, complete with submission information. Duotrope’s Digest will even tell you – right in your search – if you’ll get paid for publication.

So, no more excuses (for you or me)! Get to writing, and submit those stories out into the world! To write is to take risks.
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Honorable Mention, I’ll take that!

I submitted a story a while back to the “Family Matters” contest for the the literary journal, Glimmer Train.

Most of the time, I submit to journals simply for the exercise of doing so: for the practice of writing a cover letter and the toughening up of my skin when the reply is “No thank you.” I’ve read the statistics for getting published, so I tend to expect a decline sooner than an acceptance.

But, last night I received an email saying my story had worked its way through the judging process up to the “top 5% of over a thousand entries.”

My story was awarded an Honorable Mention (!).

There’s even a formal Glimmer Train document listing my name as proof — my own proof, since I ogled over it, while pinching myself at the same time, to ensure myself this wasn’t some alternative reality.

The names are in alphabetical order, and – lucky for me – my last name begins with a “C.” I’m listed dangerously close to the top, so if you see me driving around town, waving my hand like I was just crowned homecoming queen, you’ll know it’s gone to my head.

But, still…Woo!

It’s Midnight Somewhere

Everyone is asleep at my house, except for me. NaNoWriMo begins at the strike of midnight, and I hope to get at least half an hour of writing in before I crash. NaNoWriMo kick off parties are happening everywhere tonight, and while I’ve never been to one, I can imagine the scene.

A door opens into a surge of energy, a waft of fresh-brewed coffee mixed with the smell of cookies and the sight of candy wrappers scattered across a table, and stories of last year’s NaNoWriMo. Cords stream from laptops to extensions to outlets, creating a web of connections between writers. Minutes before midnight, conversations crescendo, and then – at 12:01 – the noise dips to a low hum of hard drives and the curt click of keystrokes. The race is on.

I wish I were sitting with my friends, Dot and Jenny, in Portland, with a pot of coffee and giddy smiles between us. Instead, I face my laptop alone. The cursor blinks at me, and my thoughts bounce from NaNoWriMo to my pillow and warm blanket and sleep. I may be in for a long 30 days.

***

If NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing but you kind of like the idea of setting high goals in compact amounts of time, then check out Linda Cassidy’s recent post. She and a few other writing pals have designed their own Nano contest, one that promises sparkling clean results.

Or, if you’d rather just write – on your own terms – but need a firm deadline on the horizon, here are two writing contests to consider:

The Collagist’s 2009 Flash Fiction Contest
Women on Writing Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest

I work better under pressure, so I love deadlines.  That explains why I’m staying up past my bedtime, waiting for the two hands of the clock to flip to 12.

Right now, it’s 11:01 my time. Somewhere on the east coast, it’s after midnight. A host of voices just rose and fell, wooo!

Do you calendar your creativity?

It’s raining today. And, rain makes me pensive.

When I think too much, I generally come up with too  many questions. Lately, my mind keeps cycling through the same topics, and I’m not coming up with any clear answers. So, my fellow writers, I’m putting my questions out to you.

It’s fall. The leaves are changing. The air is crisp. It’s harvest time.

And, in the writing world, the time is ripe for submissions. Several great literary magazines open their windows for unsolicited manuscripts or essays. Writing contests abound. Where do I start? How do I prioritize? How much quality writing time can I squeeze into my schedule?  I formulate my writing plan on Monday. On Tuesday, I change it.

How do you plan? Or, maybe you don’t. Maybe you just write whenever the story strikes, about whatever rises to the surface. Maybe writing contests and calls for submissions never figure in to your plan.

Really, I want to know.

  • Do you open your calendar at the beginning of the week and pencil in an hour or two of writing every day?
  • Do you work up a stack of great stories you’ve written before you ever look at calls for submissions?
  • Or, do you siphon through the list of writing contests and your favorite literary magazines or sites first, and then challenge yourself to write a story that fits?

Better yet, do you waste your precious writing time trying to figure out your perfect plan for writing?