Insights From My First Short Story Contest (II)

I’m continuing with my post about entering my first short story contest, and I’m sharing happy news. I attended the Lake County Bookfest last week, where they announced that my short story will be published in an electronic compilation along with eleven others. Though I wasn’t chosen as a winner or honorable mention in the short story contest, I’m very excited that my story will be included in the collection, and I have a couple more insights to share about the experience.

Fortune favors the brave:
For the first time in a long time, I was shy about having strangers read what I wrote. I write at work all the time. I have participated in writing groups and enjoyed sharing my writing.  So, I was surprised by how nervous I felt about submitting. It came at the very end, when I’d mostly finished editing and only felt like I needed to proof the story. Then I picked it up and suddenly had lost all perspective. I couldn’t tell whether it flowed well, or whether emotions and motivations were clear. I could blame this on being unexpectedly rushed, but it was more than that. I cared about submitting a good story, and I had to go on faith that it worked as well as I’d thought it had previously. Then, I proofed it, checked the submission guidelines again, and submitted.

Trying is the opposite of failing:
Ok, I knew this one. It’s a central tenet of my value system. I was short-listed, but I didn’t get the reward of that private meeting. I did get written critiques from the judges, though, and these were very insightful. I’m pleased that my story was selected for the electronic compilation, but I’m even more proud that I entered the contest at all.  Despite being nervous, despite feeling stressed and having to scramble at the end, I made the time and put my story out there for review. It won’t be the last time, but it was the first time.

Tell me about your experiences with entering writing contests. Do you have any insights or realizations to share?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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Insights From My First Short Story Contest (I)

I’m taking a break today from poetry and spooky shorts to share my recent experience with entering a short story contest. This was the first short story that I’d submitted to a contest, and I went into the experience thinking it was a good way to push myself to do something new, to take the next step. Now that the results are in, I realize I’ve learned more than I expected, and I thought you may enjoy my insights.

Plan to submit as early as possible:
I’d worked out most of my story edits well before the story deadline and put it away to simmer a bit. A few more things came to me and I’d planned to make final edits the week before the deadline. However, life threw some surprises at me that week. Suddenly it was the last day the contest was open, and I was driving out of town to take care of some unexpected personal business. When I got back, I holed up in a coffee shop for the last crucial hours. The whole thing ran way too late for my own comfort. Despite all my planning, I submitted nearly at the end. I don’t want that frantic experience again.

Be ready for unexpected emotions:
My last minute scramble made me realize that I was surprisingly emotionally invested in the contest. I didn’t care about winning, but the finalists won an individual meeting with an agent and published author. I was hoping to have that meeting. I was hoping for the validation of being chosen, being good enough, to warrant such a meeting.  And I was hoping to get objective, professional feedback on my writing.  The agent and author work in the genre I write, and so I was especially excited for that.

I’ll finish this up in an upcoming post. Tell me about your experiences with entering writing contests. Do you have any insights or realizations to share?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

The Words

THE WORDS
by Victoria Nations

The little girl held up her hands and willed the books to come to her. When they stayed on the shelves, she wasn’t disappointed. She figured it might work someday, the way the words came to her. If the words came to her, perhaps someday whole books would fly to her outstretched hands.

She didn’t call the words to her. They just came.

When she told her parents the words crawled on the pages like ants, they took her to an eye doctor. The doctor found a minor correction at the pressing of her parents, so she wore glasses with thin lenses.

When she bent over the words, the glasses slid a bit down her nose. When they got too far, she lifted her hand to push them back up. But she had to be very careful not to smudge them with ink.

The words didn’t frighten her. Nothing she read really frightened her. Sometimes the words made her giggle, the way they scampered over her fingers. Sometimes she could feel her heart race when they startled her and all ran at once. Sometimes they made her sad, the way they stumbled after running for too long. They moved slower and slower, until they lost their shape and covered her fingers.

She tried to keep the words with her as long as she could, until her parents clucked at the dirt under her nails and made her wash them clean.