Friends – I’m thrilled to let you let you know that I won the “Reader’s Choice Award” in the first annual Write Michigan short story contest. I’m humbled and overwhelmed. Honestly.
All month long I’ve been receiving emails and Facebook notes from acquaintances and friends far and wide, letting me know they read my story and cast a vote for me. Friends from High School and college that I haven’t seen in years read my story. My extended family and my wife’s extended family read my story. Loads of people at my workplace read my story. I’ve already said it multiple times, but I don’t know how else to describe it: the support and encouragement I’ve received has just been overwhelming.
It’s been a strange and awesome thing to know that so many people have read fiction I’ve written. Will they think it’s too depressing? Will they wonder why I didn’t make it ‘more Christian’? Will they tell me that the main character didn’t seem real? Are they just telling me it’s good because they’re my friends and don’t want to hurt my feelings? These and many other questions bounced around in my head all month. I’ve felt vulnerable. It’s been humbling. But I’m glad to have experienced this. It’s reminded me to be thankful for those around me, and especially for those who have been encouraging me to write for a while now.
For the last five years I’ve been in a writers group, The Weaklings. They have been and continue to be my best friends and companions on this writing journey. My parents, my wife, and other family members have also been critically important supports for me too. So to all of them, and to all of you who read this blog, I want to say a big “THANK YOU!”
I feel like I’m gushing a little bit in this post. That’s probably true. After all, this is just one little contest, right? Not to me. This is a big deal. This has been an experience I won’t forget. This has been something that’s both affirming and (hopefully) character shaping. I’m hugely blessed to have the support I have in my family and friends. There’s no way this story would’ve happened without them. And there’s certainly no way I would’ve won a “Reader’s Choice Award” if so many people hadn’t gone out of their way to vote for me. I’m a blessed and thankful man.
Thank you all!
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m a finalist in the Write Michigan short story contest. My sci-fi story, “Archived,” is one of ten stories that were chosen by judges to be voted on by the public between now and January 31st. I’m humbled and completely excited to spread the news about this honor between now and then. I’m so grateful for this opportunity!
Will you vote for me?
Here’s what you need to know about voting:
- You can read the story in full and vote for it here: http://writemichigan.org/vote.html
- Anyone can vote. Voters don’t have to live in Michigan residents. (Only the writers had to be Michigan residents.)
- You can vote once per week from a given computer in each of the two categories: Writers over 18, and writers under 18.
- That means you could vote on your work computer, then your home computer, then on your phone, then on your iPad, then on your whatever-else-you’ve-got … once per week.
- Voting ends on January 31, 2013
- Winners are announced on February 1, 2013.
- You can read all about the contest and all of the entries in both the adult and teenage categories at www.WriteMichigan.org
This image will make sense after you’ve read the story. (Found on Wiki Commons.)
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my story was chosen. This is the first time I’ve ever been a “finalist” at anything. (I honestly can remember being a finalist in anything before. I generally avoid competitions like I avoid math problems or diet soda.) I owe a huge debt of thanks to a few people:
- My wife, for her endless support of my writing.
- My writers group, The Weaklings, for their constant encouragement, coaching, spurring-on, and camaraderie. I was with the Weaklings when I wrote my first draft of this story during the 3-Day Novel weekend of 2010. It sat in my filing cabinet for over a year before I touched it again.
- My friend and Zondervan colleague, Brian Phipps, who read an early draft of this story and provided critical feedback on the characters and the plot. Brian is a published poet and his advice on how to “earn my ending” was (and still is) invaluable to me.
I’m so excited to have been chosen to be a finalist that honestly, even if I lose, I’ll still be thrilled and thankful. What an honor just to place in the final ten!
Please take a few minutes and cast a vote for me. Thank you!
I’m still working on my short story submission for the Write Michigan contest. I have a month until it is due. I mentioned in a previous post that an editor friend of mine graciously agreed to read it. He returned a printed version of the manuscript to me with his corrections and comments on it. I’m mulling over one of his suggested changes and I could use some help.
My story has a protagonist, two supporting characters, and two other characters that are only mentioned once or twice. I’m trying to keep the character descriptions to a minimum. As I heard at a writers conference recently, I’m trying to give impressions of characters rather than detailed descriptions.
At one point in the story I describe one of the supporting characters this way:
She had short, ferret-like gray hair and her nose curled upward into a point. She was filing her nails as if she was engaged in battle with her fingers.
My friend circled the line about filing her nails and wrote in the margin, “I’m not sure this description is working.”
I had already re-written this line a few times before my friend ever saw it. I’m not sure where to go with it. Do you have any ideas?
I’m trying to capture in one sentence that this woman is an angry person. She’s upset about something and liable to unleash her anger if you cross her. She is not to be trifled with and does not want to talk about it. Know what I mean?
I’ve read many short stories in which just one line of description, or just one unique action captures the essence of a character. That’s what I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to craft something that will make readers thing, “I know exactly who this person is” upon the first reading.
I’m open to suggestions. How would you improve these sentences?
I’ve been working on a science fiction short story for the “Write Michigan” contest. About a month ago I finished a draft of the story and sent it to a friend of mine who is a copy editor at Zondervan. In addition to his professional editorial skills, my friend is also a published poet and loves to read and write truly “literary” works. He was the perfect candidate to read and critique my story. When I gave him the manuscript I told him that I was particularly unsure about the ending.
Last week I had lunch with him to discuss how I can improve the story. I expected him to tear the whole thing apart. Honestly, I thought he would tell me it was total junk. I was thrilled to find out that he liked all of the basic story elements, and most importantly, that my protagonist was intriguing.
Here’s what he said that I’ve been mulling over since our meeting: “You’ve got to earn your ending.”
When I asked him to clarify he said something along the lines of: “You’ve got to put your character through more trials before you can wrap it up. The story was actually too short. Your ending was okay, but I felt robbed. You didn’t show me the character working through the issue enough before it was all over. You need to show him struggle more.”
During this lunch I shared with him the premise of another sci-fi short I’ve been working on. I told him I was struggling with the ending to that one too. After listening to my description of the action and how I planned to end it he just nodded and said, “You’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to put your character through more trials.”
Have you ever struggled with the ending to one of your stories? What did you do to eventually find resolution?
I’ve been productive in the last week and a half. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back too much but I feel good about what I’ve accomplished. Here it is:
The goblin project – I made some headway on the beginning. I cut almost three pages of back story that opened the first draft and replaced it with a scene of action and dialogue with my main character. Right away readers will meet my protagonist, and through an altercation with an unfriendly ogre, learn of the plight of the goblins in my story. I’ve shown it to my spouse and a good writer friend so far, and they agree, its a more gripping beginning than the back story.
The Write Michigan Short Story contest – I mentioned this contest in Monday’s post. I’ve finished a draft of my entry and have given it to a friend who is a published poet and editor. He’s looking over it now. After he’s combed through it I’ll likely tweak it some more and then send it in. The deadline is November 30, so for now, I’m ahead of schedule.
Other writing – I dabble with poetry and have shared some of my poems this week with Bob from my writers group. I’m not much of a poet and tend too look at good poets the way I watch ballet or the Olympics: I have a deep appreciation for what they do, but I could never hope to replicate it, or even understand it, myself. That said, I was particularly proud of one of my poems and submitted it to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine this week. (It’s in the fantasy genre.) We’ll see if they bite.
HeyPublisher.com – Have any of you joined this site? I joined it this week. I wanted to submit a creative non-fiction article to the The Burnside Writers Collective and discovered that they only take submissions from Hey Publisher, so I joined. I’ve not explored it much yet, but it looks promising. It’s a site that promises to connect writers with publishers and make the submission process faster and easier. Let me know if you have any experience with it. I’ll be interested to see if it’s a useful tool or not.
That’s it for this week. I’ll post another update next week. Thanks all, for your encouragement. May your week be just as productive if not more so.
A friend and fellow writer emailed me a link to the Write Michigan Short Story Contest last week. I’m going to enter and I already have my story drafted.
The contest details are fairly simple: there’s a category for kids under 18 and a category for adults; fiction can be in any genre; fiction must be no more than 3,000 words or approximately 10 double-spaced pages; all entries must be submitted by November 30, 2012. That’s about it.
A group of judges will later choose the top 10 entries for each category and place them online. Then anyone can vote on the story they think is best. At the same time, a small panel of judges comprised of Michigan notables will make their own selection from the top 10 entries. So in the end, two awards will be given out in each category a “Reader’s Choice” award and a “Judge’s Choice” award. On top of that, the top 5 entries in each category will be published in a new book by Chapbook Press. Chapbook Press (if I’m not mistaken) is an imprint started by Michigan’s Schuler Books & Music stores that employs their print on demand machine, “The Espresso Machine.”
More comprehensive and official rules are listed at writemichigan.org, but this is the contest in a nutshell.
During the 2010 3-Day Novel Contest I wrote a series of short stories in the science fiction genre. I never did anything with them. Of the group, one or two of them really shined as publishable material. This weekend I dug them out and picked out the best. It’s a story I’m very proud of entitled, “Archived.” I’ve re-read and re-edited it. It fits the contest requirements perfectly. Now I’m in the process of sending it around to trusted readers for feedback. I’ll fill you in more about it as the contest gets closer.
I’d encourage anyone who is a Michigan resident to give this a try (did I mention that Michigan residency is a requirement?). The contest entry fee is low ($10) and the chance to have this on my resume’ is exciting. I told a writing buddy this weekend, while the cash prize and the publication is very cool, I would just be happy with making the top 10 list or the top 5 list. That alone could help pave the way for future publication opportunities.