Tag Archives: writing contest

OMG-ing my fool head off

First of all, I’m immensely amused at the fact that my last entry was on “discipline,” and it’s taken me days to get my bum in gear to write another post!

Yeesh…the week got busy on me as I try to wrap things up before heading back to the States (FYI, I’m a Chicago gal currently living in London) for a visit with family and friends, a time during which I expect to be out of commission for writing/working overall.  In any case, the reason I am OMG-ing relates to a previous post in which I expressed my excitement over getting one of my letters published in a book collection.  That, in turn, inspired me to enter a short story contest that so happened to extend its deadline, so I could still give it a go.  The general theme to address was “The Wedding.”  So, folks, the results are already in, and….*drumroll*…I won first place!  Adrenaline surged through my veins, and I thought my heart would leap out of my chest…I’m just gobsmacked and so appreciative of those darling judges who have humored an amateur writer and will be making a dream come true in publishing my work.  It’s my very first time being published for my fiction, and I’m going to continue working hard to ensure it won’t be my last.  I already feel so grateful for this blog, as these little exercises that I might spend 5-10 minutes on here and there have been enough to get my ideas flowing and discipline me to write creatively on a more consistent basis.  This week’s performance, however, not being a stellar example…

In my defense, I’ve had a lot of reading and note-taking to conduct in preparation for a weekend writing conference that I’m departing for tonight.  I honestly learned of it by accident because of this blog–because I follow Bonni Goldberg’s writing prompts in her book Room to Write, I had Googled the title to grab a link for one of my earlier posts weeks ago, and in doing so stumbled upon a UK organization of same namethat holds bi-annual conferences at a country estate-turned-hotel up in Northern England.  This just looks way too up my alley, so I signed on and am getting giddy to hop on that train out of the city.  In any case, this March workshop addresses reading as writers–I think we all know that the more we read, the better we can write by virtue of interacting with examples of good writing or evaluating what we don’t like about what we read.  We were assigned to read three novels of rather disparate styles (The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman, and Let it Bleed by Ian Rankin) and take note of three things we learned about writing from each, so I’m looking forward to this sort of book club taken to the next level in analyzing these texts in relation to our own writing projects.  Hoping to obtain some very solid advice on how I might approach concluding the last quarter of my work-in-progress…I will most definitely report back here on any pearls of wisdom shared.

In any case, hopefully it will not be another 20+ years before I enter another writing contest–no, seriously!  I had just talked about my last one (in grade school, mind you) in my blog post, “The Impact of Words.”  Imagine my relief that the outcome this time round was the same 🙂

In closing, I’m going to indulge my relative anonymity here with what I consider to be the first professional review of my written work, taken as an excerpt from the Fact, Fiction, and Folly blog.  Why?  Because I think I still just can’t believe it and am utterly humbled by the kind words shared, and need to remember them to keep my self-expectations high:

The writing is well done, the story keeps you reading and turning pages (on the screen, ha!). It pulled me right in, with super fast pacing, so there’s never one single moment of ‘boring’ or ‘description’ that isn’t necessary. No word is wasted, no emotion spared. We get to shift POVs in an expert way from several different players in the scene of one wedding – and being ‘inside’ their heads, sort of the way a voice-over on television would be while all the guests are watching the wedding. It felt conspiratorial. It felt like we were eavesdropping on their private moments. It was simply fantastic.

The story title is “Four Somethings and a Sixpence,” and will appear in Accentuate Services’ Elements of Love anthology due for release this November.  They have already published two previous anthologies, Elements of the Soul and Elements of Time, and coming out soon are Elements of Dimension and Rendezvous.  All right, then, cheers for now—I’ve got a train to catch!


Resurfacing from the Dive

It’s been a few days since I’ve tended to the blog, not because I continued to sink into the despair I was feeling when I wrote my last entry, but quite the contrary.  I’ve been inspired!  One little tangible gratification that came my way since I last posted was an unexpected email regarding a contest submission I’d entered last year…I took the lack of response as a rejection, but no, I was selected for an anthology of letters.  So, not a nod toward my creative writing yet, but I take this as encouragement in my writing in general.  I have always been told that I write a nice note… 🙂

Anyways, riding on that positive bit-o-momentum, I’ve been writing a new short story over the last couple days to enter into a fiction contest.  Making decent progress on that so far, but presently taking a break by shifting gears over here in the blog so that I can refresh and dive back into my story.

The Prompt:

Page 14 of Room to Write asks us to revisit a previous “diving” (freewriting) session and pluck out a phrase, passage, or metaphor/simile that we ourselves still don’t fully understand.  Goldberg is operating on the belief that sometimes our writing is ahead of us—no, not that we’re psychic, but that we’re “tapping into a stream where imagination and intuition meet.”  What may initially sound like nonsense might contain a nugget of truth and understanding that further writing can help unlock and deepen.  To do this, we should roll this passage around on our tongue and practice any or all of the following strategies:  a) apply it in dialogue; b) list associations with it; c) create an acrostic using a key word from it; d) draw it; and/or e) verbalize it out loud using variations in tone, pitch, or accent

On revisiting a previous freewrite, then, I’m torn between these two passages (the most peculiar parts to me are highlighted):

1.  “playing at children’s games mild lost to tea and egg pie and muddle gunk and tomfoolery wizened but not wise enough”

2.  “I catch my breath and try to inhale the purity calmness gaseous extremity that I can believe in the cool quake calmness of din and then I reach the apex of snow and glide and glisten along my way the sunny fresh extremes of hilltops glossed in icing and glint and free falling to a furry escape

Response:

To address #1, I believe I meant that the benign naivety of childhood gives way to an adulthood confined by more rigidly self-imposed rules of living, like proper afternoon teas or other modes of conduct that are considered refined but may be even more nonsensical foolishness (i.e., “muddle gunk and tomfoolery“) than the ways children approach life through their innocent, natural perspectives—adults kidding themselves that they’ve learned through years of experience yet still have so much more to understand.  “Muddle gunk” sounds like something very inspired by e.e. cummings, a way of making up one’s own words that somehow capture an idea through their sounds.  On re-reading the passage, “egg pie” really sounded strange to me at first, but now that I conceptualize it more, there’s nothing odd about it at all; it’s just a more silly, casual-sounding (indeed, more childlike) way of saying “quiche.”

As for #2, as I repeat “cool quake calmness” aloud, the alliteration of the hard ‘c’ sound instantly clacks against the roof of my mouth, creating a crisp, clean connotation (look, I did it again!) that suits the image I presume I was trying to create at the time.  How “calmness” can coexist with a “quake” or “din” is confusing, though, so let’s see if I can work it out.  I associate the last two words with the two senses of touching and hearing, “quake” being a violent shaking or shuddering like an earthquake beneath one’s feet and “din” being a ruckus, a commotion of sound (for some reason I hear someone clanging on a pan with a spoon, perhaps simply because “din” first makes me think of “dinner” by virtue of its spelling, not meaning).  It could be that the tremors and cacophony somehow respectively meld into a steady vibration and white noise, within the hum of which one actually can drown out distraction and disturbance to find peace.

As to why I would describe the escape from all the clamor as “furry,” I’ll use that for my acrostic:

Friction-free

Underbelly

Refreshing

Relief

Yielding

It seems I meant that it would be a soft landing that would only bring tickling, warming, soothing relief as it breaks the fall from the more putrid, rotting, artificially-created existence described earlier in the freewritten piece.

Reflection:

This was a useful exercise for revisiting my own words.  It’s wild to think that we can write things that we don’t ourselves even understand at the time–even more so that we can extract meaning from it eventually, and something that actually does make sense!  It’s a testament to the power of writing and how it helps us to unearth truths and propel us forward into the realization of them.


The Impact of Words

The Prompt:

Page 4 of Room to Write asks us to describe the first incident in which we were affected profoundly by words.  In describing this, we should address what led up to the encounter, our physical reaction to it, and anything else that was happening simultaneously.  We’re free to fill in the gaps with fiction, if we please, and perhaps construct it as a poem.  I’m going for prose, but you do what you will.

Response/Reflection:
I can’t swear that it was the first time words ever profoundly affected me, just that it’s the earliest memory that my pea-brain can pinpoint right now.  It’s arguable, after all, that I was first profoundly affected when I first learned how to read, but I don’t recall there ever being a “Eureka!” swell of emotion then; it’s more so the appreciation that I can attach to it now in retrospect.  I think of the metallic-spined Golden Books that kicked off my reading career, and my red paperback of The Story of Ferdinand that certainly made its place in my heart–but, again, a meaning established in my adult years when I so needed to hear truths put simply in my ever-increasingly complicated world.  And I wish I could remember the first orally articulated words that may have moved me, but I think it would have to be when I myself took on the challenge of words, the composition of them in forms of my own choosing if not creation, that stands out as most pivotal to the writing life I’ve embarked on since.

I think it was fourth grade when I submitted my first “book” into the running for my elementary school’s Young Authors Contest.  It was an anthology, actually, a collection of poetry that I carefully entitled, Poems of Modern Style.  I suppose I classified them as “modern” based on the youthful and pop cultural content they covered (the ’80s punk aesthetic being a component) as well as the fact that I did, with the exception of a few haikus, create my own poetic structures to follow.  It’s difficult to recall what exactly led up to these choices; I can only assume I chose the poetic medium because I couldn’t think of a plot around which to develop a decent story of any length (not to mention I’d probably noted the failure of my previous year’s prose piece, something about a lost bunny or puppy trying to find its way home.  The dialogue was painfully monotonous; I clearly knew nothing of dialogue tags at age 7).  So I suppose I had a range of miscellaneous ideas floating through my head that did not necessarily follow a cohesive theme, yet could adequately be dumped under that catch-all descriptor of “modern.”

The poetic form gave me the freedom to explore all these ideas in flowing form or fragmented sketches.  Yes, I was 8 years old and an avid Shel Silverstein reader that was of the school of thought that all poems had to rhyme, so constrained myself in this respect, but it was rules like rhyming or the number of syllables measured in those haikus that really did prompt me to stretch and squish and swap words to comply with those forms without sacrificing meaning.  That would be, then, when I caught the first glimmer of understanding how word-rich the English language is, that there are so many degrees of meaning even among synonyms that we are at liberty to play around with all sorts of words in trying to find the specific ones that truly convey what we’re seeking to say, whether in isolation or combination.  Poetry forced me to think more deliberately, weigh each word’s worth more when there were so few alloted to a line and so few lines beyond that.  Sure, I certainly remember cranking a couple of those out, feeling satisfied enough on the first try and ready to move on, but there were others that taught me the value of revision and being a discerning reader of my own writing.  I further recall that I had drawn illustrations to accompany each poem, demonstrating that interplay between word and image and how they create meaning in synergy…or maybe it was also because I loved to draw and thought it made the pages pretty.  (It did.)  I painstakingly copied the final versions down onto construction paper of alternating rainbow colors and bound it all together to submit for the judging.

This process acquainted me with the eye-strain and sore hand muscles that accompany writing, but also with how these symptoms of pain were salved by the flutter in my stomach that signaled both the thrill of creative achievement and the anxiety over what others may think once I placed my baby in their arms.  And even the agony of anxiety was utterly diminished when they announced the results:  I was a finalist.  I didn’t end up winning, but I had made the top four, and that was the first external recognition I’d received of my words that wasn’t just a grade on an essay.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have relied on outside reinforcement, but it was the validating boost this shy girl needed to affirm that what I’d worked so hard on and genuinely enjoyed all by myself was something of merit that others could enjoy too.  In the short-term, it inspired me to tackle an illustrated “novella” as a sixth-grader two years later for that same contest (I won, even got to go “on tour” reading select chapters in different classrooms) and cemented a love affair with words that will stay with me for a lifetime.



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