This is the greatest opportunity for publication you will ever have.
Welcome to Creative Writing Institute’s annual short story contest. This is going to be our biggest and best contest yet. In a small fee-based contest like this, the competition is much less and your chances of winning are much greater. Our fee is the price of a Starbucks’s cup of coffee and it helps subsidize our nonprofit charity contest, so invest in us and at the same time invest in yourself.
Publication: we will publish the first, second and third place winners, two honorable mentions, and ten additional Judge’s Pick stories in our fifth annual anthology, along with best-selling guest authors and stories written by Creative Writing Institute’s staff. Enjoy the competition. Join the fun!
Judge’s Pick: you may be asking what a “Judge’s Pick” story is. That is a story that impressed a judge so much that he/she nominated it for publication, even though it was not a winning entry. A very high commendation for the author!
* $150 and Gold eMedal OR a free, privately tutored writing course valued at $260
* $100 and Silver eMedal OR $200 applied toward a privately tutored writing course
* $50 and Bronze eMedal OR $125 applied toward a privately tutored writing course
Fourth and Fifth place:
* Honorable Mention eMedal
In addition, we will publish ten Judge’s Pick stories.
For the First Time — the Lucky Draw!
We would like to express our gratitude to Microsoft and TechSoup for donating a Norton AntiVirus Package for five computers, valid for one year. *The Norton Package will only open in the USA, but that’s fine. You have 15 other opportunities to win!
eMedals: You will love the classy eMedals. Make them any size you want. Post them on your site and on social media!
Revealing our Cover: for the first time, we are revealing our cover for the next anthology, which will be titled LOST. (You can see the enlarged picture at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.)
The theme sentence is below the picture. Be sure to use it in your story.
“I am completely and utterly lost.”
- Open genre
- One prize per person
- Entry fee: $5 per submission
- Submit each story individually
- Word limit is 1,500 to 2,000 words.
- Story may not have been published before.
- No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.
- Your story must include this theme sentence: “I am completely and utterly lost.”
- Winners agree to minor editing rights and will grant first, non-exclusive, electronic rights.
- All Rights return to the author upon publication.
- Accepting submissions until August 31, 2017, midnight, USA Eastern Standard Time.
- Apply the theme sentence to an emotional state, a physical location, fighting illness, or any other application that comes to mind.
- Copy and paste your document into https://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/submit.
Do NOT send your submission as an email attachment. We will not open it. Direct questions to head judge Jianna Higgins, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Secrets to Winning a Creative Writing Contest
by Deborah Owen, CEO of Creative Writing Institute
Contests are like cars. There are a lot of them and no two are the same, but this is an overview of how Creative Writing Institute judges their annual writing contest. This year, it runs from July 15 – September 1, 2015.
First, the judges do a quick sorting. They place stories that might have a chance to win in one pile and stories that have no chance of winning in another. Needless to say, those in the latter pile hit file 13. Your first question should be, on that first sorting, what are the judges looking for? Among other things:
a. Very poor grammar b. Very poor punctuation c. Long, drawn out discourses that make no point d. DEAD and DULL FIRST PARAGRAPHS e. NOT FOLLOWING the STATED RULES f. Not using the theme line, word for word!
The judges’ first scanning is not an in-depth reading. It simply sorts the big pile into a smaller one. There will be at least four full readings of each story by each judge.
You will win or lose a judge’s interest in the first paragraph, so be sure that first paragraph begins in the middle of an ACTION scene. Don’t lead up to the action. You don’t have time for that in a short story. Jump in with both feet. Next, develop that action until it reaches the climax about 2/3 of the way through and use the last 1/3 to form a conclusion and tie up loose ends.
Do all judges look for the same things? No. Each judge is as different as a snowflake. They may look alike on the writerly surface, but their thoughts and interests are as different as night and day, and that is what makes a good judging panel.
Here’s a clue. Our judges are not into romance. Does that mean you can’t enter a tactful romance story? No. Does it mean a romance story can’t or won’t win? NO. It was just a hint. 🙂
Another clue: the head judge would like to see some mystery stories this year. Does that mean the winning entry will BE a mystery story? No, but clever writers will certainly think twice before submitting to another genre (For newbies, genre means division – such as drama, fantasy, crime, etc.). But then again, some judges would prefer fantasy! In the end, the best, most captivating story will win, no matter what the genre.
Creative Writing Institute likes to run “themed contests” where the story centers around a certain phrase. This year’s theme sentence is, “I got more than I bargained for!” (You may choose your own punctuation, but those exact words must be in the story, in that order.) This is a fun theme!
The number one reason for disqualification is NOT FOLLOWING the RULES. Last year we had a winning entry that used one swear word. The judges were so into the story that none of them caught it, but I did and the instructions clearly said, “no swear words.” We even published a brief list of what we considered swear words (much to my chagrin) AND the address of the head judge in case anyone had a question.
Why do we have a “list” of swear words? Because we are an international organization that is based in the USA and even Americans hold heated debates on which words are or are not considered swearing. Why don’t we include swear words from other nations? Because it would be impossible to make a list of every country’s swearing slang.
The next question might be, “Why don’t you allow swear words?” One reason is… swear words are a form of telling instead of showing. (Note to beginners: a technique called Show, Don’t Tell means you should always show an emotion with action instead of description. For example, instead of saying, “Jarod was angry at the little boy and pushed him into a bush,” you could show his anger by saying, “Jarod drop-kicked the little runt into the shrub.”)
Another reason we don’t want swearing is because our anthologies are suitable family material. Believe it or not, not everyone swears!
We have already mentioned following the rules, which you would think would be a no-brainer, but to be sure you have conformed to the guidelines, read every single rule one more time before you submit. If we call for a limit of 2,000 words and you send 2,005, guess what? No matter what the quality of the story, it will hit file 13.
The quickest way to win is to write an original story totally based around I got more than I bargained for. The quickest way to lose (and embarrass yourself) is to pull a pre-written story out of mothballs, insert the theme line where it fits best and submit it.
I speak from experience. I tried this little number on a writing teacher years ago when she told me to write a story and insert a certain theme line. It seemed like a silly exercise to me and I was pushed for time, so I pulled an old story out, dropped the line in and submitted it. (*blushes… in my defense, this was the only time I ever did anything deliberately dishonest.) I thought I was so slick and so smart, until I got her comment which read, “It almost looks like you used an old story and just dropped that line in. Rewrite it and make it blend.” Well… *duh, our judges are smart enough to figure that out, too!
On rounds 2 and 3, our judges usually grade each story from 1-10 and then they total the points for each story. It takes a terrific story to make it to 8, 9, and 10. By the time the judges get to round 4, bloodshot eyes are crossing, every person answers to any name, none are sure which way is up and the coffee has long ago run out so sometimes the head judge changes the method of tallying to, “This time we will deduct points for ________.”
All entries will be judged on originality, creativity, style and technique.
Plain and simple – how original your ideas are. There are no new stories, but there are always new angles. Day dream a little bit to find something spicy. Keep asking yourself, “What if… ?” That will open dozens of unique ideas.
Creativity is how you express yourself. You might use similes, metaphors, emotives, or all of the above plus a whole lot more.
Your writing style will reveal who you are, how you think, how you express yourself and what voice you use. (Hint: stories written in past tense, third person [using he, she and it] sell the quickest… and win the most contests.)
Writing technique includes the point of view, visualization of scenes and people, style of dialogue, how you write flashbacks (or if you use them at all), red herrings, foreshadowing, etc. It can also refer to the more technical aspects of rhythm, harmony, assonance, alliteration, personification and the like. All of these things equal your technique and the voice that is peculiar to you.
Seldom do we have a clear winner. We have ties more often than rabbits nibble carrots and when that happens, we pass the smelling salts and deodorant around and see how it goes. Under the careful scrutiny of our head judge, Ms. Jo Popek, judges may politely “argue” why “their pick” should win. By the time they emerge with a list of winners, it’s a wonder they are still friends, and an even greater wonder that they will return to the judging panel again next year!
Once you get contesting in your blood, you will have to enter at least two a year. Writing for a contest is one of the greatest, quickest ways to learn from your own writing.
Above all, enjoy the writing experience… and support our nonprofit charity by purchasing our anthology in December.
May the best author win!
SEE CONTEST RULES AT http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.
PERSISTENCE in WRITING
Persistence in writing DOES pay off! Win-win propositions pay off, too. Editors love the phrase “win-win,” which means you have a deal whereby both ends have something to gain. I remember the first time I used that term.
The American Legion’s upcoming 75th Anniversary Edition was in preparation and their national office was in my back door. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that soon enough and when I called to ask about a job, the kind editor, Mr. Greenwald, said he had filled all positions.
Somewhere on the path of life, I had heard not to take no for an answer so I called again the next day and said, “This is Deborah Owen again. I called yesterday to ask about a position… “ and the not so kind editor cut me off mid-sentence with, “As I said yesterday, I have no positions available. Thank you for calling.” *click
I didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, I laid in bed and devised a plan whereby Mr. Greenwald would have to hire me. By morning, I was ready. With a dry mouth, I called him a third time and literally read from a written script, faking a voice of bravado and excitement:
“Hello, Mr. Greenwald. This is Deborah Owen again. I understand you don’t have any openings, but I have a win-win proposition you won’t want to pass up. I’d like to treat you to lunch one day this week to discuss it.”
He tried every way in the world to finagle the proposition out of me, but I knew it would be good-bye for the last time if I told him, so I said, “It’s too complicated to discuss on the phone. You choose the time and place and I’ll tell you in person.” He hesitated. [Never get in a hurry when waiting for an answer.] But, sensing he was about to say no, I added, “I promise to be brief.”
I was beginning to feel like I had leprosy when he finally agreed.
We met at his office Friday and walked two blocks to the diner. All the way there he wanted to know about my proposition but I played for time. “For now, let’s just get to know each other.”
I asked how long he had been editor at The American Legion, where he worked before and what his goals were in life. I kept him talking about himself – which is always a great strategy. At the end of the meal he asked about the great win-win proposition. I knew it was now or never, so I waded in and tried to look confident and enthusiastic (best done with a smile on one’s face).
“I’m a published freelance writer but I have yet to work inside a magazine. I understand the importance of a deadline and I’m never late. I’m meticulous in researching, and I was once a secretary for five men so I have good office skills. I’m a touch typist and a quick learner. Here’s my proposition: I’ll work for you free of charge. I’ll research, write, edit, or sweep floors if you’ll just let me work on the 75th Edition with you. Teach me. I want to learn. I’ll be the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. No matter what job you give me, you can count on it being done well. Now if that’s not a win-win proposition, I don’t know what is.”
With a smile, he answered, “Let me give you some advice, Mrs. Owen. Never offer your services for nothing. Someone may think they aren’t worth anything, and everyone is worth something. I’ll see you Monday morning at 8 am… and I will pay you a salary. I met you because I was curious, and I hired you because you were persistent. Persistence is a good quality. You’ll intern directly beneath me and you can have the desk right outside my office.”
I earned over $400 as I researched original WWI history and drafted 37 articles. No other job taught me so much in such a short amount of time. This is where the story should end on a high note, but there’s more.
One day Mr. Greenwald sent me to see a woman who was a higher up in the American Legion Auxiliary. In front of a third party, she lied to me to my face and I called her on it. I told Mr. Greenwald about it immediately (to build some insurance, in case he heard about it later). Three weeks came and went and I forgot about the incident, but the lying shrew didn’t. Mr. Greenwald called me in and said orders came down from way over his head. He had to fire me, as she was calling for my job and nothing less would please her.
“But I told you what happened,” I said. He lectured me on the urgency of good politics. So there I was. Out of the best job in the world.
The highs of digging through authentic files as direct intern beneath the American Legion’s National Headquarter’s editor was too high, and the low of losing that job was too low. I didn’t even know how much of my work went into the edition until it came out. ALL of it went in, and the “I Remember” section was completely my work, including the idea for it. Still, I couldn’t pull out of the depression, so I did the worst thing possible. I dropped completely out of writing for ten years. I let go of writing, but writing wouldn’t let go of me, so here’s the lesson:
When the doors don’t open easily, take a crowbar! Know what you are going to say. Practice saying it out loud (in front of a mirror), and then go for it! What do you have to lose? Groom yourself properly. Dress for success. Greet the editor with a strong handshake and take him out for lunch. And by the way, don’t leave your wallet at home (like I did) and… lastly… learn when to button your lip.
Editors want to hire writers who practice tactfulness, not brazen personnel that casts their magazine in a bad light. Writing persistence and “win-win propositions” will take you far but in the end, it depends on how much guts you have.
Mr. Greenwald was one of the main stepping stones in my writing life. If not for him, I wouldn’t have founded two writing schools later. The future is exciting!! If you could only see it. Every single day, you are affecting your future… so go after it, and swing by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com on the way.
SHORT STORY WINNERS ANNOUNCED
A hearty congratulations to the winners, finalists, honorable mentions, guests and staff who contributed to Creative Writing Institute’s 2nd Annual Anthology, which will be on sale in December. Thank you for becoming part of our history. You will notice some of the winners have an asterisk by them. That indicates their story was chosen by a judge as a “judge’s pick,” which is a high honor. And now – our list of winners!
You can read the top three winning stories here:
1st place winner: The Devil and Mrs. Morgan by Marsha Porter: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/the-devil-and-mrs-morgan-by-marsha-porter-1st-prize-winner/
2nd place winner: This Woman’s Right by Brian Staff: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/this-womans-right-by-brian-staff/
Reading the Leaves by Gargi Mehra: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/reading-the-leaves-by-gargi-mehra-3rd-place-winner/
1st place: The Devil and Mrs. Morgan by Marsha Porter
2nd place: This Woman’s Right by Brian Staff
3rd place: Reading the Leaves by Gargi Mehra
4th place: * Yogatta be Kidding Me by Sue Nickerson
5th place: * Pages of You by Tricia Seabolt
*You – Ivadell Brower
*Egot and the Trident of the Pond King by J. Lenni Dorner
By any other Name by M. Bulechek
Read to Me by Joan Bassington-French
Lana’s Sister by Diane Maciejewski
Revelation by Summer Jones
*Mad Artist by Robert Marazas
Aftermath by Mark Trudel
Striking Out by Brenda Anderson
The Truth in Names by Sarah Dayan
Sponsored by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, YOUR place to find writing fulfillment with a private tutor. No need to wait. Sign up today and start tonight!
1. If you don’t take your writing time seriously, don’t expect anyone else to.
2. Analyze other writings and learn to endorse them into your own style. Reading is an absolute must if you want your writing to grow.
3. Professional writers have the skin of a rhinoceros. There is no place for thin-skinned and timorous writers. Accept all constructive feedback and don’t it personally. Treat all critiques like gold. Put a big note near your computer – CRITICISM = OPPORTUNITY.
4. Educate yourself with writing courses, seminars, writer’s workshops, networking, and conferences. The actual writing is only a small part of the big picture.
5. Know today’s market, timing and submissions – that’s what it’s all about.
6. Submit something every week. When one item reaps a rejection slip, have the next market all picked out and submit it again the very next day. Remember one thing – persistence, persistence, persistence.
Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.
Using Voice Effectively
by Deborah Owen
What do writers mean by “voice”? The voice, or point of view (POV), is the angle from which a story is viewed; every story and article has one. There are three types of POV and, while some are more preferred, no particular one is right or wrong.
* First person POV pronouns are: I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, and ours. New authors usually write in first person because they feel focused and closer to the story. First person draws the reader in, but it’s a limiting POV and is not the editor’s favorite.
There are two problems with first person POV. First, the constant use of “I” becomes trite. Second, the story’s character only knows what the writer knows, and cannot see from a different POV.
For example, if John says, “Susan is going to meet me at seven o’clock,” and in the meantime, Susan falls, breaks a leg, and lies helplessly on the floor, John will not know what happened to her until someone tells him. First person POV is better reserved for memoirs, journal entries, and specific stories.
* Second person POV pronouns are: you, (singular), you (plural), your, and yours. Example: “You must come with me to the Christmas play. You and I will have popcorn and lots of fun. Did you know your hat is on backwards?” As you can see, this point of view is even more limiting and never used.
* Third person POV pronouns are: he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, their, and theirs. There are two kinds of third person writing, omniscient, and limited. In third person omniscient, the readers are like flies on the wall and they can see into characters’ minds. This POV limits the suspense since the reader is left with few unanswered questions – but it’s easy to write because authors don’t have to work at “showing” the scene.
* Third person limited doesn’t show internal dialogue (thoughts) so the characters can’t foreknow anything. Like first person, the readers can see through the character’s eyes, but unlike first person, they can also see through the eyes of others.
In third person limited, the suspense builds as the writer shows the scene instead of telling it. The reader lives the story as the character lives it. Here is an example from Deborah Owen’s The Perfect Crime:
“Harrison slumped against the car, collapsed, and rolled in agony as he clutched his chest. Vision blurred, and then his eyes rolled back until they relaxed in a wide, empty stare.”
The sample doesn’t say the man had a heart attack and died, but you know it, don’t you? As you can see, even showing may have a little ‘telling’ in it.
Editors buy more third person limited than first person. Let your readers feel your characters instead of seeing them. Play with the various points of view until you’re comfortable writing all of them.
Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.