Tag Archives: writing contests

Need Motivation? Join a Writers’ Group!

Guest Post by Elaine Hirsch

Writers come from virtually every walk of life. There are professionals, amateurs, the published, the unpublished, and groups that include writers from every genre. Among all manner of writers a common complaint is the periodic lack of motivation, and how to overcome this obstacle. No matter how many PhD programs one’s completed or how innately creative one is, sooner or later there comes a time when one’s pen seems paralyzed.

Be Motivated

One of the toughest things about writing is the ability to stay motivated. Joining a writing group can do much to motivate the writer who has run out of ideas or simply feels stuck in a rut. These groups can be found both online and off and are often organized as critique groups in particular genres, such as creative non-fiction, short stories, memoir writing, non-fiction writing, biographical writing, reporting, and many other types of writing.

Writing groups might be exclusively critique groups, or may include discussions and workshops. The groups do much to foster motivation, assistance, encouragement, and sense of community among writers who might otherwise be working in isolation. As a writer, working with others can help you present your work to understanding peers so you can gain confidence and outreach in your foray into writing.

Become a Better Writer

In addition to helping you find inspiration, writing groups provide support that helps structure the writing endeavors of members. You’ll be able to learn from writers just like you about prose, vocabulary, and tricks to become a better writer.

When looking for writing groups, consider ones which promote face-to-face meetings. Ones that meet in person can be quite effective in motivating their members because the face-to-face human interaction can provide instantaneous feedback, gratification, and impetus to write. Some people work better when they can bounce ideas off of fellow writers in actual conversation. Colleges and universities sponsor some, and others are free-form groups organized by volunteers.

Competition Breeds Innovation

If just having other writers around isn’t enough motivation, consider writing competitions within groups. Many writing groups host writing contests with specific rules and deadlines. These contests can be great ways to motivate yourself, especially since many offer rewards or cash prizes. Moreover, winning might help you find professional success by gaining reader attention.

Finding the Right Group 

Now that we’ve covered some benefits of writing groups, here are some great ways for you to discover writing groups in your area (or online!)

  •   The Writer Magazine – An established magazine providing advice for writers. Includes a resource for finding writing groups by area.
  •   For Writers – A simple website revealing prominent writing organizations so you can stay updated in writing networks.
  •   Meetup – Meetup is a site which helps strangers meet one another by planning tangible events. Not surprisingly, there is a page dedicated to helping writers meet one another.

Just like many aspects of life, doing something you enjoy in the company of others can help you stay motivated. Hopefully these tips will help you not only find motivation to write but also so you can become a better writer.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.

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Writing Contests: Go for the Big Ones (plus a book giveaway!)

Twofer! A Great guest post by novelist, Kathy Handley, on the in’s and out’s of entering writing contests – PLUS! a chance to win her novel, Birds of Paradise. Just post a comment or question today and be entered in the random drawing! Check back Thursday for the winner…

Win this Book!

When it comes to Contests- Go for the Big Ones

I was once told to submit to well-known journals along with the lesser known ones. “You’ll get a fair reading,” my friend, Jamie Cat Callan said. That may be the same with contests.

A new writer is often hesitant to submit their work to contests. Early on I sent stories to the National League of American Pen Women, Soul-Making Contest, in the short story category. I placed several years in a row and was invited to join the team of judges later on. How cool is that? If I had never entered, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of meeting the great folks who judge and enter the contest that was started by Eileen Malone, the dynamo writer and do-it-all gal.

A good rule of thumb is to get your work out there and move quickly to the next project or submission. True, you’ll have rejections, but try to see them as paying your dues. I often said that I’d have to pay my dues by writing a million words–still working on this–just to learn and get better, but I have Indie-published two books this year.

It’s a good idea to submit in varying genres for the many contests there are out there.  You can access Poets and Writers for deadlines.  If you are writing a novel, take a chapter that will stand alone as a story and send it out. Try flash fiction and poetry and perhaps a short non-fiction piece that speaks to your passion.  Although we didn’t win the national contest for a boundless playground for my grandson’s town, the letters served to educate persons who were not aware of special needs. In this case, we wanted a playground accessible for all.

My big win involved the Nervous Breakdown site that sponsored a Page-To-Screen contest with a prize of a Kindle and the opportunity for entertainment folks to consider the story for a movie. With many entries judged by Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants author, this win was a great thrill for me. You can do it too. Polish up that work and go for it.

I want to wish all of you writers out there good luck in the contests you enter. Send me an email when you place or need suggestions about venues for you work. Imagine your excitement when you are able to use your publishing and contest winning data in the front of your book.

Warmest Wishes,

 Kathy Handley

Kathrynhandley@msn.com

http://www.kathyhandley.com

About the Author:

 Her grandfather entertained his family with stories and dancing, her father quoted Shakespeare and her mother was known as “Mary the Poet” so naturally Kathryn would become a writer…eventually!

Now a published novelist at age 71, Kathy’s short fiction has appeared in many literary
magazines. She recently won Word Hustler’s Page-to-Screen Contest (2011) and currently serves as Prose Poetry Judge for the National League of American Pen Women Soul-Making Contest. A collection of her work will soon be released under the title A World of Love and Envy (short fiction, flash-fiction, and poetry).

*Don’t forget to leave a comment or question for our visiting author and be entered in the book giveaway!!

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Read my winning entry!

100 Words or Fewer Writing Contest.  The concept itself was intriguing, especially for a long-winded writer like me.  I have been entering short and flash fiction contests lately and thought writing a complete story in 100 words or fewer would be a great challenge.  And it was.

I sketched out a few ideas, little snippets of plot that could be told in a one-scene story. I fell for one idea that I thought was golden. I wrote it, rewrote it and left it to simmer on my laptop for weeks.  Then, I pulled it out for polishing once more before submitting. Good thing. Though it had the shock value that flash pieces should possess, when I read it again, it seemed to fall flat. Was it too contrived? Too close to a real event from my life? Too predictable?

So, I pulled out my notebook and got to work on the second and third ideas, writing feverishly, crossing out words, rearranging sentences, writing it again from scratch and then with only hours remaining until deadline, hit the “send” button.

Well, all the hard work paid off, I won FIRST PLACE!

The $500 prize is outstanding, but not so much as the honor of being an award winner.

Read my entry here.  Please let me know what you think!  And…challenge yourself in the 3rd 100 Words or Fewer Writing Contest announced here.

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Contests: Entering or Judging – which is harder?

As we wrap up this week of Father’s Day essays,  I thought I’d reflect on my experience as a judge vs. a contest entrant.

I have submitted entries to scads of writing competitions: short fiction, genre fiction, essays, first chapter of a novel, 3 sentence contests, 100 Words or Fewer* contest and even a contest to win a free on-line writing course (Which I won. On my second try…)

However, the essay writing contest I judged here was my first opportunity at wearing the hat of a “judge.”  Both experiences are challenging and rewarding.

When entering a submission to a contest, I’ve learned a few things to help gain some control over how my piece will place.

First, I note the deadline. If I won’t have enough time to do my research on the contest and the writing and revision of an entry, I will most likely pass on the contest.

Second, I notice the entry fee. Free is always acceptable! : ) But, I’m not opposed to paying an entry fee under these circumstances: if the prize(s) justify the fee (fee is 10% or less of the first place prize); if  I will receive a critique of my entry or a subscription to a writing newsletter or magazine at no additional cost.

Third, I reviewthe site, blog or publication hosting the contest. Is it reputable? Would I be proud to have my work published there? Would it fit my writer platform? In other words, I wouldn’t want my work to appear in a magazine or site that doesn’t produce the best (spell-checked and grammar-checked) writing.

Also, while reviewing the site, I read and study the previous winning entries. If the judge gave comments, I take those to heart, as well. Compare the winning entry with the guidelines and see how closely they were followed: the word count, the genre or topic, the pacing and flow of language and the overall take-away effect on the reader.

Last, but certainly not least, I will study the judge’s profile(their background, their blog and/or website) AND the contest guidelines. If the word count is 1,000 max, I stay under 1,000 words. If the instructions say No Attachments, I don’t send attachments, even as a back-up to the entry I typed in the body of an email.  When the judge sees that electronic paperclip, they might not even open my email!

Which brings me to my role as contest judge.  The basics of judging were easy. One entry I received was over 700 words, it was immediately disqualified.  One entry was submitted as song lyrics. As original and fun as that was, it was not an essay, therefore, also disqualified.

Some entries were submitted with poor grammar or spelling. I’m sorry, but Microsoft Word can correct that with one click of a button.  If English is your second language, be sure to have your piece reviewed by someone who speaks perfect English to point out any small errors in sentence structure or word choice.

The entries that made it past the basic review, were well written, but some missed the mark on the take-away feeling I was looking for.  I wanted to know how your dad shaped the person you are today. Some pieces were beautiful and showed a great portrait of Dad, but didn’t tie back to a central theme, they just kind of petered off.

I admit it was difficult judging, knowing what writers put into their work and the pins and needles feeling while waiting for that announcement.  You don’t know, as a judge, how your decision has affected those writers. It could have been their final straw at writing.

Though, I hope, those entering writing contests learn from their losses, gain confidence and endurance to trek a little longer on this path of creativity.  And submit their work (and their hearts) again and again.

*P.S. Come back tomorrow for the link to the official announcement of the winners of the 100 Words or Fewer Writing Contest. I won First Place! : )

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Book Blog Tour: Mindy Friddle, Author of Secret Keepers

mindyTALK3-797755Today, I am excited to introduce novelist, Mindy Friddle, who brings a seasoned writer’s expertise to the muddle of writing we all face.

Bio: Mindy Friddle’s first novel, The Garden Angel(St. Martin’s Press/Picador), a SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program in 2004, and was a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition summer reading pick.Secret Keepers, her second novel, was published by St. Martin’s Press in May.She lives, writes, and gardens in Greenville, South Carolina where she directs the Writing Room, a community-based nonprofit program she founded in 2006. skeepersorder2

Mindy will be checking for your comments, it’s her “favorite part of blog touring!” So, be sure to leave a comment or question regarding Mindy’s novels, writing in general, or even gardening!(She’s a Master Gardener.)

 

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

 
   1. Wow, Mindy, your list of credentials are a novel in itself.  Let’s talk about your fiction awards.  Are you always on the look out for contests that suit your writing style, or is this something your agent or publisher does for you?  How do you prepare your work for a particular contest?  What about a residency contest?

Something I love about entering writing contests: the deadlines. Sounds funny, maybe, but consider two important points:
1. You have to prepare and submit something by a certain date—which can motivate you to finish or polish.
2. You’ll find out whether your manuscript made it or not within a certain time frame. Even if your work didn’t make it this time, take heart. So often when you submit a story or article for publication, you wait a loooong time to find out if it was read, much less accepted. At least in contests, you’ll know for certain if your work was considered or not. And you can move on.
Poets & Writershas an excellent calendar and listing of contests. You can find it at bookstores and also online.

 
 2. I, myself, sit on the board for a national non-profit for young writers and volunteer my teaching for a local non-profit organization for children.  So, your non-profit program, the Writing Room, touches my heartstrings.  Can you tell us how you founded this program, and how much time you now are able to devote to the Writing Room?  How do you seek out reliable volunteers or do they seek you out?

I talked to a local arts foundation, the Emrys Foundation here in South Carolina, that was willing to sponsor a program for writers. So I agreed to direct the program, which offers seminar and workshops to writers of all levels. I’ve recruited some terrific writing teachers, and we offer at least one seminar or class at no charge every season, as well as multi-week intense workshops (from fiction writing, flash fiction, writing for children, and screenwriting) for a range of fees. One of our goals is to eventually raise funds to offer one or two scholarships every season for folks who want to take in-depth writing workshops, but need some financial assistance. It’s a new program, which I spearheaded because I sensed we had an untapped literary community. Our mission at the Writing Room is to “build a community of writers.”

 

 3. Aspiring novelists are often curious how much of a platform one needs before tackling the marathon that is a novel (both the writing and publishing.) “Where to focus our energies?” Can you tell us about your fiction writing credits and platform prior to landing your first book deal for The Garden Angel?

 
I didn’t have much at all, as far as credits. And no platform, really. I hope aspiring novelists will take encouragement from that. You can’t go wrong with focusing your energy on the writing. Easier said, than done—I know! But a set schedule—writing several times a week no matter what—and reading a lot—that will get you far. Also helpful: attending writing conferences and forming a supportive group of fellow writers to read each other’s work.  After winning a fiction award in my state—the first contest I’d won—I attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference. There, I met Julianna Baggott, a generous writer who recommended that I send my manuscript–when I finished it–to her agent. I followed up and queried, and was fortunate to acquire my agent that way.

 
 4. Back to your latest novel, Secret Keepers.  Where did you get the inspiration for Emma’s character and what kind of research was needed to write from the POV of a 72-year-old woman?

 
After I got to know Emma—her background, her yearnings—and observed her actions (which sometimes surprised me) it wasn’t hard to get into her head. I like to think that age, gender, race, class, etc. aren’t obstacles to writers. Yeah, I know– that’s one of those Big Ideas that crops up on panel discussions: Can you really write about characters outside of your own experience/age/gender? YES. Imagination. Empathy, Curiosity. They go a long way.  Also, the omniscient point of view in Secret Keepers allows the reader access to the thoughts of a cast of characters: Emma, but also her adult children, her teenage grandson, a landscaper, and a homeless guy.  I really loved using the omniscient point of view, with a narrator who occasionally chimes in.  I hope the reader does, too.  I have more about the story behind SECRET KEEPERS on my website.

 

   5. On your tour post at The Muffin, you gave great bulleted tips on the process of novel writing: how to be a “weekend writer” and get through the first draft of your novel before focusing on revisions.  What method(s) do you use to keep all of your writing, research and notes organized while pummeling through that first draft? Do you outline; use note cards; have a favorite writing software?
Organize…not one of my talents. I manage piles. I don’t outline, really, but I do take notes on subsequent drafts and revisions. I use notecards to keep track of characters’ basic bios—when they were born, for example—and also to track scenes. If I think a scene is missing—a conversation between two characters that needs to explain something that will figure in later, for example—I make a note of it on a notecard. “Dora and Jake need to talk about Will’s death before we know Bobby remembers…” something like that. Occasionally, when I want to see the big picture and step back, I’ll use flip chart pages to note when things happen—sort of a crudely drawn timeline. That usually happens in revision, when I’m having to nail down details. I think you can find out what works for you as a writer—I love colors, for example. Highlighting my notecards by character is helpful, and using the “highlight” function in Word to figure out what needs to stay [green for me], what needs to be cut [pink], what needs to be moved somewhere else [yellow].  It’s always interesting to see what works for different writers. I’ve interviewed a number of authors, and this topic often comes up. The interviews are posted on my website, on the Interviews with Writerspage, and there’s more commentary on my blog here, and here. I wrote about the zen of writing– you just walk the path– at A Good Blog is Hard to Find
 

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights!  Please tell us what is on the horizon and where we can find more of your work:
I’m drafting a novel….and between drafts I sometimes turn to writing short fiction. Please feel free to visit my website and blog for more information on writing and reading, and drop me an email with questions or comments. Happy writing and reading everyone!


SECRET KEEPERS:  strong storytelling, comic touches, prickly family dynamics, and the magical power of nature.

St. Martin’s Press
Read an excerpt at www.mindyfriddle.com
On Sale: 4/27/2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-53702-9
ISBN-10: 0-312-53702-6
Also available: THE GARDEN ANGEL (St. Martin’s Press & Picador)

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Road Trip from Hell?!

Write about it. Submit it.

Here.

ROAD JUNKY 2008 GONZO TRAVEL WRITING CONTEST – HELL TRIPS
http://www.roadjunky.com/about/1684/road-junky-2008-gonzo-travel-writing-contest-hell-trips

NO ENTRY FEE
We want to hear about your worst journeys, your near-death
experiences, when you were robbed, beaten up, extorted,
heartbroken or brainwashed. There’s way more juice in hearing
about the nightmare stories, the hell trips when everything
that could go wrong did. Stories should be between 800 and
1,500 words and sent as .doc or .rtf files. No fiction.
Deadline December 31, 2008.

First Prize – $400
Second Prize – $200
Third Prize – $100

Our decision is final and whilst you keep copyright, you
allow us exclusive electronic rights i.e. don’t just send
us something you wrote for another site. We want to see cool,
original work. If we choose to print your stories at some
stage in an anthology you’ll get paid decent royalties –
we’re into supporting writers. We do reserve the right to
post the best stories on the site, obviously with a credit
and link to the writer’s homepage.

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