The old woman said
that there is only one way
to remove a wart
bury a toad before dawn
it will be gone by sunset
The old woman said
that there is only one way
to remove a wart
bury a toad before dawn
it will be gone by sunset
With six weeks to go until our entry deadline we’d like to take the opportunity (thank you, the mighty Shortstops) to say that the 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize is open for entries, and we really, really do mean open.
We’ve published a huge range of stories in our first 10 anthologies – stories set throughout history from ancient Greece to the present day, and beyond to imagined futures. There have been stories narrated by octogenarians, by children not yet a decade old, and others with narrators and protagonists at all stages of life in between. Stories written in the first, second and third persons, with the broadest sweep of styles and genres from the familiar to the obscure: historical, romance, literary, science fiction, harsh realism, surreal flights of fancy, tense thrillers, comic capers, ‘experimental’ tales, sparsely written hammer blows of what some might call flash fiction and lots more. Stories set in countries all over the globe, written by writers worldwide.
There have been high, mid and low brow stories; stories written as blog posts, album reviews, in verse, as diaries, as a series of emails, as well as a sumptuous crop of the more traditional; stories of 4,000 words and those with just a few hundred, one of which won first prize in 2010.
Our 2017 winner, Dima Alzayat (centre) with awards ceremony guest speaker Edson Burton (left) and judging panel member, literary agent Juliet Pickering, who now represents Dima.
We invite you to show us what’s possible in a short story, what a short story can be, what a story can do and what ‘short story’ means to you. Drop our jaws, make us weep, make us rethink, tickle us, entertain us, confound us, provoke us, comfort us, stimulate us, challenge us, storify us to another time or place but above all we want to encourage and inspire you to feel free to write what you want in whatever form you want.
We won’t be compiling lists of shoulds and shouldn’ts on how or what to write. Another contribution to the vast muddle won’t help anyone, there’s more than enough out there. You’re the writer, it’s up to you what you do. It’s your story. We’ll read every submission with the same objectivity, respect and relish.
In short, then, there are no dos and don’ts, shoulds and shouldn’ts, rights and wrongs. No borders, no barriers, no walls.
With that in mind, here are some details of this year’s competition:
The 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize is open to all published and unpublished writers worldwide over 16 years of age. Stories can be on any theme or subject and entry can be made online via the website or by post. Entries must be previously unpublished with a maximum length of 4,000 words (There is no minimum). The entry fee is £8 per story.
The closing date for entries is midnight (BST) May 1st 2018.
20 stories will be shortlisted and the 20 shortlisted writers will be invited to the 2018 awards ceremony in Bristol in October this year when the winners will be announced and this year’s anthology launched. Prizes will be sent to any writer unable to attend the awards ceremony.
1st £1000, 2nd £700, 3rd £400. 17 further prizes of £100 will be presented to the writers whose stories appear on the shortlist. All 20 shortlisted writers will have their stories published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 11.
And here is our amazing judging panel: Kate Johnson (literary agent at Mackenzie Wolf), Lucy Cowie (editor and former literary agent), Roshi Fernando (writer), and Polly Ho-Yen (writer)
Full details and rules are available at http://www.bristolprize.co.uk
It all started in 1992. I’d won a couple of crime fiction awards, and the local college came calling. Did I want to come on faculty and teach in the writing program? Hell, yes! (Pass the scotch.)
Over the years, I continued to teach fiction writing, but also picked up English Lit, Marketing (my degree) and a few odd ones, like Animation and Theatre. Such is the life of an itinerant college prof. (Pass the scotch.)
Twenty-four years later, I’m a full-time author. Except for Wednesday nights, when I put on my mask, don a cape, and turn into SUPER TEACH! (Okay, ‘Crazy Author Prof.’ Too much time alone at a keyboard can be scary. (Pass the scotch.)
Recently, a jovial colleague asked me if I was a good teacher or an evil one. I’m definitely on the kind side of the equation. The last thing I want is to be a Dream Killer. But even the kindest, most dedicated writing teachers can get frustrated. So when Anne suggested I rant on these pages, I gracefully accepted. (With the sort of grace that might be associated with a herd of stampeding mastodons.)
So here are my top ten peeves as a creative writing teacher:
In addition to basic and advanced writing skills, I teach the genres in my course. Meaning, we deconstruct each of the main genres of fiction (mystery, thriller, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, western, literary…etc.) to see what publishers expect. This is particularly important when it comes to endings. Mickey Spillane said those famous words: “Your first page sells this book. Your last page sells the next one.”
Most publishers categorize the books they accept into genres. Most readers stick to a few genres they like best for their reading pleasure. So it stands to reason that if you can slot your work into an already active genre, you have a better chance of getting published and read.
Many students refuse to classify their work. They feel it is ‘selling out’ to do so. (Yes, I’ve heard this frequently.) They don’t want to ‘conform’ or be associated with a genre that has a ‘formula.’ (One day I hope to discover that formula. I’ll be rich.)
So I often start out with half a class that claims to be writing literary fiction, even though not a single student can name a contemporary literary book they’ve actually read. (Pass the scotch.)
These students have no interest in writing fiction. They really only want to write one book ever, and that is their life story. But they know that memoirs of unknown people don’t sell well, so they’re going to write it is a novel. Because then it will be a bestseller.
Here’s what I tell them: What happens to you in real life – no matter how dramatic and emotional it is for you – usually doesn’t make a good novel. Novels are stories. Stories have endings, and readers expect satisfactory endings. Real life rarely gives you those endings, and so you will have to make something up.
If you want to write your life story, go for it. Take a memoir writing class.
(Or if you want to turn real life into readable fiction, here’s a great post from Ruth Harris on the subject.–Anne)
Students who think that grammar and punctuation are not important drive me batty.
Hey, someone else will fix that. They even expect me – the teacher – to copy-edit their work. Or at least to ignore all seventeen errors on the first page when I am marking. (*hits head against desk*)
I should really put this under the ‘baffling’ category. If you are an artist or craftsman, you need to learn the tools of your trade. Writers deal in words, and our main tools are grammar, punctuation and diction. How could you expect to become a writer without mastering the tools of our trade?
I can’t tell you how many times students in my classes have come determined to rewrite The Hunger Games with different character names on a different planet. Yes, I’m picking on Hunger Games, because it seems to be an endemic obsession with my younger students.
What I’m really talking about here is the sheer number of people who want to be writers but really can’t come up with a new way to say things. Yes, you can write a new spin on an old plot. But it has to be something we haven’t seen before.
There are just some plots we are absolutely sick of seeing. For me, it’s the ‘harvesting organs’ plot. Almost every class I’ve taught has someone in it who is writing a story about killing people to sell their organs. It’s been done, I tell them. I can’t think of a new angle that hasn’t already been done, and done well. Enough, already. Write something else. Please. Leave the poor organs where they are!
And that’s all they want to do. Akin to the memoir-novelists, these students come to class with a cause, often an environmental one. They want to write a novel that teaches the rest of us the importance of reuse and recycling. Or the evils of eating meat.
Recently, I had a woman join my fiction class for the express purpose of teaching people how to manage their finances better. She thought if she wrote novels about people going down the tubes financially, and then being bailed out by lessons from a friendly banker (like herself ) it would get her message across.
All noble. But the problem is: people read fiction to be entertained. They don’t want to be lectured. If your entire goal is to teach people a lesson, probably you should take a nonfiction course. Or here’s a novel 🙂 idea: become a teacher.
“A typical publisher guideline for novels is 70,000-80,000 words? Well, mine is 150,000, and I don’t need to worry about that because they will love it. Too bad if it doesn’t fit their print run and genre guidelines. They’ll make an exception for me.”
I don’t want to make this a generational thing. Okay, hell yes – maybe I should come clean. I came from a generation that was booted out of the house at 18 and told to make a living. ‘Special’ wasn’t a concept back when we used slide rules instead of calculators.
Thing is, these students don’t believe me. They simply don’t believe they can’t write exactly what they want and not get published. And I’m breaking their hearts when I tell them this: Publishers buy what readers want to read. Not what writers want to write.
There are many ways to tell a story. We creative writing teachers have some rules on viewpoint, and we discuss what they are, the reasons for them, and why you don’t want to break them.
Then we discuss why you might WANT to break them. Apparently, this isn’t enough. (*sobs into sleeve*)
I have some students who set out to break every rule they can think of because they want to be different. “To hell with the readers. I’ll head-hop if I want. And if Gone Girl has two first person viewpoints, my book is going to have seventeen! No one will have seen anything like it before. They’ll think I’m brilliant.”
Never mind that the prose is unreadable. Or that we don’t have a clear protagonist, and thus don’t know whom to root for.
e.e.cummings did it. Why can’t they?
They love the class. Never miss a week. But struggle to complete one chapter by the end of term. Not only that, this isn’t the first fiction writing class they’ve taken. They specialize in writers’ workshops and retreats.
It seems baffling, but some people like to hobby as aspiring writers. They learn all about writing but never actually write. Of course, we veterans can get that part. Writing is work – hard work. Writing is done alone in a room. In contrast, learning about writing can be fun. That’s done in a social environment with other people.
Not kidding. I actually had an adult student come clean about this. By class seven, he hadn’t done any of the assignments, and admitted he was taking the class to collect material to use for the high school creative writing class he taught. I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
This is the one that gets me the most. Last term I did a survey. I asked each student to write the number of books they had read last year on a small piece of paper and hand it in. I begged them to be honest. They didn’t have to write their names on the paper, so I would never know who had written what total. Here’s the tally of number of books read;
Yup, I’m still shaking my head over that low. He couldn’t remember whether he’d actually read a book. (How can you not KNOW?)
And these people want to be writers. *Collective groan* Why – will someone please tell me why anyone would want to be a writer if they don’t read books?
To be clear here: I read 101 novels last year. I read for one hour every night before I go to bed, and have done so for years. That’s seven hours a week, assuming I don’t sneak other time to read. Two books a week. And that doesn’t include the hours I spend reading students manuscripts over three terms.
If reading isn’t your hobby, how can you possibly think you can write? Why would you want to?
By this point, you are probably asking:
As this term draws to an end, I decided to ask myself that question: why be a creative writing teacher? Then give myself a completely honest answer. Here goes:
Hey buddy, can you spare a dime? Part time profs in Canada are poorly paid. I’m top rate, at $47 an hour. I’m only paid for my time in the classroom (3 hours a week). For every hour in the classroom, I spend at least two hours prepping and marking. We don’t get paid for that. At end of term, I spend several days evaluating manuscripts. We don’t get paid for that either. This means I am getting paid less than minimum wage. So I’m not doing it for the money.
When I first started teaching, an author gal more published than I was at the time said a peculiar thing to me: “Be sure you enjoy teaching because aspiring writers don’t buy books.” At first I was puzzled, but then I started to understand what she meant. Students are here to learn how to make their fiction better. That’s their focus. They really don’t care about what their teacher has written.
So why the heck do you do it, Mel? That’s time you could invest in writing your own books…
Let me explain: It takes me back to first principles.
I teach all three terms. Every four months, I am reminded about goal/motivation/conflict. Three act structure. Viewpoint rules. Creating compelling characters. Teaching “Crafting a Novel” forces me to constantly evaluate my own work, as I do my students. In other words, it’s ‘vegetables for authors’ – good for me.
By far, the most valuable thing about teaching a night course year after year is it allows me to mix with people who would not normally be part of my crowd. Adult students of all ages and backgrounds meet up in my classrooms, and many are delightful. I’ve treasured the varied people I’ve met through the years, and keep in touch with many of them.
Getting to know people other than your own crowd (in my case, other writers) is extremely valuable for an author. You’re not merely guessing how others different from you may think…you actually *know* people who are different. This helps you create diverse characters in your fiction who come alive.
As well, you meet people from different professions…doctors, lawyers, salespeople, bank officers, government workers, labourers, grad students, Starbucks baristas, roofers, police, firefighters, chefs, paramedics. I have my own list of people to call on, when I need to do research.
I’m paying it forward. Believe it or not, I didn’t become an author in a vacuum. I had two mentors along the way who believed in me. Michael Crawley and Lou Allin – I hope you are having a fab time in the afterlife. Hugs all around, when I get there.
Students take writing courses for all sorts of reasons. Some take it for college course credit. Some take it for interest, as they might take photography or cooking classes. Others need an escape from dreary jobs, and a writing class can provide that escape, if only temporarily. But many actually do hope to become authors like I am. When I connect with one of them, and can help them on their way, it is magic. There is no greater high.
No question, my life is richer through teaching fiction writing, even if my bank account is not.
You can help Melodie’s bank account by buying her humorous books, like The B-Team. This will keep her from writing dreary novels that will depress us all. (Pass the scotch.)
by Melodie Campbell (@MelodieCampbell) February 11, 2018
What about you, scriveners? Have you ever taken a writing class? Did you drive your teacher nuts with any of these things? (I know I was guilty of several…Anne) Have you ever taught creative writing?
If you’re in the area of the Central Coast of California on Tuesday, February 13th, you can meet Anne in person. She’ll be talking to the SLO Nightwriters about “How a Blog Can Benefit Any Author’s Career.” The meeting will be in San Luis Obispo at 11245 Los Osos Valley Road at 6:30 PM. FREE!
Melodie Campbell has won the Derringer, the Arthur Ellis Award, and eight more awards for crime fiction.
In 2015, Melodie made the Top 50 Amazon Bestseller list, sandwiched between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts.
She is the former Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. You can find her at www.melodiecampbell.com
You can help Melodie’s bank account by buying her humorous books, like The Bootlegger’s Goddaughter. This will keep her from writing dreary novels that will depress us all. (Pass the scotch.)
Brand New from Melodie Campbell!
The B-Team: The Case of the Angry Ex-Wife
They do wrong for all the right reasons…and sometimes it even works.
Perhaps you’ve heard of The A-Team? Vietnam vets turned vigilantes? They had a television show a while back. We’re not them.
But if you’ve been the victim of a scam, give us a call. We deal in justice, not the law.
We’re the B-Team.
EVERYTHING CHANGE CLIMATE FICTION CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE. Submit one piece of fiction up to 5,000 words using the impact of climate change as an element of your story. The winning story will receive a $1000 prize, and nine finalists will receive $50 prizes. Also, there will be an anthology of selected winners. The contest sponsor is the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University. Deadline February 28.
The Nelligan Prize. $2000 first prize for a literary short story, any length. Plus publication in the Colorado Review. Must be previously unpublished. Fee $15. Deadline March 14th
Eludia Award for a Novel or Story Collection Contest from Women Writers Over 40! $1,000 and publication by Sowilo Press is given annually for a novel or story collection by a woman writer over the age of 40. Using the online submission system, submit a manuscript of any length with a $30 entry fee by March 15
Red Hen Press annual Nonfiction Contest. $1,000 prize and publication by the prestigious Red Hen Press. They’re looking for an essay collection, memoir, or book of narrative nonfiction. Florencia Ramirez will judge. Using the online submission system, submit a manuscript of at least 150 pages with a $25 entry fee. Deadline April 30
Wergle Flomp Humorous Poetry Contest NO FEE. The First prize is $1,000 and there’s a second prize of $250. Also 10 Honorable Mentions will receive $100 each. The top 12 entries get published online. Judge: Jendi Reiter, assisted by Lauren Singer. Length limit: 250 lines. And there are no restrictions on age or country. DEADLINE APRIL 1st
Write Romance? Harlequin Romance (HQN) takes unagented submissions (via Submittable) for Romantic Suspense, Historical, Medical, and many other subgenres. Check out Harlequin’s guidelines here.
The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition
For published and aspiring writers alike – enter our free annual short story competition and be in with a chance of winning a place on one of Arvon’s four- or six-day Clockhouse writing retreats, as well as seeing your story published on http://www.writersandartists.co.uk.
To enter, all you have to do is submit a short story (for adults) of no more than 2,000 words. And that’s it. Unlike previous years, there’s no theme for you to base your story on; all you have to do is make sure you’re registered with the website, the subject line of your email reads ‘W&A Short Story Competition 2018’ and you send it to email@example.com.
The closing date for entries is midnight on Tuesday 13th February, 2018. The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the blog pages of their site in March 2018.
Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions in full before you enter. Please remember to register on http://www.writersandartists.co.uk before submitting your entry.
Whilst perusing the newspaper shelves in my local Sainsbury’s I was attracted to one of the smaller periodicals that tends to get overlooked on the magazine shelves in the supermarkets and I was happy to see the lines I have looked for each month. I am pleased to bring to your notice that the Reader’s Digest 100-word short story competition is now promulgated. The first prize is £1000, and it’s free to enter. With three categories – one adult category and two for schools there is plenty of time to pick up your pens or polish the keyboard, delve into your imagination and get a mark on next year’s diary as the closing date for entries is February 2018. If you wish to find out more about this annual competition why not visit their competition page at http://www.readersdigest.co.uk/100-word-story-competition-2017
A reminder about the Dorset Fiction Award’s bi-annual short story competition! They’re looking for short stories, fewer than one thousand words in any genre and topic.
They want to help the great art of writing thrive, and welcome entries by anyone from anywhere. The winner will receive a £500 cash prize, and will be featured in their yearly anthology and on their website along with the next nine runner ups.
So if you are a fanatic writer, or perhaps have lying dormant within you the creative flare to produce something brilliant — then enter. So why not pop by and have a look at their full details page for all the information.
This turn, they are supporting First Story, as chosen by their previous winner Marie Gethins. First Story is a national charity who are dedicated to reducing gaps in literacy and attainment through creative writing.
Norah Colvin writes in the upcoming The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1: “Flash fiction is a form of short writing. In its various forms, it may be known as, for example, micro fiction, sudden fiction, or six-word stories; the length may vary from as few as six to as many as […]
The balloon soars high
all the waiting is over
up to the heavens
Checking the pressurised suit
ready for freefall descent
saw only a bright future
plundering the earth
We look over our shoulders
but we stumble blindly on
“Books, like landscapes, leave their marks in us.” ― Robert Macfarlane
Exploring the Art of Story
The Inane Ramblings of a Fractured Mind
A BLOG FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS ...
Jean M. Cogdell, Author-Writing something worth reading, one word at a time in easy to swallow bite size portions.
art. popular since 10,000 BC
Occasional musings of a wandering Mystic: Explorations in Myth and Magic
Aspire To Inspire
Kickin' it Behind the Eight Ball
Life on the rocks
Medicine + Health + Lifestyle
FAB: Faith And Books
A Creative State of Mind
Bringing the real. Keeping the weird.
by JO WOOLF
The opinions expressed are those of the author. You go get your own opinions.
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