Writing Competitions and Opportunities Digest – Edition 12

Limebird Writers post a list of contests and opportunities for writers. Search the archives for previous editions. Thanks, Limebird Writers.

Limebird Writers

Welcome to the 12th edition of our weekly selection of writing competitions and opportunities.

How would you like to be published in a magazine that has previously published original fiction by the likes of Thomas Hardy and F Scott Fitzgerald? You would? Then have a look at the first one below for details.

If you missed the last edition of our digest, you can view it here.


Opportunity type – Short story competition.
Theme – Spring.
Word count – Up to 3,000 words.
Organiser/publisher – Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
Reward – “The winning entry will appear in the May 2014 issue. Its author will be able to choose a first-edition book from Asprey’s Fine and Rare Books Department to the value of £3,000 and enjoy a week-long retreat at Eilean Shona House, on the 2,000-acre private island off the west coast of Scotland where JM Barrie wrote his screenplay for…

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Thank you for noticing.

For the past month and more, my writing has been on hold. There are two reasons for the lapse. First, I’ve been short on energy. Second, I’ve been afraid I don’t have what it takes to read a novel, much less write one. Fear played off lethargy. Lethargy played off fear. I played Bejeweled.

Bejeweled is not an activity that gives the subconscious mind freedom to explore and create. It’s an activity that requires no neural activity at all.

But I’m getting back on track. There are three reasons for that. First, my internist, who appears to believe I have a brain even when it feels like it’s made of cotton, diagnosed vitamin deficiencies and an electrolyte imbalance. He prescribed supplements. I’m taking them. Synaptic transmission is once more in progress.

Second, a few hours ago I received the judge’s critique from a manuscript contest I entered last February. The score is good. Very. Much better than I’d expected. The judge pointed out the positives, the negatives, and the watch-out-fors. He said that although it is “a fun and entertaining read,” I will need to find an agent who understands the South. I will also need to pitch it “in the tone of a Fannie Flagg novel.”

Fannie Flagg! Fannie Flagg’s name appears on my critique sheet! Twice! Not that the judge was comparing our writing, of course. He was just comparing pitches.

I don’t know how to pitch in the tone of a Fannie Flagg novel. But I don’t have anything to pitch yet either. There’s time to figure it out.

(I do a pretty decent impression of Fannie Flagg doing an impression of Ladybird Johnson: “Whenever I see a candy wrapper on the ground, I pick it up and give it to Lyndon….Lyndon collects candy wrappers.” I saw her perform that on the Garry Moore Show when I was thirteen. I suppose the material is dated, but then so am I.)

Enough of that. The point is, a good critique can do wonders. It’s like B12 for the spirit.

Which brings me to the third reason I’m writing, and the most important: someone noticed I wasn’t.

The knowledge that a reader is paying attention and registering my absence means a lot, especially when the going is as tough as it has been for the past couple of months.

Thanks, Susan Woodring, for noticing.

67 points

While we’re talking about contests, I’ll tell you my secret:

In 2005, I submitted the opening pages of a novel to a manuscript contest. The judge praised the strengths, noted the weaknesses, and awarded me a score of 85.

In 2006, I submitted the very same pages to the very same manuscript contest. The judge praised nothing and awarded me a score of 18.

The 67 points between high and low scores taught me a valuable lesson.

Judging is subjective. What one judge likes, another hates. Not everyone loves my work as much as I think they should. Or as much as I do. I’m competing with a large pool of writers who have talent, skill, and experience.

If I allow one rejection to discourage me, I might as well quit right now.

I don’t want to quit.

I won’t pretend I was thrilled with the second score or with the judge’s comments. I won’t pretend I didn’t rampage around the house telling husband and cats exactly what I thought. I won’t pretend I was surprised when husband and cats announced they needed their beauty sleep and high-tailed it up the stairs.

But by the next day I’d regained my equilibrium. One contest, one critique sheet, one manuscript.

I went to the literature. I reread Ralph Keyes’s The Writer’s Book of Hope, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open.

Then I sat down at the computer, and opened a file, and began to write.

Two days before the deadline

My partner in Just for the Hell of it Writers (JFTHOIW) and I delivered our submissions to a manuscript contest Monday–two days before the deadline.

I have Critique Partner (CP) to thank for that. I normally hand-deliver everything the last day, just under the wire. CP, however, tries to get her entries in early, and she set up a schedule that helped me get mine in early as well.

The truth is, if it hadn’t been for CP, I wouldn’t have submitted anything at all. I had decided to skip the contest. The first ten pages of my novel didn’t seem strong enough to merit submission.

CP, however, encouraged me. Once we’d agreed to enter, she initiated a plan of attack. Each Friday, we set ourselves an assignment for the upcoming week. When I didn’t meet my objective, CP kept me on track. In fact, she believed in me until I could believe in myself. I think somewhere along the line I began to encourage her as well.

We worked for two months. During that time, I reconsidered what my first ten pages needed to accomplish with respect to characters and plot. I scrapped previous drafts and wrote new scenes. I weighed words and images. I tightened, tightened, tightened, cutting wherever I could.

Throughout, I listened to CP. We share an ear for Southern speech. When my ear went tone-deaf, CP let me know. “I really don’t like that word,” she’d say. Or, “I just don’t think he’d say it that way.” Or, “If the readers know something about roses, that line would be okay, but if they don’t, I think they’ll be confused.”

Of course, I didn’t have to take her advice. Both of us make our own decisions about what we change and what we keep. When she felt sure of herself, however, she didn’t hesitate to tell me, sometimes more than once, and in no uncertain terms. “I still don’t like cranky there. It just irks me every time I see it.”

The third or fourth time I heard the same advice, I’d give up and start to listen more closely to my own words. Did I really want to say, “all five cranky feet of her”? Should I have Rhys tell Miss Agnes she “looks as lovely as the Bride’s Dream rose growing beside your door?” Or would he say, “My, don’t you look lovely?”

Granted, he’s soft-soaping her, but Rhys isn’t dumb. Neither is Miss Agnes. If he spouted all that rose talk, she’d probably take charge of the scene and whap him with her cane.

When we formed JFTHOIW, a couple of friends expressed reservations. Critique groups, they said, could be negative. I knew they were right. Some critics aren’t graceful in giving criticism; others aren’t graceful in receiving it. Some don’t have the best interests of the writer in mind. Some don’t have the expertise necessary to be helpful.

In addition, criticism of a work in progress can stifle creativity, especially if the critic doesn’t understand the writer’s intent and tries to substitute his own vision.

But CP and I haven’t run into problems. I think that’s because we do have each other’s best interests in mind. We respect each other’s feelings. We admit we don’t know everything, and we attempt to learn more. We want each other to succeed.

We’ve also become friends. I’d like to do well in the manuscript contest we’ve just entered. I’d like to be a finalist. Oh, let’s be honest–I’d like to win the thing. But I also want CP to do well. If she wins, I’ll be just as happy–well, almost as happy–as if I’d taken the top spot.  I believe she’d be happy for me if I won.

Writing in Helen Ginger’s blog, Straight from Hel, literary publicist Stephanie Barko said, “One of the best reasons to enter a contest is to evoke creativity. It is by exploring the unknown that we find our answers, not by having the answers before we explore. There’s nothing like serving yourself a problem to jar your synapses loose and bend your brain in ways it doesn’t normally move.”

When I read that, I understood what CP had done. By pushing me to enter the contest, she required me to push at the boundaries of my own creativity. She made me find new answers to problems I’d been trying to wish away. She helped jar my synapses loose and bend my brain in ways it doesn’t normally move.

And that jarring and bending produced ten pages that are much better than they were before. I submitted an entry that, win or lose, I could be proud of.

And I delivered it two days before the deadline.

Thank you, CP.