These winter days have not been good ones for most of the country. I watched the weather map as the blizzard headed from the west coast to Iowa. The shut in a box feeling hits me when I look out the windows and see only a white swirl. No trees, fences, fields and neighbors. Just howling wind and snow. I’m thankful for a working furnace and food while we’ve waited out the storm. I think of the millions out of work during the holidays who can not be so certain of comfortable surroundings and food during the winter. It reminds me that my parents always invited people that had no where else to go to dine with us on holidays.
This is the time of year that I work on short story contest entries to send out in the spring. Keeps my mind off the freezing temperatures outside. Entering writing contests are a good way to sharpen up my writing technique. I love the competition of the two writing contests I’ve entered for the last seven years. I am up to 34 awards now.
It all started when a friend from Arkansas gave us a subscription to my husband’s home town newspaper for a year. After we read the paper, we always gave it to my mother-in-law. At first, she enjoyed discovering news about people she knew. As time went on, she lamented that she didn’t know anyone in the paper. Not even in the obituary. My husband was 14 when they moved to Iowa so he remembered even fewer people than his parents did. So after seven or eight years we stopped subscribing.
Before we let the newspaper expire, I found an advertisement about two writing contests. One was the Arkansas Womens’ Writers Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas with around 32 different contests with themes and word limits. I could enter around 28 contests for $10. The first three contest, I’d have to attend the conference to enter. Some of the contests are for citizens of Arkansas and high school students from that state.
The contests are short stories for different genre, book chapters, essays, poetry, songs and sometimes a play. Themes change from year to year, but a little bit of something for every writer. I enter from nine to a dozen each year. The contests have a theme and a word count are strictly adhered to in order to place. Deadline is the last of April. Rules come out in mid January on the website.
The other contest is the White River Writers Conference at Searcy, Arkansas, which has a summer deadline, with 13 contests. Each of the contests have a fee. Sometimes I enter at least three. This last summer, while trying to get my latest book ready to publish, I only had time for one entry, but I placed.
I always have the stories from the Little Rock Contests that didn’t place. I can send ones that fit the criteria to the White River Contest and sometimes place. Different judges and maybe fewer entries.
There is money to go along the first three place awards and certificates and a certificate for the next three. Both contests put the contest winners for each contest on their website. Exposure for me. Also, I have a list of my awards on my website
It has become a dream of mine to go some day to one or both writer’s conferences. I could have a table of books at no cost during the two day event as long as I pay the conference fee and Holiday Inn room in Little Rock, Arkansas for Womens’ Writers Conference for the two day event. The White River Writers Conference is for the day.
I like to start early, thinking about my subject for the entries. It’s true at this point I don’t know what the theme for each entry is, but I start now and work the stories over to fit the contest. I like to get an early start. This gives me time to go back over my stories enough times before deadline that I catch most of the mistakes.
Writing a short story with a beginning and end in a few pages takes practice. Making sure not to be one word over makes me cut and condense my stories making them better. It’s a way to practice writing and sharpen the story. I know these contests have helped me when I compete against many other writers and place with some of my entries.
Short stories aren’t easy to sell. Not much demand for the ones I write. So after years of saving the ones I’d entered in contests, I turned them all into three small books. Not only do I sell them, but I can use them in give aways when I’m doing a presentation about my other books. Gives one person a chance to see how I write. Maybe later I might make a book sale from the give away.
My short story books can be found on my bookstore website or on Amazon.
Wild West Tales ISBN 1438257430
A Teapot, Ghosts, Bats & More ISBN 1438233698
Butterfly And Angel Wings ISBN 1438232713