William Faulkner Fiction Contest or Not

Just recently, my story Eleven Jewish Korean Vets, was published by Saturday Evening Post. Then tonight, I got a call from the William Faulkner Contest judge. She told me I won 2nd prize in the contest, which would have paid a huge amount more than the Saturday Evening Post provided ($25.00). But as my daughter Carrie has said, (I’m paraphrasing) two publications thought my story was worth publishing.

I was quite surprised to get this call. I started pacing which is what I do when I’m trying to think, then I sent out emails to some friends and family and posted it on Facebook. But then I remembered. Once you write a story and send it out, you never know who will take it and who will not. So I can only blame myself for signing the Post contract that says I can’t re-submit for the next six months. Not that the Wm. Faulkner would have been published six months from now. Still, if it’s such a good story that two publications wanted it, I could have found a small press magazine that takes reprints and sent it out. Oh well……

Tomorrow I meet a friend and then next day after that I meet another friend. In between I write and work.

Bottom line, today’s call is now in the past. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ll be updating a story I recently wrote. Fingers crossed I can send it out once it’s updated.
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Sue Powers has 21 fictions published. She’s still working on her book of linked stories, A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness. You can find her teaching Writing the Short Story at John Hershey high school on Wednesday nights, room 119, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Saturday Evening Post Results

Having an active imagination, I expected a great deal more then I received. I expected a publisher or an agent to contact me. And of course that never happened.

But before I discuss what didn’t happen, there were some good things. So far (I can’t speak for the future), Janet Krole, Richard Shandross and Bob McGowan Jr. commented. Mr. McGowan also went into some detail on why he liked it. Also many people emailed me and told me they loved it, liked it, enjoyed it, etc.

As for my writing group, they said didn’t know that Saturday Evening Post was still around. Or to be more exact, another writer smiled at me and another congratulated me prior to the meeting.

Now for the things that didn’t happen. They asked for a photo and a bio, which they didn’t use. Also they paid me $25.00. For a such a prominent magazine, one would think the payment should have been a lot more. (Usually small press magazines pay nothing. It’s supposed to be an honor to be published by a small press magazine, which is supposed to be one’s ‘payment.’)

I spent many hours and quite a bit of energy writing and rewriting until Eleven Jewish Korean Vets (http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/) was finalized. Now, divide $25.00 by say 60 hours of writing, I just earned .42 cents!

This story went through several drafts before the final draft. My poor writing group spent countless hours reading and critiquing each draft. Then I had it proof-read. I also spent many hours submitting to various publishers, only to get rejections. Finally the Saturday Evening Post accepted this particular story.

But the biggest news is the editor of the Saturday Evening Post has requested another story. Though I doubt much will happen even if I submit and they accept another story.

So…. should I submit to them again and make another .42 cents?
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Sue Powers is a writer and teacher. She gave up learning how to play the guitar to concentrate on her book of linked stories, A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness.

She’s teaching Writing the Short Story at John Hershey High School, 7-9 p.m., in room 119. You can also follow her blog sj-powers.com and on Facebook: s-j power stories.

How to be a Writer

 

What do you need to be a writer?

No matter what kind writing you want to do, you must read the kind of writing you plan to write. This is the maxim of every writer I know.

You also need an imagination. Now where does your imagination live? I imagine it comes from somewhere inside of you. The gut? The unconscious? Your heart? Your brain? It’s really difficult to say but I do know how to access it.

First you put away your editor. Your editor will always get in your way. Second, put a pen in your hand and piece of paper in front of you. Then start writing. Don’t think, don’t stop, let your imagination run wild. It doesn’t matter if what you write stinks. It’s the accessing of your imagination that counts. If you happen to write something good, go to your computer and enter the text you’ve written then keep on writing. You can edit later. The point is, get it down and keep on writing.

Next is craft. I know many don’t want to take the time or effort it takes to improve their craft. But if you want to be a successful writer, you must improve your craft. One way to do this is to join a writing group. You also must continue to read. Reading provides inspiration and education.

It provides education through the way the writer writes. There are also many books out there that are instructional. One of the books I’d recommend is 1,001 Tips for Writers by William A. Gordon.

If you have to mimic this author’s prose, go ahead. But don’t leave it there. Try to write your own way. A successful writer has his or hers unique style. Mimicking other writers is only a way to begin to craft your own style. This might take weeks or even years, so a writer needs tenacity.

Doesn’t matter what you write, you need to access your brain, your imagination and create your own style. You also need to dig deep inside of you and pull out memories, secrets and things you don’t want to remember.

So start accessing your memories and your imagination, beginning now….

Sue Powers has a dazzling array of publishing credits. Among her favorites are New Millennium Writings, StoryQuarterly, Another Chicago Magazine, Happy, Facets, The Writer’s Place and Samizdada. She’s won some writing awards and been nominated for others. She now has 15 published stories.

Your Writing Mind: An exercise

 

Do you need inspiration to write? Here are some ideas.

Write a short story, poem, a blog or novel using these:

  • A person who will do whatever it takes;
  • An eavesdropper;
  • A snob;
  • A person who will do what it takes;
  • The first day of school;
  • The third day without sleep

Here’s another idea. To get to the point where you’re writing without your editorial mind, lay some paper in front of you with a pen or pencil. Don’t open your computer. You’ll want to just write with one of your hands.

Then put your left hand behind your back. The left hand (or right hand if you are a lefty) is your editor for this exercise. You don’t want you editor to rise while your writing. You just want to keep writing without lifting your pen or pencil, even if the result isn’t anything you’d want to share.

Look around you for a moment. Then start writing.

This exercise opens your writing mind. And what you write may not come to anything, but at least you’re writing. Do this daily and eventually something will click and before you know it, you’ve gotten a poem, short story, etc.

If any of these ideas work for you, let me know.

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Sue Powers has had many stories published in zines and magazines. She is also a recipient of a fellowship prize from the Illinois Arts Council in Prose and two of her stories were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Going for the Jugular

I once had a writing student tell me she wrote for ½ hour straight and when she was done, her writing scared the hell out of her!

Writing can be scary. It can be painful. It can be a lot of things, and good writing can be all of these things. I think because writing is about letting go and going for the jugular – a thing that fiction writers do over and over again, revealing their secret, unfinished business.

Which brings me to wonder? Have you ever written about something you never told anyone before? You know – where you wrote straight through, not stopping to edit, just letting go and going for the jugular?

Try it, and see if you get scared!

Mystery Writing—Oh Dear!

Bored woman writing immensely long essay.

 

 

I’ve been doing something I’ve always wanted to do: writing a mystery.

Sounds easy, right? Especially if you’re an accomplished writer. Think of a premise and the book should practically write itself. Well not exactly.

If you’ve been a literary short story writer all your life, you might want to create something more than just a good plot.

So I’ve created these goals for myself:

First, add a main character who develops as the plot develops. Which is what I’ve tried to do. But this has turned out to be more challenging than I ever thought.

Second, create 200+ pages. This is definitely a challenge for me. I’ve never even written a novel. In fact, I think the longest story I ever wrote was only 20 pages. Now to write ten times that and make it engaging.

Still, I’m plunging ahead.

But I’m back to being a beginner again. I will admit as a beginning story writer, I once wrote a story from the point of view of a grape. Yes, a grape. You’d think it would have been all downhill after that. But apparently there was enough going for the story that I got encouragement to keep writing from an editor at the New Yorker.

Needless to say I continued. Through my marriage, through the raising of my kids, through going back to school for my master’s degree, and through various jobs. It was hard not to listen to the characters’ voices roaming in my mind, even with toddlers yelling in my ears. So I kept writing. But perfecting my craft took years.

Now I have a book of stories, still waiting to be published…. Should I give up on finding a publisher and self-publish? At what point should I consider this? At the point of despair? I’m nearing that point.

But I’m not giving up. Instead, I’ve switched genres and am now writing a whole book, not a single short story, or a series of stories. An entire book based on a mystery.

But writing a mystery book is totally different from writing a short story. It’s a whole new genre. A whole new beast. Like going from being a water creature to now having to acclimate yourself to living on land. And that’s where I’m at, still acclimating myself.

Except I don’t have thousands of years to adapt. I have to finish the book, fully acclimated or not. And along the way, I have had to ask myself: Is the book interesting? Is the pacing right? What about the narrator? Is she engaging? Do I have too many sentences that begin with “I”?

My writing group thinks it still needs more work, and so do I. So I’m going to keep at it. After all, isn’t an author just an amateur writer who perseveres?

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Sue Powers, aka.S. J. Powers, has received a Prose fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council and praise from her writing group. Her story, 13 Rules, won first place in the fine literary magazine, New Millennium Writings. She is now working on a mystery entitled She’s Not There.

 

Blog Your Book

Guest blog by The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

Woman at desk thinking

Writers write to share their story with readers. That’s it in a nutshell. Of course, getting paid is nice, but don’t count on it. Getting your writing out in the universe is the objective.

Writing your book can take a really long time, sometimes years. And all this time you are likely floundering along, rewriting and editing, stuck in a bubble that lacks feedback or motivation. But finally, you deem the book done.

Now your choices are traditional publishing, self-publishing, or sticking your masterpiece in a drawer….

What about blogging your book?

  • Set up your blog.
  • Post short installments of your book weekly. This will build a following on Facebook or other social media sites.
  • Encourage constructive comments, the operative word “constructive” i.e. useful and insightful.

Maybe you’ve already established a following by blogging funny stories about your children or pets. Collect them and publish them in book form. You already have your audience.

If your genre is fiction:

  • Finish each post with a cliffhanger, and never miss an opportunity to market your book-in-progress everywhere you can.
  • Develop an enticing tagline.
  • Publish a weekly or monthly e-newsletter to your followers with side notes about your book.

Make it short, and make it frequent, the keys to effective blogging. When you finish your book, you will already have readers and feedback.

Postscript from Sue Powers:

Pat Childers, the Oldest Living Middle-Age Writer, is writing a mystery, working title You Name It, and I’m writing a mystery [as S.J. Powers] called Twist.

Stay tuned…..

Shopping the Book

woman_man_thruhoopsBeen jumping through hoops and knocking my head against the wall since the day I finished my book of stories and began the publisher hunt. They call this phase “shopping” your book. And frankly, it sucks. Here’s why:

Saturday, Day 1: Finish Book

9 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Finish going through manuscript proofed with track changes by my very good writing friend, Kevin, who is an awesome editor.

11:00 a.m. to Noon Figure how to save manuscript so track changes don’t appear anymore. Which involved a Google search, a couple of head knockings, etc.

Rest of the day/night: Go about having a life outside of the book, pretending not to think about it.

Sunday, Day 2:  Find Publishers

8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Search through Poets & Writers extensive online database of small press publishers, stopping only for the necessities. Like bathroom breaks.

Why small press publishers, you may ask. Well, many are well-respected universities and presses, plus they’re best-suited for literary manuscripts. In fact, some of the best writers have been published by small press publishers. So, the reasoning goes, If they’re good enough for them, they’re good enough for me.

Monday – Friday, Days 3 – 7: Continue to find Publishers

8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Think about self-publishing while working the day job. Think about the cost, the self-marketing, the decision on which self-publisher to choose. Think maybe…..

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Home. Continue search through Poets & Writers extensive online database of small press publishers for appropriate publishers for my book.

My Criteria for Appropriate Book Publishers:

  • Publishers who publish short story collections.
  • Publishers with current submission reading dates.
  • Publishers whose submission guidelines you can meet.

Which brings more head-banging and hoop-jumping.

For one thing, finding an appropriate publisher is more challenging than you’d think.There’s a whole lot of small press publishers out there, but finding ones that don’t publish only poetry, or only novels, or only memoirs, or sci-fi, or mystery, or romance, or only want historical fiction.. well, as you can see, this subject deserves a whole other blog post.

For another, not all submission guidelines are alike. Each publisher has its own, very specific guidelines. Still, I’ve been through the submission process hundreds of times getting individual stories published, how hard could following a few book submission guidelines be? I soon found out.

Sample Book Submission Guidelines  (underlining mine)

Publisher X:

1.IN “SUBJECT” LINE please type: LAST NAME / FIRST NAME / FIRST 2 WORDS OF MANUSCRIPT TITLE {What if your book title is only one word?}

2. COVER LETTER should include your bio.  {Ok I have one of these.}

3. AESTHETICS STATEMENT must be attached to your email. This is NOT a synopsis or a summary of your plot, although you may include that. It’s a statement discussing your creative process and/or conceptual intent. It’s a description of why your manuscript is innovative, why you made the choices you made, how you expect the project to be read or viewed, what you were exploring, etc. REMEMBER: We’re interested in your creative process as much as (perhaps more than) the consumer product that results from it.   {Really? So your book can suck, but if your process doesn’t….}

4. CONVERT manuscript to PDF. If the PDF is larger than 8MG, please send email requesting submission instructions {Why not just say, DropBox?}

5.IMPORTANT: Our Publishing Contract requires that you have read, understood and agree with our Business Model. Please read it before submitting your manuscript. {They have a Business Model?}

Publisher Y:

Steps to Publishing With Us   
1. Prospective author is interviewed by publishing representative regarding his or her work, interview typically runs 30-45 minutes, and during the interview we ask a series of questions to ensure that your work is a good fit for our publishing model.  {Yikes, I thought my job hunting days were over.}

2. After the phone interview prospective author receives an e-mail to submit the work for review. {How nice of them not to say, “Or not.”}

Publisher Z:

1. We prefer to receive hard copies of submissions via snail mail. {Wait – you mean actual PAPER?} 

Well that’s just a sampling. I could give dozens upon dozens more, but will spare you.

If only I could spare myself. Writing is hard enough. Finishing your book takes months, even years, of rewriting, finding and getting feedback you can trust, more rewriting, lots of re-imagining, removing stories from your book, adding others you were saving for your next book. Lot of decisions, lots of second guessing yourself, lots and lots of hours spent on the book. Still, it’s your writing, and it’s something you love and don’t really consider work.

But this book shopping stuff? There are at least a thousand small press publishers in this database and I spent one week searching through a couple of hundred of them. Result? I found 3 that might consider my book.

So next week, it’s back to the database where, if I’m lucky, I might find 3 more.

The Hapless Vacationer

Compliments of Guest Blogger, Fia Essen

I reluctantly admit I was once a hapless vacationer, charmed by a Greek island and a realtor’s well-practiced tale of tranquil living. I fell in love with a beautiful wreck of a house and simultaneously became convinced I possessed previously dormant carpentry skills. Oh yes, I was almost certain I was one of those people who can build you a shopping mall if you hand them nothing but a length of rope and a Q-tip. Let’s suffice it to say I was quickly brought back to earth with a resounding thud when I fell off a ladder while trying to change a light bulb… so I hired a contractor.

Three days before Mr. Manolis, my contractor, was supposed to begin turning my Greek ruin into a habitable dwelling, I came home from a jog to find a three-man crew lined up in my driveway.

“Hello,” I puffed. “Are you starting today? Did I get the date wrong?”

The three men looked at each other, shrugged, and then stared blankly back at me. I took a moment to catch my breath before asking the same questions in Greek. They looked at each other and shrugged again.

“Okay,” I sighed. “No Greek.”

The almost scarily tall and scarecrow thin man on the left shook his head.

“And no English,” I stated needlessly.

The considerably shorter and much wider man in the middle nodded.

“Italiano?” I tried.

The average height man of equally average weight on the right cleared his throat and said, “Bulgaria.”

“Oh great,” I muttered.

I began the process of opening my very warped wooden front door, which involved a running start and throwing the entire weight of my body against it. Then I headed to my bedroom to call Mr. Manolis. After having called his cell phone a dozen times, paged him and called his office just as many, I gave up. I returned to the crew of three who were shuffling aimlessly around the hallway and said, “You can go.”

“Go?” they parroted in comical unison.

“Yes.” I pointed at the open door. “Go.”

The three of them whispered to each other for a minute. Finally, the human beanstalk said, “Okay. Go.”

I smiled in relief. “Thank you.”

I went back to my bedroom and booted up my laptop. Just as I was about to delete a veritable cornucopia of spam, an earsplitting creak followed by a thud sent me bolting back into the hallway where I found Larry, Curly and Moe standing in a gaping hole where my massive wooden door hung only minutes earlier.

3 Stoogies“What?” I gasped. “What did you do?”

The vertically challenged and rotund barrel-like man gave the front door that was now laying on the floor a kick with his booted foot, and said, “Go!”

Now, almost four years later, I’ve sold the house to another tourist with more optimism than sense… and I’m nearly fluent in Bulgarian.

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Fia Essen

Sofia Essen is the Managing Director and a Change Counselor at Essen & Essen. Change is the theme of Sofia’s existence. Helping people to both deal with change and create it is her specialty. She permanently left the country of her birth before her ninth birthday and she has been on the move ever since. You can find her at: http://fiaessen.wordpress.com/

The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer Survives Vacation

Traffic SignCompliments of Guest Blogger The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer      (aka Pat Childers)

August 22 near Cong, County Mayo  

First day Ireland. Staying at B&B in Cong where they filmed The Quiet Man. Unable to find John Wayne. Weather is actually quite lovely 70 F and mostly sunny.

August 22 near Cong, County Mayo

Conversation:
Me: I forgot they drive on the left here.
He: What?
Me: they drive on the left.
He: Here’s a map. Figure out where we’re going.
Me: No GPS?
He: What?
Me: I’ll figure it out.
He: Oh no a roundabout.
Me: Go straight.
He: What?
Me: That way (pointing)
He: Don’t point. Tell me.
Me: Ok go straight.
He: What?

That’s pretty much the way it’s gone so far

Day 1 into Day 2

Was spent exploring the republic of Ireland’s public health system. A scant 16 hours later we were very pleased to learn no blood clot in my leg, just massively swollen hematoma. Met a lot of nice people though. Spent time on a hospital gurney in the hallway, had blood test and vascular ultrasound and nice little doctor from Pakistan. Cost: 200 euros (260 US). I’m worth it.

Day 3

Can’t go to Cong without a trip to The Quiet Man Museum, not open weekends or noon to 1:00, or whenever they don’t feel like it. The main event is a replica of the cottage John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara moved into, with replica clothes if you feel up to reenacting the wedding night scene.

Cowlowres

Just a note to my Wisconsin friends and family — Ireland has the biggest, cleanest cows I’ve ever seen. It’s as if a cow washer appears before dawn to shine them up and then deposit them on little knolls facing the road. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the quality of the cheese too.

Day 4

castleDlowresCastles everywhere most built around 1140 to 1500. The homes are big and beautiful and the fences are made of rocks. No shoulders on the roads just solid rock fences.

The food has been great. You get a bowl of French fries with everything. I had a pork dinner on mashed potatoes with sides of boiled potatoes and a big bowl of French fries. My grandchildren would love it. Going to Kinvara tomorrow. My leg is getting better.

Day 5

Was a lot of rocks. Drove through the Burren which is a large mountain of rock with a bunch of rocks on top. Then they stack the rocks up and call them fences. But really they are just more piles of rocks.

BurrenrockslowresDay 6

We puttered around then went to Dunguire Castle in Kinvara for a banquet dinner and some Irish songs and poetry. The food was quite good. More potatoes with green beans and carrots and a chicken breast. Reminded me of every wedding I’ve ever been to. The sun came out and we took lots of castle sunset pictures.

Day 7

Was a lot of driving from Kinvara to Dingle Town on the aptly named Dingle Peninsula. The roads are wide enough to fit two small compact cars abreast as long as you don’t open the doors. On the sides are piles of rock fences covered with ivy and bushes. In the center of the road is a white line that marks where the edge of your right hand mirror can reach because you’re driving on the left. The object appears to be to drive as fast as possible maintaining a one-inch margin from the rocks on one side and 0 to one inch on the right. When a tour bus or large farm machinery approaches you grab the steering wheel with both hands and wet your pants.

Day 8

We dingled all over the peninsula today and saw many archeological sites as civilization dates from around 3000 bc here. People built houses called beehive huts completely out of rocks (what else?) that still stand today. It was a totally grey day but wild fuchsia bushes sit atop the rock walls that line the roads and add beautiful orange and red color to the probably bloodstained undergrowth. I will have to photoshop the sun into the pictures.

Day 9

We drove from the Dingle peninsula to Shannon. We had the displeasure of stopping for a bite to eat and toilet at a little place that advertised “burgers and hot pizza.” It was the Irish version of a 7/11. She said there was a toilet next door in the green building. I ordered a burger. She said they didn’t have any. No pizza either. They had hot little pies with a bit of gravy inside so we bought them both. What concerned me was the sign that said “food must be consumed within 90 minutes.” Or what, I thought? Anyway there was no green building, it was blue. And it was locked up. “I’ve been using that toilet all day,” she said. I still want to know what would have happened if we hadn’t eaten the pies in less than 90 minutes.

An update about the weather in Ireland. Generally the mornings are cool and cloudy except when the sun peeks through. Then it clouds over until it sprinkles. Suddenly the clouds dissipate and the sun comes out. Grab your camera and look for the rainbow. Oops too late. It’s cloudy again and warm. Take off your sweater. Your face flushes with perspiration just before a cold breeze makes you put your sweater back on. There’s the sun again, you sly dog. Stay there!! No it’s gone and a gentle rain begins to fall as you put your raincoat on. Time to eat breakfast.

Day 10

The final day of our vacation in southwest Ireland. They have gone a long way toward keeping the Irish culture intact here. The signs are usually in Gaelic and English but sometimes, just for fun, they’re just the old Irish and you are suddenly in limbo because these words are so strange you know somebody was kidding around when they made them up — Oifig an Phoist (post office) or Beag (little). Sadly I never did find the one for toilet.

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The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she is working on her web site and can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com.