WinningWriters.com (https://winningwriters.com/) is a great free site that offers timely resources and updates on a wide range of contests for poets, essayists, novelists, and short story writers. It also sponsors the annual Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction and Essay Contest, which offers valuable exposure and $4,000 in prizes. The deadline is April 30th — if you have a story or essay on tap, why not consider submitting?
• Top prizes: Best Story, $1500; Best Essay: $1500.
• Length Limit: 6,000 words
• Subject: Open
• Previous publication: OK
• Winning entries published on Winning Writers website
Award-winning author and judge Judy Juanita offers some wonderful and timely advice:
“My favorite bedtime reading is the great Irish writer Frank O’Connor. I never tire of his short stories or insights. Rather than pretending to have great advice, I defer to him because I have an affinity for what he terms “might-have-beens” or “outlawed figures wandering at the fringes of society.” O’Connor said, “There is in the short story at its most characteristic something we do not often find in the novel—an intense awareness of human loneliness.” (The Best of Frank O’Connor, Knopf, 2009). He also wrote extensively about childhood though he was an only child. He’s said, “Children…see only one side of any question and because of their powerlessness see this with hysterical clarity.” So that’s a small essential for writing—look at marginalia, the smallest, youngest, the never-was, the never-will-be.
“Tim O’Brien talks of the consoling power of stories: “If I’m lying in bed at night I’m a little less lonely in a lonely universe. Stories connect me not just to other people, but to myself.” Is that another way of saying you need to write a feel-good story? It is not. When we manage to plumb the heart, we touch the reader’s heart. It may sting, comfort, sadden, dishearten even, but the touch is the measuring rod.
“Essays are a horse of a different color. Opaque doesn’t work well in essays; a through line does. I want to follow the complexity of an argument but need markers along the way, like subheadings and bullets.
“The main lesson I’ve learned from writing a column is the necessity of moving from the personal to the universal/global. Being 100% personal reads as smug or self-indulgent and tries the reader’s patience. Being transparent has enormous value, but the writer has to lead the reader from the deeply intimate detail, e.g. a family tragedy, through extrapolation to the deeper meaning in the detail.”
Inspiring advice as we all write on!