Up to this month, I had never written any really short stories, like 500 words or fewer. I had also written very little fiction. However, with a postcard story contest I found out about from Vancouver Canada, I have “all of a sudden” (relatively to my life timeline), written five! I can’t share them yet, and may not be able to until fall, unless they get eliminated really early, but here were the postcards I chose.
A few of these aren’t all that interesting, while a few would definitely intrigue me as a judge. However, the contest is about the writing, not the postcards, obviously. Still, I envision a pool of judges taking turns picking entries as they come in by the postcards available at the time. So which would I pick first?
I would definitely go for the Jesus and Satan arm wrestling one! Apparently, it’s a popular image, but I had never seen it before until I searched for some images on good and evil with Creative Commons licence. You have to use such images for this contest, rather than proprietary images. I actually loved this image so much I wrote two different stories for it, both on what actually happens to souls in the afterlife. That’s probably as much as I can say about it without being at risk for “publishing” the stories prior to judging. That’s a super conservative interpretation, but I’m not looking to push boundaries here.
Next most interesting, to me, is the cyborg image. My story isn’t so much about a cyborg as a collaboration with artificial intelligence to write literature. The guy in the picture actually made himself into a cyborg with an implant, though!
The convent burning postcard is third most interesting to me only because the picture of the Earth is so commonplace now that it’s no longer eye-grabbing, or of a lot of interest. Besides, it would have made me guess Earth Day stories, this being the end of April, which I probably wouldn’t care too much for, as much as I celebrate Earth Day. Interesting, the story isn’t about Earth Day, but involves an agreement by Donald Trump with Greta Thunberg, and I’ll have to leave it there.
Back to the convent burning postcard, though, it’s the only nonfiction story I wrote, and it’s about home insurance. Blah! Right? Yes, but I’ve developed my writing craftsmanship to add some twists, turns, plays on words, and a punchy ending that plays on previous elements, as well as deep reflection, that i don’t think it’s really boring. Well, of course not! I’m biased as heck towards my own stories, but it’s got enough literary elements to it I feel I can easily do one of those literary analytical essays on it!
Whether I end up getting any recognition for these stories, we’ll see. However, I can tell you that in writing, I had many moments where I got ideas to improve the stories which I got excited about, and that was the whole point to me. If I felt they were just crap, I wouldn’t have entered them. I tried writing the first few stories, based on different ideas, fully expecting I might fail to keep them to 500 words or fewer, or not being able to tell fictional stories I’d be excited about hearing. This is coming from someone who rarely reads fiction from my preference for nonfiction. Yet, I not only succeeded, I was able to edit the stories to below 500 words each that I went back and added a handful of strategically placed and chosen word to each to make them all 500 words even, without feeling I worsened the stories in any way.
Now, my level of excitement about my literary triumphs in being able to write these stories may be meaningless, a case of ignorance is bliss, or just petty person progress. The last would be like a new runner who could run a 10k in 1 hour 20 minutes, but is excited they not only got it done, but they weren’t the last one in the race. It’s nothing grand most runners would exactly get excited about, but you know, I’m new! Let me have my cheap thrills at my little initial successes!
Anyway, if you follow this blog, you can look forward to at least five such fun postcard length stories in late summer or early fall, pending how soon they get eliminated. I also have entered these pieces below so far, which you can also look forward to seeing on this blog in anywhere from a month to three months:
- 50 word modern poem (yes, I tried, but it was only $5 to enter)
- Two x 2000 word memoir pieces, of which one is mostly cultural, and is only memoir because I am a part of that culture so there is impact on me
Coming up over the next few weeks, I now turn my attention to some richer versions of previous works written that were trimmed down for their limits, for upcoming contests. Those stories had a lot more details that could enrich them, provide more support and examples for what was said, provide a fuller picture of what is going on, and so on that actually helps the story rather make it more diluted with unnecessary and/or relatively meaningless details. Among these new “writing assignments” I have given myself are
- The up to 3500 word version of that AI collaboration postcard story
- The up to 5000 word versions of the two memoir pieces
Beyond that, I have a few poetry contests to enter which should prove to be interesting:
- 600 word limit poem that I will write in what I call “semi-classical” format
- 100 line modern poem for another try at modern poetry that I know nothing about except that most of it is terrible, though I now have a better understanding of why (future post)
I’ve made enough headway with my writing that I am now scouring a few sources to compile a bigger list of writing contests I will enter, along with whatever my Writers Federation will tell me about, and it’s exciting to start seeing how this will lay out. It’s like getting my year’s full syllabus for the first time, rather than just a few items I had only a few months ago, if you want to consider the writing contests as writing assignments as I do. Those lists of upcoming “assignments” might well look very different in a week’s time!
One final note. I will also be getting a whole bunch of literary magazines coming my way because a lot of these contests seem to be held by literary magazines, and the entry fee covers a year subscription of them. I’ve never bought, possibly even read, one of these magazines, so I don’t know how much I will read them. I’ll certainly give them a go, of course, as part of my writing journey. However, I’m not feeling all that excited about them. Maybe I’ll donate them to my library or Writers’ Federation library or something. Being new to writing in COVID times, I haven’t built any writer connections yet to see who might enjoy some, but here’s to that option, as well. I start a memoir writing Zoom course for newcomers on May 4th, so they won’t be established writers except for the teacher, but it’ll be a small first step in the right direction.