The surprising dullness of entering a writing contest

Last night I entered the “Canada Writes” CBC Short Story contest. Instead of feeding the online submission form a piece that I wrote a long time ago, re-read, edited, and perfected, I provided it with something new. I wrote” Comfortable” on a whim last Thursday. It’s about a man who hates his job and dies choking on his ten-year anniversary cake. It’s decent enough – it’s the right length, anyway – and now it’s off in the universe, ready for judgment.

This is the first time I’ve ever submitted my work to a large writing contest. I thought it would be exciting, but it’s hard to be excited since it will take three months to know if I even made the long list (don’t get your hopes up, friends). Oh well.

I should be happier, since I’ve set some goals (shocking, I know) to more aggressively pursue writing, and submitting to three contests before June is one of those goals. I guess it does feel rewarding,  in a vague kind of way.

Something else to be jazzed about: I wrote a complete and creative short story in a day. Usually it takes me much longer to go from inspiration to finished product… though now that I think about it, the short stories of which I’m proudest were all basically complete in one sitting. Holy shit. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before.

Mind = blown

Canadian writing contests: November through December

CBC Short Story Prize
November 1

original, unpublished work between 1200-1500 words
open to Canadian residents only
$25 per entry
$6,000 first prize

The Malahat Review Open Season Awards
November 1

one fiction entry of no more than 2,500 words; one poetry entry of up to three poems of no more than 100 lines per poem
$35 for first entry; $15 for subsequent entries
$3,000 first prize

PRISM International Creative Non-Fiction Contest
November 17

original, unpublished work of no more than 6,000 words
$35 for first entry; $5 for subsequent entries
$1,500 first prize

Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award, Short Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction Contests
sponsored by Prairie Fire Press and McNally Robinson Booksellers
November 30

one fiction entry of no more than 10,000 words; one poetry entry consisting of one, two, or three poems of no more than 150 lines; one creative non-fiction entry of no more than 5,000 words$32 per entry
$1,250 first prize

The Fiddlehead Annual Literary Contest
December 1

one fiction entry of no more than 6,000 words; one poetry entry of up to three poems of no more than 100 lines per poem
$30 per entry
$2,000 first prize

Red Tuque Books 2014 Short Story Writing Contest
2014 Canadian Tales Of The Mysterious Short Story Competition
December 31

work must be “identifiably Canadian” and have “an element of mystery”
original, unpublished work between 1500-5000 words
$15 for one manuscript; $25 for two; $30 for three
$500 first prize

Unretreated the sequel: “you write action really well”

So continuing on, ink splAters…

My retreat-turned-”unretreat”, though mildly disappointing because it took place in my school, was nonetheless extremely successful in other ways. I got to work with author Susie Maloney, who is one of only a handful of novelists in my fair province whose career is writing. If you don’t know who she is…well, I’m not 100 per cent surprised. You may, however, have heard of a couple of her novels if you are a horror reader.

Maloney is often compared to Stephen King (who apparently read A Dry Spell and said it was good), and sometimes suffers from the comparison.  However,  A Dry Spell especially is touted as a thrilling read.

So I met with her, asked her some questions about publishing, got many suggestions for improvements on my work and showed her my efforts to make those changes. What she was most helpful in doing for me was to A) give me a female perspective on my main character and a mother’s perspective on the character of C’s mum; and, B) ask a huge number of questions to test the strength of my plot.

By the end of the unretreat I had decided to make great sweeping changes in the plot of my book. Characters removed, setting changed, catalyst shifted, character intentions changed…

The real issue was not that I had decided to make these changes. Instead, the issue was that I had a final draft of my IPP (my Independent Professional Project, a.k.a. the reason I’m writing this book in the first place) due a week later. That was a long week.