‘Bye, Santa…Hello, PC Writing Contest

Say good-bye to Santa as he loads up his RV to go on vacation. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Say good-bye to Santa as he loads up his RV to go on vacation. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)





Say hello to pioneer-style RV travel.  What story would you write about this?

Say hello to pioneer-style RV travel. What story would you write about this? (Is woman’s work ever done?)

After I moved my parents to an assisted living apartment (he had Alzheimer’s, she was showing signs of dementia), I began telling Mom about unusual writing contests. We didn’t have to actually enter the contests; the goal was to use the guidelines as writing prompts, and also to encourage her to talk about ideas and keep writing.

In the spirit of post-holiday writing, here is a real contest opportunity that also makes a great writing prompt. The PC does not stand for Politically Correct (haven’t we had enough of anything to do with politics?) The PC is for POST CARD Story Writing Contest, and writers can use any post card and then write up to a 500-word story about the cover.

The deadline for The Geist Literal Literary Post Card Story Contest is Feb. 1, 2015, and entries can be made online. The cash prizes are $500, $250, and $150, and this Canadian contest is open to ALL writers everywhere. For full guidelines, details and examples of past winners:   http://www.geist.com/contests/postcard-contest/  

Another contest for All writers is the Narrative Travel Writing Contest/2015. There is no entry fee, and the first prize is $500 for a creative narrative entry about a great travel suggestion: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/information/writers/travel_writing_contest.shtml

If I were still using writing contests as prompts for my Mom, I would show her the postcards below and ask her to make up stories.  For the Dust Bowl, maybe she would tell a story about mothers putting wet sheets over the insides of windows and doors to keep children from choking on the blowing dust.  Of if I showed her the post card about cowboys taking a Saturday night bath in a pond, she might make up a funny story.

The post card of another Kansas personality, President Ike Eisenhower, shows him talking to the troops in WWII. What fictional conversation would you write to create a story?  

As we approach the beginning of a new year—with new opportunities for writing, creating, sharing our ideas and talents—remember that sometimes practice writing can blossom into excellent entries in writing contests.  Plus, practice writing keeps us thinking, and when we’re actively thinking, it’s a good way to keep our minds active.

A Saturday night bath in a pond? There's a story somewhere in this card.

A Saturday night bath in a pond? There’s a story somewhere in this card.


How will your characters protect themselves against a Dust Bowl?

How will your characters protect themselves against a Dust Bowl?

Could they be talking about something other than war?  Write the story.

Could they be talking about something other than war? Write the story.


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, paying writing opportunities, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

68 responses to “‘Bye, Santa…Hello, PC Writing Contest

  1. Claudia

    Wow, just what I needed to see tonight. My goal for 2015 is to get back to writing. Today after yesterday’s miles and stops, it was laundry and dark skies and drizzle…hard not to feel same old routines sapping me again. (Mother in law fell and broke hip at 95…was not most joyous Christmas.) Your unique contests are a lift…that they exist…I will check them out…just the thinking of writing ops can be uplifting and promise a new start coming! Thanks.

    • Have fun with these contests, Claudia. Especially the post cards; there are laugh-out-loud old-time picture post cards just begging for story ideas, and also sober storm- and tornado-based cards that really move you to a serious writing level.
      After a less-than-joyous Christmas and probably time spent in a hospital with your mother-in-law, writing can be a great balancing activity that gets you back on an even keel. I’m glad writing is on your list of goals.
      Let me know if either of these contests works for you. 🙂

    • Molly


      Some of the strangest, funniest post cards can be found at the most unusual spots – grocery stores, gas stations and other local out of the heavily traveled locations…you should definitely give it a go!!

      • Molly is so right, Claudia! Where she went to college, Bethany College in Lindsborg, KS, they have the cutest postcard of a little boy and girl in Swedish clothing, with the little girl kissing the surprised little boy. If I could find that post card now, I’d use it to write an entry for the contest! I bet you’ll find all kinds of interesting post cards, and like Molly said, you find them in strange places, like grocery stores and gas stations! 🙂

  2. juliabarrett

    Nice, Marylin. You find the most interesting contests.

  3. These two kind of jumped out at me, Julia. I was thinking about all the times that unusual writing contests got my mom talking and writing–and of course missing those days–and here came two contests that she would have really enjoyed if it weren’t for the dementia.
    Think of the unusual, unexpected travel piece you could write…going to help your daughter at the ranch and helping birth a calf!

  4. You’re absolutely right. These kinds of writing prompts do keep our minds active; and even for people who don’t write, just asking us to tell a story….

    I think there’s a book here; a collection of “prompts” to talk spur conversations. I wonder, perhaps many people would find it easier to visit elderly friends and relatives, if they had a book or booklet of conversation prompts. ?

    • You might be right, Tracy. Once my mother’s dementia passed the response point for prompts like these, I moved on and looked for other things that might help her. I’ll go back to my notebooks and see if other prompts and activities worked well. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Molly

      Tracy I think that you are right. Mom should definitely write a book of things to do with parents who are showing the beginnings of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s….I think that it would be a best seller….

      • A best seller with a very specialized group: those with dementia/Alzheimer’s, or their caregivers or the activities director at their asst. living. That’s a pretty small group, actually… Maybe I should try a few articles instead. What do you think?

      • Thank you for encouraging her with me! 🙂

        Marylin–I’ll help in any way I can, if you want to do this project. I think the important thing is to keep it small and portable. That way it will be manageable to write, and also manageable to read. Maybe 52 tips/ideas, one for each week of the year. ?

      • BIG thanks to both you and Molly for this encouragement, Tracy.
        I really like your suggestions of something manageable like 52 short articles with suggestions for activities and prompts for helping Alzheimer’s and dementia patients remember and respond.
        I’ll begin looking through the posts and start there. If you have any favorites, please let me know.

  5. A belated Merry Christmas to you and yours…and thanks for the writing prompts. I may actually try the post card contest. I have an entire collection of them and some are quite interesting!

    • Somewhere I have a shoebox of post cards of Garden of the Gods in the 1920s, funny cards with tourists riding burros. I bought the box at a flea market, and it’s full of poignant and cute and strange cards, surely something for the contest. Now…to find the shoebox!

      • Molly

        I think that the same box would have all the ones that you have from around Kansas….you definitely need to find those, there were several really fun ones.

  6. The Dust Bowl always conjures up Dorothea Lange’s images in my mind. I would definitely choose that over Ike, but the facial expressions are very strong in the war postcard photo.

    • Supposedly, the postcard of Ike is a classic, and the huge original picture hangs in the Eisenhower Museum. There are SO many possible topics of conversation that could be going on, Andrew. It’s very tempting to give it a try.

      • Molly

        I think that it would be hilarious to have the conversation be about trading recipes, or cleaning tips. LOL Mamie would definitely approve of those! 🙂

      • Mamie Eisenhower would approve, but how about his soldiers? Though if you could write a clever conversation between Ike and the first soldier–maybe about how he could use baking soda to wash all the stains off his face and clothes–it might be a contest winner! 😉

  7. I hope to write some stories about my mom later. Right now I’m dealing with her recent loss. She passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve surrounded by her family. I will miss her.

  8. Gentle teacher, thank you for guiding us from Santa to snazzy writing contests. Last year I noticed that I used a postcard from Grandma Longenecker dated December 1913 as a prompt for a Happy New Year wish on my blog.

    Your prompts inspire me to look further. Maybe I can intertwine the contests you suggest with the beginnings of my memoir writing, a goal for 2015. I like Tracy’s idea too. Thank you, Marylin – and Happy New Year!

  9. The Geist postcard story contest is great. I have entered a few times. Although I haven´t won, it was a good experience and some of my stories were reworked and included in other anthologies. It´s all part of the practice.

    • You’re our pro with the Geist contest, Darlene. I like you attitude, that even though it didn’t win, it was a good experience and then you reworked the stories.
      You’re so right; it is all part of the practice!

  10. What a great idea to use post card prompts. The card with Ike really does have me wondering; are they discussing the best way to cook rations? 😉

  11. Though it would be nice to have your Mom’s input on the contest, you’ve inherited her genes and will do just as good a job Marylin. Get writing.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Thanks, David, and I am going to try…even if I just use the contest as a prompt for writing something else. My mom would tell me to try it, too, I think, and she’d want to read it first.
      Happy 2015 hugs to you!

      • Molly

        I love the fact that you and Grandma would have totally tried out this contest. I can just picture the two of you sitting around after Christmas planning, discussing and laughing….I miss those times…although they have definitely been replaced watching you and your grand-daughter…PRICELESS!

      • And it truly is so much fun, working together with Grace, cooking or putting together word puzzles or whatever we decide to do. But I also remember how I loved watching you and Grandma work together on all kinds of projects, too. There’s something so amazingly wonderful and special about the connections between grandparents and grandchildren.

  12. I’m waiting for a new book to be delivered, it’s full of writing prompts. I thought it would be a good way to start the year, using a prompt each day or week.
    Thanks for the contest suggestions, Marylin! You know me, I love those contests. 🙂 Happy New Year! xo

  13. You’ll be set with writing prompts for the entire year, Jill! If you come across any that are especially motivating, I hope you’ll write a post and share them. Anything to keep us going! 🙂

  14. Marilyn … The writing prompts are a wonderful way to expand your mind and have fun. The postcard prompts and the travel writing sound intriguing. We have travel on our mind, again, in 2015.

    Thanks for the suggestions. Happy New Year! 😉

    • Then BOTH contests–or at least writing prompts–are for you, Judy! You can write a travel piece about your own travels, and also collect postcards along the way to enter in next years contest!
      Happy New Year to you, too! 🙂

  15. Excellent prompts, Marylin! Thanks for sharing! Happy New Year!!!!! XO

  16. You are so far reaching, Marylin! Thanks for the suggestions.

  17. jakesprinter

    This is great Marylin for starting a new year. Thanks for sharing my friend.

  18. Thanks for these great prompts Marylin. I’ve been doing ‘automatic writing’ in the last month – just letting my pen take me where it will, and I’ve ended up with quite a few pieces that could begin a story.

  19. Thank you for the contest links, Marylin. Indeed, a writing contest is a good way to actively practice my writing and keep my mind active too.

    My best wishes to you and your family for 2015!

  20. Marilyn … Thank you for your support. WordPress’s 2014 report shows that you were among my top five commenters this year. I do appreciate that. 😉

  21. You’re very welcome, Judy.

  22. The last picture made me smile. Eisenhower talking to the trooper. It is rumoured that while billeted in England, the troops would go fishing/poaching to supplement their meagre rations. Eisenhower, a keen fisherman, could be discussing the merits of fly fishing…. according to my son, who’s research into the American Airborne is second to none, as outlined in his book, Last Stop Before Destiny.
    Great prompts, Marylin, thank you!

    • And thank you–and your son, Jenny–for that fascinating detail. I’m going to have to read your son’s book; in all our trips to the Eisenhower museum, chapel, boyhood home, and Presidential Library, I’d never heard about the troops fishing/poaching to supplement their rations.

      • Jenny, you and/or you son should consider writing a 500-word max. scene and conversation to go with that postcard. You have the information and the talent!
        And what a way to kick off the New Year. 🙂

  23. jakesprinter

    Wish you luck for 2015

  24. Thank you, Jake. Good luck for both of us in 2015. It’s just around the corner.

  25. Molly

    Mom, this blog definitely lends itself to me remembering/visioning you and Grandma sitting in her living room, after Christmas, planning, discussing and laughing about all the different things that you could write about for the postcard contest. In the background would be the funny little “Charlie Brown” type Christmas tree that she had, you would be sitting on the loveseat, and Grandma would be on the gold armless chair by the window. There would be periods of quite – while you would both be writing, then outbursts of giggles and huge laughter….quickly followed by readings of ideas…then long discussions on ways to improve the piece.

    But now, with Grandma’s dementia, I get to really see you and Grace being silly together, laughing, playing and being ornery to each other. Both are completely wonderful, but I wish I could have BOTH!

  26. The writing gene is strong and clear in you, too, Molly. Reading this comment–seeing myself with Grandma, through YOUR eyes–is such a gift. Grandma sitting in that gold chair by her window, looking out for awhile, then writing something down, then our outbursts of everything from short giggles to huge belly-laughs. Ah, those are great memories. Thank you, sweetie, for being my reminder. And for all the memories-in-the-making we do together, both of us, with Grace. She’s so much like BOTH of us, and also Grandma, her Mor-Mor-Mor. How cool is that!!!! Love you lots!

  27. Jim

    I’ve seen the Ike picture before in the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, KS. It is both disturbing and inspiring. Maybe someone could tell us who the soldiers are and what is really happening. The picture seems to capture a very tense moment close to D-Day. Ike seems to be firing-up a unit that must accept a perilous mission. Nevertheless, Marylin, I accept your challenge to imagine something lighter happening in the picture:

    Location: a vast open field somewhere in the British Isles. Time: D-Day, minus 25 days. Ike has called a unit of specially trained US Army Rangers to the field. Unknown to the unit, Ike knows they will be ordered to perform a very dangerous mission during the D-Day invasion at Normandy. They will be ordered to scale vertical cliffs for a surprise assault on German fortifications. The unit thinks Ike has called them to the field this day for specialized conditioning before some war games with the Brits. They report dressed for battle, including lamp-black on their faces. The Rangers are a little overwhelmed that the Supreme Allied Commander himself has singled them out to report to the field this day.

    So, there stands General Eisenhower on the edge of the field with the Rangers’ commander and his men, and Ike says to the commander, “See those guys over there?” A unit of Brits stands at attention across the field. “They think they can whip us at soccer. Monty [feisty British General Montgomery] bet me a Spam sandwich on the match.” The Ranger commander has a dazed look on his face. He asks, “Soccer, General? We’ve never played . . .” Ike interrupts, “I’m told Rangers do what’s never been done. Is that right, Lieutenant?” “Yes, Sir!” he replies. The Lieutenant turns to his men with a firm voice, ” So you Rangers think you know what real war is! Well, you are about to find out. We’re gonna play some soccer!”

  28. Oh, I love it! If only that serious-looking picture could have been the lead-in for a game of soccer! With gratitude to you, my sports-loving husband, for creating this scenario, and to our daughter Molly for her scenario that involved Mamie Eisenhower! What a family I have! Love you guys!

  29. Thanks for all these great prompts Marylin! Love the bathing cowboys 😉 You are so right about writing practice and that we should never throw anything away, as I have done in the past…but thanks to you, I keep everything now, as you just never know! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas Marylin…Happy New Year 🙂

  30. My Mom is slowly deteriorating in her memories, but mostly in her recent time frames. So, she may not always be able to name a current President or an actor, but if shown post cards from the past, this would help her to tell a story. What a lovely way to connect with your Mother , Marylin! This is again another helpful ‘hint’ for me to use with my Mom! She was always fascinated with the Queen Elizabeth story and loved the movie, “The King’s Speech.” Thanks for this great post and hope you Have a Happy New Year, along with your family and Mom, too! Hugs, Robin

  31. Robin, you will learn that with Alzheimer’s and dementia, the deeper it affects the thinking process, the farther back in time the memories go. My mom rarely knows who she is or where exactly she is and what her relationship is with the family and caregivers around her, but she’s very clear about being a child on the farm in Missouri.
    If you can find pictures about Queen Elizabeth or any of the Royal family– or even postcards 😉 and share them with your mom–you might be surprised at her responses.
    I’m glad if this gave you some ideas about connecting with her.
    A very Happy New Year to you and your family, too!

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