Zen wriing



mind's eye pencil


Many of you know from other posts that before my mother’s dementia, she and I used to make a game of finding and entering writing contests.   We learned these basic writing lessons along the way: 1) writing to the guidelines of a contest keeps you thinking and practicing your skill;   2) even if you don’t win or place in the contest, you’ll have a completed story that you can build on and submit elsewhere; and   3) no writing effort is ever wasted, and you might be surprised where this effort will lead.

This week I’m posting four writing contests that have NO ENTRY FEE but offer Cash Prizes and/or publication. No matter where you reside or what your age or writing experience, there is at least one contest for you!

First, here are two fiction reminders.   Writer, producer and director Joss Whedon says: “You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, and you find out who they really are.”   And sci-fi writer Iain Banks adds, “The trouble with writing fiction is that it has to make sense, whereas real life doesn’t.”

Now the contests:

INTERGENERATION SHORT STORY CONTEST sponsored by Intergeneration Foundation:   No genre restrictions; electronic submissions by 9/30/2016;   400 words maximum, international eligibility. Awards: $500, $300, $200

KEY WEST LITERARY SEMINAR EMERGING WRITER AWARDS sponsored by Key West Literary Seminar for short fiction, novel excerpts, and individual poems. Electronic submission deadline 9/12/2016 Top awards $500   US writers

SUNDAY TIMES EFG SHORT STORY AWARD, sponsored by Society of Authors. Guidelines at   All fiction genres, story length maximum 6,000 words, submit postal and electronic, international eligibility for writers of all levels, age 18 and older with publication experience in UK.   Deadline 9/29/16   Top winner £30,000

REAL SIMPLE: LIFE LESSONS Essay Contest (this could also make a good writing prompt or journal topic) on this theme: “What was the most dramatic change you ever had to make?” 1,500 words max   US writers      Prizes: $3,000, $750, $500  Submit electronic submissions by 9/19/2016

Based on previous writing posts, you know you can try writing your rough drafts with your left hand, your right hand, or mirror writing in crayons or chalk.   Just choose a contest or topic and give it a try. And if you know of other contests and writing opportunities, please share them with us.hey you, get busy

Itypewriter MG_3621



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, paying writing opportunities, special quotations, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

42 responses to “IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE

  1. juliabarrett

    Yes, fiction DOES have to make sense. Not only must it make sense, each work of fiction comes with its own set of rules and the author must follow those fictional rules. Few things annoy me more than an author of science fiction/fantasy who sets up the rules for his or her world, then backs a character into a corner and breaks the rules. Tsk-tsk.
    The most worthwhile class I took in college was not a fiction writing class. It was an expository writing class.

  2. Yes! Expository writing class was one of my favorite college writing classes, too, Julia. The REAL SIMPLE essay contest sounded like something you could WOW! judges with.

  3. Thanks for sharing the contest information, Marylin. You know me, I’m a huge fan of contests. Enjoy your weekend! xo

    • For me, one way to enjoy a beautiful pre-fall weekend is to spend some of it on the patio reading a good book or scribbling ideas for ideas that will be contest entries, Jill. 🙂 Did any of these contests interest you? For several reasons, I thought of you and the Real Simple contest, but I know you’re also already working on your next novel. Enjoy the process!

  4. Real life hardly makes sense at all sometimes. Thank goodness we have books to put things in order. 😀

    • That’s what I love about fiction, Gallivanta. It always has at least some base or inspiration in real live, but it can control the ending, and I love how sometimes fiction can even the score or set things straight in a way that live can’t. As you say, books put things in order. 🙂

  5. Hi Marylin, I subscribe to Real Simple and saw their contest. I have been toying with the idea of submitting a story. Thank you for the gentle nudge. 🙂
    Blessings, Joanne

  6. Marylin, your post elicited a grin from this non-writer quasi-poet-mnemonic-tinker. Firstly, the beast in front me staring from my screen this week is the paradoxical twin of the title of this post. So I dare not say more .

    And secondly, ‘Zen In The Art Writing’. The title alone has always intrigued me. Even enticed me to pack a sack, throw it over my shoulder and set out on a path built of words. And at the best and worst of times, it winds whimsically over mountains of conscience, then through valleys of subconsciousness. Then out of thin air we discover, Follia d’amore – the madness of love. The love of writing -simply for the joy it. Hard to explain, but there is no denying it is there.

    Hope all is well.

    • Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. I wasn’t going to include this Frank Fafka quote ,“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

    • All is well here, Calvin, and I hope it’s the same with you.
      If you’ve never read ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, you’re in for a treat. Ray Bradbury has a talent for penning surprising in his short stories and novels…and writing essays that speak truth to writers and their needs.

      Your poetic words make me encourage you to “…set out on a path built of words…that winds whimsically” into the path of a contest that will nudge you to write something new and unexpected.
      Entering the contest isn’t the point; what is important is the shaking your mind loose, wrapping ideas around the possibilities, and disciplining yourself to write to the deadline.
      You don’t have to enter what you write, but you might be surprised how you feel and what you do with the end result! 🙂

    • The the Kafka quote could also be considered a nudge to use one of the contests–or any contest or submission possibility–encourage your sanity.

      • With every posting I make, there is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that comes from those genuine and thoughtful comments left. When I get those I win. It is feedback worth more than gold. And the ones which make me think, rethink and or shed a different light are titanium.

      • Your recent post was truly stunning…and also staggering, Calvin. You have a way with words that shakes the images alive, you really do. So I won’t nag you to find a contest or make a submission, I promise.

      • I shall consider that a ‘pinky swear’ then.

  7. Hi Marylin, It’s been a long while since I entered a writing contest. Earlier in my writing life, I entered quite a few and although I didn’t win, it made me finish stories and I felt proud (not in a peacock sort of way) that I accomplished what I set out to do. Thank you for sharing these contests, I’ll check them out. Perhaps I can yank an old story out and tweak it. Have a happy weekend. 🙂

    • Not just these contests, but any others you find, Tracy, will get those proud peacock colors flying again. 🙂 And tweaking an old story to fit a contest’s requirements is a great way to revitalize your writing, too!

  8. Thanks for the links to the contests. I like your 3 points. Some of my prize-winning short stories and anthology acceptances started out as submissions to contests. Yes, you never know where they will lead.

    • I became a contest believer almost 20 years ago, Darlene. I worked really hard and entered a story in a conference contest. I didn’t even place, but one of the finalist judges wrote me a note saying he thought this was a fantastic story and would recommend several magazines. I had never read any of his recommendations, but I submitted it to the first one of the list. They bought it–and paid me twice what 1st place in the contest would have paid–and within a year they’d bought another story, too. It gave me the nudge I needed!

  9. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Thanks for the inspiration, Marylin! I’m going to look into these and see if I’m inspired to enter!!

  10. My contest pathway is paved with rejection, which usually come in the form on “no-reply.” I have entered Real Simple and Guideposts contests multiple times (I can just see myself in Rye, NY in autumn, a winner!)

    So far, my writing has been published in My Gutsy Story Anthology, Vol. 2 and this September The Mennonite, a magazine with headquarters in Newton, KS will publish a piece about my Grandma Longenecker’s faith and love of food. Neither came with monetary reward. Both my tex accountant and I think I should be earning $$$ with my writing; otherwise, the IRS regards me as a hobbyist. Why can’t they figure out I take my writing very, very seriously – Ha!

    Winner or not, I intend to keep on writing. Gosh darn it, I just can’t help myself.

    • Make that TAX accountant please!

    • One of the writing workshops I took my mom to years ago was at Bethel College in Newton, KS, Marian, and we stayed in the dorm. My short story entry was a winner there, and I went on to also sell the story, so my feelings about Newton are very good. Plus, Bethel is not far from McPherson College, where I earned my BA.
      Even when you don’t win a contest, I really hope you’re sending that entry as a submission to other places, even multiple places; that’s the secret. I’ve entered stories and articles in contests and didn’t even get a distant mention in the results, but I believe the secret is to continue to believe in your writing and not take that NO as the final word. Of those NO contest entries, eight of them went on to be published in magazines and publications, and three of those actually paid more than the contest would have paid. So please keep trying, Marian, and build on your publication history. One NO does not make a final decision!

      • I appreciate all of your writerly/teacherly advice – and for sharing your wisdom here. Of course I’ll continue to revise and re-submit. I’m fairly new at this gig, having done mostly academic writing for a good chunk of my career.

        Thank you for caring, Marylin.

  11. How kind of you to share these opportunities, Marylin. I like to enter contests also. In fact, my creative nonfiction writing career began when I submitted an essay to the Kalamazoo Gazette Literary Award contest three years in a row. Winning in the adult memoir category was what got me started on the path that eventually led to BLUSH. I am getting ready to move to Minnesota for the fall semester, so I won’t be submitting any essays or stories now.

    I will be attempting to write an op-ed for a national newspaper or magazine, however. That’s a kind of contest in itself, since they publish so few and receive so many.

    All best to you and your other readers as we all seek to grow as writers.

    • Excellent, Shirley! I have written and published only one newspaper opinion piece. It criticized Notre Dame for its “missed opportunity” when, after a tornado destroyed much of the little town of Chapman, KS, Notre Dame informed the rebuilders that they saw the Fighting Irish logo on what was left on the h.s. sign.
      Even though the town had used it for more than 3 decades for its local school sport teams, Notre Dame made them stop immediately because of copyright infringement. It was the first time I’d done homework to learn the Mission Statement of both Notre Dame and the school district of the little town, and I used Notre Dames words against them.
      I received a weak “explanation” from the N.D. V-Pres., which told me they’d read my Op-Ed piece. Ah, the joys of following your passion and going after even the big guys! 🙂

  12. Now you’ve given me a pang of conscience- my creative writing has been well and truly on the back burner. I had signed up for a workshop day last week which was cancelled at the last minute. I needed a boot up the backside to get me going again! Thanks for this timely reminder, Marylin – I’ll look for some local competitions to get me going again 😉

    • Yea! I’m so glad, Jenny.
      If we don’t nudge, challenge, encourage each other, it’s all too easy for us to put our writing w-a-y on the back burner, so I’m glad you’re looking for local competitions. 🙂

  13. Jim

    You are a super writing teacher as well as writer, sweetie. It does not surprise me that your love for writing gains a foothold in your blog from time to time. You and your mom have always thought that everyone should enjoy writing as much as you two. Love you.

  14. Aw, sweetie, thank you. Mom and I did have terrific times going to Kansas-based workshops and mini-conferences. But without you holding down the home front and taking care of things, I couldn’t have done it, so we were both grateful to you. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

  15. Molly Mosher

    Mom, can you find a writing contest for I.E.P.’s? That would be one that I would have time to enter! 🙂 Now that school is back in session, my “writing” time will be spent on IEPS, and papers and research for my two Master’s classes. Wish there was a contest for that.

    • If there is one, we’ll find it, Mookie! Or if there’s an anthology looking for touching, effective lessons in helping students make the most of their abilities, that would be perfect for you, too!
      And if there’s one for Grace’s genuine love for her pets, or Gannon reaching out to his great-grandmother even though she didn’t know who he was, then this family is ready.
      Love you guys so much. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

  16. Dear Marylin, how I have missed you and your beautiful smile and delightful posts. This post popped up in my email, as you know I’ve been away from blogging since the end of June, ostensibly to work on my memoir and spend time with family. Sadly, a couple of weeks in, I got a phone call to say my dad was in hospital very ill. He died five days later, but I was with him to the very end for which I’m so grateful. He was surrounded in peace and the love of family thank God. I’ve been away from all social media, including FB for some weeks as I recover as Dad’s death hit me hard, I did not know how ill he was as nobody warned me. I will be away from blogging for a little while longer while I get myself sorted out and try to get back on track & try to put up a post as soon as I can to let my dear readers know. But as soon as I saw your post, I had to come by and say I hope all is well with you and your dear mom and family, and I hope you’ve enjoyed a lovely summer. Big love & hugs to you my dear friend, I’ll see you again as soon as I can… ❤

  17. Oh, Sherri, I am so very sorry. But I’m glad you could be with him at the end and he was surrounded by the love of his family.
    I’m sure this hit you very hard, and I’m glad you’ll take some time to sort it all out and get back on track. I’m very glad you let me know. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers, sending big hugs and much love to you, dear Sherri. ❤

    • Thank you so much dear Marylin – for some reason, I only just saw your lovely reply. I hope to return to blogging soon…I hope all is well with you my dear friend ❤

  18. Jane Sturgeon

    Marylin, thank you so much for sharing these links and for lovingly crafting this post. Your generous spirit is a joy to connect with and your post was the divine prompt I needed. Much ❤ and hugs flowing to you. xXx

  19. I’ve never even considered entering a writing contest before, but because the thought absolutely terrifies me, I’m sure that I have to do it.

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