I entered my first writing contest when I was in Grade 10 and won third prize for my short story, HOW THE SKUNK GOT ITS SMELL, a story I wrote after reading Rudyard Kipling’s, JUST SO STORIES. I revisited that practice after my cancer diagnosis, rekindling my desire to be ‘a writer’, with submissions to, ‘the rag’ which was a local magazine printed in Mission, BC. That endeavor proved fruitful, with a win and several poems being published over a two year period.
When presenting writing workshops, I always encourage participants to seek out contests as a place to submit their stories and poetry. It is often an easier way to learn one of the harder parts of getting published: rejection. In a contest, if you don’t win, it could still mean you received fourth place! I have gone by that motto for the latter part of my writing journey!
So, this year I took up the challenge and it helped stead me through this pandemic. It also provided some unique and wonderful opportunities.
In February, I was accepted into the First Five Pages Workshop, where after several weeks of working and re-working the first five pages of my newest book, I ‘won’, and had an agent from New York ask to see my full manuscript. While I didn’t succeed in earning myself an agent, I did come close, and for me, that is enough! I also gained a few writers with whom I now continue to workshop the novel. The first five pages of your work must stand out if you hope to be published.
To gear up for April’s Poetry Month, I entered a Facebook contest and wrote four poems in four hours to a prompt. Then from April 24-25, 2020 I participated in two days of feverish poetic creativity using ten designated words which included: bootlegging, lethargy, eggplant, bin, carapace, octothorpe and peristeronic. This contest always tests my ability to work within deadlines, a necessary skill for any author who wishes to be published.
Then in May, for six weeks, I participated in a grueling contest that honed my short story telling skills, from a focus on narrative, tropes, description and voice, to writing children’s stories and world-building. This contest not only helped one with skill-building, but also supported the writer with immediate and supportive feedback.
A week after that contest ended, I was back at it with twelve hours of prompts and twelve hours of creating poetry in the Poetry Marathon! This year I learned about a new poetic form… the BOP: https://poets.org/glossary/bop and last year I learned about the SEVENLING: https://poetscollective.org/poetryforms/sevenling/ I once again enjoyed connecting with an international writing community and will have a poem published in their anthology in the fall. This day produced poetry from the great prompts that I can edit and submit elsewhere.
So, if you want inspiration, wish to connect with a writing community, need to hone your skills, or would just like to drive yourself a little crazy on the way to publication try one of these contests or find a new one that is a good fit for you!