Short story contest–third place! :)

I entered a YA short story in the WCDR (Writers’ Circle of Durham Region) short story contest, and it won third place! 

I’m very happy, because I like this story. I’d been working on it for a while, with feedback from my wonderful writing group and from Peter Carver’s class at Mabel’s Fables last spring. 

I’d also like to point out that the second-place winner, Nora Landry, is a friend from that same wonderful writing group! Yay, Nora. 🙂 

There’s a link to all the winning entries here, if anyone would like to read them.

Sunbonnet for Stella

Stella is my iBook. I’m about to take her on a trip to Nova Scotia, for a week-long writing workshop/retreat hosted by Peter Carver and Kathy Stinson. I’m hoping to do some writing outside. Stella has a shiny screen, though, and the glare from the sun gets to be a bit of an issue. 

I looked at different visors that are available, but didn’t like any of them. Macs are nice-looking computers; why cover them up with black vinyl? I also didn’t like the idea of any adhesive residue or velcro pads stuck on the lid. There’s a pretty cool telescoping visor out there, but it cost more than I wanted to spend. 

Fortunately, I have a Mom who’s pretty handy with a sewing machine. I took some measurements, drew up a plan, and brought her some fancy umbrella-patterned fabric (and apple buttons, of course). Here’s the result.  

It might be a bit cutesy for some (okay, for most, and don’t even get me started on what my Mac-loving husband thinks of this whole dress-up thing), but it suits me just fine, and it doesn’t leave any marks on Stella. The top and side panels are reinforced with plastic binder dividers and cardboard. Thin elastic holds the “sunbonnet” on to the laptop lid. The whole thing folds down small enough to fit in my computer bag. 

So, off to Nova Scotia this Saturday for a field test… 

Sold a Story!

I’m very excited that my short story, “Julia”, sold to On Spec magazine. I’m not sure when it will be out; I received the acceptance last week, so I’m guessing it will be in the next issue.

I’ve written a few incarnations of this story about a mother who is forced to choose between her children. The first draft, less than 2000 words, was based on a prompt from the NYC Midnight short story contest. After that, I stretched the concept out to short novella length, to explore it better. That draft was close to 10,000 words. Too long; it felt bulky. I’m pretty happy with the current draft, at just under 6000 words. 

Peter Carver, a former editor with Red Deer Press, teaches a course on writing for children through George Brown College in Toronto. He always talks about a work being “the right length for itself”–not the usual length for that genre, or the size it should be to make a picture book, but the number of words it takes to tell the story properly, without a lot of extra fluff in there. I feel like I finally got “Julia” to the right length for itself. It took a lot of trying, though. 


Why I like novel marathons

Late Monday night, I got back from the Muskoka Novel Marathon. Very late, by my wimpy standards, and I have to admit my friend Anne Louise and I were a bit punchy to be taking on that kind of a drive, after writing for the better part of three days.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon is a fundraiser for the Muskoka Literacy Council.

Novelists raise pledges, then undertake either a two or a three-day writing spree. The idea is to complete an entire novel in the time that you have. You’re allowed to bring only a one-page outline, and all work must be done at the event. Submissions are read by a panel of judges, with winners in the adult, young adult, and children’s categories being passed on to participating publishers for review (after you get some time to fix up the rough draft, of course).

You don’t have to submit. This year, I didn’t, choosing instead to use the time to work on a novel that I started back in January. It’s nice to have that deadline, though. It can really push you to get through that story arc… the “novels” are all pretty short, and probably bear very little resemblance to the final, polished drafts, but it’s nice to have a beginning, a middle and an end under your belt before you start editing.

Some people go at the whole marathon thing pretty hard core. I haven’t done a writing all-nighter since university, so I tend to work as late as I think is reasonable, then drive home (or in this case, to my parents’ cottage) to catch a few hours sleep before returning. I have a lot of respect for the “night crew”, but it’s not for me.

This was my fourth novel marathon. I’d have to say it was the best so far. I don’t know if it was just the combination of people there, or the way the event was run, but it was a very friendly, encouraging atmosphere. Who says writing can’t be a social sport?

The best part was the Word Wall. Every ten pages, writers posted a piece of paper with the new page count. Somehow, that made it a group undertaking–it was a great visual reminder that we were all in this together. Besides, I liked seeing that I wasn’t the only slow writer. 

I think the novel marathon is a great way to pump out a first draft. The timeline works in your favour, forcing you to write more and edit less. You can’t listen to that nagging voice in your head, the one that wonders about commas and vocabulary and why you ever though you could be a writer in the first place, when you’re caught up in the zen-like flow of the novel marathon at its finest.

In the immortal words of Kevin, fellow marathoner and WCDR member: First Draft Ugly. No Apron Wringing. (I love it. I want to paint it on my office wall.)

Or, as my brother likes to say, git’er done.