Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Contest Drags ON

It's thumb-twiddlin' time!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm still waiting.  The Missouri Writer's Guild Hottest Flash Fiction Contest is due to be decided in the next couple of days.  The deadline for the judges to decide is the end of October, we're just about there.  Frankly, I'm having trouble being patient.  I checked the website again this morning and there are still no winners posted.  Including today, there are three days left in October.  My fear is that the 31st will come and go with no announcement, and then I'll probably go nuts.  Once October passes there is no longer a deadline to wait for.  There is just (seemingly) interminable waiting.

Still, the news on the writing front is not all frustrating.  I got two more reviews on the Zoetrope website for "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving."  Both were positive, and my rating for "efficiency of language" has been brought up to the 'very good' level.  If I can get one more review in I will be eligible for "top rated stories" in october.  I wonder if I'll have to get that fifth review before October ends, or will it not matter because I posted it in October?

Either way, it's encouragement to keep writing.

Not My Second to Last Sermon

I posted when I preached the second to last sermon of my seminary career, so I guess I should post after preaching my last.  Yesterday I spoke on the topic of 'the ache.'  The goal of the message was to affirm that intuition that there is something wrong with the world we live in.  The world is broken, and though many people have recognized this I wanted to use that intuition to point them toward Christ.

It was an 'apologetic' sermon.  I tried to avoid using Christian lingo in it, and I think I did alright on that front.  It was a fun sermon to write because I was able to work in literary and pop culture references and was not overly bound by the structure of the sermon.  I may post a revised version of the sermon on here sometime, but we'll have to see.

Right now, I just want to celebrate that this part of seminary is coming to a close.  I've fulfilled my preaching requirement, and I'm one step closer to graduation and an MFA program.  Now all I have to do finish seminary, take the GRE, and write a story or three that's good enough for a high quality MFA program to let me in.  

No problem, right....?

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Fraction of a Pinch of a Part of a Hint of a Taste of Writerly Success

No word on the contest yet, but I've still had quite an eventful weekend.  As previously stated, I wrote a piece of flash fiction five days ago, which I called "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving."  I was happy with it, so I started showing it around.  I felt a bit nervous, but if you're going to write you've got to put yourself out there, so I went for it.  Or at least I eased into it.

First I showed the story to Mary Ann.  She liked the story a lot and had a recommendation or two for its improvement.  She also pointed out a few editorial errors.  Her remarks were encouraging, so I decided to show the story to some more people.  Since he had said he would like to read it I sent it to S.D. Smith next.  He reacted quite positively as well, with some recommendations for improvement.  Some of his suggestions were the same as Mary Ann's so I changed those.  

My next step was to send the story to two more tough critics:  My mom and my friend Randy Maynard.  My Mom does her best to look at my writing objectively.  I get the impression it's difficult, but she strives for it.  She was also impressed with the story.  Downright effusive, even!  She thinks I should win the contest.  Thanks Mom!

This was the first time I'd sent a story to Randy.  If you know Randy, you know the man is a connoisseur of the short story.  If I remember correctly he owns a copy of every volume of Best American Short Stories.  If he doesn't have them all he's close.  Anyway, Randy knows stories.  I was nervous once again, but I was thrilled when I got his e-mail response.  He paid me one of the best writing compliments I've ever gotten:  He's ready to read more of my stuff.  That means a lot to me.  Thanks, Randy!

I realized, though, that I couldn't just send my stories around to friends and family.  I only have so many, you see, and I'll need more people to buy my books than that.  I'm fully expecting to make a fortune writing, you see.  That being the case, I needed an unbiased audience.  This gave me the chance to actually use my account at the Zoetrope Virtual Studios.  I've had my account for a long time, but I hadn't posted anything until last week.  I put Keep Thinking, Keep Moving up and waited.  No one has to review your story there, after all.  It could come and go with no activity.  Then your just outta luck.

I think about a day and a half passed after I posted the story before the first review came up.  I was thrilled, but at Zoetrope, even though they let you post your first story immediately, you have to post reviews for five other stories before you can read what another reviewer says about your story.  Consequently, I spent a chunk of time reviewing this weekend.  It was flash fiction, though, so the stories weren't long.

I finished my five reviews and then read the review of my story.  Now, there are two parts to a Zoetrope review:  written and numerical.  The reviewer rated "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving" as 'Very Good,' which means she gave it either a 7 or 8 out of 10.  In her written review my reviewer said that the story was touching to her because of the issues about aging it dealt with.  She had some sound recommendations, which I will consider for the second draft of the story.

Late last night I checked again, and another review had appeared!  This reviewer had also rated me very good.  In fact, the average of my two reviews gives me all 'very goods' except for one category, 'efficiency of language.'  I think that's probably the most common knock on my stories so far.  Too much detail.  This reviewer, a physicist, suggested that I could reduce the size of my story by 'about 20%' and it would pack a better punch.  Both reviewers thought I should get to the action sooner.

Still, the response was overwhelmingly positive!  I feel a bit like a director celebrating the  goodreviews of his play to come out the morning after opening night.  Then again, I wonder if my happiness a bit out of proportion--like the director in The Goodbye Girl who exults because his mother half-heartedly said she liked his play.

Hopefully I can repeat these results on a larger scale with my next story.  The truth is, though, I've got to forget about the events of this weekend.  I'll revise the story, to be sure, but when I move on to the next one I can't worry about 'reviews.'  I've just got to keep on telling stories the way I want.  The results belong to God.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Keep Thinking, Keep Moving": The Morning After

Last night I said I would reread my flash fiction story "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving," and post some thoughts about it.  I did reread the story, and for the most part I actually liked it.  I thought it started well and ended well.  There are some phrases that I would change now, but that ship has sailed as far as the contest goes.  

Problem is, though, I made some dumb editing mistakes.  There were a couple of places where I left out a definite article where one was needed, and another where I left in a superfluous 'and.'  I think each error stemmed from a time when I altered a sentence.  The thing is, I still think the story is good, but the editing mistakes probably make me a dead duck.  I'm still going to cross my fingers and hope for the best though.

The Writer Sticks His Neck Out

I done did it.  I entered me a contest.  The Missouri Writer's Guild Hottest Flash Fiction Contest (TMWGHFFC) ended at midnight this morning, and I just got in under the gun.  I think.  I mean, I'm pretty sure, but I haven't gotten an e-mail confirmation or anything.  Honestly, I'll be surprised if I win anything because I wrote the story over the last two days, but who knows?  Maybe I'll win.  I'm hoping for at least an 'honorable mention.'  They'll post the winners in a few days, I think, so I'll keep you posted.

The story is called "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving" by the way.  It's about a college professor who just retired and his prospects for life in the future.  All under 1000 words!  I'm ready to call it a masterpiece, but it's past midnight and I need sleepy.  So 'masterpiece' is probably excessive.

One thing I'm interested to hear is how people perceive work I did in a 'flash.'  As I stated in a post this summer, I think the some of the criticisms I received for my work at the Trinity Arts Conference were due to overwriting.  I kept going back and adding more detail.  It bogged my story down.  That certainly didn't happen with "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving."  There wasn't time.  I think I might try to read it tomorrow morning and post my opinion of it once I have a little distance from it.  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Regret: Haiku for The Barefooted

Things my feet have felt:
The honeybee sting, dog scat
And a ruptured slug

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I Said, "Hey--What's Goin' On?"

I know I haven't posted much for the last few days, but I have a few kicking around in my head.  I'll get to them as soon as I can, but midterms are at the gates.  I suppose the singular 'midterm' would be more appropriate since I only have one, but I have a lot of studying to do for that class. 

Since I've read The Final Solution now, I would like to subject it to a little review.  That's project one.  I've also read several of Breece Pancake's stories and would like to write on them one at a time.  A third project I've considered since the recent Nobel Prize flap is a comparison between the Nobel Prize Committee and the BCS.  Both tend to be elitist and perhaps unnecessarily exclusive, after all.  That would take a lot of research, though, and I doubt I'll have the time to do anything meaningful with that.

For now, I'll occupy my time with study and with continued work on my fiction.  It would be really nice to actually finish something.  Even if whatever I send out doesn't get published or win a contest, I think just putting it in the mail would lead to some sort of satisfaction.