I’m a Finalist! Vote for Your Favorite Memoir!

I am so excited to announce that Biographile, a website dedicated to real people, real stories, and great reading, has selected my piece, “What to Expect While Grieving for Your Father,” as a finalist in their Short Memoir Contest on Overcoming Loss!

There are four other amazing stories, so please take the time to read them all and vote for your favorite (all you have to do is “like” it on Facebook . . . but choose carefully! You only get one vote!) before the May 15th deadline. I would be flattered if you particularly enjoyed reading mine!

Dear Writers: Read This For Your Own Good

Making editorial assistants cry is the equivalent to killing kittens: (1) it’s soulless; (2) selfish; and if these adjectives don’t scare you off, at the very least it’s (3) frowned upon. So read about how to avoid this cardinal sin over at the INTERN’s blog. (Here’s a hint: be a smart submitter and savvy negotiator before you get giddy and legally-foolish over the opportunity of being a published author.)

Also, if you’re having a hard time figuring out which writing contests are legitimate, or if you’re consistently losing money in a never-ending pattern of failed contest submissions, consider asking these six questions before entering another writing contest.

In more light-hearted news, for your significant other’s own good–or a potential significant other approaching upon the horizon–have them read the “10 Reasons Not to Sleep with an Essayist.” It’s only right to give them fair warning.

How Winning a Writing Contest Can Improve a Writer’s Self-Esteem

Wonderful news, folks! You are officially reading the blog of the winner of Honorable Mention in the 2011 Writer’s Digest Young Adult Fiction Competition!* According to their congratulatory email, “competition was fierce,” so I’m super proud! While first and second place comes with fame (publication of their entry in Writer’s Digest) and fortune (they won some prize money), honorable mention certainly isn’t a shabby win!

Benefits from Winning Honorable Mention:

  1. One free copy of the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
  2. Mentions/Promotion in the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest and on www.writersdigest.com
  3. Bragging rights in future cover letters
  4. Bragging rights in future query letters
  5. Total rejuvenation and inspiration to jump back into my NaNoWriMo novel

You see, the short YA story I submitted to the contest was an excerpt of my NaNoWriMo novel, Waterlogged.  I had already written the first three chapters of the novel for my senior undergraduate creative writing seminar last spring and decided to finish the rest of the book during November. It was the best writing I had on hand when the deadline for this contest rolled around so I also decided to submit an excerpt of that already revised/edited/reviewed beginning. And it won! This recognition makes me feel like the entire month of November wasn’t wasted, like my novel has some real potential and merit, and now I am pumped to start the year-long process of rewriting the entire hot mess that is my 56,000-word novel! And I’m even more pumped to have the polished manuscript ready for literary agent submissions so that I can insert this mention-worthy award in the query letter. I already feel like this book has a statistically-better chance of getting an agent!

New Year’s Resolution: Finish the entire manuscript and query it at least once before New Year’s 2012. Everybody hold me to this goal!

*Please excuse me while I jump about in unadulterated joy and excitement.

All I Want For Christmas is an Acceptance Letter

It’s not really the only thing I want this year (I’d really like Bank of America to stop dragging their feet–they’re taking so long that paperwork keeps expiring and we have to resubmit things over and over again–and let me buy the condo I’ve been waiting on for months so I’ll actually have a place to live) but an acceptance letter would be a nice gift to receive! I’ve gotten several rejection letters as of late and haven’t been submitting great quantities of new short stories anywhere, but I am still waiting to hear a “yes” or “no” from the following:

Painted Bride Quarterly (date submitted: January 4th, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction, 1 non-fiction)  Official Response Time:  unknown

Writer’s Digest Young Adult Fiction Contest (date submitted: October 16th, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction) Official Response Time: December 31st

Literary Laundry (date submitted: October 1st, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction) Official Response Time: 6 months or under

Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest (date submitted: November 13th, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction) Official Response Time: March 1st, 2012

Press 53 (date submitted: September 24th, 2011; what submitted: 1 non-fiction) Official Response Time: July 1, 2012

I never heard back from skirt.com and on their submission page they state that if they don’t respond within eight weeks, then it’s a rejection. This, I would just like to mention, is my greatest pet peeve as a writer–especially when they don’t even confirm receipt of your submission–so I’m not even sure if someone read my story. Let’s hope that all publications make a New Year’s resolution to use submission managers like submittable from now on!

What 1,100 Words Looks Like: Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2011

I’m currently plowing through the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the creator of NaNoWriMo, as I prepare for the incredibly unplanned month of writing ahead of me.  (Being that I’ve gotten SNOWED IN  the weekend before Halloween–strange and unacceptable–I have time to start and finish an entire book.)

Four inches of snow before Halloween; Pennsylvania, 2011

Reading it is actually calming down my nerves quite a bit . . . and leading me to call everyone I know and begging them to be a “NaNoWriMo Nazi and/or slave driver” for the next month.  (Baty recommends that NaNoWriMo participants brag about our aspirational, completed-novel intentions beforehand so that we’re guilted into actually finishing.)

One of the main things the book stresses is pre-planning our writing time by recording what we do on a daily basis, color-coding the essential, important, and non-important activities and committing to replacing the non-important and occasional important activities with writing time.

My average day as it stands now looks a lot like this:

6:30 am:  Wake up, make sure younger sister hasn’t overslept her alarm and is heading out for school; fall back asleep.

7:00 am:  Wake up again.

7:00 am-7:30 am: Shower, dress, eat, pack lunch.

7:30 am-9:00 am: Drive to work while listening to a lovely audiobook.

9:00 am-1:00 pm: Official editing day job.

1:00 pm-2:00 pm: Lunch break.  Sometimes blog, sometimes read, sometimes take a walk in the local park.

2:00 pm-5:00 pm: Official editing day job continued.

5:00 pm-6:15 pm: Drive back home while listening to more of the lovely audiobook.

7:00 pm-8:00 pm: Physical therapy.

8:15 pm-11 pm: Hang out with family and/or boyfriend.  Sometimes this involves writing/blogging while boyfriend is doing homework.  Sometimes this involves watching unnecessary amounts of television.

I’m thinking that if I forfeit that extra half hour of sleep every morning (even as I say this I know it’s unlikely), make my lunch break a power-hour (higher likelihood), write some more in the parking lot before physical therapy (similarly high potential, as long as traffic doesn’t steal away the time), and commit to being in the same room with those I love but generally ignoring their presence (possible, especially on nights when the boyfriend is ignoring me because of his own heavy homework load) while I write should make NaNoWriMo physically possible for the first time ever, for me at least.

If you were reading between the lines, you noticed that I cut out my blogging time for the next month.  Sad, but true.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take a working vacation and neglect the blog for awhile (I’m sorry!!).  I’ll still be on Twitter–mostly for the daily bragging (or shamefully pathetic) tweet of my word count–and apparently we can have friends on the NaNoWriMo website this year, so don’t miss me if you don’t want to; be my writing buddy and we can cheer each to the finishing line!  (I’m listed as HannahKarena.)

I tried NaNoWriMo once before, my sophomore year of college, and promised myself I would never put myself through it again until after I graduated.  You don’t have free time in college; you just have time where you can multitask homework with something more social and pleasant.  Like doing homework in a group at Dunkin Donuts at 11:00 pm.  Or watching reruns of Will & Grace on the couch with your roommate while you read your textbooks during the commercials.  There was simply no room to fit more homework-like activity.  Kudo’s to Amanda, a freshman who’s making a go of it despite the odds.  Also kudo’s to Katy and Sammy, who are not freshman but lead busy lives and deserve ample amounts of credit for their pledge.

I did write my first book in college, though.  I invented a “How to Write a Children’s Book” independent study where I wrote my book for credit, so my class schedule actually built-in writing time.  Every two weeks I had 2,000 words due.  As I face NaNoWriMo–where I’m expected to write 1,667 words a day–that deadline of long ago seems laughable, but it was really good practice for me.  By the end of the semester I had a roughly 18,000-word manuscript with a beginning, middle, end, and break-neck-speed pacing.  (That summer I rewrote/edited it and it slowed down into its expanded current size of about 35,000).  The reasons for this less intense productivity were:

  1. I was carefully editing my pages as I went so that my adviser (shout out to Professor Lawrence!) could actually enjoy and potentially be mildly impressed by my prose.  NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, results in 50,000 words of garbled crap worthy of nobody’s eyes but mine own; instead of being born naturally–complete with all ten fingers, plot devises, and toes–NaNoWriMo projects are like a really horrifying Frankenstein experiment.  It’s going to take months of rewriting and hardcore editing before this new book is even reasonably presentable to the general public; and,
  2. It was historical fiction and I was spending hours every week doing extensive research.

To help myself along this time, I’m doing a completely fictional book.  No research.  Everything will be pieced together from my own imagination.  Also, to help I’ve already gotten 6,000 words written.

Now stop right there.  I heard all of you start hissing “cheater.”  I promise, I’m not cheating.  I solemnly promise that I will not include these first 6,000 words toward my 50,000-word goal.  Instead, in the end I shall have a 56,000-word manuscript.  But the benefit of already having a head start is that I have a grasp of my characters, the narrative voice, and a general idea of what I want to happen along the way.  I went into my first NaNoWriMo experience completely blind and started writing a random novel.  When it died after 6,000 words or so, I started a new one.  And when that one died, I gave up.

This year, I’m dedicated to actually finishing.  My motivation?  The 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  They have two categories–general fiction and YA fiction–and the winner of each gets a $15,000 royalty advance and a publishing contract with Penguin.  What’s not to be hopeful about?

Hope to see a bunch of you in the NaNoWriMo chat rooms, lots of you at the finishing line, and everybody else in a month!

Just keep writin’ writin’ writin’ and don’t forget to submit, submit, submit.

*For gauging purposes, this post is an example of 1,100 words.  Can you write that plus a smidgen more every day?

Write a Tiny Essay, Win a Tiny Texas House

Tiny animals, tiny teacups, tiny anything, triggers cooing in most humans and I cannot resist saying “it’s so cute!” every time I look at this amazing writing prize. A Tiny Texas House is built of 99% salvaged materials.  Basically, it’s an adorable, quaint, and rather small recycled house and you can win one if you write a 300-word essay of how a tiny house would inspire you.  It can live in Texas and you can move into it.  Or you can use it as a vacation house writers-getaway and the company will rent it out for you for a little extra cash flow throughout the year.  Or you can have it shipped to wherever you’d prefer living in a tiny house.  Or you can cash out for $28,000.

See submission rules and guidelines here.

Deadline: October 3rd, 2011.

Submission Fee: $50–but even if you don’t win, you get the blueprints for the house and a free copy of the e-book How to Build a Tiny House with Salvaged Materials.

Chapbook Contest–Poetry, Fiction, and Non-Fiction

On the ride home from work yesterday I got the germ of a new book idea.  I want it to be a collection of creative non-fiction essays organized around a theme.  Aside from basically everything David Sedaris writes, there aren’t many non-fiction short story collection books for sale in stores.  So I was wondering, how does one get them published?  And where do they get them published?  Do you get an agent or go straight to a publisher?  What publishers are actually interested in that kind of manuscript? Obviously everyone is interested in David Sedaris because he’s awesome: 

To me, this book idea feels a little bit like a poetry chapbook, which I’m more familiar with, and I know there are oodles of poetry chapbook contests out there where people can win money and get published all at one, so I figure there’s got to be similar contests for other genres, right?

False.

I found a few fiction chapbook contests–Gold Line Press, for example, has one (deadline 11/1/11) where you can win $500 and publication with an ISBN number–but only one non-fiction one.  They don’t have the deadline posted for this year’s competition, but it’s hosted by AWP and has been an annual contest since 1975, so it seems like a pretty safe bet that the contest will be held again.  If you have a similar manuscript done or in the works–they permit some of the short stories to have been published elsewhere first, so you could try to assemble some previously published stuff into a submission–then read the info below and submit!

AWP Award Series:  The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction

Who/What is Illegible:  The competition is open to all authors writing in English regardless of nationality or residence.   Only book-length manuscripts are eligible.

What They Want:  Poetry-48 pages minimum text; short story collection and creative nonfiction-150-300 manuscript pages; novel-at least 60,000 words.

How They Want It:  Snail Mail.  Manuscripts must be typed and double-spaced on good quality paper, 8 1/2 x 11 inches. Poetry manuscripts may be single-spaced. Photocopies or copies from letter-quality printers are acceptable, but dot matrix is not acceptable. Manuscripts should not be bound or in a folder; they must be binder-clipped or rubber-banded together.  See more submission guidelines here.

Fee?  $30

Prize:  The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry is an award of $5,000 and publication for the best book-length manuscript of poetry. This competition is open to published and unpublished poets alike. The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction awards the winner $5,000 and publication. Winners in the novel and creative nonfiction categories receive a $2,000 cash honorarium from AWP and publication. The Award Series conducts an evaluation process of writers, for writers, by writers. AWP hires a staff of “screeners” who are themselves writers; the screeners review manuscripts for the judges. Typically, the screeners will select ten manuscripts in each genre for each judge’s final evaluations.

Good Luck!