Today on CB’s MoJo we have a special treat—a guest post. I met Jez Layman through Naperwrimo and The Writing Journey. I’ve known for some time that Jez writes fast. She won the coveted Hat of Word Wars in November 2013, for winning multiple word wars at a Woodridge Public Library write-in.
Since November, I’ve had the opportunity to read some of her writing and learn something else: Jez writes well. You do not, however, have to take my word for it. She’s won several writing contests, and she graciously shares some of her experiences below.
Earlier this week, I was notified that I had won Sound and Scribe’s Flash Fiction contest with an untitled piece, which you can read here. I was intrigued by this contest and its unique prompt, which was to listen to a specific song (in this case, “Bangs” by Bricks+Mortar) and write a story up to 500 words on any topic inspired by the song. For my piece, I wrote what I would describe as an almost dystopian survival story, which wove in lyrics from the song. I was a little surprised to hear I had won this contest because I had spent maybe a maximum of fifteen minutes on this piece, and most of that was looking up and reading over the lyrics multiple times (it’s not a song I had heard before the contest). I did not hear of this contest until its last day, but flash fiction is my passion, as well as my strong suit in writing, and writing something to a specific theme (broad as it was) seemed a lot easier than figuring out which of my previous pieces would be best for submission, so I took a chance and entered. What I appreciated about this contest in particular was the ease of submission, which was through tumblr, a social media website I frequent daily, and the rules were straight forward. The host contacted me shortly after the end of the contest and the prize was sent to me early the next morning—a very quick turn-around! I certainly intend on entering next month as well, and highly suggest others doing the same.
Like flash fiction itself, this contest was pretty quick-and-easy for me, and done with no prior preparation. This is not the case for all fiction contests. In fact, it’s quite rare. I’m not very likely to enter long-term or long form contests, but I did enter and win 1st place in the OPUS fiction contest in 2011 with a short story called “The Damsel,” which is about a professional Damsel in Distress. This was part contest, part conference, and I was asked to present my work to a live audience after winning, which I did happily. I cannot commend live readings highly enough to writers. The feedback is immediate and you can gauge the interest of the readers immediately. I received quite a few laughs from that piece and was happy to hear that my jokes and allusions hit home the way I had intended. This contest was different from Sound and Scribe not only because of the live reading and length of the piece, but because I had entered a pre-written piece. I prefer to submit my writing for publication, rather than to contests, but I had been asked personally to submit to this contest and I felt very confident in this particular short story. That’s the number one thing I think writers need when submitting to contests with pre-written pieces: confidence. These pieces should be written, adhere to the rules of the contest, be edited multiple times (and read by a second party, if possible), and fit the theme of the hosting entity or the specific contest.
To all submitting to contests or publications, I wish you luck.
Would love to hear more about people’s experiences with writing contests, either via the comments section or whatever way you usually contact me. Ditto if you have questions for Jez.