Tag Archives: prompts

Must Enter To Win: Guest Post by Jan M. Flynn


One of the things I love about writing is entering competitions. There’s something about a contest that tickles me pink, sets my jello, and makes my socks roll up and down. Somewhere inside me dwells a coupon-clipping, sweepstakes-entering, percolated-coffee guzzling, curlers-in-her-hair housewife who cannot resist the chance to WIN BIG PRIZES.


 Besides, for an emerging writer like me — and I have learned the term “emerging” is the polite way of saying “newbie” — entering contests can be a great way to start broiling my professional chops. And I honestly find the process fun: researching the competitions, checking out the guidelines, choosing which of my pieces might be a good fit or writing something specifically for that competition. I feel a rush as I complete my submission, polish up my cover letter, and hit “send.”


images-2Yes, my work will be judged. The odds are that it won’t win. But that’s another advantage to the process: it strengthens my I-can-take-the-rejection-no-problem muscle, vital to any working writer. I figure every rejection, including every contest entry that gets a “thank you but nah” response is another notch in my belt, another step toward a big yes.

And hey, you can’t win if you don’t enter, right? I know, I know, that kind of thinking is responsible for mega jackpots in Powerball and we all know our chances of getting hit by lightening while being trapped inside an elevator with George Clooney are way better than winning Powerball.

But a writing competition is not a lottery; at least, the credible ones aren’t. If you follow the submission guidelines carefully, your work will actually be read and evaluated by someone. A built-in win, in my opinion. In a very few cases, you may even get a critique, or at least an opinion, of your piece. Also huge for us emerging types, or, really, any writer.

Having said that, it’s important to exercise good judgment. There are competitions and competitions, you see. Some are legit and some are scams, and writer beware. Some contests charge entry or “reading” fees, anywhere from $5 to $50, and while there are perfectly legitimate and highly-regarded contests that do so (Glimmer Train, one of the most respected and prestigious competitions out there, comes to mind) it’s best to be wary. Do your research before you fork over your work or your money.

How, you ask? Thankfully, there are some very helpful websites and organizations that can point you to legitimate competitions, although the ultimate responsibility always rests with you. I’ve listed three below as a for-instance.

Writer’s Digest Competions — Every writer’s go-to resource, Writer’s Digest sponsors a number of annual contests, with very attractive prizes that can include cash, publication, and even attendance at their annual conference if you really hit the jackpot with a grand prize. Entries do require a fee, but they’re reasonable and sometimes will even come with a bonus such as free attendance in one of their Writer’s Digest University webinars.

wd-popfiction-icon-Copy-Copy1-113x113And this is where I get to brag: my short story Stuffy won First Prize in the Young Adult category of the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards in December, 2015. I can’t tell you what a boost that’s been to my confidence and what a fabulous antidote it’s proven to be for what I like to call “submission reluctance.”

Poets & Writers — P&W, another mainstay for writers both pro and aspiring, offers an excellently vetted month-by-month calendar of competitions from publishers, literary journals, and magazines. A lot of the contests tend to focus on literary fiction and, of course, poetry rather than genre fiction. A great place to start researching.

Cathy’s Comps and Calls — A wonderfully useful listing of competitions and calls for submission, all of which can be entered for free online. Whoever Cathy is, she is my new BFF. I think she’s in the UK, and many of the listed opportunities are UK or Europe-based but even so they’re usually open to us Yanks. She posts opportunities in three categories: competitions, submission with deadlines, and submissions without deadlines. And she cautions us to research carefully, as her info may not be up to date. It’s a great resource, and I’ve found lots of submission opportunities by checking out her site.

In fact, that’s how I discovered the Binnacle Short-Short Story Competition. The Binnacle is the literary journal from the University of Maine at Machias, and to the best of my understanding its general submissions are usually only open to students, faculty and alum. This contest, however, is open to all. The challenge is to submit a story of 150 words or less.

A hundred and fifty words? That’s crazy! I couldn’t resist the dare. So I offer you my entry, Toro, which clocks in at 146 words including the title, below:



The bull paused, its sides heaving, blood streaming from its nose. Its head bobbed; the barbed banderillas had shredded its neck muscles.

The crowd hushed. The matador readied his long sword.

The mantilla-draped woman sitting ringside lifted her hand. The matador’s peripheral vision caught the strange gesture: a blessing? He stepped forward, flourishing the scarlet muleta.

The bull charged. The sword flashed, the woman wove her spell, and things changed.

The matador stumbled on all fours, neck and shoulders throbbing, breathing labored. He staggered toward the poised figure. With agonizing effort, he raised his massive head enough to glimpse the suit of lights, to recognize the face as his own.

Except for the eyes. In their liquid depths he saw the bull regarding him as it raised the sword.

The kill was clean. The woman lifted her mantilla, smiling as the crowd roared its approval.

# # #

Win or lose, writing that piece was a great exercise in concision and distilling a story down to its essentials — both challenges for me. So, bon chance to me, and to you too!


   Jan M. Flynn




Filed under Contests, Submit

Want Some?

By Dina Corcoran



Her name was always Blossom.

But the young lad had a tricky tongue,

When he spoke her name he garbled it,

So it became “Want some.”


He lived in a castle, hardly squalor,

Where he ate watermelon with his thumb.

One day she swayed by; it made him starry-eyed,

He called out, “Want some?”


A trickle of hope arose in his heart

As the red juice dripped down his chin.

“I’ll volunteer,” she said on a whim,

Going out on a limb, holding back a grin.




thanks to coetail.com


Prompt: from the (printed) list pick 10 words at random and fashion a poem, memoir or fiction.

“garble, squalor, always, volunteer, sway, trickle, watermelon, starry,

tongue, blossom”


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Filed under Poetry, Students

Recklessly Tangle Thunder and Blossoms

At that talk I attended with Linda Watanabe McFerrin she mentioned an exercise she uses and  handed out a list of rather sexy sounding words:  tongues, Paris, salamander, lush, indigo, vanish, braille, silkily, Argentina, lips, apricots among many. She said, “don’t think about it. Pick 7 words. Write a sexy scene using these words.” I asked the class to pick their words and write whatever sexy thing they could think of, be it memoir, poetry, fiction. The following are some responses:

Farewell Training bra. So long hope chest.

Michael Layne


Her mirror’s reflection, mocking, as she stands bare.

Reflecting back, yikes nothing’s there.

I’ve seen other girl’s grow, big and thrive.

Isn’t it time, for mine to arrive?

I’ll love them fondly if I get a darling pair.

                           Perfectly perky and sweetly fair.                       

            To Victoria’s Secrets, a bra for them to caress.

            So hard to choose, I leave the display a mess.


            Finally they come, I redden and blush

            Return to Victoria’s in a hell of a rush.

            I find the perfect bra and press it to my lips

            I check it in the mirror, my God I’m getting hips.

            I pick the one with a touch of glitter.           

Then a selfie, I post it on Twitter.

            A lush photo, of my two stunning sisters

            Once lovingly in play, the envy of misters.



Guy  Sandler



Darkness Be Not Dark

Don Tynan


   In deft darkness, my fingertips braille your face.

   In silence, they dance across the beckon of your cheeks.

   As a thief, they secretly kiss your lips, and

   In heart’s desire, they silkily caress your hair.

   They hear the whisper of your pulse, and

   The blossom of your breathe.

   They catch the subtle quiver in your skin, and

   Even the glitter of your starry want.

   They be not sinister in darkness, but brilliant hero.


Valentine Poem

Dina Corcoran


My father bellows thunder, it fills us with despair.

Does reason slumber or will he be fair?

We have adored each other with eyes and hands and lips

But pungent prejudice swirls and forbids.


His soul is indigo to me now, the color of midnight.

Yours is white, the color of light.

Why can’t he see your soul and forget your ebony skin?

Must our love vanish into the darkness of ignorance,       

Or might it be allowed to take wing?


Short Poem of Repose

(who knows?)

Kent Ward Butzine


Don’t stress, regress.

Don’t pine, recline.

Be mine, supine.

Say “yes,” me bless.

Acquiesce, caress.


Don’t go, let’s flow

into the night

of delight

and the dawning



No “no”!



Bellweather of Climate Change

daphne birkmyer


‘Sweet Salamander’

whispers Dragon lovingly from her magenta cloud,

‘Slow your pulse and sleep a while longer

in the mercy of your hibernation underground,

For my time has come,

and as your damp skin is singed by the heat of my caress,

You will no longer breathe

And when you vanish?

Oh slender thief of my heart,

I shall be





My New Love

Ana Manwaring

Paris sweetly singes my tongue

fondly remembered

 as lush apricots

devoured in the heat of summer.


   One Red Rose      

Barbra Hana Austin

Tobe and I fell in love thirty years ago in Stockholm. Six months ago he found me on line. it was the week of my seventy-first birthday. That would mean he was sixty-one.

We spoke or emailed daily and soon, ever the romantic  he sent me a round trip ticket to his adopted  Argentina. What could I say?.

On the plane, a complimentary Vodka in hand, I re-created fragments of our long ago lovemaking. If a heart could glitter from the inside out, mine would be seen like the stars in the heavens.

We were single-minded in that a Niagara of water had passed under our separate bridges. Would we be so clear when we met? I was excited, happy and getting more romantic by the sip.

The plane landed at Ezeiza International, and there Tobe stood, tall and straight, by the exiting corridor, as noble as he had been in Stockholm with one red rose in his hand.

We stood, stared and flew into each others arms.  When his lips touched mine, a tiny nucleus of heat began to rise deep within my very belly button.

“Take my pulse” he whispered, “if I’m not dying, I want you now, right now and I don’t care if it makes the front page of La Nación”.

We were married three weeks later at the airport. I carried one red rose.





Filed under Prompts, Writing workshop Prompt