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Indianola Review Workshop

I’ve taken the Indianola Review Workshop twice and both times it was a valuable experience as well as fun. If you have a short story that is done or close to done that you’d value feedback on, this could be the workshop for you. 774252_10209067312746858_7475813070501178361_o

Although the workshop format may vary  as the method is refined, what happened in the first two workshops is probably a good indicator of what will happen in the next. Each participant uploaded a story to Submittable and we used that as the platform to read and peer review each others’ work. During the second iteration of the workshop, we moved from discussing the stories on the Submittable platform to discussing them in a private Facebook group. This worked much better, as the discussions were easier to follow. The workshop was lengthened to four weeks, the first two for reading and the next two to tackle the individual stories. As in an in person workshop, the Facebook comments usually generated discussion between the participants and eventually a response from the writer. Comments from a few of the staff readers and editors of the Indianola Review were also included.

In the FAQ section of the workshop announcement page, the question is posed about possibility of publication. One of my rewritten stories was published online and another participant’s story was picked for print publication. Another member of our class has since become an Assistant Editor, and numerous stories and participants have gone on to be published elsewhere.

How do I know that last? The Facebook group is ongoing and people do post some of their successes and endeavors. If nothing else, the workshop is a gate to new friendships with writers and potential critique partners. (I have been a critique partner of Joseph Walters, although I met him in another workshop. I also met Jan Elman Stout in a third online class.)

Overall I found this one of the less frustrating platforms and workshops I’ve taken.The behind the scene look at Submittable was helpful. It was a joy to get to read the work of people I otherwise would not have encountered and a humbling experience to see how accomplished many of the participants were. I would recommend the workshop and consider the price very fair for the feedback received.

Although the time and date for the next workshop has not yet been announced, it is worth looking out for this class. In the meantime, read Indianola Review online and think about submitting your work!

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Thoughts a Year After Winning The 2016 Dogwood Fiction Prize


The Cover

A little over a year ago, I was informed I was a finalist in the Dogwood Literary contest and they wanted to publish my story. I was gratified the story was to be published, but when they told me in April that the story was the fiction prize winner for 2016, I was even happier. Although I had other stories published, I’d long ago given up thinking I’d ever win anything for my writing.  When I picked Dogwood to submit to, I had no intention of entering the contest, but since the contest fee was only $10, seven over their normal fee, I figured what the heck? I was hoping that entering might garner a closer read, not necessarily a win.

If this wasn’t the first contest I’ve entered, barring those attached to writing conferences, it was the first in a very long time. Ten years? I wasn’t sure that contests were the way to go. My ultimate goal is to  have a book picked up for publication, and I’d read enough places that mentioning you’d won a prize wasn’t impressive to literary agents unless it was a major award.

The day before I was given the go-ahead to announce my win, I had a discussion with my neighbor about luck. She told me about her son’s girlfriend and how she came to know a number of important people who helped her land a prestigious scholarship and position as a summer intern. Later that same day,  I spoke to a friend who told us his story of luck. He played football in high school. I asked if he’d been recruited many places. He said not really, only the local state school had showed interest. This was before the days of heavy recruiting, and he had also decided he wasn’t going to play in college. It just so happened that a recruiter for Dartmouth was in his area, and although this recruiter had ignored my friend’s high school in the past, this time he decided to check it out and asked the coach if he had any players with good enough grades who might make the team. The coach recommended my friend, but he needed to take the SATs—he was from the midwest and had only taken the ACTs. The day this recruiter spoke to him was the last day to have the application for the next SAT testing in the mail. He filled out the application and took it to the post office. When he got home, he realized he’d forgotten to stamp it.

He called the post office, which was closed, and spoke with an employee who agreed to dig through the mail, find the letter, and affix a stamp. How was that not luck? So many steps could have gone wrong, something as small as the phone not being answered, or the person who answered in a hurry to go home, or someone who did not care about a kid and his college career. His life might have been different, because he did go to Dartmouth and play football and later received an advanced degree from Harvard.

This win was luck for me as well. I might not have entered, or I might have entered a different story. But part of it is making your own luck, or more exactly, propelling your luck along. I’d read the judge’s books and many years ago I met an editor who had published him in a  national magazine well known for its fiction. His story was about a pregnant woman and this editor was pregnant. He probably didn’t know that, and maybe she wasn’t pregnant at the time the story was accepted but was contemplating it. Could the editor’s pregnancy have influenced her reading of his story? And picking it to publish?

When I first started writing back in the eighties, I took a workshop with the writer/judge. I got a B. I saw him around town every once in awhile but then heard nothing about him. I knew he was of a certain age, and I thought possibly that would make the story I entered appeal to him. I’m quite sure he didn’t have the slightest idea who I was. I used a different name back when I was in his class, and the submissions for this contest were blind. There was no way he could have known I’d been a student. I did disclose that I’d taken his workshop to the contest officials. The rules stipulated you couldn’t have a “substantial relationship” with the judge, and other than rejecting a story or two of mine for the journal where he is currently the fiction editor, I had no relationship with him.

It is now more than a year since I was notified I was a finalist. Has it changed my life? Other than falling victim to the assumption that if you win one, you have a chance to win another, no. No offers to read my novel have come my way and mentioning the win in a cover letter for other submissions hasn’t seemed to sway many editors.


Table of Contents

Overall, the win was a vote of confidence, and it is a nice addition to biographical notes, but I know I need to immerse myself in my writing if I’m to make more progress toward my goal of a published novel or publication in a “prestigious” journal.

And I know if I want to make my own luck again, I need to produce more pieces to circulate than the current three I have out.

Wish me luck.


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WordPress has changed from when I blogged two years ago. And really, I’m not sure it is easier to use. I just now was trying to find a specific post so I could update it and had to scroll through every post I’d ever written, and I’ve had three blogs. One was very short lived, this one, and one on a totally different topic. I couldn’t find the post I wanted.

I was going through my posts to check to see if I had links to stories on the web since I just found another broken link and the journal has no archives. I found a second story that the link was broken and again, but this time I found the archives. It took me awhile to find the entry, and for awhile I was wondering if I’d made up that first internet publication, but finally I found it. Here is the corrected link.

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Eckleburg Workshops

My next venture was into a class with a title something like Thirty Stories in Thirty Days. I figured this was to write flash. I hadn’t written much flash in the last year or two and my stockpile was very low. So it seemed like a good idea as well as a challenge. The leader for this class was friendly and enthusiastic but not very involved.

At the start of the week, he posted the assignments for that week with an introduction. Some of the ideas were truly fun, some odd, and a few things I just didn’t want to do. But no worries because you could reuse one of the prompts to keep up with your stories if you wanted. The most useful exercise involved writing from posted photos with a link to random photos of the day. This exercise worked well for me since I could check a large number of interesting and odd photos until one struck me. If I could remember the link to this page, I would go back to it and use it. Alas, it seems to be lost. Although I found others on the web, none of them featured photos as interesting.

Although the exercises for this class were interesting, I did not find the overall class very enjoyable and eventually quit. The enrollment was small. As for interaction in the form of comments on the mostly very short pieces posted, the only people who commented were two participants I already “knew” from the One Story classes. I did start out commenting on other people’s stuff, but when the favor is not returned, I feel like my comments are not welcome and my effort is wasted, so I stop.

A friend from my next foray into workshops reported that he signed up for a class through this site and had a similar experience. Most of the participants had quit before the class was finished. Because there was little back and forth between you and anyone else in the class, it is hard to rate the platform, but for a small class it appeared to be adequate. The group does offer many interesting sounding classes such as Create a Book Trailer and their prices are reasonable.




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Looking for my Work

Sometimes I forget that I published a piece in a journal. Sometimes I wonder if I’m remembering wrong, especially when I search the archives of said journal and nothing shows up. When that happened today I googled away and after about six attempts, I finally got the piece to show up.

Now I’m posting the link to the story so I don’t lose it again.

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The Smokelong Journey

Yesterday my flash piece, Susquehanna Blessing, was published at Smokelong Weekly. This was especially gratifying as I was able to select my very talented friend, Aeravi Link, as the illustrator. I have two of her paintings hanging in my house, but was happy to provide more exposure for her often frightening, always colorful and imaginative work.

Over the years, other writers I’ve worked with have been published in this well-respected journal, including my critique group partner, Saytchyn Maddux-Creech. I also was a participant in an online writing workshop conducted by Mike Czyzniejewski. Fellow workshop participant, and editor of the now-retired Camera Obscura, M.E. Parker, also has been published in this journal. I am honored to join their ranks.

Please take a moment admire Aeravi’s artwork and read my piece. As the journal title implies, it shouldn’t take any longer than it does to smoke a cigarette.


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Relating Opera to Literary Fiction

IMG_0865Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend Central City Opera’s rendition of “The Marriage of Figaro.” As usual, their production was wonderful, the voices great, the energy level high. I knew I was going to like it as soon as I heard Michael Sumuel, bass-baritone, singing on the trailer, and he lived up to expectations. Another opera lover described his voice as sitting in a cup of Earl Grey tea!The other baritones in the opera were all enjoyable and Susanna, soprano Anna Christy, was also great. What I love about the Central City opera company is that they cannot only sing, but most are also credible actors, which makes the silly opera stories that much more enjoyable.

While listening to the singers, I started mussing about how story and music interact and how this relates to literature. Many operas have rather silly plots, with characters dressing up as someone else, or hiding in spots where no person could really hide. In the dramas, everyone seems to die. A lot of the plots are eerily the similar. Many of them are based on the same play(s)–The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville. A number of Shakespeare’s plays are represented. For instance, Verdi operas include Macbeth, Otello, and Falstaff. Both Gounod’s Faust and Boito’s Mephistopheles are based on Goethe’s Faust. 

Although not universally true, most composers did not write the librettos for their own work. Often the librettist was a well-known poet. I suspect that most people, like me, do not have the slightest idea who wrote the words for the operas they like. The score is what is usually well known and loved, although when examined, librettos often contain wonderfully evocative phrases.

My thought while listening yesterday afternoon was that the music of opera can often be like the prose in the most lyrical of literary fiction, often covering up the faults in the storyline. Or, like the best poetry, the music evokes a feeling and the listener is less concerned about the plot making sense.

Reference book used to verify the ideas in this post.

Reference book used to verify the ideas in this post.

The cast list

The cast list




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