Everyone can write. Everyone can run.
It's true. However (yeah, you know where I'm going), just as not anyone can run a marathon, not everyone has a gift to write clear, lyrical prose that entertains and engages readers. That's why you need to treat writing just as you would any other sport.
You need to get up each day and practice. And just as with running, you will need to warm up, stretch and find inspiration. A running partner can help, too.
I have a friend who runs. She runs every day. She runs because it makes her happy, keeps her healthy and because it feels good. Whenever she can, she enters a mini marathon or fundraiser run. When I asked her why she does it, she said, "It's fun, and it makes me a better runner." When she runs these races, she runs to win. She doesn't train extra for them, but she makes sure she's prepared to go the distance.
Such is true for writing. You need to make writing a routine, and you need occasional "races" that are fun to be part of and make you a better writer. Go ahead, challenge yourself. Brave yourself for some feedback, even some criticism. Believe me, it will make you better at what you do.
If you are a teen writer, here are some places to submit your work. Be sure to read their submission guidelines.
New Moon Girls - online and paper; girls ages 8 - 14; accepts poems, articles, stories.
One Teen Story - online and paper; publishes stories for the teen audience.
Teen Ink - online and paper; teen audience and writers; publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photos, art.
The Writing Conference Contest - once yearly; open to students in elementary, junior high, high school; accepts poems, narratives, essays.
Oh, and don't forget the ThisGirl summer writing contests!
After you've viewed the above sites, set a target. Plan to submit at least one piece of writing by the end of the year. In the mean time, practice.
Please post links to any of your work online, or just give a personal shout out for your achievements. Good luck. Write on!
Something different this Sunday. My first ever young adult writing contest.
June Writing Contest for Teens
School’s out, so now it’s time for your own assignments. When I was a teen, I loved the freedom from homework in the summertime so I could write. I kept a journal for my own wonderings and observations, but summer allowed me to write poetry and short stories. I didn’t submit them to anyone. I wrote them for myself, typed them and glued them into my creative writing journal (which I still have).
The unstructured sunny days allowed me to take the time to ponder, observe, fantasize and dream. My writing blossomed in summer because there wasn’t anyone telling me what to write. It was all me.
I’d like to give you that chance.
Here is the first ThisGirl Summer Writing Contest.
In 200 words or less, describe a best friend. Could be your real BFF, or it could be a fantasy. In prose or poetry. No other restrictions than the word count. Oh, and you must be 13 to 18 years old. Submit your entry by June 28.
Paste your entry or link below. The winner will be featured on this site’s homepage and receive acclaim on Twitter and Facebook. Each monthly summer winner will be in the running for a free signed copy of “This Girl Climbs Trees” in September.
UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS, EMILY REEVES OF TENNESSEE FOR YOUR BEAUTIFUL ODE NOW FEATURED ON THE EXTRA BITS PAGE.
Kids love to share memories. Nothing beats a 10-year-old saying, "When I was little...". Memory defies time; even though as we age, we define our memories by time.
When I was a kid...
Last year, I remember...
This reminds me of when I was in college, and...
Memory defines us. Memory is experience, emotion, friendship. It is the collection of moments that form who we were and who we have become. There is an importance to memory.
So it shouldn't really surprise me when a young child wants to share her memories. Memories connect us.
This past month, I've been fortunate to spend several hours visiting and reading to elementary students. I have shared various chapters from my middle grade narrative, "This Girl Climbs Trees". In one class, I was moved to laughter and tears as students shared memories of trees in their lives. One girl told of a beautiful lemon tree that sat in the yard, from which they did not remove the fruit but which offered a place of shade and beauty until her father cut it down. Another boy told of a tree at his former home that the neighbor insisted be removed due to its invasive roots and dead leaves on their property. This injustice troubled the boy, and he insisted his family's next home have a tree further from any neighbor's yard. They just planted a Birch.
They have a wide front yard.
The students' stories inspired me. I had no idea that Eliza Mills (the central character) had so much in common with real live kids. I made up Eliza. I made up the entire story. Yet real children (and adults) continue to share with me their memories of a favorite tree.
So I'd like to offer this challenge: In 150 words or less, write a memory of your tree. How did you connect with it? What do you now observe as the importance of this tree, this memory? Post your short passage here or on your own site. Paste a link in the comments below so that we can read it.
You might be surprised what comes up as you explore the importance of memory. I'll post mine this week. You have forever, but I will shout out my favorite on Twitter next Sunday. Please connect with me there and leave your Twitter handle here. If you are under 18, please let me know so you can get your own awesome shout out!
Thanks! Good luck.
A few weeks ago, I had some fun with Lisa Reiter's flash fiction challenge, Bitesize Memoir. I found the task pretty challenging. It takes a lot of skill to scale down a piece of writing into such a small bite. Writers tend to want to add detail upon detail.. (Or is that just me?)
I did a little research and found everything and more one needs to know about this tightly trimmed task.
There are many names for it. Sophie Novak breaks it down on TheWritePractice.
There are How To's with detailed guidelines on being brief.
There are whole websites devoted to it. (Try flashfictiononline.)
There's even a National Flash Fiction Day in the UK!
TheReviewReview lists numerous places you can publish or read these tiny verbal installments.
Flash fiction carries a few simple rules: keep it brief (duh); make a story (beginning, middle, end); close with a surprise.
Sounds simple, yes? Uh, yeah, no. Not for me. I write novels because I'm like a starting pitcher. I need a few innings to warm up. Think of flash fiction as your closer who comes in an inning early. Flash needs to be tight AND pack a punch AND leave them wanting more. Not so easy.
However, this writing exercise has been great for me. The task of trimming unnecessary verbiage from a wordy piece of prose is like squeezing your 40-year-old self into your college jeans. Not impossible, but it may require a diet.
I'm on a flash fiction diet. Join me! It's always better with friends.
This week, I found another amazing writing resource, Charli Mills. And guess what? Yep, Charli likes to write flash fiction. She's tempting visitors with her own short challenges. I tried this week's: Flash Fiction with a Twist. Write a story of exactly 99 words; start with a twist. Post it in the comments section on Charli's site (carrotranch.com) by Tuesday, May 20, to be included in her round-up. Or just write it for fun. Please share your links here, too, so I can see what you've come up with.
Here's mine. I'm posting it with Charli, too.
Dan Fields leapt out of the coroner’s van and searched his pockets for a cigarette. He’d seen plenty of dead bodies in his time to know they weren’t supposed to breathe.
“This is a problem,” he told himself. He realized he had another problem: he’d quit smoking last week after Carol left. He shoved a stale stick of gum in his mouth and flicked the foil wrapper into the street.
He heard a thud against the van wall. No, a pounding. No, a thumping. The whole van shook. This wasn't good.
Dan worked alone.
Yep, this was a problem.