Writer's Digest is Great! (Why I didn't win 5th place)


I woke up this morning, still thrilled that I had won 5th place in the Mainstream/Literary Category of Writer’s Digest 82nd Annual Competition for my short story. But a memory that they had rules about simultaneous submissions sent me to their website.  I checked and emailed the staff to tell them that the story had been published this year in the California Writers Club Literary Review. I realized that probably disqualified my 5th place win.

 The staff, especially Cris, took a thorough look at the dates of the two submissions to see if I still could be eligible. For a while, it seemed possible. After several emails back and forth, we concluded that yes, I would have to be disqualified.

 I appreciated and was pleasantly surprised at how personable Cris is in these situations. It isn’t the first time they’ve had to disqualify people after announcing their win. I was told that they appreciated my honesty, that it was refreshing. I sensed they really wanted me to be able to keep the award. Cris encouraged me to submit again in the future.

 In my mind, I feel rewarded to know that I placed 5th out of 1000 entries even if, in the end, I couldn’t reap the awards.

 I caution you all to be better at record keeping than I am. To keep track of which stories you send where, what date, and the date of the result, whether it’s acceptance or rejection. In the end, it all comes down to dates.

I also encourage you to submit to Writer’s Digest’s competitions. My experience with them today increases my appreciation for all they do in our writing community.

(Special thanks to Cris.)


Winners of the Group Poem Contest

Jennifer King, poetry instructor and director of the Downtown Oakland Senior Center, gave us the final vote for the winner of the group poem title contest. The title is ………… “Cadence” by Violet Carr Moore!! I asked for a second and third place designation too. Vi also won the third place for “Time”. Vi is the past president of the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch. She has won a writer’s basket with two books and a few other fun items. Visit Vi’s blog at:



Second place winner is Sheila Bali for “Point in Time”!  She will receive a book the next time she comes to class in Dublin, hopefully Monday. Sheila Bali is writing a historical memoir of her escape from Hungary as a child in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution. Visit Sheila at her blog: sheilabali.com/wordpress.

What's in the Background of your Scenes?

Jordan E. Rosenfeld’s book, MAKE A SCENE, offers many writing tips. I particularly liked her paragraphs about Foreground and Background. She says that like paintings, scenes can have backgrounds, but she meant more than setting. Plant “subtle messages and emotional layers in the background through actions” while the reader’s attention is on what’s happening in the foreground.

Rosenfeld gives the example of a couple making love in the foreground scene while in a room down the hall  or upstairs, another couple has a loud argument. That background can foreshadow the loving couple’s future, or the fight downstairs could add humor to the love scene, or the fight could escalate into a gun shot, involving the couple in a mystery.

Caution: the background must have a purpose to push the plot forward or to show character reaction to the subtext action.

“Each scene is a multidimensional creation.” Enrich subtext to deepen and add complications to the story.

Gruelling Exercise for Writing Fitness

In my writing class, I presented an exercise to analyze a story that had won third prize in a university contest. The author had an unusual writing style that the students found confusing, as did I in the first read. It took me three reads to understand the possible goals the author had for the piece.


An active discussion followed their frustrated sighs, head shaking, temple rubbing, blank stares, and furrowed eyebrows. Several interpretations from metaphor, mystery, murder, and psychological imbalance of the POVC added to the possible meaning of the story.

I appreciated the creative attempts at resolution for a story most of them disliked. But, I repeated, the story won third prize in a contest. On the drive home, twinges of guilt nipped at my heart since I’m very fond of everyone in my class. Then I received an email from Emily, one of the writer attorneys in the group and the twinges turned to confidence that to stretch everyone’s writing muscle was a good thing. Here’s what she said:

“I found the discussion today very satisfying. It was deeper than most and really made us work hard and exercise our brains. I felt like the way I feel after a good workout or how I used to feel after a good run. Hated the story, loved the workout.”


Thank you, Emily.