Flash Fiction Contest Round 7

Photo by Flickr user Rocky Raybell
Photo by Flickr user Rocky Raybell

Thank you to everyone who participated in round 6 of the WU Flash Fiction Contest. There were so many great stories — although I have to say that I’ve never before read so many tales of suicide, depression, death, and grief in one place!

Our July contest is now open. You have seven days to write a 250 word story about the picture above to be in the running for an absolutely fabulous prize pack.

The rules:

  • Each submission must be 250 words or fewer.
  • Each story must contain a beginning, middle, and end. Like all stories, a compelling narrative is essential.
  • All submitted work must be original, not published elsewhere, and written by you. After the contest, what you do with your story is up to you; we hold no claim on your work.
  • Each submission must be made in the comment section of the prompt post.
  • No more than two entries per person, per prompt will be eligible for any given month.
  • Deadline for entries will be one week after the prompt is posted, meaning 7 a.m. EST on the second Saturday of the month.
  • The winning story each month will be selected by a mix of votes in the form of Likes in the comment section and our own discretion (which includes a blind-reading of the entries by a panel).

What the winner receives: 

Each month’s winning story will be announced the following month, and republished on Writer Unboxed, along with the author’s bio, and links to the winner’s website and social media accounts. As well as this platform-raising exposure, the monthly winner gets bragging rights and the exclusive opportunity to compete for the grand prize in December.

In December, each of the monthly winners will be asked to write a new flash fiction story based on a new prompt. The overall winning story will be selected by a mix of votes via a poll and our own discretion.

The overall winner of the 2015 Writer Unboxed Flash Fiction Contest will be announced by the end of December 2015, and will receive:

  • A signed copy of Dave King‘s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
  • A signed copy of David Corbett‘s The Art of Character
  • 15-page manuscript critique by bestselling author Catherine McKenzie (double spaced, normal margins, Times New Roman 12pt font)
  • A one-hour Skype lesson with Scrivener expert, Rebeca Schiller
  • A free, non-transferable pass to attend the next Writer Unboxed UnConference (does not include travel or hotel expenses)

The other finalists will receive the a beautiful “Edit” poster from Three Figs Villa, as kindly donated by the generous Cyd Peroni.

Good luck and happy writing!

And now… announcing the winner of Round 6 of the WU Flash Fiction Contest.
[Read more…]


Change Your Mindset

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your PotentialA few months ago, my husband recommended that I read the book MINDSET. At first I dismissed it as just another one of the many business/management guides that clutters his nightstand from time to time. But my husband insisted that this book was different, that it would be good for me. In fairness, he has been known to be right on one or two occasions, so I decided to give it a chance.

He was right.

MINDSET explains a lot of things about myself — especially about my attitude toward writing and achievement — that I had sensed but never fully articulated. Furthermore, the book offers productive alternatives for some of my biggest hangups. It’s not really a how-to or self-help book, but in examining the benefits and the power of a growth mindset, it does end up guiding readers toward a better path.

Here’s the crux of it, from the back cover:

“World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success — but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.”

What is fixed mindset?

The belief that we are who we are. Period. Static. Maybe you can change a little bit here and there, but for the most part, you’re born with whatever skills, intelligence, creativity, personality, etc. you’re ever going to get.

What is growth mindset?

The belief that we can always improve — and that the process of improving is as important as the improvement itself.

Why does your mindset matter?

As Dweck shows through various case studies, the fixed mindset sets people up for failure, generally speaking. I mean, if you happen to be a super genius with natural talent and charm, then OK you’re all set! But for the other 99.99% of us, it’s not so easy. And if we’re convinced that we’re either smart or not, either artistic or not, either (fill in the blank) or not, then when we fail at something, that’s it. We’re done. No point in trying again.

But if we instead believe that every failure is just a step on the path to success? A necessary step? A valuable step, because what doesn’t work teaches us about what will work? Then we’re already where we want to be. The journey is as much the destination as the destination itself.

There is a lot more nuance to fixed vs. growth mindset than that — and really, it’s a spectrum, not just one or the other — but many of the problems that Dweck identifies as part of the fixed mindset remind me of issues that writers face. [Read more…]


Be Your Own Biggest Fan

Syncom, the First Geosynchronous SatelliteA few years back, author Joshilyn Jackson posted a story on her blog about meeting an author who was without a doubt his own biggest fan. I can’t find the post at the moment, but this author literally introduced himself with the words, “Hi, I’m award-winning author *name redacted*”. All that was missing to make it perfect, Joshilyn Jackson wrote, was for him to have said, “It’s such an honor for you to meet me.” Because she is hilarious and awesome.

My point, to be clear, is that that’s not the kind of own-biggest-fan I want to talk about today. Because honestly, I don’t think too many of us suffer from the kind of over-inflated ego of Joshilyn’s acquaintance. (And, really, who knows what kind of hidden insecurities the poor guy was trying to mask with all his posturing? I’d be willing to bet it was more than a few).

D.W. Winnicott famously wrote that, “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.”

“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.”

Not to go all tortured-artist on you, because as artists go, I’m not especially tortured, I’m really not. But that state of being– that tension between those two opposite extremes of communication and hiding– is a very vulnerable place to live. In my experience, all authors struggle to some degree or another with an internal critic, a nasty little voice hissing a litany of YOUSUCKYOUSUCKYOUSUCKYOUSUCK in your ears. I personally have never written a book where that nasty little voice didn’t rear it’s ugly head (yes, I know, that’s a hideously mixed metaphor). The difference, 19 books into my career, is that that voice has to be positively screaming a NOREALLYTHISBOOKHASASERIOUSPROBLEM kind of a warning on the sliding scale of you-suck-itude for me to pay it any attention at all.

[Read more…]


One-Starred: The Importance of Criticism and Why You Should Take It

Flickr Creative Commons: Marco Ghitti
Flickr Creative Commons: Marco Ghitti

As some of those of you who attended the fabulous Un-conference last year know, I read all my Amazon reviews, positive and negative. And while this might sound like a bad idea—in fact, I’ve had many people tell me not to do it—there’s a method to my madness.

I admit, I began to do it because my scattergun approach to review reading wasn’t working. For instance, when my first novel, Spin, came out and I learned that my first major review was going to appear in The Globe and Mail, I had someone read it for me first to let me know if I should read it. I figuratively held my hands over my eyes until I got the thumbs up because if my book was going to be trashed in a national newspaper, I kind of didn’t want to know.

Then there were the reviews I read by accident. Well, not entirely by accident, but you read your Google alerts, don’t you? (Please, tell me I am not alone here.) Anywho, I got a couple of those, late at night it seems, when my capacity was diminished, and without thinking, clicked through to read them. And yeah, that didn’t always turn out so well. For instance, when a reviewer for the Montreal Gazette—my hometown newspaper—wrote that he thought my second novel, Arranged, was perfectly fine, “if you liked mindless pieces of fluff,” I was left pretty low, much more so than the praise the book had received from other quarters. It was like how a one-star rating needs a multiple of 5-star ratings to be overcome; the praise bounced off me, the negativity stuck.

So I felt like I had two choices: become a more disciplined person (fat chance), or find a way to deflect the bad reviews that I couldn’t help myself from looking at. And that’s when I started reading everything. Because if I read everything, I reasoned, no one review would have much of an effect. They would all cancel each other out, blunt their sharp edges by bumping against one another, and I would be immune.

If I read everything, I reasoned, no one review would have much of an effect. They would all cancel each other out, blunt their sharp edges by bumping against one another, and I would be immune.

That’s the theory anyway, and it mostly works. But an added benefit was that I learned things from reading my negative reviews, much more than from the positive ones. Seriously, I did. [Read more…]


The World’s Longest Book Tour

jennymilchmanToday please welcome return guest Jenny Milchman.” Jenny’s new novel, As Night Falls, will be released tomorrow. She is also the author of Cover of Snow, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and Ruin Falls, an Indie Next Pick and a Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, teaches for New York Writers Workshop, and is the founder and organizer of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated annually in all fifty states. Jenny lives with her family in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

In 2013, Shelf Awareness dubbed my book tour “the world’s longest.” Of the first two years I was a published author, eleven months were spent on the road, visiting bookstores, libraries, book clubs, schools. Now I’d like to help other writers add this kind of richness to their careers by getting out there face-to-face in an increasingly virtual world–oh, and you don’t have to rent out your house, trade in two cars for an SUV that can handle Denver in February, or “car-school” your children to do it.

** Special for Writer Unboxed Readers! Today is the last day of a giveaway for anyone who pre-orders Jenny’s forthcoming thriller, As Night Falls. You’ll be eligible to win a Writer’s Wish List, or give one away to an emerging writer in your life. Click HERE for details.

Connect with Jenny on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The World’s Longest Book Tour  

Or, Why I Rented Out My House, Traded in Two Cars for an SUV That Could Handle Denver in February, and Hit the Road With My Husband and Kids

When Therese graciously agreed to let me appear on WU, she asked two questions about my book touring. (I’ve spent 11 of the past 24 months on the road, putting 70,000 miles on the above mentioned SUV. Now with my third novel set to release, we are heading out again.)

Therese wanted to know whether I do it all myself. And, how I manage not to lose my mind.

Well, assuming she’s right about the not losing my mind part—and some would say that’s a reach—I do have some ideas as to how to keep a hold of your sanity on tour. But it might be better to talk first about why I do this, and whether a scaled down version could work for you. [Read more…]