Northland College in northern Wisconsin holds an annual writing contest organized around a specific theme. Chosen writers have the opportunity to read their poems, essays or short stories in front of an audience. Plus, for the past couple of years, the readings are broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio.
The theme last year for the Writer’s Read Contest was “The Dark Side.” I wasn’t going to enter because I didn’t feel like I had anything that fit the theme.
That is my strategy – I rarely write anything new for contests. I like to choose from pieces I’ve already written. I guess I’m lazy that way, or efficient. Take your pick!
A nice thing about this contest is that, unlike most writing competitions, they will accept stories that have been previously published. So you can recycle works that have appeared elsewhere or won other contests.
However, a friend encouraged me last year to “add my voice into the mix,” so I entered a couple of stories even though I didn’t think they fit the theme. My stories were not chosen.
This year, after learning that the theme was “Gut Instinct,” I performed a mental inventory of all my short stories, poems, and blog entries to see if I had anything that fit. I have learned from conducting writing contests myself that the nonfiction essay category usually has the fewest entries, so I decided to concentrate on my blog posts to increase my chances of being chosen to read.
A couple of postings came to mind, but one I wrote in 2013 was especially dramatic. It was called “Are Book Signings Worth Risking Your Personal Safety?” It detailed two run-ins I had with a robber when I was in college, and it also dealt with writing, so I hoped it would be appealing to the judges and to the listening audience. How did it fit the theme? My gut told me to run the robber over. My brain told me otherwise. Which one did I listen to?
However, I needed to make the story even more dramatic, so I rewrote the blog post. I also had a writer friend (the same one who encouraged me to enter last year) look at the story and offer comments before I submitted it. She had some good ideas for rearranging the middle and for adding more details, which I heeded. In return, I offered comments on the fiction story she planned to enter.
Lo and behold, both of us were chosen to read! The event is happening later this week and our stories will be broadcast at a later date. (I will be sure to post a link here when that happens.) (Here’s the link! My story starts at the 4:10 minute mark.)
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing my blog for money. But the whole reason I started it was to write for fun, and to try and make sense out of my life — and perhaps share some wisdom. So I have refrained from blog-writing-for-profit. However, now I have discovered that blog writing can also help a person win a writing contest! How cool is that?