Submitted a Story for the Doris Betts Fiction Prize

Several weeks ago, I submitted a story to the North Carolina Writers’ Network for the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. The winning piece of fiction of up to 6,000 words will be announced in April and will be published next year in North Carolina Literary Review.

Doris Betts was born in 1932 in Statesville, North Carolina. For 30 years, she taught creative writing and English Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was an award-winning novelist and writer of short stories. Her subtle writing style was often compared to that of Flannery O’Connor. Ms. Betts died in 2012 at her home in Pittsboro, North Carolina.

The story I submitted in the competition for the Doris Betts Fiction Prize was titled, “Secrets of a Foster Child.” It is the first fiction story I’ve written in first person. I tried to put myself in the skin of a foster child. That wasn’t easy. I was blessed to grow up in a stable, two-parent, loving home. We lived on land that has been in our family since the 1760s. I knew we weren’t ever going to move. I knew where I would go to school the next year, much less the next day. I never once had to wonder if I would have enough to eat or clothes to wear. I knew Mama and Daddy were my forever parents.

Hearing and reading about the various experiences foster children have has helped me to realize how fortunate I am. There are many wonderful foster homes, and I hope my story conveys that. Some foster homes are not so good, and my story touches on that. The overriding theme in the story is the insecurity that foster children have. Nothing in their lives is permanent.

I doubt that “Secrets of a Foster Child” is literary enough to win this august writing competition. I do not expect to win, but it was helpful to write for the contest and go through the mechanics of editing and revising in order to make the piece as good as I could.

No time spent writing is wasted.

Top of the Mountain Fiction Contest

My January 28, 2015 blog announced that I had entered the first 20 pages of my unpublished historical novel manuscript, The Spanish Coin, in the Top of the Mountain Fiction Contest. The contest was sponsored by Northern Colorada Writers.

This week I eagerly awaited news of how my writing fared in the contest. Word came today that my entry was not one of the four finalists. That was disappointing, but the critique I received from one of the three judges was well worth the $25 contest entry fee.

My work was graded on a 10-point scale on each of the following 10 categories: synopsis, beginning hook, plot, originality & voice, characterization, pacing, dialog, setting/description/narrative, mechanics, and appeal to intended audience.

I am pleased that my lowest score was 8 and I received two 10s. My total score was 88 out of a possible 100.

The judge’s comments give me some specific weaknesses and areas I need to work on. I look forward to doing that in the coming months as I work toward my ultimate goal of getting the novel published.

Another missed opportunity

I planned to write something to enter in the 23rd Annual Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest. I also planned to write a short piece to enter in the Highlights Fiction Contest. Time was not on my side, but my main road block was a profound lack of story ideas. “Those ships have sailed,” so to speak. The deadlines have passed. I did not pull myself together enough to enter either contest. I am disappointed in myself.

Perhaps I should start a list of story ideas to draw from when I hear about a contest.

It’s not that I am not writing. I write every day. I just have not been able to align my thoughts with any writing contests lately.

To steal a line from Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”