More Writing Contests…..and a fancy new iPad!

I’m sitting here at my desk with the candles lit, a new Word document opened up ready to be filled with story-telling brilliance and my fancy new iPad playing some motivating movie scores on my Pandora app.

I’m inspired tonight to start a new short story. You see, this last week I had not one but TWO new short story ideas pop into my head, and I immediately searched for some new writing contests that would motivate me (meaning would give me a concrete deadline) to actually sit down and write them. Since my awesome experience with NYC Midnight Short Story Competition this year – round 2 results should be in next week, by the way – I’ve decided that whenever I have a good idea for a story, I should immediately look for a reason to see it through to completion, in the form of an upcoming short story contest. Because, for some odd reason, having just the base desire to write the story is not enough to actually get me to do it. I need a deadline.

My search yielded several results (thank you, writersmarket.com!) and I narrowed down the options to three contests, all of which have deadlines around the end of April/beginning of May:

1. The 34th Nimrod Literary Awards – a 7,500 word limit on a fiction piece, due on April 30th.

2. The Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition – A big flipping deal, with several categories for submission and a deadline of May 1st.

3. The Lorian Hemmingway Short Story Competition – Run by the Hemmingway’s grand-daughter, this needs submissions by May 1st as well. 3,500 word limit.

My initial plan was to write one story, one GOOD story, and submit it to all three competitions. They all accept simultaneous submissions as far as I can tell, and they all have pretty similar guidelines. But, since I’m new to the writing contest world, I wonder if that is a normal thing to do.

Since I have two story ideas, so I may go ahead and try to write both in the next month, despite the heavy work schedule I have lined up. I will be traveling a lot, and I tend to get a lot of writing done when I’m spending a lot of time on planes and trains and in pretty hotel rooms. It may be rough and I may be setting too high a goal to attain, but that might be something good. I certainly feel inspired and motivated these days, why not try to capitalize on it?

Has anyone out there ever entered any of these contests or have any comments on them?

And by the way, about the new iPad – I actually won it in a drawing on SaveUp.com – no joke. Pretty awesome, yeah? I’ve decided to allow it to be the only gadget that I leave out of my work realm entirely. I want it to be my writing companion, keeping my notes and inspiring me with its awesome brainstorming apps and music features. I just need to come up with a name for it…..I’m thinking something like Albus?

Yeah, Albus. That’s perfect. 

I’m off to read a book with Albus and then maybe play a word game with him before bed. Goodnight!

Visiting Art Museums (and how they can inspire writers)

This last weekend, my dad and my step-mom came to visit me in LA for the first time since I’ve made it my permanent (ish) home, and I was tasked with showing them around for a couple of days. Because they are both well-traveled and enjoy art, I decided a trip to the J. Paul Getty Center Museum would be a perfect way to fill a pretty Saturday afternoon in LA.

The Getty is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles. For those of you that haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, it is perched high above West LA on a hill, right off of the 405 Freeway, and it houses a fabulous, first rate art collection ranging from antiquity to a few early 20th century pieces, all of which are displayed in a beautiful modern white marble collection of buildings. The views alone are worth a trip.

I’ve always loved visiting the Getty, especially when I was in college. Even before I switched my major from Creative Writing to Art History, I would make the drive from Malibu to the museum at least once a month to bask in the treasures that it holds and to revel in the views of the LA basin, which stretch from downtown all the way to the ocean on a clear day. And the best part was and still is that admission is to the center’s permanent collection is FREE.

This trip, the museum again didn’t disappoint. It has been years it seems since I last visited the Getty, and I always forget how amazing the art and experience of it is when I spend time away. We wandered around the galleries and had ourselves a grand time, and it occurred to me how inspired I was feeling to go home and write.

I tried to think of what it was about visiting art museums that I’ve always loved. I’ve decided that reveling in the incredible works of art that men and women have created over centuries past has the power to spark the desire in us, as writers and as creators in general, to work tirelessly towards our own creations and contributions to the world. Seeing the great work that others have accomplished reminds me of the vast creative ability of man, something that is easy to forget in our world that is being devastated by those seeking to destruct and harm.

It made me want to go home and start writing immediately and see my own creative vision be manifested on the page!

I think I’m going to make it a habit to visit art museums more often – I’m a big fan of LACMA and the Norton-Simon Museum in Pasadena, and it is definitely time I paid both of those spots a visit.

 

Writing Down Your Stories

I just finish blowing through two short memoirs written by Roald Dahl called Boy and Going Solo, both of which are compilations of stories from his childhood and early adult life. In Boy, most of the stories revolve around his adventures while attending an English boarding school, and you can see the early experiences with a candy shop and with horrible headmasters that influenced his highly imaginative children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Going Solo picks up where Boy left off with Roald going to work for the Shell Company in East Africa and then joining the RAF during World War II and his experiences flying fighter planes.

What I loved most about these books is they weren’t like an autobiography or a memoir in the traditional sense. They were just stories of interesting things that happened to him in his life along with some funny anecdotes  and remarks about how these experiences shaped his later adult life. He even writes at the beginning of each book about how autobiographies are boring, but stories aren’t, and that is why he decided to publish only the pieces of his memories that were the most engaging.

And they were engaging – they very much transported me to another time. I felt what it was like to be a boy waiting for a beating in the headmasters office for an offense that I didn’t commit, what it was like to live in colonial Dar es Salaam in the ‘30s, and the gut-wrenching fear that comes with fighting in a war against impossible odds, waking up each morning doubting whether you’ll live to see another day after this one.

Roald Dahl was a highly interesting person, but more importantly he was a very engaging writer and a phenomenal story-teller. What would have been an account of episodes from a semi-average man’s life from that time period was skillfully told in a wonderfully entertaining way under his expert hand.

Reading all his funny and interesting stories made me think about how little I record the memorable things that have happened to me. I feel like I’ve lived a very unconventional life thus far (entirely by choice, of course) and I wish I had written down all of the crazy things that I’ve done and seen, particularly while living abroad in college and from navigating the world of reality television over the last 4 years. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t’ think I’m super interesting or some kind of wonder in terms of what I have done, but I do think I have some funny anecdotes that someday my children and grandchildren and so on would like to hear about.

It isn’t journaling, it is more like telling stories from your life and crafting them as you would a story of fiction. It is definitely something I want to try.

So, I’ve bought a new journal – just what I need, right? Another journal yelling at me for a contribution from my bedside table! – and I’m going to use it just to write down funny memories and bizarre things that have happened to me in my life thus far. My plan is just to try to write 1 or 2 stories down a month, when I have a moment, so that someday they can be read and enjoyed by my kids, and their kids, and their kids. Even if they aren’t seen by anyone ever, it will give me a nice feeling of happiness recalling and reliving them, not to mention great writing practice.

I love getting lost in stories written by others from another time. Who is to say someone down the line wouldn’t want to read mine? Or yours?

NYC Midnight Contest, Round 2: Done and Done

Well, I can cross a few things off my personal to-do list:

1. Finish a short story in record time while juggling it with a strenuous shoot schedule.

2. Actually leave a casino with more money than I went in with.

3. Write a blog post while drunk.

As I’m sure you noticed in my last post, the night following 4 shoot days (14 hours of work each), I went out to a casino with some co-workers and drank a bit too much. Usually, when I hit a casino, I leave after a couple of hours because I’ve lost money. Well, the reason I stayed sitting at the same blackjack table for 6 hours was because I WON. Like, a lot. So I stayed, and kept drinking. I can’t say I regret it (my wallet certainly doesn’t) but I do wish I had gotten a better night’s sleep so that I could be focused and ready to finish my story yesterday before my flight back to LA.

But, yesterday I managed to wake up, a little later than anticipated but still with enough time to work on my my story. I had a really crappy rough draft that I had thrown together the nights before, and I had some time to shorten it (it was WAY long) and refine it (it was WAY rough).

I do wish the second round had fallen at a better time for me, but you know what? Opportunities come up in life, and they usually don’t take your own schedule into account. You have to just take them as they come and give it your best shot. I submitted a story that I don’t feel entirely confident about, but I did the best with the time I was given, give or take a few drinks at the casino. And while I was maybe less focused yesterday than I could have been if I’d not stayed up all night gambling, I do feel quite excited about the new shoes I ordered with my winnings.

Cheers to that.

Funny story?

I’m drunk, and I have a story to finish before midnight tomorrow. Whoops.

 

The word limit is 1500. The truth is my story stands at about 1800 shitty words. I need to make it 1500 good ones.

 

Did I mention I’m drunk?
At least I’m up almost a grand on Lumiere Casino in St. Louis.

But blah, not good on the story.