Tag Archives: writing competitions

No rest for the weekend

Cue nefarious laugh. Weekend… wicked, geddit? Sigh. OK, I apologise for the bad pun to launch this post. It seems that one of the unspoken rules of ageing is that your humour takes a hook turn toward Dodgyville.

Then again, perhaps it’s a sign of stress. Busy I am. This week, extraordinarily so. Here’s a sample of the current and prospective action along the Thunder Road.

  • Sun: Cycle 110 km as part of a training ride for the Ride to Conquer Cancer
  • Mon-Tues: Work on a massive project for the federal government, deadline mid-November
  • Wed: Research/writing time on TWO book proposals. Exciting stuff! Then off to the State Library to discuss the future of the Dromkeen Dragons.
  • Thu-Fri: Back to the aforementioned mega-project. Pressure on, big time. Lots of stressed people. Also, judge the short story competition for the Whittlesea Agricultural Society annual show.
  • Sat-Sun: Riding to Conquer Cancer, approx 100 per day, raising money for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Camping overnight in the chilly Yarra Valley.
  • Mon: Back to project land, briefing a crucial agency on the action so far.
  • Tue: As above but throw in a panel discussion with two brilliant bookish people at an eastern suburbs school.
  • Wed: A return to research & writing.
  • And on it goes.

Better to be busy than bored, yes? Man, I should not be posting, Yoda-style, on a Friday night. It’s three parts tripping, one part blogging.

OK. Deep breath. There were, cough, three valid, rational reasons for attempting this post.

1. My annual short story competition them round-up.

I’ve been judging the WAS competition for umpteen years. I see the topics year 7 to 12 students tackle in their stories as a geiger counter for the issues occupying teen minds. For all those people who say my books are too dark, check out what the kids are writing about this year:

Dementia; disobedience; detention; death; parenting (good & bad); death; birth; bullying; ageing; Rhonda & Katut; drought; fire; manslaughter; domestic violence; murder; alien invasion; asylum seekers; poverty; death; racism; divorce; disability; murder; murder; murder; dystopia; fast food containing rats tails; fire; domestic violence; refugees; dementia; dystopia; alien invasion; fairytales; road trauma; racism; bullying; corrupt religion; broken hearts; dishonesty.

It’s a good thing that stories are a safe place for young writers to explore the dark and the light in their lives.

2. Big news. Five Parts Dead is now available on iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Google Books, ebooks.com. Kobo and ReadCloud. That makes me very happy. Tree-books are good too, though.

3. I wanted to tell you about my recent experiences crash-testing new work with real live, Impro Melbourne actors. Blimey those people can think fast. Way faster than me, late on the eve of a big bike ride. So, I’ll end with another apology. My time on stage with the actual actors will have to wait for a future post, sorry. Good night.

Spell check fails

Time for a shocking confession. I make mistakes when writing. Good thing you were sitting down, right? I consider myself reasonably competent at spelling but far from infallible. Grammar and I don’t always see eye to to eye. (There’s a ‘Dad joke’ begging for attention here but I’m going to step away quietly…)

Most of my (real, non-blog) work passes by at least one proof reader and editor. And, most of the time, they detect and delete my errors, flawed logic, typos and grammatical anarchy. But not everyone has this back up to make their writing, you know, read good.

That said, (nudging soapbox forward) I’m still dumbstruck by some of the mistakes I find in entries to writing competitions. I’ve just finished judging an annual competition for secondary students and there were some classic bungles this year. Yes I know, they’re students not professional writers. But proof-reading should be a basic skill for anyone beyond Year 9, shouldn’t it? And if you’re going to enter something in a competition (or your teacher is), surely at least a veneer of polish is worthwhile?

Maybe I’m kidding myself.

Anyway, here are a few of the spell check fail highlights from 2012:

‘She couldn’t stop imaging…’ (Imagining, anyone?)

‘Her grandmother spoke of angles and spirits.’ (Did she use a spirit level to measure the angels?)

‘He adorned a pin stripped suite… Other men in suites stood nearby.’ (Sigh. This author was a recidivist and it wrecked a decent yarn.)

‘He leaned over and spoke to the closet person.’ (One little letter, one huge leap for logic.)

‘I couldn’t stop shaking my hand when I was eating breakfast.’ (Pleased to meet you, Mr Typo.)


True story. I started entering writing competitions in my teens. I had some poems published, received the occasional citation or honorable mention and even received a medallion from an eccentric group called the Melbourne Poetry Society.

Encouraged, I took creative writing at university and received mixed feedback for my work. At writing workshops, everyone seemed way more mature and talented than me. My writing felt too naive and earnest. When a poet in residence looked at a folio of my work and suggested I consider another career path, I pretty much gave up on poetry.

I did enter some short story competitions, one of which was run by the Moonee Valley Regional Library service. Much to my surprise, I received a letter inviting me to their award night. I attended and discovered I’d won second prize in the short story competition.

On completing my arts degree, I entered journalism and began writing for a living. Various newspaper and online gigs followed until one employer went broke during the Tech Wreck era and I found myself working part-time and writing as a freelancer.

Freed from daily deadlines, I rediscovered fiction. I started writing short stories and entering competitions and stumbled across the Moonee Valley Regional Library competition again. It seemed like a chance to measure myself, to see if I’d made progress over the course of almost twenty years in writing.

I entered a short story. And won second prize again.

I had to laugh.

I’ve said elsewhere on this blog that judging yourself by your trophy cabinet can be damaging to your motivation and morale. You’re best to keep writing because you enjoy it, not because you hope you’ll win something some day. While any encouragement you glean can fuel sustained stints at the keyboard, many writing competitions charge entry fees. If you keep on entering, wishing that the next comp will make you famous, you’re doing the equivalent of playing the pokies.

I’m not demeaning competitions or accolades other than first prize. I am saying you write for yourself first. You persist. You rewrite. You progress. Any gongs you collect along the way are a bonus.