Word Weaver UPDATE: I have received the rankings from the last judge (Yes, it was Jenny) AND a question about FUTURE writing contests

Jenny sent me her scores! That means I can tally the votes.


Because I’m slammed today and tomorrow. I’m in the middle of publishing 18 books in the next week or so, and it’s a bit hectic. (It’s part of my deal with Great Oak Publishing Florida and the Young Authors Club I do with local grade schools.)


Plus I’m in the middle of an amazing story I’m editing from another author, which you are all gonna wanna read when it’s done. And I’m supposed to be writing that murder mystery for those USA Today bestselling authors that asked me to be in their anthology…

Busy, busy, busy.

But while I have you here…

Is 3 writing contests a year enough?

Should we try for 4 with varied themes, or maybe have one every other month so you can really develop your writing skills? Maybe a best of/stories of the year announcement, too, showcasing the best of the best?

Because writing short stories forces you to work on getting the story up and running, and that’s the goal of a first chapter, too.

After being a judge in a different contest, an author friend noticed how much writers need to work on brevity, and getting to the point, in their stories. Stephen King has offered a similar opinion:

Stephen King, Bazarr of Bad Dreams

Miscues that can be overlooked in a novel will become glaringly obvious in a short story. Strict discipline is necessary. The writer has to rein in his impulse to follow certain entrancing side paths and stick to the main route.

That’s a great way to hone your opening chapter, too.

I usually say we writer types take a while to get our stories up and running.

As an editor, I usually read the start of a novel and recommend: cut, cut, cut.

Get to the good stuff, and get there quickly.

Writing short stories does that. So it’s a skill we all need in our work, and doing it more will force us to get better at it.

It will build your ability to hook your reader with a better first chapter, and hone your pace to make each successive chapter better, too.

Practice makes perfect. But how do you practice writing?

Write short stories.

I know when I worked on a bunch of book covers for my Young Authors, after about twenty or so I was seeing ways to do it and noticing ways it wouldn’t work. When I was in an online critique group, putting up several chapters a week forced me to hone my writing skills. Editing causes me to be more aware of issues in others’ writing so I see it better in mine.

That’s all a way of saying practice will make you better, and writing more short stories will make all of your writing better.

Besides, it takes a while to write a novel. A short story can get completed quickly, you can let it rest a few days, and revise it a few times before the entry deadline. That process builds those writer muscles we all need.

What do you think?

  • Should we move to holding writing contests every other month?

  • Have different, varied themes to force you to challenge yourself?

  • And add new skills that will enhance your other works?



Mark this awesome review as “helpful” (PLEASE)

51eRlHYLzJL._SY346_.jpgCheck out this recent cool review The Box Under The Bed received HERE.

If you would click over to Amazon and mark it as “helpful,” that would be great. (You don’t have to buy it, just mark it as helpful.)

For those of you who have read the book, a REVIEW is a great way to reward the authors for working hard for you. You can do that HERE


Word Weaver update: winners will be announced Sunday morning April 22

In the original contest announcement, it says winners will be announced “on or around April 20,” but I’m not sure why I did that because I always announce the winners on Sunday morning. Maybe I should learn to read a calendar.

And even though I might know who the winners are by Friday, I might not.

So rather than have everybody checking in all day Friday and driving themselves nuts and driving me nuts, I figured it was better to just go ahead and let you know now that it’s gonna be Sunday morning. I envision myself compiling the winners post all day on Saturday.

I’m very sorry for any additional tension this causes any of you. Probably.

And I did say “on or around” the 20th. Well, the morning of the 22nd is around the 20th, isn’t it? Of course.

I also said in the original post: WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON OR AROUND APRIL 20, 2018

“…unless I get an overwhelming amount of entries, and then I’ll delay that part but trust me you’ll know way in advance because I’ll be whining about it here on the blog.”

This is that whining part.

Besides, the stories are so good, they are worth waiting for.

The A-Z Bookbag: P is for Poggibonsi

Hey, check me out!

Allison Maruska


Today’s Bookbag title brings us to a romantic comedy, a genre I don’t generally seek out in literature (and only occasionally in movies). But Poggibonsi by Dan Alatorre was such an entertaining read it was one of the first titles I listed when brainstorming Bookbag posts.


Poggibonsi is the story of Mike, a venture capitalist sent to Italy to launch a new tourism project. He brings his family along at first, which only seems to highlight the rockiness of his marriage. By the time his wife and daughter head back to the States, leaving him to finish the project, he’s frustrated and just wants to get to work. Then, his Italian boss has a heart attack, and Mike is left to work with an associate, Julietta.

And Julietta is a fantasy come to life. Mike had been fascinated with her since he saw her on a train days earlier (though…

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Word Weaver UPDATE: Two more judges have sent their ranking! Now we are just waiting on Jenny…

img_2351-11I said it before, but it’s true – which is why keep saying it:

I get excited to see what these other judges have ranked as their best story.

I know all of you are waiting to see who won and how well all of you did. It’s got to have seemed like an eternity since you sent your story (and probably almost an eternity since the contest ended) but there is method to my madness. Probably.

Rest assured, my goal is to announce, with all the proper fanfare, the winners this weekend.

Jenny gets until Friday to get her results to me, and then I’m going to compile everything and write up the big, massive, giant, all-encompassing, all-powerful winners announcement.

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed

Everybody’s gonna find out at the same time who won and got second place and third place and honorable mentions (if any) and whatever else.

After that, I will showcase each story that was a finalist as well as a profile or short interview with the writer.

Lots of fun to come, and it’s a lot of work, but I love it and I love you guys so it’s totally worth it.

Word Weaver UPDATE: A Second Judge Has Turned In Their Rankings!


We got the rankings from a second judge, and of course mine were already done…

a third judge indicated she will get hers done today; another judge indicated they’ll get theirs to me by Friday…

…and one judge said she didn’t receive the stories at all yet, so I sent Lucy another batch.

Bad email. It happens.

I have no doubt our British friend in Cambridge will work tirelessly to read and rank her stories in time. The release of her new PorterGirl book, Sinister Dexter, be damned.

You may think this is self serving, but I really get excited when one of the judges sends an email with how they ranked the stories.

I really do.

Did they like the same one best that I did?

If not, which one did they like best – and why?

There’s a lot of comparing notes. Kinda. Nobody changes their rankings, but we’re human. We might reread a story to see what the other person liked about it.

Also, it does what I want – allows for an aggregate.

The story I like best is usually really close to the story I like second best.

There are often ties for second or third place – or both.

There are Honorable Mentions that need to be recognized, not because it’s a sympathy vote but because they were good, solid stories that may have gotten beaten by a home run this time out. On a different day, they would place higher.

And that’s an important note.

On a different day, a different story might win.

I know this because I often sit here and debate about which one of the three or four I really like, is “best.”

Seeing other judges hand in their rankings, you’d see one likes the same as me, or two like my second place winner as their first place winner. That means both of those stories are very good.

As I like to say, if Stephen King, J. K. Rowling and George R. R.  Martin all enter a writing contest, and only one can win first place – does that mean the other two suck?

Of course not.

Heck, all of the finalists are good! That’s why they’re finalists!

Also, and it’s too early to do it officially now, but a LOT of people who place or receive an Honorable Mention or who don’t even place, will be asked to join an upcoming anthology. Why? Because we can only have one winner, but we get a lot of good stories. Stuff that needs to be seen and read. And since I can help that happen… I’m plan to.

A few of these stories are dark enough to go into our next “scary anthology.” One could easily fit into the “relationships anthology.” (I didn’t forget about that, but relationships is hard to categorize, you know? We’re looking at a broad marketing plan for that, under a possible title of Hidden Gems.)


And it’ll be fun getting the band back together!


Many contributors to The Box Under The Bed want to come back for another round, and we want a bunch of new folks in there, too. I envision far fewer headaches this time around.

Lots to look forward to.

Winning isn’t everything, but entering might be.

Letting me see your stories can only result in good things happening. You might win a contest, you might get published, and you might get advice on how to improve your stories so eventually they can be included. More than one person has seen that happen.

You don’t have to win a contest to get asked to be in one of the anthologies.

But right now, let’s focus on the excitement that’s about to happen as we all wait to see who wins our March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest.

Because I don’t know who the judges will select, either!