While waiting for editorial feedback on What Happened to Ivy last winter, I started work on some short stories, thinking they might be less overwhelming – more easily broken into smaller chunks of work – than another novel would be, even if I was aiming to have enough stories, eventually, for a collection. Of course when I decided the stories would all be linked in some way beyond their theme, but each story would also stand well on its own, things got a bit complicated, as complicated as they do when writing a novel, maybe moreso.
As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve invited feedback from writer-friends, to see how well some of the individual stories are working (or not) as stand-alone stories. I’ve also been submitting a few finished pieces to contests.
Early this winter The Writers’ Community of Durham Region informed me that my entry in their contest (Amprosia) was one of nine stories that would go on to the final round of judging. Those nine stories would be judged by Terry Fallis, author of Best Laid Plans and others. ‘Great,’ I thought. ‘Maybe there is actually a point to the work I’m doing here.’
The day the winners were to be announced, those attending WCDR’s monthly meeting heard that Terry Fallis had this to say of the finalists’ stories:
‘They were all crafted by very talented writers who know how to sculpt sentences and assemble them into compelling and memorable stories.’
It was worth it to attend, just to hear those words of praise for my efforts. But then I heard these words about the second prize winner:
“The idyllic country setting in this piece was very well conveyed. Even as a city boy, I could easily picture the rolling fields; in fact, I felt like I was there.’
Hmm. My entry was set in the country…
‘This story packs an emotional punch rendered more potent in this writer’s hands. You enter this story effortlessly and don’t realize how invested you are until your heart lurches in final lines. It takes a skilled hand to draw a reader in without them really noticing.’
Oh, how I hoped – I dared hope – Terry’s words were about my story.
‘If you’re a parent, you may read this through different eyes, and feel the climax a little longer.”
Indeed, my story – “Zogler from Levitron” – was Amprosia’s second prize winner! Hurray!
There’s nothing quite like feedback from a writer of Terry Fallis’s stature to send a writer back to work with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. I may just finish this collection by the end of this year! And if not, well, maybe I’ll be entering next year’s Amprosia contest, too.
Please wish me luck, and if you’ve got a project on the go, I wish you all the best with it too.
By the way, the visual for this post is the cover of the anthology this year’s finalists will appear in, once the text “Edited by Heather M. O’Connor” has been put in place.