There’s only one week left, now, before the reveal of the winners of the 23rd annual SLO NightWriters Short Story and Poetry contest. This contest has grown so much in just the last two years, from a rather provincial, small-town, local contest to a national writing competition judged by best-selling authors and university professors and entered by writers in the USA and Canada. And, I believe, we even had an entry or two from Great Britain this year.
I always enter this contest, mostly to support SLO NightWriters. I have no illusions. I am a very good writer but these are both word- and line-limited contests, meaning short. This year is the first that the story word-limit was raised from 500 to 750 words–a third bigger but still short, and well within “flash fiction” parameters. And poems cannot be more than 40 lines.
I don’t do short. My first novel (not that I ever show it to anyone) topped off at 275,000 words, and the story wasn’t finished. (The second volume was shorter by 25,000 words and the story still isn’t finished!) My first published novel is 487 pages of suspense. I don’t often write poetry, but when I do, each piece usually runs at least two pages. Plus, this contest is themed every year and I don’t do well with writing to someone else’s specs. I’m a “do it my own way” kind of woman. So, basically I enter simply to show support for a great organization run by fantastic volunteers who keep making NightWriters better and better.
So imagine how stunned and excited I was to learn that both my story and my poem landed on the finalists’ list. (Winners aren’t revealed until the night of the general meeting.) My works may garner only honorable mentions, but with the caliber of judges this year, even the bottom rung on the finalist ladder is a huge honor. Among the judges is a NYT best-selling author and a former SLO County Poet Laureate who is an absolute genius with words. Exalted company, indeed.
Meanwhile, I can’t sleep. My nerves are popping. My mind keeps skipping away from what I need to do, the writing I want to do. My stomach is tied in knots. But it’s good nerves, great knots, even if I’m getting too old the pace the floor at night. And there’s only 6 days, 21 hours, 13 minutes left to wait…
But who’s counting?