Finalist in Writers of the Future

“The Healer of Branford” was a Finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, making the shortlist of eight stories for the 3rd Quarter. Those eight stories are passed on to a pool of judges drawn from professional authors, so although it did not place I am filled with warm fuzzy feelings knowing that some authors I really enjoy reading have now read my work.

Full results for the quarter here.

What was the biggest difference between my submission that placed Honorable Mention last year, and this one that placed higher? I’ve been working on many aspects of storytelling, but the single largest insight that I had was into suspense. In June I took the Writers of the Future Online Workshop (which is free) and was really struck by the essay on creating suspense. I revised the story right before submission with the goal of keeping multiple possible outcomes open at each step of the story. This particularly helped the final third, which lost too much tension in the earlier draft.

The Writers of the Future contest has an incredible online community associated with it. Sharing the goal of getting into this specific anthology series helps to cut through much of the subjective non-advice that clogs other online writing communities. The forum is also defined by a spirit of helpfulness in which past winners often stop by to help current entrants succeed. The teacher who’s invested the most into the official forum is Wulf Moon, running his Super Secrets Workshop there, which is a fantastic resource because it covers all the pieces of a functioning story in bite-sized lessons. It’s been an incredibly helpful framework for digesting the writhing mass of writing advice that I stuffed in my skull and I am honored to be officially joining the workshop for the coming year.

I plan to enter every quarter of Volume 38, because this contest provides a unique opportunity to test myself against the same first reader and judge four times a year. I want to prove that I can consistently write at a high level even more than I want to win.

Candy Story Update

My submission received an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest for the second quarter of Volume 36.

It stars a candy-maker and is directly inspired by the fantastic mini-documentaries about candy making from Lofty Pursuits and Public Displays of Confection, so I’m eating a bag of their nectar drops to fuel my revisions in the hope that my story will see publication one day.

What do the Victorian Nectar Drops taste like?

In case you’re wondering about the secret, historically accurate taste: honey and marzipan is my best description. The sweetness is more complex than white sugar, and I feel convinced that there’s a tiny almond note in the finish.

The pieces are smaller and more ornate than the last modern hard candy I bought, and feel very precious. The detail, particularly on the starfish, is amazing. The way the pieces fit on your tongue almost changes the taste.

I also realized that I have never actually eaten fresh hard candy in my life and it was as much a revelation as fresh green beans would be if you’ve only ever eaten canned. I was careless about resealing the bag and the last few pieces changed significantly, and dulled into something closer to sugar cubes. So I both recommend that you order some, and that you eat it before the magic fades.