Thursday, June 25, 2020

NYC Midnight -- I Made It Through Round One!

I ask my creative writing students to enter a contest at least once in the semester as a way to give them a meaningful deadline and an opportunity to prepare work for a reader who has no interest in them personally. This year, I thought I would model this as well--I often write assignments I ask of them, but while many contests for teens are free to enter, most of the contests that adults write for involve a fee. What can I say? I'm cheap.

But this year, with everything shut down for COVID-19, I decided to go for it anyway. I saw a tweet about a contest that looked interesting and not too onerous (I will never do NaNoWriMo while teaching full-time!) and entered. I needed something to do, and the contest fees were going to charities helping during people through the pandemic. The NYC Midnight 100-word-story contest  gives contestants 24 hours to write a 100-word story in an assigned genre, featuring an assigned action, and using an assigned word in the text. A word counter rejects any story greater than 100 words, "be it but so much as makes it light or heavy in the substance or the division of the twentieth part of one poor scruple." Okay, not quite, Portia. But 101 words gets rejected. And it doesn't allow formatting like italics, which means emphasis really has to come through the word choices themselves.

So I brainstormed, then wrote a first draft of 250 words. After that, it was all cut, cut, cut. Though I'd never tried my hand at this kind of microfiction, my recent work editing down other manuscripts had me in the right frame of mind. Still, I had no expectations. It is an international contest, with over 7600 writers competing. Then last night, voila! The results came back and I was in the top 20, moving on to round 2 among 1600 writers. Now the pressure's on, I guess!

Round two starts tomorrow night, when they'll send me a new category, action, and word. The timing couldn't be better: my report cards are done, and tomorrow is the last day of school for teachers. My summer holiday begins perfectly: writing!

Here's my first-round submission, if you want to read it:


She entered and sat on the stool, a purple scar rounding her neck.
SoShe wasn’t dead. “Studio’s closed,” I said, pretending not to recognize her. Years had passed—did my beard disguise me?
“One quick photo?” She posed, then fingered her scar, smirking. “Maybe a retouch?”
I looked outside. Nobody. “Fine. One shot. Let me switch lenses.” And retrieve my gun. What alternative was there?
When my back turned, the entry bell jangled. She’d gone.
Her purse, however, remained.
“Gotcha. Tonight you die.”
I opened it, expecting her identification. Instead, greeting me with glistening fangs, a coiled viper hissed.