Winner’s Wreath (Tuesday Tales Entry)
by Wakefield Mahon

Strolling around the botanical gardens, we finally arrived at the bench Sally had been so excited to see.
“Is this it, Sally? I told you I would take you anywhere.”
“At least I’ll have a wreath of ivy over my head.” Sally smiled up at me. The gold medal I’d bought for her glinted in the late afternoon sun as I helped her to the bench.
A broken handle on a pummel horse had ended her Olympic dreams, but it was the infection from the botched surgery that was killing her.
“Thank you, Daddy!” She coughed and closed her eyes.

Just Like Brave (Menage Monday entry)
by Wakefield Mahon

After watching “Brave”, she wondered, “How hard could it be?” Meredith stole her father’s archery set and took off on the horse Daddy gave his” Little Princess” for her thirteenth birthday four years ago.

Ivory was a great horse and Meredith could stay in the saddle while shooting arrows, until she kept her attention on a target too long and missed the branch coming at her. The branch yanked her off the horse leaving scratches on her face.

She remounted her horse and an arrow whistled past her right ear. Ivory dashed off before she even said a word. Meredith clung to her horse as he raced through the woods, but the sound of another set of hoof beats crept closer.

Another round of arrows flew by as Ivory burst into the open meadow. A single strand of hair fell down unnoticed. “Obviously, we’re playing for keeps Ivory.”

Meredith sat up, turned around and took aim in one smooth motion. She let the arrow fly before she even recognized the target. “Father!”

Her father jumped down off his steed, her arrow in his hand. “Excellent work, my little princess; you’ll be ready to take back your true father’s kingdom soon!”

200 words

What a great start to "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 9!  This year's dancers are all phenomenal and the choreographers are stepping it up from Day One.  It is really hard to pick a stand-out with so many great performances but here are the dances and dancers that struck me:

Favorite Choreography

Travis Wall's Titanic love scene reminded me of Mia Michaels' award winning bench scene danced by Travis and Heidi.  It was beautiful and passionate and fit perfectly with the music.  The leaping lift was amazing.
Other memorable routines include Tyce Diorio's Hairspray and NappyTabs' battle with the bottle

Favorite Female Performances

Amelia Lowe is a natural in any Jazz routine and the part of an alley cat plays to her talents.  Her personality grabs your attention and her lithe body and crisp movements seal the deal.

Bellydancer Janelle Issis keeps a licking and keeps on ticking.  Her African jazz routine found her thrown around like a rag doll.  Her flexibility and control and believability make her a strong contender in this competition.

Favorite Male Performances

Cole Horibe:  Not since Joshua Allen have I been so excited to watch a male dancer perform Latin ballroom.  Cole owned the stage from the first second of the performance and never let go.

Cyrus Spencer:  This street dancer doesn't have the best form or technique, but he has something no amount of training can teach.  He has heart.  You can feel his sincere desire to perform any style the show throws at him with at the highest level possible.
A trunk story is a story you wrote a while back but never sold.  Generally it carries the negative connotation of something that should be given up on.  So it amused me to no end when Infective Ink provided the prompt: "Locked in the trunk of a car".
Based on that prompt, I wrote a new (sorry, I didn't have any of those in my rejections folder) story speculating who and why someone would be locked in a trunk.

To my wonder and amusement, the story was accepted and became my first paying story this year.  If you've got a moment, check it out and feel free to leave a comment.

Remember my friends, no matter how deep your slump, you will eventually rise again, as long as you keep writing my friends!
I was talking with a friend from the flash fiction circuit about contests and our desire to win at least an honorable mention with every entry.  As the discussion continued, I identified a few parallels with traditional short story publishing.  If you’re new to “writing for real” or if you’re a veteran and just need the reminder, I hope you find these helpful.

You Can’t Win ‘Em All

The most important and hardest thing to get through your ego-charged brain is that rejection is an integral part of writing.  For the most part, even established novelists don’t automatically get a green light for every book they dream up. There might be quality issues, and I’ll get into that later, but you have to understand, every judge and every publisher has different tastes.  Does everyone you know love country music? How about rap or rock?  Some people don’t even like music. *shiver*

The second piece to remember is very few people would want to read the exact same writer every single day.  Would you really like to eat the same dish for every meal and listen to the same song over and over and over again on the radio?  Probably not; variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

Read the [Fine] Manual

RTFM comes from the habit of individuals to start on a project and wonder why they get stuck after ignoring the instructions.  Read the rules of the competition.  Does it say less than 100 words or exactly 100 words?  How is the prompt expected to be used? 

The same goes for publications.  If the publisher only accepts hard sci-fi set on other planets, don’t send your Victorian romance or pulp detective story.  You’re wasting your time (since most markets don’t allow simultaneous submissions) and theirs.  If the editor asks for standard format, use it!  If the editor wants hot pink Monotype Corsiva in font size 43, make the adjustment.

Edit Revise & Edit Some More

Here’s a piece that even veteran writers often dread.  Make sure you at least read over your entry before you hit send.  We all make the occasional typo, but if a judge has to work hard to understand what you are even trying to get across, the chances of your winning are slim.

This is even more important with publishing.  Editors receive anywhere from dozens to hundreds of entries a day.  Don’t give the editor an easy reason to reject your story.  Spell check, grammar check, weed out overused words.  White-washing won’t turn a donkey into a stallion, but if you have two horses to choose from and only one is clean, what are you going to buy?

I’ve Heard It Before

You’ve followed the directions, you’ve written a well-crafted and carefully edited story and you still can’t get a nibble.  Fifty people can interpret a prompt in fifty different ways.   They can also interpret it in the same way.

Strange Horizons has a list  of story ideas which have been used many times before: http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common.shtml

Throw out your first impression, everyone had that impression.  Open your mind to the possibilities. Push yourself to discover your own distinct voice and the story that is uniquely yours

No you can’t win them all, but if you keep writing, you will win some and at some point you might just surprise yourself.  If you're ready to practice, come join Motivation Monday.