Category: The Craft of Writing Page 18 of 32

Posts about writing and tips for writers.

Smiling man writing on paper in a grassy field

Where to Submit Short Stories

Last week, we suggested three ways to celebrate Short Story Month. Maybe (we hope!) you’ve started writing your own short stories. Great! Now what? This week, we’d like to help you find places to submit short stories.


Whether you’re just starting to write short stories or have a cache of completed manuscripts, there’s a contest for you! The following list is only a sample of available contests. Follow the links to find more details and see whether one of these contests is a good fit. If not, try a quick online search to find other competitions.

  • Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction: The contest associated with this award was “established to encourage gifted emerging writers by bringing their work to a national readership.” The annual contest is open to published and unpublished writers who can submit “collections of short fiction.” The winner will receive $1,000, and the winning collection will be “published by the University of Georgia Press under a standard book contract.” Manuscripts may be submitted through 5:00 PM on May 31, 2018.
  • Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition: Up for a challenge? This contest, which awards prize money and publication, has an unusual twist: submitted stories must have “opening and closing lines . . . from a classic work of literature.” (Contest staff have already chosen the lines that writers must use.) Both winners and runners-up will receive awards. Submissions are accepted until 12:00 PM (PST) on June 4, 2018.
  • John Steinbeck Award for Fiction: Offered by Reed Magazine, this award is “for a work of fiction up to 5,000 words.” A prize of $1,000 will be given to the winner. Submissions are accepted from June 1 to November 1, 2018.
  • James Knudsen Prize for Fiction: Offered by Bayou Magazine, which publishes “exceptional, exciting work by both established and emerging writers,” this prize will be awarded for an “original, previously unpublished work of fiction, no longer than 7,500 words.” The winner will receive $1,000 and a year’s subscription to Bayou Magazine. Submissions are accepted from October 1, 2018, to January 1, 2019.

Interested in a contest but can’t submit your work by the contest’s deadline? Don’t give up yet! Some contests (like the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction) are held annually. Check the details about the contest you’re interested in, and use the extra time to finish polishing your manuscript and write new ones. You’ll be ready for next year!


Eager to publish your work? There are magazines online and in print that accept short stories. With some persistence, you may succeed. The magazines listed here are among those that accept short fiction.

  • One Story: Unusual in that it publishes only “one story at a time,” One Story publishes stories of 3,000 to 8,000 words. Specifically, the magazine seeks “stories that leave readers feeling satisfied and are strong enough to stand alone.” Submissions are open twice a year: from January 15 to May 31, and from September 1 to November 14.
  • NarrativeNarrative, a nonprofit organization, seeks to promote “reading across generations, in schools, and around the globe” by providing literature online, free of charge. There’s a small submission fee for unsolicited manuscripts. Each year, Narrative awards $4,000 for “the best short story, novel excerpt, poem, or work of literary nonfiction published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative.” Manuscripts are accepted “any time, year-round.”
  • Flash Fiction Online: Are you an author of very short stories? Flash Fiction Online, described here, accepts only those stories that have 500 to 1,000 words. This publication wants stories with “developed empathetic characters and discernible, resolved plots.” It accepts original, unpublished fiction and also publishes reprints, if you submit them in the proper category. Manuscripts are currently being accepted.

If you’ve written and polished short stories, don’t hide them away! With just a little research, you can find a competition or magazine that’s right for you.

Have some tips about competitions or magazines that accept short fiction? Share them in the comments!

One Brave Step Leads to Another: Sally Matheny’s Writing Journey

Sally Matheny leaning on a treeAs promised, here’s the full story of Sally Matheny’s writing progress, featured in our “Success Stories” announcement on April 9.

I attended my first Write2Ignite conference in March 2012. I remember that my enthusiasm for the adventure barely overrode my terror. At the time, I didn’t have writer friends who wrote for children. Feeling quite inadequate, I went alone.

Taking that one brave step opened the floodgates in my writing journey. Here is a sampling of the blessings:

  • I forged friendships with writers I still hold dear today.
  • I connected with an editor from Clubhouse Jr. In a fifteen-minute session, I showed her the first picture book manuscript I had written. She offered kind and helpful advice. That particular manuscript still sits in my filing cabinet. However, I later wrote two articles published by Clubhouse Jr. It took roughly a year of edits for each of them before reaching publication. It was a long learning process, which grew me as a writer.
  • After that first conference, I decided to write an article on a high school student making her first Christian film. I had a question I couldn’t find an answer for, so I contacted W2I workshop presenter Bill Reeves (founder of Working Title Agency). I had not taken his workshop, but I had mustered the courage to introduce myself to as many people as possible, including him. Not only did Bill answer my question, but he also opened a door of opportunity I had not expected. He offered an interview. After much prayer to overcome my fear of inadequacy, I conducted the interview. Taking that one step, I found I relish interviewing people and sharing their stories. It was the first of many interviews to come. It also grew my confidence to approach other people and initiate conversations, some of which have been catalysts of further writing projects.
  • Although my article on the young filmmaker was rejected, and although it sat in my files for several months, I tweaked it and submitted it to AppleSeeds, which published it.
  • After that first W2I conference, I sent a thank-you note to the W2I director. Further conversations followed, as well as an invitation to serve on the W2I Leadership Team.
  • Serving on the W2I Leadership Team educated me in the many aspects of writing, including publishing and marketing. I learned a great deal from the excellent leadership team as well as from those who presented workshops. Using my newfound love for interviewing, I conversed with writers, editors, writing instructors, and publishers. Wow! Talk about a blessing! I learned a lot, and friendships blossomed from many interviews.
  • One of the people God brought into my path during that first conference was Kim Peterson. Through her practical, hands-on writing instruction, I felt as though I had been given several shiny new tools to add to my writing toolbox. Years later, I’m still learning from her expertise and mentorship. We’ve become great writing friends.

Two main things made my first W2I conference meaningful to me: an even blend of the Christian atmosphere and the quality of instruction. If there were only the Christian atmosphere, I’d have been at a wonderful revival but would have left without furthering my writing skills. If there were only quality instruction, I would have left not fully understanding the call God had placed on my life. I would have missed the wonderful encouragement of and growing friendships with fellow believers. Write2Ignite is a huge blessing that has been instrumental in the training and focus of my writing journey.

I highly recommend the Write2Ignite Conference. Take that one brave step—even if you must come without a friend. Because if you do, not only will you leave with a bundle of fantastic instruction and inspiration, but you’ll also come away with a batch of rich friendships as well.

A freelance writer and blogger, Sally Matheny has published in numerous online and print publications, including AppleSeeds, Clubhouse Jr., Homeschooling Today, Practical Homeschooling, and The Old SchoolhouseSpeaking at events for women, children, and married couples, Sally enjoys encouraging them to be strong and courageous as they grow in their faith. A former public-school teacher, Sally has homeschooled for over fifteen years. In addition, she teaches history and creative writing classes to homeschool groups. She leads a NC junior historian club in association with the NC Museum of History. She and her bi-vocational pastor-husband have three children and one grandchild. They live in the foothills of North Carolina.

Connect with Sally via her blog (, on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on Facebook.

Who Needs a Write2Ignite Critique?

If you’re fairly new to the writing business or trying out a different genre, you may wonder whether you’re doing it right. Or maybe you have a story that you feel is almost—but not quite—working, and you’re not sure why. What’s a writer needing a professional opinion and guidance to do? Get a professional critique, of course!

We at Write2Ignite offer you two options, depending on the time of year:

  • Two-for-One Critiques are available from October 1 to June 15. The fee of $45 gets one story critiqued by two professional members of our faculty (see page limits at the bottom of this page).
  • Our Conference Critiques are available from June 1 to the beginning of September. (See “send by” dates in the chart below.) These are only for registered conferees and include a face-to-face fifteen-minute meeting at the Write2Ignite conference with a pro you chose to critique your work (see page limits at the bottom of this page). The fee is $35 per manuscript.

Each critique will give you a thorough review of the strengths and weaknesses of your writing, offer suggestions for improvement, and help you identify potential markets.

A key is included below the following chart to help you interpret abbreviations in the chart.

Check or Money Order:

If mailing a check or money order, make it payable to Write2Ignite. Please send the check to the address that will be given to you after you email your material to Brenda Covert.

Manuscript Format

Type all manuscripts in double-spaced, 12-pt. font, standard manuscript format. Include your name, the title of your piece, and the page number on each of your manuscript’s pages. (See page limit below.)

Please bring a copy of your material to the conference appointment!

Type of Manuscript

NOTE: All manuscripts should be 12 point type, Times New Roman, double-spaced (unless otherwise noted), with one-inch margins.

  • Young adult/middle grade novel—One page query or synopsis (single-spaced) and the first pages of the manuscript (double-spaced). Ten pages TOTAL.
  • Nonfiction book—Chapter outline, proposal and/or query letter (single-spaced) and the first pages of the manuscript (double-spaced). Ten pages TOTAL.
  • Picture book—Complete manuscript up to 1,000 words
  • Early reader/chapter book—First chapters up to 10 pages
  • Nonfiction article—1,200 word limit
  • Short story—1,200 word limit
  • Poetry—5 poems equal 1 critique; 40-line limit for each poem
  • Devotional—500-word limit each; up to 4 devotionals per paid critique
  • Curriculum-–A table of contents and 2–5 chapters; up to 10 pages
  • Activity book/pages—Up to 10 pages



Image by jppi

A New Take on Avoiding Writer’s Block

Today’s guest blogger, author Max Elliot Anderson, writes fictional adventure stories for middle-grade readers. When you read his techniques for keeping writer’s block at bay, you’ll get an inkling of the zaniness, action, and humor essential for keeping his young audience, especially boys, engaged!

I have to say that writer’s block, or blank-screen-itis, has never visited my writing. And this is true after completing nearly forty manuscripts. But maybe I cheat the system a little. Here’s how.

I write action-adventures and mysteries especially for middle grade readers, eight and up. Before I begin writing a story, it’s been percolating in my mind for a couple of weeks at least. Finally, the whole thing comes crashing in all at once. It’s at this time that I stop what I’m doing, pick up a recorder, and briefly tell myself the story, just as if I were telling it to a group of kids or to my own children when they were young. After doing this, I know the beginning, the middle, and the end.

This gets typed and usually runs eight to ten single-spaced pages. The notes are put into a file and set aside. I don’t look at those notes again until the first draft is finished. I write as I go when it comes to the manuscript. It is only after that first draft is finished that I ever look at it or the original notes. I’m always amazed to see that all the elements of the original story have found their way into the first draft. That has never failed yet.

Then, to get myself into the mood to write, I make sure to do a few things. Around my computer I place several photographs and any props that will help me think about the story and characters. Once, I was writing about the Pacific Northwest and logging. I went out and caught a chipmunk in a drain spout and placed him in a small cage with cedar chips. At the end of the day, I let him go, but I wasn’t finished with the sequences in the woods. So the next day, I went out and caught another one. The sight of the chipmunk and the scent of the cedar helped set the mood.

The next thing I do is to always burn a candle next to the computer. I do this only while writing. I never do it during brainstorming, editing, research, or reading a draft. The candle helps take me to a different place.

Finally, I play mood-appropriate music for the scene I’m writing. If it’s a funny scene, I play comedy. A sad scene requires a single piano or violin. The music brings specific images into my mind as I write.

One more thing.

If I’m writing about a hot place, I like to write in the summer with the air off. If it’s a winter scene, I try to write that scene when it’s actually winter. I have written hot scenes in the winter, but that’s when I crank the heat way up high. I may have to stop doing that with the economy getting so shaky.

All of these elements, working together, go a long way toward setting the mood, conjuring up the proper images, suggesting dialog, and preparing the way to write. And using them, I have never faced a block of any kind. Not yet, anyway.


With recommendations from Jerry B. Jenkins and Bill Myers, Max Elliot Anderson draws on his experience in “dramatic film, video, and TV commercial production” to create exciting middle-grade adventures and mysteries for readers eight and up. Author of the Sam Cooper Adventures series and the Accidental Adventures series, Max has just released six additional middle-grade adventure and mystery books through Book Club Network. You can read more about Max at his blog:



Featured image by thegeometricfox

“Christian Overtakes Faithful”: The Allure of Vanity Fair in Children’s Writing (in the Era of the Selfie)


Shortly before they enter Vanity Fair, Evangelist meets the pilgrims to give them a prophetic message about the dangers they will face there. Bunyan’s narrator follows this warning with the reminder that Christian and Faithful cannot avoid this test of faith, for “their way to the [Celestial] city lay through this town”; leaving “the way” was not an option, but biblical instruction, with Evangelist’s parting exhortation, helps fortify them against temptation:

“Let nothing that is on this side the other world get within you, and above all, look well to your own hearts, . . . ‘for they are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked’; set your faces like a flint; you have all power in Heaven and earth on your side.”

Disillusionment with worldly pleasure emerges in Ecclesiastes, with its refrain “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Christian and Faithful encounter Vanity Fair, Bunyan’s embodiment of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Visitors are constantly called to sample the city’s merchandise and recreational activities to gain public approval. The pilgrims’ refusal infuriates the residents, who accuse them of either being mad or deliberately undermining society with their claim that instead of the fair’s wares, they will buy only “the truth.”

Testing in Vanity Fair begins with mocking, which both men answer gently and persistently. When some residents begin to recognize that their townsmen are lodging “baseless” accusations, the enraged majority incite more extreme persecution: imprisonment, torture, and a trial with life at stake.

How can we communicate the concept of vanity to children? What in a child’s world may be examples of vanity? Materialism is one form. Being targeted by advertisers to want the newest game or toy is a concept we can help children understand, analyze, and start applying critical thinking to. On a less superficial level, we might discuss what children value most and what things are really irreplaceable, using the example of a house destroyed by fire or flood. Toys can be replaced, but a special photo, craft, or original comfort item, such as a favorite blanket, may not be.

Sheltering children from bad news is a luxury, but is it the best biblical model? Children in many parts of the world face uncertain and harsh conditions: famine, religious persecution, war, or displacement as refugees. In the U.S., weather-related disasters, shootings, and other high-profile events confront us in news broadcasts, in newspaper headlines, on magazine covers, and in Internet photos. Knowing how much of this reality to share with children of different ages is difficult. Informing them of dangers and losses that children experience in places like Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq may help them resist the Vanity Fair mindset which leads our first-world culture to seek increasingly self-indulgent lifestyles.

This is not to say that an occasional visit to a county fair or theme park is bad. Stories for today’s children need to include scenes of fun activities while building core values of healthy home and family life; interaction with and care for people; acquisition of important skills and knowledge; and especially, knowledge and love of God. Yet in this world, children as well as adults will “have tribulation.” They may experience loss of a home, a family member, a diseased or injured limb, a pet, a friendship, a favorite toy, a neighborhood or school due to family moves. They may face dangers including bullying or cyberbullying, molestation, substance abuse, gender confusion, and depression. Children may be victims or perpetrators. In a perfect world, they would never experience any of these evils, but we do not live in that world.

We think of today’s world as more dangerous and violent than Bunyan’s 17th century, but that’s probably not the case. In a time when public executions existed; when Bunyan himself was jailed multiple times for preaching; when lack of his income endangered his family and his wife begged his judges to release him; when meetings of “dissenting” believers were subject to sudden invasion and arrest by authorities, with trap doors for pastors to avoid their being seen entering or leaving the buildings;* children witnessed firsthand governmental and societal conflict as well as problems like poverty, disease, natural disaster, and crime.

Bunyan’s allegory incorporates elements necessary to form the character and commitment of a follower of Jesus Christ:

  • Clear, effective communication of doctrine—biblical truth attached to each episode of the story
  • Values (attitudes, behavior, responses to temptation or attack) based on the Bible principle
  • Repentance and confession when characters sin, forgetting biblical instruction
  • Encouragement (“edifying”) at key moments to prepare characters for trials to come
  • Coping skills to help characters whose natural response might be fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, or denying faith in order to fit in or avoid persecution

Bunyan leads his characters to understand, define, and demonstrate “HEART-WORK”—the difference between saying and doing, head knowledge versus heart knowledge. Christian and Faithful don’t just “Talk the Talk” of faith (like Talkative, the character they leave behind before Evangelist prepares them for Vanity Fair) but “Walk the Walk,” as they will need to there. Faith, not just a slogan or a proposition, must be lived out, as they do in this climactic chapter. By remembering everything they have learned from the Bible, Holy Spirit interpretation, and previous trials and errors, they not only maintain their integrity during the “testing of [their] faith” but also show the faith so persuasively that some in Vanity Fair become believers.

Do we help children acquire knowledge, coping skills and values, preparing them to respond appropriately to temptations, difficulties, and tragedies? Not every story will treat these hard subjects—but some must.

Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress in the Similitude of a Dream. 1678. All quotations from the online pdf at the website © Desiring God 2014.

Piper, John. “To Live Upon God Who Is Invisible: The Life of John Bunyan.” 2014.


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