Keeping You A-Prized

2nd Runner-up: ‘All our Swains Commend Her’ by Mitchell J Toews

“What I thought the most while reading this one for the first time was: ‘This must have taken so long to write!’ Every sentence is packed with detail and not a word is spared. A highly skilled piece of writing with a lot to say about the way we live and how we treat one another. Can’t believe such a short piece of writing left me with such memorable characters and so much to think about!” — Raven Contest Judge Leo X Robertson

Part of my writing routine is to enter literary contests. It’s an imperfect venue but offers some advantages in the immense ocean of strung-together words that English-speaking creative writing is today, in the internet age. Plus, there are unique benefits to prizes, like… well, prizes!

Before I began publically calling myself a writer (and changed my signature from Mitch to Mitchell because it sounded sooo much more writerly) I had a hot streak going. I entered every “Send us a 100-word essay on what makes our spindrift calibrators the best in the market and win a free JUICER!” contest: that kind of thing. My pinnacle was winning a new Animal wristwatch when my piece about losing my last Animal watch in Jessica Lake took top honours.

Another unique benefit of story contests is the vanity aspect. Self-confidence, joh? Just like getting your essay pinned up on the bulletin board by Miss Hildebrand in Grade Four (see my C-V for details), I find an undeniable allure in “grabbing some podium.” (A phrase which sounds like something you’d get thrown out of a strip bar for doing.)

Anyway, as the universe’s lone marketing advocate for Mitchell J. Toews, Writer and Animal Watch Loser, I hereby announce that the aforementioned writer, MJT, has grabbed some PULP podium. (Again, I admit there’s something off about that would-be idiom. I’ll workshop it with the gang down at Animal.)

The podium—corvid podium, no less—is as follows:

The PULP Literature 2023 Raven Short Story Contest

Catriona Sandilands with ‘Revolutions’ WINNER
Alison Stevenson with ‘Foam’ 1st RUNNER UP
Mitchell Toews with ‘All Our Swains Commend Her’ 2nd RUNNER UP
Kevin Sandefur with ‘Marty’ Honourable Mention

Still here? You must be procrastinating about something. (I am one who knows.) Well, to enable your delay tactics, here is a list of my Greatest Hits from the literary contest and prize bandstand:

“So Are They All” — short story, Second Place in the Adult Fiction category of the Write on the Lake Contest, (Ca) 2016 ISSN: 1710-1239

“Fall from Grace” — short story, Honourable Mention in The Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Memoirs Contest, (US) 2016

“The Phage Match” — short story, Finalist in Broken Pencil’s (Ca) annual Deathmatch Contest, 2016

“Cave on a Cul-de-sac” — short story, Winner in The Hayward Fault LineDoorknobs & Bodypaint Issue 93 Triannual Themed Flash Contest, (US) 2018 

“I am Otter” — short story, CommuterLit (Ca), Runner-up in for Flash Fiction Feature, 2018

“Sweet Caporal at Dawn” — short story, nominated by Blank Spaces for a PUSHCART PRIZE, 2019

“Piece of My Heart” — a 750-word or less flash fiction was named “Editors’ Choice” in the 2020 Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest from Pulp Literature Press (Ca)

“The Margin of the River” — short story, nominated by Blank Spaces for a PUSHCART PRIZE, 2020

“Fetch” — short story, one of 11 finalists in a national field of over 800 entries: The Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition for Emerging Writers, (Ca), 2021

“Sweet Caporal” has been nominated by Rivanna Review, Charlottesville, Va. for a PUSHCART PRIZE, 2021

“The Rabid,” finalist in the 2022 PULP Literature Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest, (Ca)

The 2022 J. F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction (US). This open competition drew over 400 submissions from around the world from writers in all stages of career development. “The Spring Kid,” was one of 28 longlist finalists and later advanced to the shortlist.

“The Mighty Hartski”: 2022 longlist for the Humber Literary Review/Creative Nonfiction Collective Society (CNFC) Canada-wide CNF contest

“Winter in the Sandilands” was named to the longlist for the 2022 PULP Literature Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest, (Ca) Mitchell’s story, “Luck!” was on the shortlist in this same contest.

Several of these award-winners (highlighted in the list above) will be part of the forthcoming 2023 short story collection from At Bay Press, “Pinching Zwieback: Made-up stories from the Darp”

Canada-wide Creative Nonfiction Contest

Thanks, danke seea, to the Humber Literary Review and the Creative Nonfiction Collective for placing my story, “The Mighty Hartski” on the longlist for this year’s contest. A blintering, stellar array of writers and me, happy to be in this stacked stack.

Shortlist in early June. The winner will be announced at the CNFC annual conference. Bonne Chance to all the finalists.

“Rommedriewe!”

Dappled Thoughts

Image: James Farl Powers, 1917-1999

Dappled Things has announced the finalists for its 2022 J.F. Powers Prize for Fiction, and I am one of the 28 authors selected.

“Well, now,” I said to myself, “I sometimes do interviews with other writers. Why not do one with me? An auto-interview?”

So here it is, with inspiration from interview subjects near and far, young and old, Catholic and Mennonite…

What drew you to this contest?

That is an excellent question. You are not only handsome but wise. Okay, here’s what Dappled Things say about the content they seek for the periodical.

“People fascinate us; sin bores us. Beauty amazes us; surface concerns leave us cold. Experience intoxicates us; world-weariness makes us yawn.”

That appealed to my sense of loftiness. Of aiming high. So that’s what I did — with the story and with the submission.

Were you, a Mennonite, concerned by the fact that the publication and the J.F. Powers contest are sponsored by an organization that is “Wholeheartedly Catholic?” Did this fact change your approach to the story?

Not concerned, as much as intrigued. In my experience in South Eastern Manitoba where disparate small towns dot the farmland, there are many predominantly Mennonite, Lutheran, Catholic, and Ukrainian places. Despite coming from distinctly homogenous communities, each with its own dominant religion, people somehow always end up mingling. Whether it is through work, play, school or — inevitably — romance, intersections are created and blending results. Not right away, but over time. I saw this many times in my own family and beyond.

In this way, my story about a mixed Catholic and Mennonite family with a close sibling relationship between two of the children seemed to be a natural fit for the ethos of Dappled Things and the J.F. Powers Prize.

Did it change my approach? No. In fact, the merging of two, I would say, strong faiths, plus the fact that the early “Mennists” grew out of the Catholic religion makes the religious undercurrent in the story a strengthening factor and one that adds an interesting complexity.

Does religion play a major role in your story?

No. Religion is there, the same way the Manitoba prairie is there, to offer context and grounding. In fact, I can’t see how the story could have “got out of its own way” if religion would have been the central theme. I wanted the characters’ inner humanity and the always present tension between our selfish desires and our innate generosity and compassion towards others to be the core conflict. Describing where that generosity comes from is not part of my authorial responsibility. I’m just there to tell a clear story and let the reader find in it what they may.

So… you have a chance?

Nah. Like a platter of Niejoahsch’kuake1 in the church basement on Christmas Eve, I will be long gone after the first wave. The writers in this prize are the Iowa Writers’ Workshop types, The Paris Review essayists, the ones who put the “Masters” in MFA.

And yet?

Yes, and yet if I read my story, I know there is always hope.

1 New Year fritters. Deep-fried, dusted with icing sugar, sinfully good.

Third Time’s a Charm?

[…] From Wikipedia: The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize published by Pushcart Press that honors the best “poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot” published in the small presses over the previous year. Magazine and small book press editors are invited to submit works they have featured. Anthologies of the selected works have been published annually since 1976. It is supported and staffed by volunteers.

The founding editors were Anaïs NinBuckminster FullerCharles NewmanDaniel HalpernGordon LishHarry SmithHugh FoxIshmael ReedJoyce Carol Oates, Len Fulton, Leonard Randolph, Leslie FiedlerNona BalakianPaul BowlesPaul EngleRalph EllisonReynolds Price, Rhoda Schwartz, Richard Morris, Ted Wilentz, Tom Montag, Bill Henderson and William Phillips.

* * *

My story, “Sweet Caporal” about a morning of fishing on Big Whiteshell Lake has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Editor Robert Boucheron on behalf of the quarterly literary journal, Rivanna Review, of Charlottesville, Va.

This is my third Pushcart nomination, the first from a U.S. periodical. It is the second time a version of “Sweet Caporal” has been nominated.

Detailed C-V

MITCHELL TOEWS: A big list…

 ONLINE ADDRESSES

Mitchellaneous.com
@Mitchell_Toews
Author pages on Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn

 CURRICULUM-VITAE

Updated 10.15.22

EDUCATION

University of Victoria (1974-75)
University of Winnipeg (1975-77, dangerously close to a B.A. in Sociology)
Masters Certificate in Marketing Communication Management, York University (2001)
“So You Want To Write Indigenous Characters…” Manitoba Writers’ Guild (2019)

 ASSOCIATIONS/MEMBERSHIPS

Member — Manitoba Writers’ Guild
Professional Artist — as designated by Manitoba Arts Council
New/Early Career Artist — as designated by Canada Council for the Arts

Past Member — Winnipeg Public Library’s Prose Writing Circle, led by Winnipeg Public Library Writer in Residence Carolyn Gray (2019-2020)
Past Member — The Sunday Writers Group, led by Donna Besel (Lac du Bonnet, MB)
Member — WriteRamble, led by Lauren Carter, Winnipeg Public Library Writer in Residence, 2020-2021
Member — Write Clicks, a Winnipeg River/Winnipeg city alliance: a critique circle formed in 2021
Member — Winnipeg River Arts Council
Member — The Writers’ Union of Canada

 PUBLISHED WORKS

2016: 16 short stories | 15 online, 2 paid print, 9 Canada, 6 UK, 1 US

2017: 20 short stories | all online, 4 Ca, 1 India, 7 UK, 8 US.

Note: 2017 short stories Include: Best of Fiction on the Web: 1996-2017 ISBN: 9780992693916 (ISBN10: 9780992693, ISBN13:9780992693) and The Machinery: Fauna ISBN: 9781544723266.

2018: 14 short stories, 1 interview, 1 podcast (audio) | 1 paid print, 3 unpaid print, 6 Ca, 4 UK, 1 Ireland, 5 US

“I am Otter” — short story, CommuterLit (Ca)

“Fall From Grace”, short story, Literally Stories (UK) (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Of a Forest Silent” — short story, Alsina Publishing LingoBites (UK – English and Spanish)

“City Lights” — short story, Literally Stories (UK)

“The Bottom of the Sky” — short story, Fiction on the Web (UK)

“In the Dim Light Beyond the Fence” — short story, riverbabble (US) (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Nothing to Lose” — short story, riverbabble (US) (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Shade Tree Haven” — short story, Doorknobs & Bodypaint (US)

“Sweet Caporal at Dawn” — short story, Blank Spaces (Ca), paid print

“Sweet Caporal at Dawn” — short story, Just Words, Volume 2 Anthology (Ca), print ISBN: 9781775279273 (ISBN10:1775279278)

“Away Game” — short story, Pulp Literature (Ca), paid print

“Groota Pieter” — short story, River Poets Journal, Special Themed Edition, “The Immigrants” Anthology (US), print (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Five Questions for Mitchell Toews” — interview, Mennotoba (Ca)

“The Narrowing” — short story, Scarlet Leaf Review (Ca) (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Wide Winter River” — podcast, Not Ready for Prime Time (US)

2019: 14 short stories, 1 interview, 1 CNF essay | 1 paid online, 1 paid print, 2 unpaid print, 3 Ca, 2 UK, 1 Australia, 3 Iran, 8 US

“The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine” — short story, Literally Stories (UK)

“The Toboggan Run” — short story, The MOON magazine (US) (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Peacemongers” — short story, The MOON magazine: “Out of This World” Anthology The Best Short Stories from the MOON (US), Volume 1, print ISBN: 9781078315326 (ISBN10: ‎1078315329, ISBN13: ‎978-1078315326) (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Cave on a Cul-de-sac” — short story, The Hayward Fault Line, Doorknobs & Bodypaint (US) Issue 93

“Din and the Wash Bear” — short story, The Hayward Fault Line, Doorknobs & Bodypaint (US) Issue 95

“Died Rich” — short story, Fabula Argentea (US), Issue #27, paid (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“I am Otter” — short story, Short Tales – Flash Fiction Stories (Iran)

“Away Game” — short story, Short Tales – Flash Fiction Stories (Iran)

 “4Q Interview with Author Mitchell Toews” — interview and excerpt from WIP novel, “Mulholland and Hardbar”, South Branch Scribbler (Ca)

“Concealment” — short story, Me First Magazine (US)

“Groota Pieter” — short story, Pact Press (Australia), “We Refugees” Anthology, print

“Fast and Steep” — short story, Riddle Fence (Ca), Issue 34, paid print

“Holthacka’s Quandary” — short story, Lunate Fiction (UK)

“Shade Tree Haven” — short story, (mac)ro(mic) (US)

“My Writing Day” — CNF essay, my (small press) writing day (Ca)

“Our German Relative” — short story, Xmas Stories (Iran)

2020: 11 short stories, 2 CNF essays, 1 interview | 6 print, 1 paid online, 2 paid print, 5 Canada, 3 UK, 4 US

“The Business of Saving Souls” — short story, Literally Stories (UK)

“The Log Boom” — short story, in “A Fork in the Road,” 2019 Special Theme Edition Anthology of River Poets Journal (US), print

“Encampment” — short story, Tiny Seed Journal (US)

“Regrets de Foie Gras”— short story, Literally Stories (UK), May 2020

“The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon” — short story, Agnes and True (Ca), paid online, Summer 2020 (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“My Life as a Corkscrew” — a CNF essay “On Writing” in Blank Spaces (Ca), June 2020, print

“Piece of My Heart” — short story, Pulp Literature, (Ca), paid print

“Away Game” — short story, Quail Bell Magazine, (US), paid print

Interview — Maysam Kandej Talks (Iran), https://maysam.id.ir/talks online, August 2020

“My Life as a Corkscrew” — a CNF essay “On Writing” in the Just Voices anthology (Ca), September 2020, print ISBN: 9781999290375 (ISBN10: 1999290372)

“The Sunshine Girl” — short story, Cowboy Jamboree Magazine (US), Fall 2020 (John Prine Tribute issue), print and online (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Died Rich” — short story, Fiction on the Web (UK), September 2020

“Baloney, Hot Mustard and Metal Filings” — short story, WordCity Monthly (Ca-Intl), September 2020 (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Our German Relative” — short story, WordCity Monthly (Ca-Intl), December 2020

2021: 8 short stories, 2 interviews | 1 paid print, 4 Canada, 4 UK, 2 US

“Interview with Contributor Mitchell Toews” — Blank Spaces (Ca), January 8, 2020

“So Are They All” — short story and interview, Literally Stories (UK), February 14, 2021(“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Fast and Steep” — short story, CommuterLit “Love Stories,” (Ca), February 14, 2021

“The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon” — short story, Literally Stories (UK), March 9, 2021

“Fast and Steep” — short story, Fiction on the Web (UK), March 29, 2021

“Featured Artist — Mitch Toews” Winnipeg River Arts Council, the interview was written by Donna Besel (Ca), June 2021

“The Log Boom” — short story, WordCity Monthly (Ca-Intl), July 2021

“In the Dim Light Beyond the Fence” — short story, The Twin Bill (US), July 13, 2021

“Sweet Caporal” — short story, Rivanna Review (US), September, paid print

“Fast and Steep” — short story, Fenechty Anthology (UK), print

2022: 12 flash/short stories, 1 poem | 5 paid print, 3 royalty agreements, 4 US, 8 Canada, 1 Intl

“Hundred Miles an Hour” — short story, Rivanna Review, (US), paid print, March 2022

“Piece of My Heart” — short story, Miramichi Flash, (Ca), Spring/Summer 2022

“Downtown Diner” — short story, Cowboy Jamboree, (US), Bruce D’J Pancake Issue

“Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park” and “Shade Tree Haven” — Guernica Editions’ This Will Only Take a Minute: 100 Canadian Flashes, (Intl), a collective anthology edited by Bruce Meyer and Michael Mirolla, August 2022 ISBN: 9781771837514 (softcover) Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20220195986

“I am Otter” — short story, Lintusen Press “Small Shifts: Short Stories of Fantastical Transformation” edited by Shawn L. Bird, (Ca), anthology, royalties print, July 2022 https://books2read.com/Prose-by-Toews ISBN: 9781989642351 (ISBN10: 1989642357 ISBN13 9781989642351)

“Sanctuary Quandary” — short story, WordCity Monthly (Ca-Intl), July 2022

The flash fiction “New War — Old Technology” will appear in The Fieldstone Review (Ca), Fall 2022.

“No Strings” — short story, Bell Press “Framework of the Human Body” edited by Catherine Mwitta, (Ca), anthology, paid advance/royalties print, 2022. ISBN: TBA

“The Spring Kid” — short story, Macrina Magazine, (US, Intl), Summer 2022

“A Cultivated Halloween” — short story, CommuterLit (Ca), October 2022

“Sweet Caporal” — poem, WordCity Literary Journal (Intl) November 2022

“The Sewing Machine” — short story, Rivanna Review (US), paid print, December 2022

2023: 3 flash/short stories | 1 royalty agreement, 1 UK, 1 Aus, 1 Canada

“The Margin of the River” — short story, D.A. Cairns  “I Used to be an Animal Lover: An extraordinary and eclectic collection of short stories.” (Au), anthology, royalties print, 2023. ISBN AU: TBA

“Piece of My Heart” — short story, Literally Stories (UK), January 26, 2023

“All Our Swains Commend Her” — short story, PULP Literature (Ca). Spring, 2023

=========================================

TOTAL: 107 short stories/flash fiction/interviews/essays/poems/podcasts in total out of approximately 600 submissions.

 CONTESTS-PRIZES-AWARDS

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The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses is an annual award that has chosen stories for a prestigious anthology for the past 45 consecutive years. Mitchell has three PUSHCART PRIZE nominations (See below for details.)

“So Are They All” — short story, Second Place in the Adult Fiction category of the Write on the Lake (Ca) contest, 2016, paid print ISSN: 1710-1239

“Fall from Grace” — short story, Honourable Mention in The Writers’ Workshop of Asheville (US) Memoirs Contest, 2016

“The Phage Match” — short story, Finalist in Broken Pencil’s (Ca) annual “Deathmatch contest, 2016, print

“Cave on a Cul-de-sac” — short story, Winner in The Hayward Fault LineDoorknobs & Bodypaint Issue 93 Triannual Themed Flash contest, 2018 

“I am Otter” — short story, CommuterLit (Ca), Runner-up in for Flash Fiction Feature, 2018

“Sweet Caporal at Dawn” — short story, nominated by Blank Spaces for a PUSHCART PRIZE, 2019, print

“Piece of My Heart” — a 750-word or less flash fiction was named “Editors’ Choice” in the 2020 Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest from Pulp Literature Press, paid print

“The Margin of the River” — short story, nominated by Blank Spaces for a PUSHCART PRIZE, 2020, print

“Fetch” — short story, one of 11 finalists in a national field of over 800 entries: The Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition for Emerging Writers (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Sweet Caporal” has been nominated by Rivanna Review, Charlottesville, Va. for a PUSHCART PRIZE, 2021, print

“The Rabid,” finalist in the 2022 PULP Literature Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest. (750-word max.)

The 2022 J. F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction. This Open competition drew over 400 submissions from around the world from writers in all stages of career development. “The Spring Kid,” was one of 28 longlist finalists and later advanced to the shortlist.

“The Mighty Hartski”: 2022 longlist for the Humber Literary Review/Creative Nonfiction Collective Society (CNFC) Canada-wide CNF contest (“Pinching Zwieback” 2023)

“Winter in the Sandilands” was named to the longlist for the 2022 PULP Literature Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest. Mitch’s story, “Luck!” was on the shortlist in this same contest.

“All Our Swains Commend Her” 2nd Runner-Up in the 2022 PULP Literature Raven Short Story Contest.

 FUNDING

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Manitoba Arts Council, June 30, 2020. Financial support for the creation of a unique Manitoba artbook, ekphrastic in nature and featuring artistic photography and short fictional stories. The theme is “People, Places, and Light”. Photography by collaborator, Phil Hossack. Project extended due to Covid 19 to July 1, 2022. Complete.

February 2022. Mitchell has been partnered with veteran, award-winning author Armin Wiebe, a mentor in The Writers’ Union of Canada Mentorship Microgrant program. Armin and Mitch will be reviewing Mitchell’s debut novel: “Mulholland and Hardbar” (“Fargo with Mennonite accents.”)

 READINGS

  • Voices Launch, McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, MB, 2016
  • PULP Literature Issue Launch, Vancouver, BC, 2017
  • Manitoba Writers’ Guild, Artspace, Winnipeg, MB, 2019
  • Prosetry, Jessica Lake, MB, 2019
  • Driedger Readings, Winnipeg, MB, 2019
  • Victoria Writers’ Society, AGM—Open mic, 2020
  • PULP Literature Reading Series, live internet April 24, 2020
  • PULP Literature Issue 27 launch, live internet July 19, 2020
  • Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco, Cal, COVID-19 open mic, Zoom August 19, 2020
  • Just Voices Volume 4 virtual launch, recorded for September 26, 2020
  • PULP Literature Issue28 launch, live internet November 7, 2020
  • Rivanna Review editor Robert Boucheron reads an excerpt from the short story “Hundred Miles an Hour” on Charlottesville (VA) Cable Access TV, May 2022 https://bit.ly/100MPHat12min18
  • Read “Sweet Caporal” and “Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park” for an international Zoom audience organized by poet Fizza A. Rabbani (Fizza Abbas) https://www.facebook.com/fizzah.abas.9, May 2022
  • Prosetry, Jessica Lake, MB, 2022
  • Regular appearances on Manitoba Writers’ Guild monthly Zoom critique circle
  • Several readings are recorded here: https://bit.ly/proseBYtoewsYouTube

 WORK IN PROGRESS

A short story collection, “Pinching Zwieback” is underway (At Bay Press) and a spring 2023 release is expected. The collection comprises a range of loosely related stories focused on Mennonite experiences in the fictional prairie town of “Hartplatz” and elsewhere in the world.

“The truth, the whole truth, and anything but the truth.”

(NOTE: In the story listings above, those pieces selected for inclusion in “Pinching Zwieback” are, in their first appearance on the list, shown in blue.)

“Mulholland and Hardbar” — a WIP novel (“Fargo, with a Mennonite accent”)

“People, Places, Light” — an ekphrastic Manitoba artbook including original photography and short stories (Funded in part by The Manitoba Arts Council | Le conseil des arts du Manitoba.)

A number of new short stories are always on the go, being submitted to literary journals, contests, and anthologies.

“The Mismaloya”— a proposed novelette screenplay adaptation. Awaiting a collaborator.

FRIENDS & FOLLOWERS

  • Twitter 5,574
  • Facebook 5,000+
  • Goodreads 274 friends, 22 followers
  • LinkedIn 923
  • WordPress 218

PANELS

1.15.21 Mitchell Toews participated as an Artist Testifier for the Commission on Basic Income. This Ontario/Canadian (Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts) jointly-sponsored commission requested Mitch to “share your experience and thoughts with our commissioners and to inform their future report on the issue of Basic Income for Artists.”

A Fetching Tale

I have good news. “Fetch, a short story I submitted to THE WRITERS’ UNION OF CANADA was chosen from a pool of 785 contestants as a finalist in their 2021 Emerging Writer Short Prose Contest.

https://www.writersunion.ca/news/mirabelle-chiderah-harris-eze-s-dark-wins-2500-prize-short-prose-competition

Phew! Feels good to say it. This was my year to enter contests and I was getting a bit (okay, a lot) pouty faced about it. It’s not the not winning that is so bad (I’m lying, that is bad) it’s more the dreadful silence. Not a creaky cricket. Not a fractional decibel, just the buzzing silence that means, well, it means nothing.

So I did not actually win this nation-wide contest but I was recognized and their procedure is sufficiently difficult to make me crow a little. I can take it as a victory and move along.

Where and to what?

To my work-in-progress novel — thanks for asking — which is in the late stages of final edits, Beta readers, and getting down to the QUERY level. It’s a 85K-word lit fic called “Mulholland and Hardbar” and you’d describe it in a sentence as, “Fargo, with Mennonite accents.”

Next: A collection of short stories I’m querying. It’s a group of stories that run to the GRITTY end of the register and they’re about Mennonites, so, I have coined a category for it: “MennoGrit.” This short story collection includes the aforementioned most excellent story, “Fetch,” and a whole bunch of others, new and old, many that are EVEN BETTER. (Always be selling?)

🙂

Last in this trio of writing projects I have on the go is a new EKPHRASTIC ARTBOOK project, yet to begin officially, due to Covid. The Manitoba Arts Council (MAC | CAM) has funded its creation with a grant. My collaborator photographer partner Phil Hossack and I will begin soon with road trips and research on interesting Manitoba people and places. Being a Manitoba project, it will inevitably be drawn to places where there is a giant sky, lots of sunshine and the iconic great LIGHT our province is known for by photographers and artists around the world. Plus, maybe the prose can add another angle to the photography: The lightness of being? Being light-hearted? Finding the light? Can you help me out, buddy? — I’m a little light…

Anyway, back to the contest: I want to thank The Writers’ Union of Canada — a classy joint — the judges, the pre-selection readers, and my mentors and critique readers on this story. Of the latter, there were several and they did an outstanding job of helping me with this piece — one that I managed to write in the most difficult way possible! I had a lot of help.

Congratulations to the winner and to my co-finalists and to the nearly 800 entrants who, like me on many other occasions, heard the silence and I know they are gearing up to enter again next year. Yikes.

Plus… I do have a lot of contest entries still in play. So cross your fingers and maybe I can fetch up another one.

PROPER MENTION to “Write Clicks” pal and songleader Zilla Jones of Winnipeg who outdid herself with THREE stories in the final eleven.

Podium

I don’t enter too many contests. They almost all charge a fee, which is understandable.  I am a cheap Menno—also understandable to those who have taken the pledge of frugality that is part of every Oma’s hand-me-down tool kit for survival in the wide welt.

A contest I have entered a few times is from Pulp Literature Press. It’s called the Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest. In 2019, I made the longlist. This year, my story was named the Editors’ Choice. A ground-rule double, which I will take with as much bat-flippin’ humility as my over-caffeinated morning-person self can muster. I’m damned pleased.

Furthermore, I felt as though this story was, in part, a product of my excellent Writing Circle in Wpg, led by Wpg Public Library Writer-in-Res, Carolyn Gray. It’s a talented group and I’ve learned a lot from our meetings.

PL is an exceptional lit mag… small press… group of editors and artists… and a judge with plenty of creds. It’s an exemplary part of the white-hot West Coast writing community; home to a blintering sky full of starry writers and poets. As a former BC resident (nine years in the WACK) I am proud of what Pulp Lit has done and is doing.

Here’s the link: BZZZZZ!