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DFTBA Short Stories Competition

“Made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational idea of our species.” – John Green, TFIOS Authors Note.

If you go anywhere on the internet you will find discussions as to what exactly is the difference between man and animal. For me, and for so many people who work with stories and text,  I think it is simple, and brilliantly summed up by John. Humans come in so many shapes and form, from farmers to hunter-gathering tribes. But we all have stories.

Why am I talking about this? Because I am very proud to announce that I have teamed up with the DFTBA Short Story Competition to not only judge the competition but also provide a series of interviews with the judges of the competition. I am very pleased that there is a competition of this sort, not only because I am someone who loves reading but also because I am a huge fan of people being able to hone their skills and get honest feedback about what they write, so I encourage you all to enter once the competition has started.

That has not started yet, however work on it has already been going on a long time, and currently there is a vote on going (Click Here for the logos) (Click Here to vote)for the logo for the comp. I won’t tell you my personal choice but I think they are all fantastic.

We do, though, have some sad news to report with regards to this vote, as a selection of people have been abusing the voting system, using all their votes on one design. This is a small minority but I am sad as is the creator of the comp to see people FTBAing like this.

And finally I would like to present one of the interviews that I have conducted with the judges. These judges are all doing fantastic things within the work they have been doing and there is a wide range of different occupations among them. We will be posting more of these in the run up to the competition.

The first judge is Marcy, she is an editor on The Golden Penn (Western Pennsylvania’s SCBWI newsletter) and is a co-founder of Route 19 Writers with 11 published authors. In October 2011, she was chosen as a mentee for the Rutgers One-On-One conference.  

1. What do you think of the Short Story Contest?

The DFTBA Short Story Contest is a terrific idea! It will give Nerdfighters the chance to use their creative abilities to showcase their talents to the world. The entry fee is low enough that most people should be able to participate, and I love that all of the proceeds will go to charity.

2. How do you think that your Journalism degree shaped the way that you write?

Nonfiction writing definitely comes more naturally for me because of my formal training. My first successes in publishing were writing nonfiction magazine articles. From high school through my college years, I interned for major radio and television stations where I gained hands-on experience in the field as well as working in my college radio and television studios. Television script writing is similar to screenwriting because of the use of succinct language and dialogue to convey a story through a visual medium. Having a broadcasting background has enabled me to write stronger dialogue and scenes in my fictional writing.

3. What about writing for children do you most like?

When you write for children, you have the ability to make a difference in a young person’s life. Children often relate to characters when they see their own lives played out in a story. By crafting unique characters and situations, a writer can help a young person through a troubling period in their life as well as develop the life-long gift of reading.

4. Do you feel that SCBWI has done a lot for children’s literature, on both a personal basis for you and on a more general basis?

Yes. SCBWI has done a great deal for children’s writers. In general, SCBWI provides educational opportunities and networking for both the inexperienced writer or illustrator to those who are seasoned professionals. On a personal basis, I joined SCBWI and was completely new to the industry. I was welcomed by Western Pennsylvania’s regional advisor, Pat Easton and felt at home with my fellow writers. I had joined Pat’s critique group and learned from some of the best children’s writers in Pittsburgh. Years later, I considerer these fellow SCBWI members close friends. Several of us joined together over a year ago to collaborate on a group kidlit blog at http://www.rt19writers.blogspot.com/.

5. Do you have any articles that you are particularly proud of?

I would say the article I am most proud of would probably be the first nonfiction article I sold, “What’s Candy Floss?” to Fun For Kidz magazine. When you start out writing and finally begin the submission process, it can often become discouraging when the rejections come pouring into your mailbox. Many writers will get discouraged and quit. I believe that those who persevere will get better with each draft and will eventually have their work published. That first publication credit gives an author the motivation and incentive to continue working at their craft. I owe Editor Marilyn Edwards much credit for taking a chance on me to publish my first story.

6. How did you find the experience of writing your own novel, which is in revisions before being sent to publishers at the moment?

To become a good writer you first have to become a great reader. Figure out what works in a novel. Pay attention to voice, dialogue, chapter arcs, theme, tension, plot development, characterization, etc. Read in the genre in which you are writing. When you write the first draft, don’t censor yourself. Respect your process. I have to get it all out on paper first, then I make my magic board. (See article if you’ve never heard of a magic board).  (http://rt19writers.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-magic-board-getting-started.html)

Some of my writer friends have to do an outline first before they start their first draft. I find that too constricting. What works for one writer may not for another. I typically like to have my critique group read the first few chapters before I get too far into a draft. I’d rather find out early what works in the story and what does not work. And then of course, BIC (butt in chair). I try to write every day. I set deadlines and do my best to meet them. 

7. What is it like now being on the other side of the writer/editor relationship now you are editor for The Golden Penn

Being the editor of The Golden Penn, I have gained a clearer understanding of what sitting behind the other side of the desk means. As the editor, I want to publish interesting, insightful articles that SCBWI members will enjoy. A great deal of work from a team of people goes into getting a publication to the finished product that is distributed.

8. How important do you think keeping reading and writing alive in an age of computers is?

I believe reading and writing will be kept alive regardless of the medium. Obviously, in the last few years, we’ve seen technology explode with e-readers and the invention of the Ipad. Who knows where we’ll be in 20 years from now. But one thing remains constant. People will still read. Yes, it might be on an electronic device or streamed through the newest smart device. The world will still need writers because people will always want to hear stories. And no super computer can match the creative artwork of the human brain.

We are very proud of being given the opportunity to work with this comp and we will be posting more pieces in the future. However the voting for the logo closes in 4 days so I strongly advise you to make your way over to the tumblr and vote soon.

~Sean

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