Encouraging…sort of…

As an artist, I have an anxiety that I think developed somewhere in the seventh grade. I entered a national poetry contest and placed well enough to be published in the book. I didn’t win the grand prize and I was fine with that.

What spiraled me into a jealous rage, however, was the poem that took First Place. It was some ridiculous concoction about how a personified Creativity walked into a cafe wearing fishnets and demanding black coffee. It didn’t even rhyme.

I sputtered in righteous indignation that my brilliant poem had been surpassed by something that was obviously written with the intent of pandering to has-been judges that had never been able to make a living with their art. I developed a deep fear that throughout my life I would not be beaten by those who were better, but by those who were worse and somehow luckier.

It probably goes without saying that my taste in other peoples’ art was not highly developed by the seventh grade. In defense of the winner (and the judges) the poem was probably pretty good. I’ve since learned to appreciate not only other peoples’ art, but other peoples’ opinion of art, even when it differs radically from my own.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not still prone to those fears, however unreasonable. I’ve started to submit my writing for publication and contests, including Writers of the Future. With some of these unresolved issues in tow, I recently picked up a copy of WotF XXIII, fully prepared to scoff at the lucky wretches who had somehow pulled a fast one on the judges.

The first story I read was pretty good. Actually, it was brilliant and well written.

The next story I read was genius.

I’ve since stayed up well past midnight on a couple of occasions, poring over the stories in the anthology with rapt attention and pleasure. I’ve been blown away by the quality of these stories, most of them better than a lot of professional anthology stories I’ve read.

While the contest seems more daunting than ever, I’m also encouraged. I’ve seen good work rewarded. If I’m going to be counted among writers of this caliber, published in WotF or elsewhere, then I’m going to have to stretch myself and I’m going to have to start stretching now.

Story submitted to Machine of Death II

I heard about Machine of Death II from a friend in my writing group, the COWRDS. At first, the premise didn’t really catch me. All the stories were to include a machine that took a blood sample and accurately told people how they were going to die. Not a shared universe, just a shared premise.

I checked out the website anyway and I was impressed with how the editors wanted to handle it. They had already produced one Machine of Death anthology and it was well respected in the community. Their plans for the second were almost identical to the first, but with an aim to not repeat any stories or ideas.

Look at their excellent website for a more complete list of what they were looking for, but the basic gist of their attitude that I found compelling was this: We’re not a bunch of twelve-year-olds looking for a bunch of decapitation stories. These stories about death should also be about life, and about how knowing your death can change the way you live.

Their sane was of approaching such a daring topic struck a chord with me and I decided to enter. The other exciting thing about the anthology is that it’s going to be printed in hardback. It seems like most other spec fic anthologies are invitation only so a new writer should probably jump at the chance to be included.

I’ll hear back in October if they liked my story enough to include it.