After placing second in The Woolf’s short story competition, I was given the opportunity to write an article for the publication’s next edition. I chose to focus on cross-genre fiction because most of my stories are, to some degree, cross-genre and I wanted to speak to other authors about the process and struggle of getting their work out to an audience despite the difficulty inherent in shelving and marketing such work. You can read what these writers had to say here. Hopefully it’s helpful.
Writers need to be readers.
For writers, reading is the most prescribed “cure for what ails ya.” From writer’s block, to vocabulary, to style and voice, reading is always the cure. There’s reason for this. It’s excellent at sharpening and focusing your mind for writing and for jump starting inspiration.
However, I think there’s an overlooked benefit of reading for writers. A benefit that’s hard to discuss without sounding like an ass but an ass I shall be to make this point! Reading is an excellent treatment for imposter syndrome. Specifically, reading average books. Why, because frankly, you can write something better.
So many writers feel inadequate in their skills. We feel that what we produce can’t live up to the kind of work we’re aspiring to or even any other “real” books. By that, I mean published, industry validated books. We focus on these books and judge ourselves based on their perceived excellence. We feel like imposters if we can’t somehow produce something that matches them and of course we never feel that our current manuscript can match their greatness.
The world is full of tens of thousands of books. That’s probably a conservative estimate. Of those, there are a lot that are at the pinnacle of the craft. There are even more that are of amazing quality and surpass your current ability as a writer. However, the vast majority of books out there fall somewhere between decent and awful. These are the stories you want to turn to when imposter syndrome strikes.
I’m not advocating that one scrape the bottom of the barrel simply to make themselves feel better. That’s just self-mollycoddling. This exercise is also not about shaming other writers. It’s about putting your skills in perspective.
When the existential dread of imposter syndrome hits, pick up a mediocre book and start reading. Look at how it’s crafted. Think about the plot, prose and characters. See all those rough edges and missteps? All of them are on display in a professionally published work right there in your hands. A book you, and presumably others, paid for.
What you have before you is a reality check. An industry validated piece of evidence showing what actually gets published. You can at least create that. You can do better. You know you can.
Keep your goals lofty. Never stop trying to best your favorites. Just remember most books don’t and that your’s doesn’t have to in order to be a success. Believe in yourself.
I’m not very good at tooting my own horn but I’ve realized that I should use this platform to announce some very good news. I recently received second place in thewoolf.org‘s recent short story competition. This counts as both my first publishing credit and my first paid gig (gotta love prize money) so I’ve been feeling pretty good for the past few weeks.
Rather than ramble on, I’ll let the official press release from The Woolf do the talking. Thanks for reading and make sure you check out the work from the other finalists.
LOCAL TALENT SHINES IN THE WOOLF’S SHORT STORY COMPETITION
The three winning stories in the inaugural Woolf Short Story Competition were announced simultaneously with the launch of the Spring 2018 issue, on March 1. In her Judge’s Report, Geneva-based writer Anne Korkeakivi commented that reading the shortlist of ten stories was “a privilege and pleasure” and that “with such a panoply of excellence to choose from … singling out a first-, second-, and third-place winner is a little heartbreaking.”
Writing to the theme of ‘Raw’, we celebrate the ten shortlisted writers: K.C. Allen, Jennifer Copley, Ben Francis, Delaney Green, Louise Mangos, Yves Oban, Kate Paine, Jihoon Park, J. Rushing and Gladys Yegon
Kate Paine on being awarded first place for ‘Melting Ice’
J. Rushing in second place for ‘Wounds’
K. C. Allen in third place for ‘Of Baking and Blackbirds’.
The three winning stories can be read in their entirety on The Woolf.org, via the links above.
Korkeakivi described Kate Paine’s winning story as “appearing at first simple, almost comic … ends up anything but”. It has “incisive descriptive language … so deftly fused to the story’s theme and voice. I couldn’t stop thinking about ‘Melting Ice’, which is one of the best things that can be said about a work of fiction and why I am awarding it first place.”
Reflecting the international nature of Switzerland’s population, our winners are Australian, American and Swiss.
Kate Paine is an Australian musician, teacher, and writer living with her husband and daughter in a little house near the lake in Meilen, Kanton Zurich. She finds music and writing go together beautifully. She is undertaking a Ph.D. in creative writing through Deakin University in Australia.
J. Rushing is an American writer and former teacher who traded the microbreweries and Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest for raclette, chocolate, and the Swiss Alps. He and his wife live in Baden.
K.C. Allen globe-trotted for years, living and working in multilingual and multicultural environments before returning to her birthplace – Switzerland – some twenty years ago. Fascinated by words in general, she works in and out of various foreign languages in marketing and communications.
The Short Story Competition moved through four stages. It was launched in The Woolf on September 1, 2017, with a submission deadline of December 1, 2017. A long list of 21 entries was announced on January 10, 2018, and the short list made public on February 1, 2018. Submitted entries were read and judged at all stages of the competition without author names or identifying information. The three winners were announced last week in The Woolf Spring 2018 Quarterly.
The Woolf co-editors Libby O’Loghlin and J.J. Marsh are delighted with the response to the first competition, which saw entries come from all over the world. They plan to run the short story competition annually and will also be announcing a poetry competition later this year.
For more information about The Woolf writing competitions, The Woolf Quarterly or our winning writers Kate Paine, J. Rushing or K.C. Allen please contact Catherine Szentkuti, Publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.