Story Spotlight: Leaving Shaktoolik by Sarah Beaudette

Hello, Readers!

I have decided to start a Story Spotlight feature to share the work of other authors that I enjoy and think you may as well, so here we go.

I have been competing in the NYC Midnight Competitions for a couple of years, and this time one of my friends has taken home the top prize! Out of 2100 writers, 40 competed in the final round where they had 24 hours and up to 1500 words to write a story about a hoarder and eavesdropping. Sarah’s lovely story was published on the NYC Midnight site today and I encourage you to take a look.

Your animals have gone child, and they’ve left our house so empty. If I promise to stop listening to your thoughts, will they ever come back; will you?

Warning: you may want to grab a box of tissues before diving into Leaving Shaktoolik.

A revised version of the story was accepted for publication by Gold Fever Press for an upcoming anthology. Congratulations again, Sarah! If you’d like to know more about the author and her experiences as a modern nomad, visit her at The Luxpats.

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Pantsing on a Picture

Writers tend to be divided between two camps: “Plotters” and “Pantsers.” Plotters create rigorous outlines and character data sheets before squaring off against the blank page, and Pantsers, well, fly by the seat of their pants. A friend of mine uses the term “Plantser” for a hybrid of the two, and that’s how I usually work. I like to start with a general idea of what the story is going to be about and let the details come as I write.

In November, I was discouraged by a string of rejections and hadn’t written anything new in a month, when I stumbled across With Painted Words. They select a new image each month and invite writers to create a story or poem inspired by it, however loosely.

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November’s Inspirational Image

I let the picture bounce around in my head for a week, but nothing came to mind, so I sat myself down, set a timer for an hour, and just wrote. While I didn’t create a fully-formed story, I had a solid start. My writing group provided critiques and encouragement, so I polished it up, sent it out, and Event Horizon was selected for publication.

While I still prefer to have an idea before I start writing, it’s nice to know that sometimes stepping out into the unknown pays off.

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From Just Friends to Love in 700 Words or Less

Splickety Love is a flash fiction magazine that revolves around quarterly themes, and I decided to submit something for their “Just Friends” issue.  While they publish fiction of up to 1000 words, you have a better chance of being selected if you can stay under 700. I wanted to put the odds in my favor, but I’d never tried to write a full story with such a low word count.

I started with two people who meet on a bike ride, but that story currently sits, unfinished, at over 3000 words. A few days before the deadline, I got a new idea that focused on a single incident that changes the way my main character views a man she’s known almost her entire life. The result was Heartstrings, which was published on their blog today.

This is the musical piece mentioned in the story. I must have listened to it fifty times while I was writing 🙂

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The Write Path for Me

Like most, or maybe all, writers, I grew up loving books. They took me to Oz, a little house on the prairie, and introduced me to a clever, talking spider. Through the power of story, we are able to live a thousand lives, and better understand ourselves and those around us. I wanted to turn my pencil into such a magic wand.

As a child and teenager, I often heard that my stories were great. In college, I signed up for a short story class, ready to take it by storm. After receiving feedback like “cliched,” “flat characters,” and “contrived,” I started to doubt myself. Over the next few years, I continued to write, joined a few writing groups, and took a couple other classes. The feedback was kinder, but the doubts remained. I feared rejection. I wanted to write great things, and I knew that what I put on the page wasn’t. So I stopped.

About ten years passed. I was busy with my job, social life, and fitness goals, but a little voice kept telling me to write. I was chatting with a friend online one day, and the topic turned to writing. He’d been ignoring his little voice as well. Right then, we set a timer for five minutes, wrote, and shared. I’m not going to say I came up with anything brilliant, but it wasn’t awful either. We did that a few more times. The short time limit forced me to shut down the internal editor that nixed everything before my fingers even touched the keyboard. Around that same time, I stumbled upon this quote:

The pressure to produce an off-the-cuff masterpiece went away. I just needed to write and trust that with practice and editing, it might become something good.

I’ve spent a little over a year writing regularly, giving and receiving feedback, and polishing up several short stories. I finally got up the courage to send a few of them out into the big, bad world, and while I’ve gotten some rejections, two editors have said “We want to publish your story!”

Like other artists, writers create because we must. So we sit alone, at home, on park benches, in coffee shops, pouring ourselves into characters and places. But we also hope that our works will find their way into the hearts and minds of readers. My desire is to connect with others who love to lose themselves in the printed word.

~Michelle

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Filed under Personal Reflection