Judging a story contest isn’t easy…

Judging Post

I had the honour of being a judge for the Engen Books/Kit Sora “Flash Photography/Flash Fiction story contest.  It’s a wonderful paying contest open to Canadian residents who can write a piece of flash fiction (250 words or fewer) inspired by the amazing works of Newfoundland photographer Kit Sora.

I won the very first contest (March 2018) and bribed my way into being a judge this time around, because I love the “behind the curtains” stuff when it comes to publishing.

The rules were simple, read each of the stories and pick my top 10 and submit that list to Engen who would compare it to the other judges lists. Since none of the stories had the authors listed, and it was a double-blind judging system, it would be a fair contest.

Since it was paying market and the winner would be have bragging rights from being a contest winner, I knew I had to treat this contest with the seriousness it deserved. So, cracking open favourite fermented beverage I set to work.

Sounds easy right? Wrong…

I was “lucky”, since it now warmer weather, there was “only” 24 entries for the contest, and I had to pick the best ten from them. Since the same photograph, a wonderful picture of Kit on the shoreline in a gleaming green mermaid tail was to be the writers inspiration, I figured I would see a lot of the stories with a similar theme...wrong again.

I read light-spirited tales of adventure, tales of loss that broke my heart, and tales that reflected our current political climate. How was I to rank my favourite ten out of all these?

After a read through of them all, and a second malted beverage, I made three piles  “Yes, No, Maybe” and left them for a day to stew around in my mind. The next day I read them all again and shifted some from one pile to another as I felt best. They were all great stories in their own right but the “No” pile were stories I felt needed more than the 250 word limit to shine, or tales I didn’t associate with Kit’s photograph.

Next was sorting out the “Yes/Maybe” group, and this consumed the rest of my afternoon as I reread the stories, asked myself if they touched me, and if they paid homage to the supplied photograph.

Once I had my top 10, I sent it to the good people at Engen Books before I could second guess myself. This exercise has given me a newfound respect for the labours that publishers go through when selecting a story, and I hope it will make be a better writer for doing it.



Patreon Update: Support Engen Books! | How you can help

I support the good people at Engen Books, please check them out.

Engen Books

Matthew LeDrewHey everyone, Matthew LeDrew here, founder and partner at Engen Books. I just wanted to thank all our amazing fans for a spectacular year thus far in 2018. In only five short months we’re doubled our output and page views, made Amazon bestsellers of multiple titles, and made strides toward bringing you even more amazing books in the coming months, starting next month with Amanda Labonté’s anticipated sequel to Call of the Sea, Drawn to the Tides.

All that said, we’re always looking for ways to expand and one of the efforts we started in 2018 was the Engen Books Patreon. Patreon is a platform for artists, authors, and other creatives to get income for their work and for users, dubbed Patrons, to get extra content such as free books, discounts when purchasing books and eBooks, input and behind the scenes information. We didn’t set a “monetary goal” when…

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Two rejections in one day, and I survived.

It was a beautiful and warm Sunday. I was spending a few days with the fiance and on my last day there; I checked my email before leaving and saw a rejection letter from a publisher I had submitted a piece of flash fiction too.

I told myself it was no “biggie”, said goodbye to my fiance and drove the 6.5 hours home (extra hour due to flooding). Got home to an ungrateful cat and 5 lonely snakes (my brother looked in on the pets for me), heard a “ding” and checked my email again.

Another rejection for a different story.

Perhaps I should have been upset or disappointed, but to be honest I was almost pleased. Not that my stories weren’t picked, but because I’m putting myself out there, trying new markets, like a “real author”.

Rejection is part of the process, and in this case, both publishers encouraged me to submit to them again in the future. In the past a rejection would put me in a “funk” for days and I would doubt myself and my work. Don’t get me wrong, the doubt still pops up from time to time, but knowing that happens to all writers makes me feel comfortable.

Time to search out new markets!


First Book Signing & Reading

Last weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and “ticked” one of those author boxes, I did a reading/signing/sale event.

The good people at my local independent bookstore Box of Delights Bookshop  were kind enough to allow myself and four other local genre writers to take part in their “Science Fiction & Fantasy Day”. Of the five of us, only one had done anything like this before (Steve Vernon) and his ease with people went a long way with keeping the audience entertained.

I say audience, when in fact there were only a handful of people there, but I think it was a good ice-breaker for us newbies. The majority of us did readings of our works, I read a portion of my first ever published short story that had an implied sex scene which caused me to turn beet red and tongue-tied!

I was lucky enough to have copies of the latest anthology in which I had a story, (Chillers from the Rock) which became a Amazon ebook bestseller (Canada) on pre-order sales alone. For those curious, that’s me with the “derp face” holding it in the picture above.

At the end of the afternoon, the stores manager thanked us for coming out and agreed to take books from all of us on consignment, and suggested we try doing this event again in the fall when the university students are in town.

It was an excellent learning experience, one in which I’m glad I took part.

Book Review #3 “One’s Aspect to the Sun” by: Sherry D. Ramsey

In an effort to support regional authors, I’m reviewing books written by Atlantic Canadians. These reviews are from a layman’s point of view, I don’t have any special insight, just like what I like.

Too often the stories I have been reading have been filled with throw away characters and mindless action, this story is certainly NOT that.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s action and lots of it, but is serves to progress the story and leads up to a well crafted climax. Speaking of characters, they feel like real people, each with their own strengthens, weaknesses, and secrets.

At it’s core, this is a story of family, whether they are blood or not. A family that has to deal with the realization that Captain Luta Paixon has been rendered nearly ageless and how that effects her family and herself.

Part detective story, part space adventure, and a great introduction to the “Nearspace Universe” crafted by the author.

I can’t wait to start book 2.

5 out of 5 stars

Camp NaNo and the Quest for a Story.

With everything else going on in my world (Winning a writing contest, becoming a best-selling author, and having a reprint sale with a Canadian small press), I was feeling good until I stumbled upon my NaNoWriMo novel from November.

Alone and forgotten, “Lost in the Whirlpool” sat in my laptop bag, a mass of pages held together with a bulldog clip until the other day.

On the advice and encouragement of writer friend Sherry D. Ramsey (Sherry’s titles on Amazon) I joined her “cabin” at Camp NaNoWriMo.

I set myself the goal of doing 2000 minutes of revisions since Camp NaNoWriMo allows you the flexibility in your goals.

My fresh eyes found a hot mess in front of me, and no clear idea how to start. Panic set in as I became overwhelmed and considered backing out of “Camp”. This is familiar territory for me, I’ve found that when I feel overwhelmed by something, breaking it down into smaller sections keeps the panic at bay and allows me to focus.

It’s been a winning strategy for “LitW”. I took that bundle of papers and divided them into the three main parts of the story, with the secondary POV characters off to the side.

Now I need to weave in those POV’s and figuring out my chapter breaks etc… before the real work or revision/editing begins. I have NO DOUBT that more experienced authors are shaking their heads at my method, and who knows maybe they’re right. All I know is that I’ve started something I’ve put on the back-burner for far too long.