Saturday morning, I learned a short story that I had entered in a local literary magazine's fiction contest back in November had won second place.
Under a thousand words (and hastily edited to get under the limit for the contest), it's a "rural fantasy" set in a world busily falling apart rather than in my fictional Hidden Frontier. Winning even second place means a lot to me, since I am largely self-educated. I joke about working on a "bathtub MFA" by buying used books about writing and reading them while soaking in the tub or otherwise occupied in the smallest room but it's not really a joke. I'm trying to get better at writing.
There was a point a few years back when I realized I wasn't telling the stories I wanted to tell nearly as well as I wanted to tell them. One of the things I did was take a break and teach myself to touch-type -- not terribly well, but better and faster than the mostly two-finger method I had been using. And the other thing was to start finding quality instruction: a few classes at the Indiana Writer's Center and as many books on the subject as I could find.
It's how I learned electronics. In the process, I learned there were a lot of books full of information and the only way to find the ones that "clicked" for me was to dig and and work my way through. From Alfred P. Morgan's books for young people to ARRL Handbooks to Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill's The Art of Electronics, I accumulated a lot, discarded the dross, and manage to achieve a fair education in a decade or so.* Writing turns out to be similar; there's a lot of flash and hype, but there are also dedicated instructors sharing what they know and a generous handful of really good texts, both academic and popular.
Managing to write a prize-winning story is an indication that the effort may not have been in vain. While stories entered in the competition were anonymized (I removed the metadata myself!), the judge was not. She's someone who has taught classes I have taken; I've read her writing and I think she's got a keen eye for what works.
Looking back at my story yesterday, I see things I'd still like to change to improve it, but I think it's pretty good. And that's the biggest reward. There's a Half-Price Books gift certificate, too -- about enough to pay for the stack of writing books I've bought there over the past few years.
* Stay in school, kids, or you, too can pick up in a mere fifteen-plus years of spare time what a high school graduate can manage in four to six years of college -- and you won't even have a degree to show for it!
BUILDING A 1:1 BALUN
2 years ago