Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Importance of Writing Short Stories

By Stephanie Burkhart 
Break out the thesaurus and find an hour or two this month to get the juices flowing on that short story you always wanted to write – May is National Short Story Month. 
There are several different kinds of shorts. Flash Fiction shorts are usually 1,000 words or less, and depict a “telling” moment. 1 or 2 characters may be involved. 
A short story usually falls between 1,000 – 7,000 words and again, is centered on a “revealing” moment. With a short story, you can place that revealing moment in the beginning and play out the consequences, or at the end after a strong build up. 
A novelette comes in between 7,000 – 20,000 words. This length allows a writer to focus on one main character and the story. 
A novella is between 20,000 – 50,000 words. Like a novelette, the story is most effective when the focus is on one main character and one plot. 
Parables and fables are some of the earliest known “shorts.” Going back about 150-200 years, Washington Irving, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Edgar Allen Poe not only mastered the craft of short story telling, but defined the era of writing a short story focusing on plot, character, and consequences. 
In the early 20th Century, magazines like Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and Saturday Evening Post, created a demand for short stories and paid well – so well that F. Scott Fitzgerald took to writing short stories to pay the bills. 
The popularity of the short story tapered off a bit in the past 50-60 years, but has recently resurged after finding a new audience.
With the introduction of ereaders, downloading stories has never been easier. What short stories provide is a quick read with a satisfying ending. - at least, most are satisfying, but ereaders totally invigorated the market for short stories. How? Short stories usually command a lower price point making then a good impulse buy. Sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, are popular places for readers to feed their ereaders.  
Strategies employed by authors using short stories include using the stories as a “free” giveaway when readers sign up for e-newsletters or as a reward for winning a contest. Shorts can be used to promote a novel, or written to help keep the joy of writing alive. An author might consider using the Kindle Select Program. While you do give Kindle exclusive access to publish the short for 90 days, the 5 free days offered can help get sales off the ground. Due to their length, short stories have proven to wet a reader’s appetite for more works from an author. They’re a great way for authors to break out in a very competitive publishing world. 
Question: As an author, do you write short stories? Why or Why not? Do you find them helpful in promoting/marketing efforts? 
Reference for this blog: “Writer’s Digest,” May/June 2015, “Short Strategic,” by James Scott Bell, pages 23-27.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She served 11 years in the US Army and 7 years overseas in Germany. She adores coffee, enjoys coffee and likes taking walks.  She's also the den leader for her son's cub scouts den.  Her published children's stories include "The Giving Meadow," "First Flag of New Hampshire," and "Brady's Lost Blanket." 







Tuesday, May 5, 2015

OWFI Writing Contest Winners from 4RV

Cynthia Henzel with new release and Vivian Zabel, publisher
     The Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc (OWFI) holds a writing contest and a conference each year. During the Saturday night banquet at the conference, the 1st Vice-president announces the winners. With that background, let's visit the 2015 OWFI Conference.

     Several of us arrived at Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City beginning April 30, with others following May 1, when actual sessions began. We had staff  and authors attend from Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma. I'm not sure who traveled the farther, Holly Jahangiri from Houston or Cynthia Henzel from Tucson. Jacque Graham, Renee' LaViness, Vickey Malone, Jen Nipps (our new assistant to the editor-in-chief), Nikola Marshall (a new acquisition editor) and I represented the editorial staff and board. Authors attending included Janet K. Brown, Jim Laughter, Tony LoPresti, Cynthia Henzel (whose first novel with 4RV made its debute), and Holly Jahangiri, as well as me.

     When winners were announced at Saturday's banquet, some 4RV authors received awards.
Cynthia Henzel with her 1st place certificate and check
Cynthia Henzel took first place in Middle Grade Unpublished Book . Hopefully she will give 4RV the opportunity to publish the book some day. She participated in the author autograph party for Young Adult books with her new release Myth Rider.

Holly Jahangiri with her 2nd place
Holly Jahangiri received 2nd place in Flash Fiction with her story "#2 Pencil." She also participated in the author autograph party for children's books with Trockle and A Puppy, Not a Guppy.

Vivian Zabel with her 2nd place award
Vivian Zabel took 2nd place in Blog/Column with her blog entry "How to Describe Deep Emotional Pain" and Honorable Mention for her Memoir/Nostalgia Article "I Don't Want to Know."

     We had an enjoyable time, learned much to help with our writing and publishing business. Hopefully, next year we'll have more 4RV people enter the contest, attend the conference, and bring home awards.