Articles, News and Events, Uncategorized, Writing Contests

Writing Contests and Learning Moments

Mermaid Princess

It was a nice surprise to be among the winners of 8Letters’ Summer Dreams Writing Contest. And exciting too, because my story, The Mermaid Princess, will be included in an Anthology that will be launched at the biggest book festival of the Philippines, the Manila International Book Fair. This year, the MIBF will be held on September 12-16, 2018 at the SMX Convention Center in the Mall of Asia Complex.

fullsizeoutput_522As a writer, I must say that joining writing contests are not all about winning prizes or accolades, or getting a chance to be published. For me, it’s also about (1) flexing your writing muscles, (2) honing your craft, and (3) gaining self-discipline.

Here’s how:

Flexing your writing muscles, because, you get to write–duh! ☺️ In joining a writing contest, you get into mandatory plotting, writing, editing a story. Beats doing nothing, or just letting yourself dream of writing. You write because you have to, with the deadline and all. But you get to write, and that’s the idea. Consider writing contests as writing exercises.

Honing your craft. This is where healthy competition becomes a stimulus to a writer. You are pitting against other writers who may or may not be more well-read, experienced, or eloquent than you. You may be clueless about the required genre or sub-genre. So what do you do? You read and research more, ask around, seek advice, and write to the best of your ability. You work hard to improve and perfect your skills to be able to produce the highest quality work you can come up with. Ergo, you become a more learned writer than you were before.

Gaining self-discipline because you have to stick to the required prompt and word count–not to mention beat the deadline. Sometimes you have to chop (delete) words, sometimes you have to wring your brains out to come up with additional words. At times you’d look at the calendar and count the hours and minutes until deadline. You’ll feel adrenaline kicking at you like a horse’s hooves. Your heart may gallop in excitement or dread, but it’s okay as long as you don’t get a nervous breakdown or a heart attack. But in the process, you gain discipline over yourself. You tame yourself to adapt to the contest rules.

In a nutshell, writing contests should be regarded as a writer’s learning or teachable moment. It’s not so much as the reward in winning one, although it’s a fantastic and humbling bonus, of course. But it’s the journey that makes it so fulfilling and gratifying, and you find yourself learning more, doing more, improving more–and finishing a story.

In other words, the writer evolves. 🦋
Events, Short Stories, Uncategorized, Writing Contests

Black Love

First Place Black Love
This is my winning entry for Bookbed Fictory, Bookbed.org’s very first fic fest. Black Love, with 6,634 words, won first place.

Prompt: Your (significant other) is rumored to be an engkanto.

***

The brilliant red, odd-looking shape was what my eyes caught first. With each movement, it stretched out gracefully, much like a yawning mouth. And then, just as slowly, I watched it deflate like a balloon, going back to its original form.

I frowned, searching my mind for what it reminded me of. But however hard I tried, it eluded me. I shook my head. My brain was not the same as before. Fog, debilitating, had crept in.

The legs came into view next. I cocked my head to one side, squinting my eyes. The grotesque, gangly, stick-like figure was hypnotizing as it was confounding. They were disjointed yet connected at the same time.

I counted. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Divided into seven segments. Joined together precariously like pieces of tacky clay. Each leg was covered in patches of uneven, thin hair; some long, some short. Curved, combed bristles adorned each leg’s bottom. Belatedly, I realized they were miniature feet.

Do you know how I came to that conclusion?

Because they were dragging themselves on the surface of my right hand. They treaded firmly, step by step, awakening my nerve endings, filling me with a mix of weird sensations. At first, it felt like a light caress, feather-like. I closed my eyes, letting the feeling overwhelm me. Gradually, it became somewhat ticklish, like tiptoeing to the beat of an unheard music. I stifled a smile. And then, all at once, it pricked my skin with the intensity of a long, sharp needle.

I snapped my eyes open. The hair on my arms raised alarmingly at the sight of hind legs kicking, flailing in the air. The rest of it was missing. It was embedding itself into my flesh. Paralyzed, I watched with a mixture of horror and awe as it burrowed deeper, deeper, until I could no longer see any part of it.

It was, fully, completely, inside me. I felt it crawling, biting, nibbling on my flesh, devouringme from inside.

Instinctively, I raised my left arm over my right hand, wanting to prevent the creature from further ingraining itself inside me.

To my horror, I saw my left hand.

Or rather, the lack of it.

In place of my left hand, an open, hideous wound met my sight. Freshly-dried blood and bright yellow green pus covered the cropped, swollen limb and tissues where my hand previously was. Gangrene was already evident, the horrid, stomach-turning stench almost making me puke.

Elsewhere, the noises of the insects scouring the night were getting louder, more terrifying than any night before. The rustle of the tree branches echoed endlessly, singing an eerie, haunting tune.

My nose captured a familiar, lingering scent. The citrusy vanilla scent of a yet unnamed, undiscovered wild orchid scattered around our village, perched in tree limbs a few feet above the ground. It pervaded my nostrils. For a moment, my muddled mind wondered why I was smelling it inside my bedroom.

Flashes of memory persisted, bringing sparks of light to an otherwise dark room that was my mind. A humongous fallen tree trunk carved, transformed into a bathtub. Pile upon pile of wild orchid flowers thrown into warm bathwater. My naked body descending on the aromatic, erotic purple pool. My hand groping underwater for another kind of flower, a thousand times more intoxicating and infinitely more satisfying.

Where I lost myself completely for two days and two nights. Where my raging libido was satisfied over and over and over again. Where I buried my body into and planted my precious seed.

giant-black-widow-spider-bite

Suddenly, I remembered what the odd-looking shape reminded me of.

It was the shape of a woman’s body. An hourglass. The identifying mark of a poisonous black widow spider.

Regrets, alas, did always come too late. I should have listened to my mentor. The old folks were right.

My wife is a black engkantada.

For full story, please click HERE.

Articles, News and Events, Uncategorized, Writing Contests

My ‘Black Love’ won first place at #BookbedFictory 2017!

First Place Black Love

Disclaimer: There are too many firsts in this post. You have been warned!

It was a pleasant surprise for me when my entry, Black Love, won first prize at Bookbed.org‘s very first fiction writing contest held this year. Writing a love story about Philippine mythological creatures like tikbalang (horse demon) and kapre (tree demon) was a first for me. I made a lot of research, asked a number of my friends, and thought of at least three plots before I came up with the one I wrote. Black Love is a speculative love story that will touch your hearts and astound your minds.

I was particularly grateful for the comments of some of the judges:

“The story starts in medias res, which makes it exciting. The pacing was perfect and so was the narrative.”

“Was very excited for this prompt, and loved how the writer grounded the story in a local setting and employed even more local mythical creatures. The reveal of the twist was satisfying and effectively unnerving given how the writer endeared the characters to the readers.”

“Fairytale feel. The voice is delivered clearly. It did not lose the momentum. Fascinating story!”

IMG_1810I remember my first ever win in a writing contest. It was years ago, back in 1991. I wrote a short story entitled, “The Sekyutib (Executive) Dream” in a contest sponsored by Clover Typewriter and a female magazine which name I can no longer recall. It was that long ago! “The Sekyutib Dream” is about a street boy who washes car windows during traffic lulls in EDSA for a fee. He meets a generous, young female executive whom he idolised. In the end, his dream of becoming an executive like her was brought to a tragic end when he was accused of stealing and was subsequently shot to death. I can still remember the call I got from the contest representative when she informed me I won, saying that she cried when she read my story.

Unfortunately, my manuscript was lost in the passage of time. Gosh, it was written in Wordstar! The disk was lost when we transferred houses. My trophy was lost, too. Funny, but the typewriter I won as prize, the reason why I joined that contest in the first place, is with my brother still. I don’t know if it still works, though. Certainly it can now be considered an antique piece!

After that first win, I should have continued writing. But I worked full-time, and I cast aside my imaginary pen. So it was a really nice surprise to win again, after so-so years. (I dare not count!) It gave my constant self-doubt a boost, motivated me to challenge myself and hone my writing skills. Joining competitions can be a practical way to learn more, write more, and improve one’s writing.

Winning first place in a writing competition does not make me a great writer. I don’t pretend to be the best writer out there. I’m not even good, as per my standards, and I’m sure as with other accomplished writers’ standards too. But every day, I try to learn and do things that make me a better writer than I was yesterday. And I think that’s the most important thing.

Want to read my winning entry, Black Love? Click HERE