A few months ago I discovered a new website called mashstories.com. Billed as a place where writers can gather, grow, and maybe even get a story published. The main challenge is the quarterly competition where you are given three seemingly unrelated words and then you have to give them meaning depth and a soul and all in 500 words or less.
I love this!
There is nothing more creative than being given such exact restrictions and finding the connection. It's fun, challenging, and it's such great practice.
Their first competition used the words, animal rights, bunker, tennis ball. What? How do you make sense of that?
You take the words inside, let them sit there in the back of your mind, rolling around with the dust, the muck, the zombies, the devils, the angels, all your problems, all your answers, and then it happens. Something clicks and from those three words comes a life, a story starts to grow. You write a sentence or two, that becomes three or four, and before you know it where you needed 500 words you suddenly have 700.
Oh, crap! Too much, now you have to cut, edit, another aspect of the writer's journey.
I was lucky. My story clicked early. I called it "The First Cosmonaut". It felt perfect. I loved it. And then the judges did too! It was shortlisted and published on their website mashstories.com but they wanted to change the name to "Begin the Countdown". I still like mine better but I didn't hesitate. It was a flash fiction story they loved. Go, do it, put it up, let people read it, call it whatever you want.
Okay, it didn't win but the founder of Mash Stories wrote me and told me she liked it and thought it should have been in the top three, but alas (only writers use the word "alas") she wasn't a judge. When you take the challenge in the spirit of fun, never expecting to win, and then you get shortlisted and published on their site, hey, that's a win any way you look at it.
Encouraged I tried again. This time the words were Andromeda, dentist, democracy. Really? Are you kidding me?
So things are gelling in the muck in my mind and something comes out that I did expect. My first story was bittersweet. And with this new story came a staple in my repertoire. Comedy. "My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding" was shortlisted. And is currently in the midst of voting. hint, hint, hint again. GO NOW! I'll wait here...
Then Mash Stories creates a magazine and now my first story is in print form. Download, keep it, send it to me I'll sign it too.
And then Mash Stories does a podcast and I'm featured this week.
Whoa! Hold on! This is too cool. My story is being read aloud and in a very professional sounding production. Was that my story? Hey, it was pretty good. This is too cool.
Mashstories.com. What a great site. I'm loving this.
I've already sent in my third story for their competition. The words: cathedral, monkey, relativity. Fingers crossed. I'll be sure to let you know the progress.
In the meantime this is really fun.
I should get back to that novel........