Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story (or three) to inspire your submission.

This week we’re looking at Escape Artists’ upcoming fantasy flash fiction contest and reading the winners from contest IV.

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Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest V

Eligibility: original fantasy stories under 500 words, one entry per writer. There is no entry fee. Entrants will be able to login to the Escape Artists forum to read, comment on, and vote for the stories. The top three stories (based upon reader votes) will be published online and podcasted in an upcoming episode of the SFWA-qualifying market, Podcastle.

Take Note: all stories will be posted anonymously in the Escape Artists’ forums. Because these forums require a log in and password, this does not count as using up a story’s first publication rights. Stories must remain anonymous and writers are not allowed to tell anyone which story is theirs or ask friends or family for votes. Two years ago a contender was removed in the finals because their wife voted for them – which suggested the writer told someone which story was theirs. This is taken VERY seriously so don’t risk it.

What makes this call stand out: my entry came into the top ten of Contest IV two summers ago, which stunned and thrilled me. It’s a great contest to get feedback from readers (tough skin required, btw) as the voters WILL be commenting heavily on your stories. I learned a tonne  from the experience. Stories featuring rape, sexism, and/or racism will be treated terribly by this crew.

Payment: the top three stories will be paid $30 USD for publication and audio rights

Submit by: the contest is open from April 15th to April 30th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A trio of stories to ignite your creativity:

The best prep for this contest is reading contest IV’s winners, which are available to read or listen to by clicking here. The first thing I’ll point out is that the winners have and had well-established publications in speculative fiction. I didn’t expect to see a well-established writer in this contest and it threw me. Does this matter in an anonymous contest? Not entirely, but noting that established writers are entering the contest should work to keep your expectations in check but your goals high. Coming in second or third place is still a major achievement.

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Next, I’ll point out how different these stories are from each other. Ogden’s tale is surreal and dark. Kendig’s story has a literary bend with shades of magical realism. Proctor tugs at our hearts with the hardest experience unrequited love can endure.

As for similarities, they are all well-written with a strong voice, but so were many other entries.

If you read this trio of stories, you may notice a certain grimdark edge to them. It stands out strong for me because I read every story submitted to the contest as a voter and I know that a handful of excellent stories with a brightness to them didn’t make it to the top three. This struck me as a reflection of the current trend. Grimdark hasn’t gone anywhere, but it isn’t as popular as it was in 2017, perhaps due to a darkening of reality. Hopepunk is rising, but what’s here right now? What trends are you picking up in the latest stories of your favorite publications?

It’s hard to ignore that Odgen’s winning story is about cats. Post a cat photo anywhere and suddenly you’re popular. Cat video? Me-yow. Is it the same with putting cats in stories? I want to say no, but… in either case, the lesson is clear. You need to please a diverse crowd of readers to win this contest. Pay attention to what presently pleases them and write that into your story. If you do venture into experimental/artsy stuff make sure you do it extremely well.

These three stories are also wildly unique, and this is key. Proctor gives us a retelling of Humpty Dumpty, but it is a Humpty Dumpty we have never imagined. Who has a one-night stand with a constellation? Why is the future of the Earth predicated on a cat who eats its kittens? Who dreams this stuff up? Successful writers, that’s who. So… how do you write something unique? That’s the million-publication question. What’s your weird? What can you write that no one else can? Answer those questions, find your story, write it as best you can, and you’ll be well on your way to rocking this contest (and your career).

Happy writing!

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