Woo hoo! My story, "The Long Road," ranked 4th out of 375 fiction entries in Sixfold journal competition. It will be published in March, free online at sixfold.org or purchased in their paperback journal through Amazon. I wrote the story a few years ago in my first creative writing class. The idea is part of a larger story (and why a few things are not fully explained in this short story). Originally, the idea for "The Long Road" came from a short article, in my local newspaper, on missionaries building water towers in remote villages, which included a photo of a small water tower covered in handprints and American names. It triggered my wondering - what would it be like to grow up in one of these villages with foreign names on your source of water you depended on for survival. In the longer version - I wanted to contrast the Zambian Billie's life with that of the American Billie (not who you think it is!), eventually entwining them. The reading and ranking process with Sixfold.org was eye-opening. Critiquing others' manuscripts is one way to learn what works and what doesn't in your own writing. It was also helpful to read other writers' comments on my story. The main consensus seemed to be that Billie was a character to root for and it was an uplifting story against struggle. The opportunities for improvement were that the opening description was too convoluted with football and perhaps the characters needed more depth to explain why Clive is so bad and Billie so good (all of which would be fleshed out in a longer book...but definitely see these points in the short story as it is presented here. Plus, it's interesting to me, that my writing has grown much quirkier than when I wrote "The Long Road."). Most of the comments were positive or a mix of positive and negative. There was only one jerk, and I looked to see where his story ended up (somewhere around 233 - ha!). RULE for writers - listen to the critiques and decide what will improve your story - then apply it - but don't dwell on only the negative. Also, if you only listen to the positive, you will be blinded and not able to improve and grow your work...although, I have to admit, responses, like this one from one of the readers at sixfold, I'll take any day of the week:
"Absolutely wonderful story. This is the only story I've read in this competition, in which, I truly cared about the main character. I really wanted him to make it to the test and show those jerks that he was more than just a house boy. Very well done. This was my top pick for the final round of voting. Good luck in the competition."