F2K is over, Lesson-wise, and all that’s left is our session's-end Short Story Contest. We began the session with nearly 500 writers, of many levels of expertise. Some are already published and are merely looking for a kick-start, or a refresher in the very basics of Fiction Writing. Some are newbies, wishing to learn enough to be able to express themselves in a writing venue, and perhaps to see if they have the talent to go on and get published. And the rest are somewhere in between.
When I was a student in F2K I found it a fun, friendly place, with so many things to discover and learn, so many new people to meet, so many opportunities to stretch whatever writing muscles I had. Through F2K I got the gumption to submit my very first short story to an online magazine. And they were impressed enough with it to publish it - and they paid me for my story, too! Not to mention my second, third, and fourth, as well!
Three runs through the F2K sessions and I was invited to become one of the Mentors, which eventually turned into my being asked to become the Mentor-in-Chief. What that means is I get the emails complaining about passwords that don’t work, assignments that have mysteriously disappeared, and hurt feelings from un-diplomatic feedback. But, y’know, it’s gotta be done, and I remain humble that our Founder and Leader, Bob Hembree, who created the free course, not to mention our entire Writers’ Village University, thought I could do the job.
Now, as I said, we’ve gotten down to our session-ending contest, which is more important than ever. The prize is to be published in a real-life paper magazine, get a small payment - I think it’s $25 - and to have a published work on one’s resume. Yes, it may sound small, but it’s not! Some online ezines accept and publish stories, but pay nothing - “It’s an honor to simply be published!” - which means your work is worth nothing at all.
With our numbers dwindling as the weeks went on - we never finish with the same number as we started - I was worried that our students wouldn’t submit enough contest entries to make it a real contest.
We got 27 entries. 27! That’s a lot of short stories by aspiring writers. And our task, as Mentors, was to read each one, and then put them onto a list of our favorites. I listed every one, from my top to the least. Not one of them was a dog, not one of them was a waste of reading time. I was thoroughly proud of my F2K writers! 27 short stories entered into our contest! Now, with our Mentors having submitted their own lists, I had to meld them into a Top Five or so, and post that for the Mentors to vote on. Yes or No?
When they all have decided whether or not the list will do, we will notify our Fearless Leader and hand that list to him. If he accepts it we tell the writers who are Finalists that they are now part of what Bob calls the F2K Masters Workshop.
What does that mean for them? They’ll have a specified time to edit their works, in the Workshop, for the publisher. Then the publisher will choose the winner. So it ain’t over yet! But, dang! It’s close!
I don’t know if you understand what this means to new writers. For weeks now these men and women, from all across the country, indeed the world, have worked together, given feedback to each other, watched as they all learned, grew as writers, and discovered that it ain’t easy to be a fiction writer. And now 27 of them had the guts to write a brand-new short story - the contest has a rule about the content of the story so you can’t just resurrect an old favorite! - submit it to their Mentors, and wait for someone to judge their work.
Trust me, when my first short story was published, even though it was an online-only ezine, I was so happy and proud I could scarce get my head through the door! And so it will be for these folks who become Finalists. Their writing was judged to be good enough to be a Finalist. Good enough to be considered for publication. Good enough!
It’s a great feeling. And I’m so happy for these men and women I am ready to bust a gut! All of them are Writers! Whoo-Hoo!
And that’s what’s been going on in benning’s world. Writing, Mentoring, and reading the works of new authors!
Oh, and nibbling M&Ms, too!
If you're interested in learning some of the basics of Fiction Writing, we begin our next session in early February of 2009. The course is free, lasts for about eight weeks, and consists of six lessons - not to mention an Orientation Week - and usually a session-ending writing contest. F2K is geared toward fiction writing, and aims to get you proficient enough to write a short story by the end. We also offer more one-on-one Mentoring for a small fee of $25.
You don't have to be a member of our parent organization - Writers' Village University - to register and attend. All you need is a desire to learn or re-learn some of the basics of fiction writing, and the ability to take criticism without bursting into tears. We hold weekly chat sessions, too. So think about signing up, all you writers out there. I'll be Mentoring again, as I expect most of our present Mentors will.
I hope to see some of you there, come February!