Contest #136 shortlist ⭐️

106 comments

Speculative Happy Creative Nonfiction

Your cursor blinks. 

Your cursor blinks ceaselessly. 

You delete ceaselessly. Adverbs are not your friend. Adverbs are indicative of weak diction, but you cannot think of a better verb to express the action just the way you want. 

Certainly you can use an adverb occasionally. 

You delete occasionally.  

You delete certainly.

You can use an adverb on occasion. 

You close your laptop. Your writing session is not going well. None of the five prompts are particularly inspiring.

You decide to take a break. Make a sandwich. Text a friend, who asks [wat r u doin] and you reply [writing]. 

You watch an episode of a new Netflix series. It’s a pile of meh, but you sit on your couch, slack jawed and mouth breathing. You start a second episode. It’s worse than the first! The characters are one-dimensional. The plot is implausible. The dialogue is clichéd. 

You could write something better. You watch six more episodes to prove your point. 

You could definitely write something better. 

You delete definitely

It’s the middle of the night now, and you’ve finished your pint of Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. Having ingested 200% of your daily sugar allowance, your inner muses wake up, inspiring you to sit back down at your desk, to open up your laptop, and to create worlds of wonder.

In the blue-black hours of the night, you plan to conjure up the ghosts of authors from days of yore, bringing to bear (to bare?) their eternal insights about the human condition. You think of channeling Homer and Sophocles from Ancient Greece. Confucius, Lao Tzu from the Far East. And from the contemporary canon of literature? The esteemed E. L. James and Stephenie Meyer.

I write therefore I am. 

You tappity tap on your keyboard, smacking the keys with your potato chip greasy fingers. 

You manage to type in your password correctly on the first try (!) even though it contains characters like ~ and \ and /. No Eastern Bloc teenager from the dark web will hack into your bank account, which currently has a negative balance due to overdraft penalties. 

Irregardless. 

You delete Ir

Regardless. 

You open up your word processing program. A blissfully blank page appears, framed by helpful toolbars. Lots of toolbars. You wonder if anyone actually uses all that firepower when writing the great American novel, or, in your case, a 1000-word short story. Maybe you should incorporate subscripts or superscripts into your edgy prose? Maybe then some jaded judge would put you on the shortlist, since you’ve long given up on winning anything. 

You stare at the toolbars. You stare at the screen. 

Your cursor blinks.

Your cursor blinks and blinks and blinks, patiently waiting for your first word, phrase, or clause. 

Type something, dammit. Just type characters on the page.

fjklsdjfalksjfklasjfklajsklajfljaslkdsjfalk

The cursor still blinks, mesmerizing you on some level. 

Your heartbeat syncs to it.

Diastole. Systole. Diastole. Systole. 

As blood pushes from the right ventricle into your lungs to be oxygenated, oxygen-rich blood pours from the left ventricle into the heart, then out to all parts of your body. 

Of course you don’t remember any of this from your high school biology class. You just googled “heartbeat” like everyone else, since why remember anything? 

However, now that you are a writer, it may have been useful to learn grammar and composition in college. But the TA’s graded most of the work, and as long as you got it in on time, you usually got an A.

“Got” is one of those verbs that says nothing. You need to work on your verb choice. 

Procured an A.

Earned an A. 

Acquired an A. 

English 101 wasn’t really a class; it was more of an exercise on how to submit lightly plagiarized work into turnitin.com without being caught. 


Your cursor blinks. 

You blink back. 

The snowy white page makes you feel lonely. What if you have nothing relevant to say about the human condition? 

You remember back, thinking how much you’ve suffered throughout your suburban life. How you suffered in silence, stifled from the singularity of soul. How no one really understood your wit and wisdom, all wasted on a weary world. 

You remember how much alliteration matters in making magnificent manifestos. 

Like your adult education writing teacher told you in his “Creative Writing Begins with U!” class: “You don’t write good. You write well.”

You warm up your fingers.

fjklsdjfalksjfklasjfklajsklajfljaslkdsjfalk


You pick up your cell phone. 

What would happen if you “hey u up” your ex-girlfriend at 3:00 a.m.? 

Perhaps she still is your girlfriend. You haven’t texted her in a few days weeks, but you have been working on your novel short story.  

[hey u up]

[go to hell]


Your cursor blinks, now cruel in its own accusing way. 

I dare you, it blinks. Try to formulate a plot that hasn’t been plotted before. Even William Jefferson Shakespeare stole all of the plots to his plays from previous works. What makes you think you can fill the shoes of F. Scott Fitzgerald? Ernest Hemingway? Bill O’Reilly’s ghostwriter?


Who are you kidding? 

You are a hack. Your writing is flat and uninspired. Your themes are treacly, plots predictable. 

It’s time to quit pretending you have anything to say that’s worth writing down. 

But yet. 

You have an idea. 

You can spin one of these prompts on its head. You can figuratively, nay, tangentially bend the prompt to your flash of inspiration.  

You scribble down your idea before it disappears. 

Yes. YES. It will all work! 

Your fingers take on a life of their own. 

You are in THE FLOW. 

The setting appears in a technicolor epiphany. Vivid characters spring to life, arriving wholly intact with backstories—they are well rounded, fully developed, and universally relatable. Your readers will laugh with their joys and weep with their sorrows. And the plot? The plot unfolds like a spring flower. 

The cursor skips along with you, struggling to keep pace until you finally reach 1000 words. 


March 08, 2022 19:28

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106 comments

K. Antonio
12:08 Mar 09, 2022

Even if this story weren't written in second person it would still feel ultra-relatable. That entire Netflix snippet was me last night :( I also enjoyed the mentions of adverb use (I know some people have a problem with them, but I don't). The stucture of the piece with the use of second person, the parentheses, and the words being crossed out brought a lot of personality to the story. OH, that part about the password... SO ME.

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12:58 Mar 09, 2022

Frankly, I am heartily afflicted by much overuse of tricky adverbs, sickeningly so.

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K. Antonio
22:46 Mar 18, 2022

YUUUUUSSSS! SHORTLISTED!!

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23:55 Mar 18, 2022

Lucky 7

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Zelda C. Thorne
20:23 Mar 08, 2022

Hey Deidra! Omg so relatable. Laughed at so many things in this! Particularly the Hey u up/Go to hell line 🤣 Just brilliant. P.s. I'd appreciate it if you can find time to read my story "Spelling". See what you think... Thanks 🙂

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15:03 Mar 09, 2022

Always a joy to read your work. Thanks for coming by for my personal cathartic rant :)

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Sharon Hancock
02:23 Mar 09, 2022

😂😂😂😂have you been stalking me? This sounds exactly like my writing experience for the last ….ok forever😂. Excellent REAL depiction of writing life. Loved it! “ to adverb or not to adverb” = the struggle is real😻

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15:15 Mar 09, 2022

Adverbs are the bane of my existence (along with the prompts this week.) It must be spring fever; I just want to look out the window and eat cookies...

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Delia Tomkus
01:37 Mar 09, 2022

I relate to this SO MUCH. Thank you for this.

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15:17 Mar 09, 2022

Writing this was free therapy for myself. Thanks for joining the collective group session! Onward :)

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Felice Noelle
21:20 Mar 08, 2022

Deidra: That's it! 'Nuff said! I laughed, chuckled, giggled, guffawed, belly-laughed, teeheed, snickered, and finally hiccupped all the way through it. This is like a snapshot (is that word now outmoded or archaic?) of life as an inspiring, perspiring, conspiring, expiring writer. (Select one.) I loved it and read it to my college-age grandson. Thanks, Maureen

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15:06 Mar 09, 2022

Snapshot still viable in Gen X land. I appreciate the thesaurus-length compliment -- concluding hiccough especially. How many grandkids you got over there :) ??? I'm jealous. Batting zero here.

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Felice Noelle
23:34 Mar 09, 2022

Deidra: I have twelve grandchildren that my children admit to and a first great-granddaughter coming in May. Three grands are self-supporting, one is in grad school, five are in college, and three are nestled in the family bosom, being homeschooled. Be patient...you will love it and it is worth all the waiting as well as the years of getting them (or at least most of them) to the finish line. Remember when a generation reached the age of 18 and was considered "done", well nowadays 18 is considered just half-baked. Some such BS about an...

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Crows_ Garden
21:13 Mar 08, 2022

Wonderful story once more! Lowkey feel attacked(in the good way though) I've been trying to write another story for this week's contest(despite not being able to pay), and I've come up with nothing so far. I can't wait to see your future stories, Deidra.

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15:09 Mar 09, 2022

I'll dedicate this story to YOU -- VOILA. I appreciate all your wonderful comments and support. If you need to stagger your funds (and we all do, seriously), just post stories to your feed and only submit those that you really, really love. Whatever you do, keep writing and perfecting your craft. The money will come in time :)

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Scout Tahoe
00:22 Apr 08, 2022

Hey! I was going to comment on this one because oh wow I can relate, but then I got lost reading other comments. :D However, I just wanted to ask you: what if the stories that you love aren't the ones other people think are good? How do you sort between the actual good ones and the ones that you love but just aren't worthy? Replied to this comment because I've been wondering this for a while . . .

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00:56 Apr 08, 2022

First of all, good or bad writing is highly subjective. Does a story resonate with you or not? It's very dependent on life experience and very hard to quantify. The story should have some conventions, like a good plot, characterization, dialogue, grammar, punctuation, etc. But there is a certain magic some stories just have, and that "it" factor is like capturing lightning in a bottle. Sometimes the magic can't be conjured up. Sometimes it miraculously appears. Same 26 letters. Same punctuation marks. But how they are arranged makes all th...

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Scout Tahoe
01:14 Apr 08, 2022

I feel very bad for wasting your time - you wrote, like, an essay! The short answer: I write to tell stories. The long answer: I'm just having a hard time writing because I feel obligated to write something amazing to submit to the contest but then it ends up just collecting dust because it wasn't recognized. Then, I think: I'll never make it and I'm not good enough. To me, the story seems great and something that I'd enjoy reading and has a message I want to amplify, but not to others. I can't afford to submit all my stories every week. T...

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18:21 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you for the barf. :) Sounds like you need to define what success looks like to you. Trust me, having a random judge subjectively pick your story among a pile can't be it. Kill the self-doubt monster. The only person you need to please is yourself. I agree that the $5.00 fee prevents some (many?) writers from submitting their work. There are lots of other free contests (check out submittable) https://manager.submittable.com/signup There are infinity other writing opportunities out there. Try Globe Soup https://www.globesoup.net/ wh...

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Crows_ Garden
15:43 Mar 09, 2022

Thank you- That means a lot. Your stories are worth all the comments and more. Thank you once more!

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11:08 Mar 18, 2022

Leo, I’m one of the few recommended stories left this week — which means I might win (?) for “Hack.” Winners are announced about 12:00 noon EST. If I win 🏆— I’m going to ask Reedsy if I can split the prize money with you so you can have future entry fee money. Do you have a PayPal? Maybe Reedsy can credit your account (?) Keep an eye out — maybe we can celebrate together. I hate thinking your good stories aren’t entered because of funds.

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Crows_ Garden
12:44 Mar 18, 2022

Congratulations on that Deidra! The story's awesome so it wouldn't surprise me. You don't have to do that you know. I'm honestly happy just posting stories somewhere again. You have to be eighteen or older for a PayPal. I will. It's all good, doesn't matter much to be. It makes very happy though that you think so highly of my stories though.

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Crows_ Garden
14:29 Mar 18, 2022

Also- this comment means a lot. It made my day like, ten times better. Thank you, so much, Deidra.

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14:32 Mar 18, 2022

You have great talent. :)

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Crows_ Garden
14:40 Mar 18, 2022

Thank you.

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Sue Hunter
20:59 Mar 08, 2022

I can't tell you how many times I've also thought that my own work isn't original enough for someone to read. You managed to get that sort of despairing feeling exactly right. But if we don't write, who else will bring characters to life? Really loved this one.

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15:12 Mar 09, 2022

I was totally blocked this week. I tried like 3 or 4 ideas that just immediately died. As for being original? "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

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Sophia Gavasheli
21:23 Sep 11, 2022

Man, this was so realistic/relatable/funny. I didn't even notice the second-person POV, it felt so natural. Love the last line.

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21:54 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks :) I feel like a hack 100% of the time...

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Sophia Gavasheli
21:59 Sep 11, 2022

Seriously, don't. Your writing is AMAZING!

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Tommy Goround
22:44 Aug 03, 2022

Quick note: you wrote about the awe and power of the computer... And it seems like us humans fail it as a master. Yes. Aeris has that short story about tools... Appliances that come to life. Err... Clap, clap clap.. :::All hail the Adverb::::

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00:05 Aug 04, 2022

I know, write? Adverbs are fairly harmless. They get such a bad rap.

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00:06 Aug 04, 2022

:::All hail Aeris:::

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Tommy Goround
00:11 Aug 04, 2022

Laughing

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Michael Regan
21:17 Apr 15, 2022

"However, now that you are a writer, it may have been useful to learn grammar and composition in college. But the TA’s graded most of the work, and as long as you got it in on time, you usually got an A." Too True 💖💖💖

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Kashish Shivnani
11:18 Apr 15, 2022

Holy gosh, this is so relatable. Since I got into writing, I started to view things critically, which I did not earlier. The stories that I enjoyed earlier, I don't do now because I always search for teensy mistakes. And that ffhgshf was so relatable haha. Amazing piece.

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Amanda Lieser
04:34 Mar 28, 2022

Hi Deidra! Congratulations on getting shortlisted! It’s so well deserved. And I love how this story makes every writer smile. Especially, because it directly addresses the processes some of us endure while creating for the website. I love how you included the edits that your MC went through. I also loved the way you captured the moment they found their FLOW! Nice job! I know you are frequently kind enough to send a comment to someone and I’m wondering if you’d be kind enough to look at my latest piece, “Summer Loving.” Thank you in advance!

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19:00 Mar 28, 2022

Woo Hoo. Let's go. I'm happy to read your latest. Thanks for the lovely support. It can get lonely writing into the abyss. :)

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Clyde Laffan
20:27 Mar 18, 2022

LOVED THIS. Everyone on this site can relate, right? The only thing missing is how housework becomes so much more enjoyable when used as an excuse not to write! Great use of language. I really like the almost bullet point dictation of the prose.

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21:08 Mar 18, 2022

I've never had cleaner floorboards than when trying to finish a story by deadline :) C'mon . We are AMAZING writers. GO US. WOO HOO.

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Daria White
19:47 Mar 18, 2022

Reading this felt so unfair - how can someone write so poignantly off MY struggles?! Kidding drama aside, thank you for writing what goes on in all our minds. Discussing what none of us want to admit because we all have talent, we all have something to say. There’s always a story in our minds, so it’s supposed to be effortless, right??!! But you normalizing the struggle tells me to keep going. My first submission flowed from start to finish, the second is being shelved for now, and here we are, onto the next week. Who knows, I’ll probably lo...

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19:51 Mar 18, 2022

Thanks, Daria. I made myself a promise to write every week and I have thrown up some complete garbage. But it's all incremental improvement :) I'm in the salt mines with you. Soldiers in arms. Onward

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Kelsey H
08:04 Mar 17, 2022

What a great description of the creative process! I felt this so much, the self doubt and feeling like you having nothing new to say, but still having that desire to do it anyway. The 2nd person POV really worked well here. Loved all the procrastination and endless distractions on the internet. Great style too, I liked the mix of super brief sentences with more wordy ones.

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14:23 Mar 17, 2022

Self doubt is the biggest demotivator. Absolutely... Oh well. Onward :)

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E. B. Bullet
02:28 Mar 17, 2022

This is ...s u c h an attack on how many adverbs I use. I'm side eyeing my own entry as I type this....oops. This was such a fun and snark filled piece, I couldn't help but be pulled along by your narrator. I'll say the key smash bit was a little on the nose and cartoonishly comical for my personal taste, I felt like it clashed with the sarcasm of the rest of the piece, but everything else was baked to golden brown perfection. Yummy writing!

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14:24 Mar 17, 2022

Adverbs are the potato chips of the eight parts of speech. You can't eat just one.

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Judith Teich
21:58 Mar 16, 2022

I thought this piece was terrific--clever, funny, and definitely relatable. Extremely well done!!

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14:25 Mar 17, 2022

Hooray! It's nice to connect and not just write into the void. Welcome to My Writing Block Hell.

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Pam Park
11:53 Mar 16, 2022

Helloo Deidra! This is annoyingly relatable. It felt like talking to myself 😂

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13:58 Mar 16, 2022

Total mood last week. I couldn't string two words together without falling into despair...

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L.M. Lydon
14:24 Mar 15, 2022

This story is so much fun! I love the way you have the POV character fixate on word choice to the detriment of progress with the deletions (wouldn't know anyone who's done that :) ). The description of the "flow" is also so vivid. And who hasn't googled random things we don't know anything about IRL?

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14:45 Mar 15, 2022

I literally just googled "IRL." As for adverbs, I usually COMMAND F all the "ly" words in my story when I finish so I can delete them. The FLOW is the best. A heightened state of consciousness for sure...I keep chasing that high!

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02:19 Mar 15, 2022

Deidra, I love this so much! I wanted to reach through to the narrator and be like “You’re a writer! You have nothing to prove! You’ve got this!” 😆 I love how personal it feels. And … yeah relatable. I have pulled out notebooks to write in because I couldn’t face “the cursor”. Brilliantly done 👏👏👏

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14:56 Mar 15, 2022

Hannah! Sup gurl. We are looking forward to having you on the podcast in April. Thanks for the read. Tough week this week for writer's block. I love the "old school" notebooks.

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15:27 Mar 15, 2022

I am SO PUMPED! 😊 I can hardly wait! I do too, but sometimes that blank page can be just as terrifying as the blank screen Lol

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16:05 Mar 15, 2022

Spitting facts right there.

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