Behind the Stories – Instructions for How to Buy a Tent and Quarantine Blues

I now realized I drafted this post during NaNoWriMo 2022 but never finalized and published it. Such is the time demands during NaNoWriMo. Every free minutes goes toward getting words on the screen and not much else. But, as they say, better late than never.

I have a twofer for you this time, and neither are my usual. “Instructional for How to Buy a Tent” is creative nonfiction; “Quarantine Blues” is a poem. But first the background.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a member of the Northern Virginia Writers Club, itself a chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. The state club conducts the Golden Nib Writing Contest every year. However, to reach the state level, an entrant must place first in their chapter-level contest. There are three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

For the 3.5 years prior to this year, I served as my chapter’s president and therefore was disqualified from participating – mainly because I picked the judge, who happened to be very familiar with my writing. Now that I’m no longer president, I took advantage and submitted an entry in all three categories. I had to make up for lost time.

If you’re reading this blog, you likely know I’m a fiction, specifically speculative fiction, writer. Guess which category I didn’t place in. That’s right, fiction! Whoops.

“Quarantine Blues” took third place at the chapter level. While not qualifying to compete at the state level, it’s still included in the 2022 Golden Nib anthology. As the title suggests, I wrote this during the heart of the initial pandemic when many of us where stuck at home for long periods with our families. It’s in the style of a blues song, a music genre I love and which I always felt amounted to poetry.

My nonfiction piece “Instructions for How to Buy a Tent” took first place at the club level. Right at the chapter level contest deadline, I decided to throw my hat in the ring in the nonfiction category. Searching my hard drive for anything that would work, I found this piece. (I haven’t written much nonfiction, and what I have had previously been published.)

I wrote this one in 2019 as part of a flash fiction writing workshop hosted by the NVWC, so it was only fitting I now would submit it to the chapter level contest. The prompt was to write about a routine process. I had recently undertaken the subject of the piece, i.e. buy a tent to use when the family went camping, so that also seemed fitting. And, as I’m realizing I’ve done regularly in my works, I injected a little humor. Even though I was at a deadline, it’s short at 445 words; so it didn’t take long to polish up before sending off.

And this piece took third place at the state level! That’s twice now that I’ve won third place at the state level. The first time also was for a nonfiction piece. As I mentioned, I don’t write much nonfiction. What I have written has either won a prize or been published. I see the trend too. Maybe I should rethink this fiction writing business. 😜 This also makes me a “multi-award winning” author. Such accolades!

Check out both “Instructions for How to Buy a Tent” and “Quarantine Blues” in the 2022 Golden Nib anthology. It’s time to start thinking about my entries in this year’s contest.

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