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Spring Bluebell Flowers Purple Blue Scilla Bloom

It’s that time again in Minnesota—time to get ready to enter a spring writing contest. This year’s offerings target everyone from fiction writers to poets to students in the great North Star State, so you’d be hard pressed not to find something that suits your style and interests. Check out the list of Spring 2017 writing contests for Minnesota writers below, then gear up to get creative, share your writing, and earn some recognition—and cash—for your work.

2017 GPS (Geek Partnership Society) Writing Contest

Topic: Sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, graphic, poetry & short fiction pieces, youth and adult.

Deadline: May 1, 2017

Prizes: $50 - $75 Amazon gift cards

Basic guidelines: Submit original, unpublished works on the above topics to open, youth, poetry, and graphic novel (comics) divisions. No entry fee. This contest is not exclusive to Minnesota writers; the organization is simply based in Minneapolis. For more info, click here.

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis 2016-2017 Student Essay Contest

Topic: Can the U.S. economy still grow the way it once did?

Deadline: March 31, 2017

Prizes: $100 (for 30 finalists) - $500, plus a paid internship for first place winner. Cash prize for teacher of winners, too.

Basic guidelines: Open to high school students in the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which includes Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, northwestern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For contest rules, check here.

2017 Great American Think-Off

Topic: Has the 2016 election changed our perception of truth?

Deadline: April 1, 2017

Prizes: Four $500 cash prizes and invitation to debate in New York Mills, MN

Basic guidelines: This contest is sponsored by the Cultural Center of New York Mills. Submit an essay of up to 750 words on the topic using personal experience and observations. Enter online, no fee, and all ages welcome. See the website for further details.

Minnesota Christian Writers Guild 2017 Writing Contest

Topic: Everyday people who are making a difference for Jesus.

Deadline: March 13, 2017

Prizes: $25 - $75 cash, plus a mentor session with an editor

Basic guidelines: Submit a personal experience article between 800 and 1,200 words. You must be a member of MCWG to enter, plus pay a $5 entry fee. For more information, click here.

2017 Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest

Topic: Unpublished sonnet written in Shakespearean, Spenserian, Petrarchan, or Non-traditional rhyme scheme.

Deadline: June 1, 2017

Prizes: Cash totaling over $2,000 in several categories, including Local Area (Winona, MN, and adjacent counties), Best Youth, and Laureate’s Choice.

Basic guidelines: $5 entry fee; free for youth 17 and under. Click here for more info.

2017 LSW (Lake Superior Writers) Writing Contest

Topic: Rivers: mapped and unmapped

Deadline: April 1, 2017

Prizes: $250 per category for winner, plus publication

Basic guidelines: Theme of submissions must be real or metaphorical rivers. Categories include poetry, short-short fiction, creative nonfiction, and short story. Free to LSW members, or you can join and pay a membership fee of $35 to enter. Visit the site for complete rules.

BestPrep and Thomson Reuters High School Essay Contest

Topic: Martin Luther King famously wrote: “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Why is it important for students to develop their character alongside academics? How has your educational journey and life experiences developed your character?

Deadline: April 15, 2017

Prizes: MacBook Air, iPads, Beats headphones, Google Home, and Walmart gift cards, plus an invitation to an Education Forum and private reception at the Saint Paul River Centre in October. Visa gift card for teachers of top five winners.

Basic guidelines: Open to Minnesota high school students. Submit an essay of 600-750 words on the above topic. See website to download essay competition packet.

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Confetti Head 8wAs I mentally prepare for our new puppy arriving in March, I contemplate how my writing life will be affected by the upcoming change. If I recall correctly, the last puppy (now all grown up) was a handful. I didn’t write much during that time, but it was also summer, a slower writing season for me. Still, I wonder how much I could have really accomplished, between all the potty training, puppy classes, and general daily busyness of puppyhood.

And then I think...wait a minute, this puppy thing could really work to my advantage as a writer.

First of all, having a puppy will force me to be organized and productive with my day. Unlike summer, spring is a busy writing season. I can’t make excuses for not using my time wisely because, frankly, there’s no time for that. When the puppy naps, I will write. I can use the longer naps for intensive writing and the shorter snippets for more menial tasks. Chores can wait till someone else is home to puppy sit. Those chunks of quiet time will be the ideal, if not the only, times to write.

Having a puppy will also force me to take breaks. Sometimes, I find myself sitting for too long, agonizing over a word or sentence. But when the puppy needs my attention, I’ll have to break away from my work—unless I want to deal with the consequences of ignoring her. More than likely, the puppy won’t be the only one profiting from that break. I have discovered that often the best way to get “unstuck” when writing is to walk away from it for a period of time. Those forced breaks will also give me a chance to stretch, hydrate, exercise, and refresh.

A third way the puppy will benefit my writing is by giving me something to write about. Puppies aren’t just cute; they’re incredibly interesting. Spending time with a puppy can unlock a goldmine of writing ideas. Just think of all the topics that relate to puppies: names, habits, temperament, toys, safety, separation, breed issues, sleep patterns, diet, accessories, training, vet visits, car travel, and on and on. Having a puppy is a surefire way to end writer’s block.

Finally, for those of us who work in solitude, puppies help alleviate loneliness. Lucky for me, I already have one dog. Adding another will double the company.

But what about the puppy? How will she benefit—or will she—from a writer’s life?

Hmmm…I would have to say an enthusiastic yes! And here’s why:

Puppies do best when their owners are at home. They can move about freely without being restrained by a crate and can have daily human contact. Further, dogs (like humans) benefit from routines. Once I set up my new routine, the puppy will learn to follow it and—just like my current dog did—will develop a sense of structure to her daily life, too. Mostly, though, my puppy and I will have more opportunities to bond, whether she’s sleeping peacefully next to my desk or chewing on the leg of my chair to alert me it’s break time.

Together, we’ll learn to co-exist, doing what we do as a writer and a puppy.

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Do you, like many of us writers, have those days when you wonder why you write? You think maybe all the effort you’re putting into your freelance career just isn’t paying off. You start to compare yourself to people who have “real” jobs. They have a regular schedule, a regular paycheck, an office to go to, and co-workers. You, on the other hand, work at home, sometimes at odd hours, often with little pay, sometimes with no pay, and mostly in solitude. No one really understands what you do, so you don’t bother talking about it and no one bothers asking.

Writing is often like that. But here’s the good news: You have a gift. It’s a gift that few have. Oh sure, anyone can write an email or a text message or even draft a letter, but I’m talking about serious, substantive writing. Writing that actually entertains, informs, or explains. Writing that makes readers laugh or cry or stirs up emotions they never thought they had. Writing that helps someone, heals another, or offers hope. Writing that comforts, excites, or challenges.

Every time you write something like that and pass it on, whether you post it or publish it or just share it with another human being, you are giving something. The more you write, the more you give.

Have you ever noticed how after a tragedy scores of people step up and help those in need? I am always amazed by it. But as a writer, I don’t always realize how important writing, even my writing, can be to others, every day, tragedy or not.

So despite all the frustrations of being a writer, remember all the good you do when you write. You have a gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes that gift is exceptionally valuable, maybe even life-saving. And knowing that can make the payoff bigger than anything you might get from a “real” job.

Image by asenat29

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There’s a lot to love about the state of Minnesota, but if you’re a writer living here, there’s even more to appreciate—all the great writing-related organizations. Whether you’re looking for an editor, a place to meet and network with other writers, or a writing class, the six listed below offer invaluable help, resources, and support. Take a look:

  • Professional Editors Network (PEN). An organization for editors and others who work with words, PEN offers many benefits to its members, including monthly meetings, resources for writers and editors, and a place to network with other writing professionals. PEN’s website includes a directory of mostly local editors. Yearly dues: $35.
  • The MidTown Writers Meetup Group. For a fun, no pressure morning of writing, you can join the MidTown Writers Meetup Group Saturday mornings at A La Salsa restaurant in Minneapolis. The group is given a prompt to begin the writing session. No critiquing is done, but you have the option to share your writing with the group.
  • The Loft Literary Center. This well-known literary center in the Open Book building on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis offers writing classes, contests, conferences, resources, readings, and more. You do not need to become a member to use The Loft, but a membership contribution provides you with discounts to Loft events.

loft

  • MN Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.The local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s & Illustrators, the MN SCBWI is a great resource for those interested in networking with other children’s writers in the area. This group hosts “monthly mixers,” workshops, and conferences at various locations around the Twin Cities. Free with national SCBWI annual membership.
  • Midwest Fiction Writers. According to its website, the MFW is a “professional writing organization that includes approximately 100 published or aspiring writers. Under the broad umbrella of romance, our members write historical, contemporaries, time travels, suspense, erotic, women’s fiction – to name just a few.” The MFW meets every second Saturday at the Edina Community Center. Annual dues: $35.
  • Minnesota Center for Book Arts. A place for anyone interested in celebrating book arts, from papermaking to book binding to self-publishing techniques. The MCBA is located in the Open Book building, along with The Loft, and offers a variety of workshops, artists programs, and events. Membership includes discounts and invitations to MCBA-sponsored events. Individual membership: $40.

If you’ve joined or heard of any other Minnesota writing organizations that have helped you or inspired your writing life, please share them here!

Image by Grn1749

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Crosley Contest Banner

If you like contests and you're good at making up words, especially wacky words, you're in luck. I’ve been invited to share information about a fun new contest from the author of the Night Buddies adventure series for kids. Interested word crafters, young and old, can read more about it at the Stories for Children/Family Matters blog. Top Five Winners will receive prizes. Deadline: June 15, 2013.

Check out the contest flyer below:

http://web.mail.comcast.net/service/home/~/Crosley%20contest%20flyer.pdf?auth=co&loc=en_US&id=410040&part=2

Good luck!

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If writing a “to do” list sounds like one more thing to do, it is. But if you’re a writer, it may be one of the most useful things you can do. I keep a total of three “to do” lists for my writing—a long-term project list, a weekly goals list, and a daily task list. They take a little time to write, but I couldn't be a writer without them.

My long-term project list is the longest of the three. I write a new project list every season. Starting with my "active projects" (those I’m currently working on), I jot down each project, along with its status (waiting for reply from magazine, finishing final draft, etc.) and possible markets or deadlines. Next come the "future projects" (those I haven’t started), which often consist of mere ideas. Then I list any non-writing tasks I plan to complete in the next few months, like subscribing to a blog or joining a writing group. My project “to do” list is neatly typed, placed in a folder, and set aside for easy access.

My second "to do" list is a handwritten list of weekly goals. I keep a 6 x 9 notebook, with each page devoted to a week. Every Friday, I draft a new list of things to do for the upcoming week. My weekly list usually contains five to ten items, things like doing research for an article, writing a query letter, and preparing an outline. I keep the notebook on my desk, open and with a pen for checking items off.

Finally, I write my daily task list on a sticky note pad. If I have many tasks to complete in a day, this list comes in really handy. On it I scribble everything I need to do that day—make a phone call, send an email, write a first draft, mail a submission—and put it in a spot where I can’t miss it, like on my computer screen or desktop.

As you might guess, I refer to my long-term project list when creating my weekly goals list and my weekly goals list when creating my daily task list—which makes the whole process of writing my "to do" lists pretty simple and smooth. And the payoff? They help keep me organized, disciplined, focused, and on track. Even better, they make me productive.

Sure, writing a "to do" list is one more thing to do, but it's a task I can't afford not to do.

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I recently read an article that said the weight problem in America (over one-third of us is obese and two-thirds are overweight) can be partly blamed on sedentary jobs. I guess I should consider myself lucky because I don’t have a weight problem and I’m a writer. Then again, I don’t really think it’s luck that puts me in the minority. Sure, I may be blessed with high metabolism, but I also have a few tricks up my sleeve that I would be remiss not to share. Here’s what I do to keep the weight off despite my sedentary job. It’s not rocket science, but it works. The key is, I do these every day, no breaks, no excuses.

  1. Snack smart. Snacks keep a lot of sedentary workers happy during the work day, but snacks can be a huge problem for weight control. Although I’m not a big snacker, when hunger strikes mid-morning I’ll answer with something really flavorful—without the calories. Pomegranate seeds (during the season) and spicy tea are two of my favorite snacks. Other good choices are carrot sticks, yogurt, apple slices, string cheese, popcorn, raisins, and almonds (but just a handful).
  2. Fiber up.Too much sitting isn’t good for the digestive system. What is, is fiber. If you don’t get enough fiber from your diet, a fiber supplement can help. But fiber supplements really aren’t necessary if you make a conscious effort to eat fiber-rich foods. My daily picks include high-fiber cereal, flaxseed, broccoli (see below), berries, and nuts. Oh, and don’t forget the water. I keep a glass of it at my desk and refill it throughout the day.

    Flaxseed, a Good Source of Fiber

  3. Shun the soda. Regular soda is bad news, but diet soda may be even worse. Its biggest problem is the artificial sweeteners, which can contribute to metabolic syndrome. Soda, especially the caffeinated kinds, can also be super addicting. If you drink it habitually (as many desk-bound workers do), do everything you can to stop, even if it means a week of headaches. If plain old water doesn’t satisfy your thirst, try unsweetened fruit juices, teas, or flavored water. Avoid the high-cal coffee drinks, too.
  4. Schedule exercise. I know from experience that writers have a hard time breaking away from their work, especially when they’re stuck on a sentence or paragraph. Fortunately, I have a dog who appears at my side at a certain time of day to let me know it’s time for his meal and walk. If you don’t have a companion (or the self-discipline) to nudge you off your chair, keep a clock nearby, set it if necessary, and take that daily exercise break. Go for a walk, head to the gym, or pop in an exercise video. Make the routine as important as finishing that paragraph.

    Schedule Exercise Daily (copyright Kenneth Allen)

  5. Veg out at meal time. No, not on the couch. In my lingo, that means eat lots of vegetables. At lunch and dinner, I try to fill my plate mostly with lettuce, beans, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, etc. Why veggies? They’re low-cal, loaded with nutrients, and filling. Plus they make you feel good. Fruit, on the other hand, I limit. Although I’m a big fan of raspberries and blueberries, most fruit has too much sugar, which is not ideal for weight control.

So that’s it! Five easy tips. Give them a try. The only thing you’ve got to lose is a little weight.