I blame Sherene Gross for my addiction. She entered the NYC Midnight Contest a couple years ago, and kept me updated on her progress as she wrote, submitted, and advanced in their short story contest.

Now, I don’t write short stories, or anything that I can’t use in a novel, but she seemed to be having so much fun that, when she told me about their Flash Fiction contest, I gave it a shot.

Oh my gosh, she was right. I had a blast.

Here’s the deets:

Since 2002, NYC Midnight has hosted hundreds of inspiring competitions for storytellers around the world. Participants are challenged to create original stories, screenplays, or films using assigned elements under time constraints.

They have competitions in the following categories:

  • Short Story
  • Screenwriting
  • Flash Fiction
  • Micro Fiction (100 words)
  • Micro Fiction (250 words)
  • Short Screenplay

You register ($20, and you can earn a $5 discount by Tweeting), and at midnight (ET) on a specific date, they send you your assignment. They give you a genre, a location, and an object that has to be in the text. For example, mine was: Sci-Fi, the DMV, and an eyedropper (oh yeah, those go together, right?) but it actually works, because it levels the playing field – all you have is your imagination and your writing skills. Oh, and you have 24 hours to turn it back in.

No pressure.

But after freaking OUT for an hour, my creative juices started flowing, and a story poured out of me. I loved it!

The top 15 in this round advance to the second round. Rinse & repeat. The top 8 advance to the final round. Cash and prizes are in the offing, not to mention HUGE bragging rights, but there are hundreds to thousands of writers who enter. Though winning would be a dream, honestly, I do it for the challenge.

Also, as in any contest, you are subject to the vagaries of judging. My entry got top scores from two judges, and the third hated it. That’s the luck of the draw.

But THE most important thing –

Competing reminded me of something important, something we all need – internal validation. Not from the judges, but from ME. I know I wrote a good story, under pressure. It reminded me that I’ve got skills. That alone was worth the price of admission.

I strongly recommend this one to you – it’s FUN! Oh, and I just signed up for the Microfiction Challenge – 100 word story. Wish me luck!

What do  you think? Ready to check out this contest?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here’s my Sci-fi–DMV–eyedropper story.

PLAN B

Even an Admiral in the Intergalactic Space Force

can underestimate an opponent now and again.

At seventy, a married woman shouldn’t have to learn to pilot a ground-skimmer. Especially the wife of a retired admiral of the Intergalactic Space Force. But Mr. Important left for six months on a deep-space consulting gig, and instead of hiring me a driver, he bought me this beater without the robot pilot upgrade. The cheap fragger.

He said I’d make the news holos being the oldest woman to earn a flyer’s license. And the fact that he’d think, after fifty years of marriage, I’d aspire to be ‘oldest lady’ anything, tells you everything you need to know about my marriage. I practiced. I did. Well, when I had time. I couldn’t very well neglect my alien herbivore garden or skybridge club now, could I?

Department of Flying Vehicles employee: Ma’am, if you’d just tell me what happened—

You’re not going to ding me for being a bit late to pick up the flight recorder, are you? It takes us mature women a bit longer to get ready.

DFV employee:  No ma’am, but—

So, my husband explained how to work this antique flyer. I was supposed to use an eyedropper to put two drops of go-juice on the translithium crystals, and—

DFV employee:  That is salicyclaic-lubrifornace IV fuel.

Whatever. How am I supposed to tell you what happened if you keep interrupting? Anyway, I was nervous. My hand was shaking and I guess I squeezed too hard, because the whole dropperful ended up on the crystals. Well, that put some pep in the old girl, let me tell you. I must’ve hit rush hour or something. There was so much traffic in the spaceport! I may have been speeding a bit, but I made it through safely.

DFV employee:  Ma’am, you caused three mid-air collisions.

Well, maybe they just weren’t as good a defensive driver as I. You cannot hold me responsible for the incompetence of others. Anyway, I made it out of the crush in record time, and headed for the moon Sisyphus, just like your recorder told me to. But it was so bright, I was blinded and that’s when I discovered this relic doesn’t even have glare shields.

DFV employee:  You were nearly sucked into Sisyphus’s gravitational orbit! If you had, you would have crash landed. And if you survived that, the arachnolobsters would have—

Well, I didn’t, now, did I? I’d think that would be more proof of proficiency, right there. In any case, you can’t take off points for outdated technology, can you? So I come around the backside of the moon, and dead ahead, was this massive intergalactic cargo hauler, coming straight at me. He was flying like a madman, I tell you! It’s a good thing I squirted those extra drops or I’dve been plastered on his windshield like a roadkilled featherfleeper.

DFV employee: We had reports that you didn’t grant the right-of-way to a larger ship. The captain had to change his uniform after the incident.

Serves him right, scaring an old lady like that. Okay, I just want it noted that I told you the indisputable truth. Here it is. I was heading back, and about two minutes out I called my twelve-year-old grandson to hack into the system and replace my recording with a perfect one. Don’t you glare at me, young man. How am I supposed to get around for six months without a flyer’s license? My grandson said I hadn’t given him enough time, but I told him as usual, he was wasting what time he had, whining. I gave him the number off the transponder, and I thought it would all be handled. That’ll teach me to trust anything that came from my daughter-in-law’s loins. Don’t get me started.

DFV employee: Ma’am, I’m sorry to laugh, but we’ve been in business for twenty-five hundred years, and we’ve seen it all. Our security program sends hackers to a dummy site, where it appears as if they replaced the recording, but they haven’t. We have the original, in all its glory, in our database. I need to officially inform you that you not only failed the flying test, but thanks to the hack, you will receive a lifetime ban from ever being granted a license to fly.

Well, if you’re going to be that way about it . . . I’m leaving that beater out front. You can donate it to a museum or something.

I stand, and head high, walk outside. Who knew Mabel from my skybridge club having a son who worked at the DFV would ever come in handy? I hit speed-dial on my comm for Leonardo, my favorite limo-skimmer pilot, to negotiate a lifetime contract.

You’re not married to an Intergalactic Space Force Admiral for fifty years without learning that you always need a Plan B.

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