Short Story Contest Winners: The Engagement

I know I’m a day late, and I’m sorry. One of our judges had a personal emergency, so we had to postpone a little, but we finally have the contest winners for the theme: The Engagement!


The stories were, this round, a bit weaker than they have been, which I’m attributing to the theme. Seems folks have issues with love! LOL But in all seriousness, I want to mention that grammar and style are important when submitting to contests. It doesn’t matter how good the story is if the editor can’t make it through to read the story. You have to remember, editors read stories differently than readers do. It’s very unlikely you’re going to ‘wow’ an editor with something they haven’t at least seen a little bit of before, so your job isn’t to write a new and completely amazing different story than anyone has ever written, because you can’t do that — no one really can — but your job is to take those old classics we know people love and write them well, in a way that no one else can put into the story what you put into it.

You have to give your writing a fighting chance, and grammar and punctuation errors simply detract from the writing. Missing quotes, too many spaces between words, blatant misspellings–these are all things that will get you eliminated when the competition gets fiercer.

I can usually tell when a story is flowing for a writer and when they are struggling to make their idea work. It shows in the way things are written, the awkward phrasing, the way it feels like someone is pulling out my teeth trying to get to the story. If you find that in your writing, walk away from it or redirect, ’cause it’s going to show.

That said, we had one story that really shined out. It wasn’t what I had or would have expected for an engagement story, and that very thing is one of the things that appealed to me about it. The judges agreed, clever and interesting. I’ll talk about that one in a minute, but let’s get to our offers first.


Robert Arend once again is going to be offered a side contract for his story, The Engagement Game. We’re going to offer him a spot in our second Erotic Anthology. Great story, Robert, just a little tiny bit too graphic for this particular anthology, but it’ll make an excellent edition to the Erotic tales.


We have two selected poems for this theme. Congratulations to:

  • The Ring, by Death Knight (we still have to work on a realistic pen name)
  • The Token, by Lisa Lee Smith


The following stories will be offered digital download contracts for the TTM website, where they will receive a professional edit, and a contract for royalties from sales on the website. We will launch this new section of our website on May 1st.

  • The Fiancee, by Nancy Smith Gibson – Great twist! Humorous, but serious too. Unrealistic, but definitely cruelly fitting. Loved the revenge.
  • Engaging Suitors, by Thomas Forthe – While the story is cute, written almost in a fable-style but with a little bit of a sci-fi type twist to it, the judges weren’t sure they ‘got the joke’ at the end, and one of them is still scratching her head trying to figure out what it means. Perhaps we’ll fix that in editing? Other than that, I like the universe created here.
  • Engaged in War, by Jamie Miller – Ouch. That’s what I can say about this one, with the war going on overseas, this one hits so close to home for so many. What a heartbreaking story, but still left with a glimmer of hope. This one will be both every Army wife’s nightmare and an engaging read and addition to the digital downloads.

These were three excellent stories that with a little bit of grammar cleanup will make exceptional reads. The grammar and style points the judges deducted were the only things that kept these two from winning a place in the book itself. Remember, when competing, sometimes grammar and style matter, because when competition is fierce, it might very well come down to one misplaced quotation mark or period. These will make exceptional additions to the digital downloads on the site if the writers choose to accept the contracts.


We’ll announce the first place winner after this, but first, in no particular order, the stories that will be included in the Elements of Love anthology for the theme The Engagement, are as follows:

Granny Gets Engaged, by Nancy Smith Gibson

Oh, what a cute story! I loved seeing both generations here. Perhaps the dialect for the teen on this one was just slightly over the top, but it did add to the feel and tone of the story. Very cute, loved granny, loved the teen, loved the story — irritated with the ‘mom/daughter’ — all the right elements. Go, Granny! Great job, Nancy! I have to say, I love your writing, even when you’re not being humorous, but Nancy, your humor is your strong point, and you should definitely accentuate that in your future writings. Your tone and wit simply shine through brilliantly in all your stories. It’s to the point that you have your style down so good that I can know I’m reading a Nancy Smith Gibson story without even looking back at my spreadsheet to see. That’s a good thing!

Denying Destiny, by Lindsay Maddox

A good, solid love story. No real twist here, as I pretty much expected what happened at the ending of this one. That’s okay, though, because the story is heartwarming enough that the expected ending still touches the heart. I loved the rings. I was left with a few questions, and one loose end that will need to be tied up in editing, but other than that, this is a good story, solidly written, in classic Maddox style. Keep writing, Lindsay. We’ll keep reading!

Cassie’s Quest, by Kim Keason

If I remember correctly, she only entered once before, and here she is getting published in our next book, Elements of Love, for her story, Cassie’s Quest. There are some rookie mistakes here, such as repeatedly (too repeatedly) using the character’s name instead of  ‘she’, and there are a few places where the story failed to suspend disbelief for me, which usually is a deal breaker for me in judging a story. But I and the judges agree, this one is strong enough in the story itself that those minor errors can be edited out, and we’ll be left with a classic tale–a treasure hunt, a quest, a reunited love, and the answer to a long-ago forgotten question. Excellent job on this, Kim. If this and your previous entry are any indication, if you keep at this and continue to grow as a writer, you’ll be publishing lots of fiction in your future!


She’s not going to believe it when she sees it. I know. She’s going to have a heart attack or something and I’m going to be arrested for committing murder, but hey, I’ll blame the judges, even if I do agree with them. Today’s first place winner, whose name/pen name will be included on the front cover to Elements of Love, is (drum roll):

Case of the Cautious Couple, by Joan H. Young

I’ll be honest. When I first started reading this story, I was like… uh, dumb! Then a read a little further. Still dumb, then a little further, still dumb, but when I got to the point where she asked, “OH, so you know my husband?” I was laughing spontaneously and thinking of every bad detective spoof I’ve ever watched on television or read, and this one is right up there with those classics–dum, dum, dum, dum dummmmmmm! (Read: Please know I mean ‘dumb’ in a good way, really, I do!) Intentionally over the top, zany, and humorous, this one surely belongs in the top winners here on this contest! What got me and the judges on this one is the completely unique twist on the theme–this story and the Granny story by Nancy both had us thinking about the theme in a new and interesting way. We all liked that!

We’ll have to edit this one, because we had some intellectual property issues with the character’s names, but we’ll be able to use some like-sounding alternatives and spoof this one good but still save our legal behinds on it. Short of that, this one is going to be a breath of fresh air for love and romance as the first place winner for Elements of Love, which will be released before the end of this year. Congrats, Joan! Keep this up!


Congratulations to all our winners. Remember, we have plenty of themes left for this year. We’re hosting a contest every single month throughout 2010, and all the themes are alreaedy posted here: You have nothing to lose and might end up in a book. Worse things could happen!

Keep writing!

Love and stuff,