How I Won Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email informing me that I had won first prize in Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1. I’ve entered many writing competitions and contests, although probably not enough of them, and this was the first writing competition I have won.

#writing #competition #winner #contest
Credit: Charli Mills: The Carrot Ranch

The email from Charli Mills, who runs The Carrot Ranch blog, came as a complete surprise. For some reason, I’d got myself into a position of not expecting to win any writing competitions that I’d entered. The reason – In the back of my mind was the memory of the very first writing competition I’d entered where my entry had been disqualified because I’d used words and phrases not familiar to the judges. That’s another story, but it’s a thought I have now well and truly thrown away.

#winner #writing #competition

Over the last few weeks, I’ve  wondered what it was about my entry to Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1 that made it win the contest. The judges left me lovely feedback as to why they selected it, but I wanted to know what it was I had done to write that particular piece of flash fiction.

In this contest, writers were asked to write a 99-word story in response to the following prompt:

When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Stories were judged on ten criteria including relevance, capturing a child’s voice and originality. Extra points were awarded if the story included a comparison with the “real” childhood choice.

One of the first things that came into my mind after reading what the contest was about, and what the judges were looking for, was something that I’d started to hear being said a lot around the blogging world.

Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint!

All too often, I’ve entered writing and photography contests and challenges and rushed head-first into them without giving any of my ideas anytime to mature. In fact, I’ve done the same with some of my blog posts, with impulse telling me to publish them immediately instead of allowing my ideas to mature. I now look back at these pieces of work and see just how some of them were poor quality because I’d rushed them. In fact, some of my work shouted out ‘desperation’ in getting something out so I could hurry onto the next task. This time, I decided to do things differently and thought about what I was going to write about and jotted down some ideas.

#writing #contest #thinking #ideas

While ideas festered in my head and on my screen, not only did I decide to write about a passion I had for a particular time of the year, but I checked out who the three judges for the contest were. Two of them lived in the southern hemisphere, and this told me to include at least part of my flash south of the equator.

I kept an eye on the closing date and time and played around with various ideas. I did some research and ended up writing several versions of what had matured over the days I’d first jotted ideas down. Several times, with the deadline fast approaching, I read aloud what I had written. I wasn’t happy, so I continued to play around with the words ensuring I kept the story to 99 words. Finally, and with the help of a writing editing tool, it was the nod of my head and my smiles that told me that my piece of flash fiction was ready.

When I submitted the entry, a few hours before the deadline, it never struck me that I had written something in a different method to how I usually write. In fact, had it not been for witting an entry for this contest, I do wonder if I would have ever looked back at the method of how I write. I could have ended up waiting a lot longer to win my first writing contest or, who knows, maybe have given them up altogether? That’s a frightening prospect.

#writing #competition #winner

It’s not only myself that needs to be congratulated, though. I’d like to thank Charli Mills for thinking up the idea of these writing contests and for the fantastic work she does in publishing a 99-word flash fiction challenge every week. Her challenges have pushed me with my writing and, although I don’t enter them every week, produced pieces of flash fiction that always get wonderful comments, as well as some great constructive feedback that helps me improve my writing.

Thank you to the three judges of the contest, Norah Colvin, Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin. They had no idea who wrote any of the entries until after they’d selected the winning entries. And, finally, congratulations to every one of you who had a go and submitted an entry. I’ve read some of them and can see that I was up against some very tough competition.

To read my winning piece of flash fiction, you’ll need to visit The Carrot Ranch. I’m not going to publish it here because Charli and her team are the ones that put all the hard work in. I just sat at my computer and allowed my mind to wander. Click the following link to read the story.

© 2017 Copyright-All rights


      1. I can’t wait for your next book, Hugh. It will be fascinating to see what mix of stories you use or if you decide to shake it up and do something completely different, like just one or 2 genres or a play or something else, though the iPad app series read almost play-like to me. Happy December 1st, Hugh and fam . . . looking forward to seeing your charity post, too!

        1. My plans are to have book two on the shelves early October 2018, Leigh. There will be a good mix of genres again, but also some which I’ve never tackled before.
          Thank you so much. My charity post will be out in about 10 days time. I’m looking forward to hosting it again, as I didn’t get around to doing one last year.
          As for it already being December, where does time go? I can’t quite believe that Glimpses is one year old on Wednesday. I’ll be celebrating. 🍺
          Have a great weekend. 🎄

    1. I’ve had a go at quite a few writing competitions, but never got anywhere with them, Colleen. This time, however, I went about writing my entry using a different method. It seems to have paid off.
      Congratulations on winning contest #2. It was a brilliant entry. Had me rocking with laughter. 💛

  1. Thank you for sharing your winning process, Hugh. The fact that winning caused you to reflect upon your process and share it with us, makes us all winners because we get to learn from your experience. I’m impressed that winning has encouraged a change in attitude to writing. I didn’t expect that effect and am pleased to have played a small part in helping you reach the next stage and remove some of that chip from your shoulder. Chiselling can be difficult work. While I think writing for your target audience is great, I can’t say I was influenced by, or even noticed, your reference to the Southern Hemisphere per se. Congratulations again. I wish you success with future endeavours.

    1. Not just a small part, but you played a big part, Norah. Afterall, it was you that hosted contest #1 and encouraged me to have a go.

      As for the Southern Hemisphere, in my mind, I set the second part of the story south of the equator. I did some research into children’s illnesses in Africa as well as names for children. When I expand this story, I’ll include the location. 99-words was tough to fit everything in, but everybody did a great job with facing that part of the challenge. Afterall, many of you do it every week over at Charli’s.

      1. Well, I’m pleased I helped you along your writing journey, Hugh. Perhaps I’ll concede that’s the teacher in me. I look forward to reading the expanded story too. Please draw my attention to it, as some things slip through the net – I’ve more a shark net than a sieve. 🙂
        We do write 99 words every week at Charli’s. I hope you’ll be joining in more often now. Best wishes with your writing.

  2. Congratulations, Hugh! This is not a surprise – you are a talented writer! Kudos to you! Keep writing and entering contests! You will receive many more wins under your belt! 🤗 😘

  3. I loved your piece Hugh and it’s helpful to see how you crafted it. It does help to let ideas ‘rest’ for a while sometimes, as it pushes our boundaries on what we feel is possible. Thanks. X

  4. I loved the story the first time I read it whent he winner was announced. Congratulations on persevering with competition entries and not being put off. It is a good idea to leave a piece of work to marinate for a while before ‘finishing’ it.

  5. Thank you for this post Hugh. It was good to hear your process and how it differed to other work you have done. I imagine this reflexion will now inform other writing you do as well as perhaps giving some hints to other writers of a method they too might try. It was also lovely to read of your persistence in entering competitions. This is a daunting exercise as it serves to feed that self critic that lives on your shoulder. It is wonderful to hear that instead of giving up – your persistence paid off which again is a valuable message for other writers. I also appreciate that you researched your judges. This is something that I was told early in the piece – read the winning entries from previous years (impossible in this comp as this was the first held) and research your judges. It seems that this advice is worth doing. Congratulations once again on your success – it was well deserved and thank you for sharing your process.

    1. You’re welcome, Irene. I think entering this contest has certainly turned a corner for my writing. I wanted to share the process I went through in the hope it would help at least a few others. I know we all have our own methods when it comes to writing, and that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for somebody else, but I always enjoy sharing what I have found works for me. Even the way I now write and publish blog posts has changed since I got the email from Charli telling me that I had won the contest. I wonder if the ripple effect will now go on to affect other parts of my life? I’ll certainly now enter many more writing competitions using the same methods I used for this contest. It’s given me a massive boost in my confidence, which is something I was told would happen one day if I kept trying.

    1. Thank you, Debby. I don’t think I’ve ever shared a post about the way I write before. Winning the contest was such a shock to me that I just had to investigate what it was I had done a little more. I quite surprised myself when I uncovered the evidence. 😀 💛

  6. I admit I was jealous of your win; because it’s such a damn fine story which i wish I’d written. I’m still rather impatient to move on but like you I have realised it is far better to give it as much time as you can, even if only to capture the typos. Charli mission is quite something and her dedication to literary encouragement something inspiring awe in me, but then your how to and how not to and how I used to posts are excellent examples of how to blog. Enough flattery…

    1. Thanks, Geoff. High praise indeed from somebody I look up to when it comes to writing and self-publishing. The story I wrote was something very different from what I usually write, but maybe the writing process I used was a factor in that? We’ll see.

  7. Congratulations, Hugh. There is something to be said to let your writing “sit and fester”. I am a pretty impulsive person with, what I feel, a lot on my plate, and often want to get something done quickly and move on to the next thing. Especially with blog posts, I have done so. I rarely enter any competition, because I feel like I don’t have the time for it and should focus on other matters at hand. I am going take your experience and insight seriously and let my writing rest a bit when it involves an important submission.

    1. That’s great to hear, Liesbet, and I hope my methods work for you. I’ve always been impulsive, yet never really looked at why. Entering this contest has helped put me on a new writing track. It’ll be interesting to see if other parts of my life follow the same track. I’m usually the type of person who will buy something on impulse. That’s probably why I’ve drawers full of clothes I never wear. 😀

  8. Congratulations, Hugh, and what a heartwarming story! It’s not easy to convey all of this in 99 words. There is a lot to be said for quality in blogging, after all, once published, it’s there forever. I think many bloggers look back at their earliest work and at minimum, raise an eyebrow and say “what was I thinking…?” You are a wonderful storyteller, Hugh and I hope you continue to write with gusto!

    1. Thanks, Terri. It’s been quite the journey and this contest seems to have sent me on a different writing path. I’m really enjoying writing flash fiction, but I’m also now allowing my blog posts to sit tight for at least a few days before I push that publish button.

      Thank you for the lovely compliments. When it comes to reading my stories out loud to an audience, I’m a stumbling block. It’s something I need to look at and improve upon. Little steps, though…😀

    1. Thank you, Erika. Yes, that’s true. I have looked back at some of my past posts and cringed at what I published. However, they were at a time when I was going through that phase of publishing as many blogs posts as I could in the hope of getting more views. Thank goodness I got over that and started to concentrate on quality rather than quantity.

      1. Lol…. I understand you. Although I didn’t intend to post as much as possible, when reading my earlier posts I see a big difference too regarding my English and the way I “designed” them. Thank God, it developped 😄

  9. Love your story – love all of the judges choices, actually – sending huge congratulations on your very well-deserved win, Hugh 🙂 x

  10. What a great opportunity to reflect on your process, Hugh. You were wise in giving your writing time and also strategic with considering who your readers would be. You’ve offered a wealth of information for other writers, whether they want to enter contests or submit to a publication. Judging bind, I think we all experienced the excitement of seeing your name attached to the winning entry! Thank you for your kind words about Carrot Ranch. It’s all about making literary art available which means encouraging writers to dive in, mature, and succeed!

    1. Thanks, Charli. I sat on writing this post for nearly two weeks because I wanted to get the wording exactly right. Oh, and I’m still on cloud nine after being told by you that I’d won. I hope what I’ve shared goes on to help many other writers. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learnt in the hope that it’ll benefit others. I’ve certainly started to change the way I write since putting my thoughts about what I did when I wrote my entry for this contest. I think it could be the key to unlocking many other creative doors.

  11. Congratulations, Hugh, I enjoyed reading your winning story. I have just started out on the rocky road of Flash Fiction, having only done a little before in verse. I am not sure where it will take me but I will definitely enjoy the journey. 🙂

  12. What? Tailor your writing to your audience? What blasphemy is this???

    Silliness aside, congratulations! I am glad you didn’t let that past poor experience keep you from giving it another try.

  13. Thanks for sharing your approach, Hugh. When writing books, the general advice is to let our work sit for a bit, so it gets a little breather and we can return to it with fresh eyes. The same goes to all stories… even flash fiction. Your experience reinforces that advice. A wonderful story. 🙂

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