Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Spring Writing Contest ... Come and Dine!

the heart-shaped tomato that changed my life
"The summer I turned 14, just two days before my birthday, Mama sent me out to the garden to gather the ripe tomatoes, bell peppers and yellow crook-necked squash. I didn't mind so much picking those soft, hot tomatoes sagging with juicy goodness from the heavily-laden vines; but when she told me to harvest the okra before it got too big to eat, I frowned. I hate cutting okra. Not only do the prickly spines make my arms and hands itch, the sap that drips from the cut my knife makes coats my fingers with its sticky goo, then the gnats, mosquitoes and flies seem to hover over me just waiting to nip and chew at my arms. Disgusting! I don't even like okra -- not even dipped in egg and cornmeal and fried up in bacon grease. Well, if I was starving I might eat a few cooked like that, but never stewed with onions and tomatoes.

"I have a confession to make though. Despite my less than perfect attitude, if I had not dutifully gone to gather the ripe tomatoes and other vegetables from the garden that day, life would have continued on its dull course without the amazing series of events that has led to all my happiness since. You see, on that day, I plucked a heart-shaped tomato and my life took a turn that I would never have expected and could never have planned."

Are you interested in my little story yet? I wanted to illustrate how it's possible to include food in a story without making it entirely about the food itself. Maybe I'll finish the story if enough people beg ;-)

Garden Delights

I wrote this little vignette to lead into our Writing Contest Rule #1: please write about food. Food can be at the heart of your story (pun intended since mine is about a heart-shaped tomato), or simply included in some way. You can base your story, poem or article/essay on whatever premise suits you, but food must enter into to it at some point. That should set your brain to ticking right away, I hope!

1. Food must be included in the story, essay/article or poem in some way.
2. Contestants must have taken "Mrs. Morecraft’s Writing Webinar," either I or II, or both.

3. Contestants may enter as many times as they wish, noting that there will be a $10. entry fee for each entry.

4. The word limit for each entry is 1,200 words.

5. The contest submission time-frame is from April 15th to June 30th. The deadline for submission will be midnight, EST, June 30th.

6. Submissions should be made in hard-copy form, printed on plain paper in 12 or larger font, one and one-half inch spacing, and mailed, along with a check made out to Rebecca Morecraft with $10. per submission to: 300 Wrights Mill Way, Canton, GA 30115. Be sure to allow at least five days' time for me to receive it if mailed in the continental US. If you would like, you may also submit your entry to  However, the hard-copy is required for entry in the contest.

Mrs. Rebecca Morecraft, the Poet-Laureate of the Vision Forum Quadricentennial Celebration at Jamestown, VA in 2007
7. Winners will be informed in an email of their achievements, so be sure to include an email address where you can be reached.

8. Prizes will include: editing by Mrs. Morecraft and her panel of judges, our efforts to have your winning entry published, either in a periodical or another venue, and various other books or prizes that will delight and inform, such as:

This would make a great first-place prize!
9. After the winners have been chosen and notified, the winning entries will be posted on my blog with the permission of the authors.
10. Have fun!

 Suggestions for writing a winning entry: follow my example and Edit, Edit, Edit!!! You are almost never through editing as you rearrange, find better words, correct misspelled words and grammar, check punctuation, critique and accept suggestions, read your work aloud and edit some more!!! I still edit work that has already been published!! Really, I do...

Mrs. Morecraft continued to edit her Jamestown 400 poem, "Remember & Persevere," even after she read it there!!

Judging criteria:

Each entry will be judged by the following criteria:

1. grammatical accuracy

2. strong, imaginative imagery that avoids using tired, trite phrases, jargon or slang (unless the dialogue calls for it)

3. good lead sentences and first paragraphs, where applicable

4. clearly understood development of the theme or thesis, where applicable

5. a strong concluding paragraph

6. good sentence structure with strong nouns, verbs and properly used modifiers

7. for rhyming poems, strict adherence to the chosen meter

8. for all poems, whether rhymed or blank verse, strong, palpable imagery appropriate to the subject

9. in poetry, skillful use of internal rhyme where applicable

10. themes that capture interest for both poetry and prose

11. did the writing grab and keep our interest throughout, or was the piece

      too rhetorical (instructional with little to keep interest in a storyline)

      too artificial (either too silly and unbelievable or impossible situations)

      boring

      too ‘wordy’

12. With articles and essays, did the writer make and prove a point well? Was the thesis sentence stated clearly at the beginning and logically proved throughout? Did the piece have a strong conclusion?

13. In all types of writing, did the writer strike a chord with us so that we wanted to keep reading and felt satisfied when we finished reading it? We were either entertained, inspired or moved? Or was the piece easy to put down, even before the end? Was it enjoyable?

This final point is often the deciding factor for judges. If your writing moves us in some way that keeps us reading, holds our interest and leaves us wanting more, your submission has more winning potential than a piece that follows all the rules but doesn’t inspire, delight or instruct. Learning to grip your reader's emotions, not through soupy sentimental writing but in a way that strikes a chord in the heart, is more given than learned. Ask God for this ability as you write.

My poetess/songwriter sister Judy Rogers

"And whatever you do -- whether you eat or drink or whatever you do --
do it all to the glory of God." I Cor. 10:31

My sister Judy Rogers personifies this admonition. She is and has been for over 30 years an example of godly womanhood to me and all who know her through her music. Judy's songwriting and singing abilities have blessed literally thousands of people around the world as she writes and sings incredible songs, based on Scripture and sung to music that God gives her as she labors over her music and prays. Judy was a terrible piano student. I know because I tried to be her teacher. She doesn't read musical notation. Her music is all in her head, ear and heart and God has blessed it to come out in songs with complex musical scores that could compete well with the music of many schooled musicians. But Judy's writing and singing isn't about acclaim. She writes beautiful poems put to music to honor and glorify King Jesus, as well as in direct submission to her husband who first asked her to put the Shorter Catechism for children to music over 30 years ago.

Is that why you write? To glorify God? Or do you want people to sit up and take notice of you and say, "Wow, that girl is so intelligent and can write so well!" If you seek to honor yourself, God may decide not to see your goals met. But if you are diligent, as my sister has been and as I try to be, honing the gifts and graces He has given you to the best of your ability to bring Him glory, He sometimes sees fit to give you success. My prayer is that success will be yours in full measure as you write to make a difference in the world for Christ.

Maybe you won't win a place in this little writing contest. Don't be discouraged. All writing errors can be corrected. All writers can improve. Please don’t be despondent if your name doesn’t show up in the list of honorable mentions or in the winner’s circle. Keep journaling, writing letters and reading good writers as well as continuing with the vocabulary building and writing exercises we’ve brought to your attention. As you apply the suggestions we’ve mentioned in our classes and those you discover through other resources, attempt to apply them to your own writing. Keep reading your poems, essays, articles and papers aloud to your friends and parents and ask for suggestions for improvement. Submit them to various magazines that publish young writers -- learn from any comments they may make concerning your submission.

As you read great books on a variety of topics from many different eras and perspectives, your base of knowledge will be broadened and your ability to analyze and think expanded. Learn from these proven writers how to construct good sentences, find strong nouns and verbs as the building materials, how to use modifiers accurately, how to use discernment when describing a scene depicting emotions, how to write dialogue and especially how to create tangible, palpable imagery.

Remember that more is not better. Simple, clean writing is almost always best. Did you say what you mean and mean what you say? Sincerity and simplicity are key ingredients. Do you know your subject matter well enough to write about it? More research may be necessary before a word ever hits the page. Remember the pre-writing skills we studied during this last webinar? Mapping, asking yourself questions and other word-association techniques will boost the possibility of a winning entry.

Take time to smile at someone -- every day!
Read well-written books and take notes on all these topics -- this is perhaps the best way to improve your own writing. Don’t be too sensitive – don’t be afraid of criticism. In fact, ask for it all the time.

Ask anyone who will listen to your writing, “Does that make sense to you? What do I need to add? What do I need to take out? How could this be written to convey my point better? Do I need to re-write this or just start over?”

You will never improve as a runner if you don’t run or as a singer if you don’t sing or a rider if you never get on a horse. You will never become a better writer if you only practice writing skills occasionally. Write every day. Read every day. Ask the Lord to help you improve for His glory and He will.

Please pray for me as you think of me. I have a few big writing projects that I’d like to complete this summer. Pray that God will give me the freedom of time and the exact words to complete what I’ve begun for His glory.

How do you know who you really are till you walk around in a pair of red cowgirl boots! Yee-haw!Fun!!!


Shiloh Strang said...

Mrs. Morecraft,

Would you please finish your story? I'd love to read it!


Nicki O'Donovan said...

Pleeeeese finish your story! You've got me very curious! :)

Cochran Family said...

Hello Mrs. Morecraft,

I just wanted to say thank you so much for the Godly example, encouragement, and blessing that you are. My sisters and I greatly enjoyed your writing class last fall-we learned so much! Regretfully, we were unable to attend the latest writing class, but maybe you'll do another one in the future?! :)

I'll be praying for you as you work on your writing projects this summer. Also, can you please finish your heart tomato story? :) I was really enjoying it- it grabbed my attention right away!

May God bless and be with you and your family!


Savannah Cochran (from Oklahoma)

Miller Family said...

Can we write our story, and just have the characters eat dinner or something? Would that stil count in the contest?

And yes! Please finish the story! It sounds so good! :)

lizzytheteagirl said...

Oh, please do! :) pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top?

lizzytheteagirl said...

Oh, Mrs. Morecraft, please finish your story! I would love to read it too!

Becky said...

Yes! But I'm afraid you'll have to wait ... I want to see what happens next as well!!!

Hannah said...

Mrs. Morecraft,

I would love to hear the end of your story! :D. I'm excited about the contest, and I'm sure up for the challenge. Count me in! Thanks for the great blog. I love your Webinar course.


Unknown said...

hey Mrs. Morecraft!
I fully plan on entering your story contest. I love writing and want to thank you 4 the webinar feast that you served me at. also, please, please, please finish your story!!! I've already fallen in love with it.
anyways, thank you very, very, very much.

in Christ,
Tabby Campbell

Davis Family said...

Mrs. Morecraft,

I really enjoyed your writing webinar; it taught me alot and I hope I can participate in the next one you do!

I, like everyone else, can't wait for you to finish the tomato story!!! Love the idea...

Alex (from Georgia)

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Morcraft,

I am having some trouble editing my story for the writing contest. Would it be against the rules to have my mom help me?

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

I would love to read the heart tomato story when you finish it!