Tag Archive for: Bethlehem Writers Group

New Year’s Resolution: Read a Short Story a Day

by Paula Gail Benson

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it has been healthy, comfortable, and prosperous for all.

Barb Goffman

If you are still considering resolutions and have any interest in short story craft, may I suggest a recommendation by well-known, award winning writer and editor Barb Goffman? Why not read a short story a day? Debra H. Goldstein has already made an excellent suggestion to get started: the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s latest anthology, Hook, Line, and Sinker. In addition, there are plenty of online and periodic publications to choose from, all featuring outstanding authors. Many of the Sisters in Crime Chapters have organized and released anthologies to showcase their members and give newer authors a chance not only for a writing credit, but also to learn how to promote their work.

Even if you are not interested in writing the short form, seeing how it is put together can help you strengthen skills for longer efforts. With a short story, characters, setting, and mood must be established quickly, in only a few carefully chosen words. It has to be wrapped up concisely, without leaving loose ends or unsatisfied questions. Those elements are important for novellas and novels, too. Figuring out how to develop a story and keep a reader engaged is a primary focus for shorts.

If you are interested in writing short stories, please consider the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable’s Annual Short Story Contest. This year, submissions must include a holiday element, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. They must be 2000 words or less and submitted as provided in the description of rules. An entry fee of $15 is required for each submission. The top awards are: First Place, $200 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s anthology Season’s Readings; Second Place, $100 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s online quarterly, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable; and Third Place, $50 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.

Maybe the best news about the contest is that this year’s celebrity judge is Barb Goffman. Here’s a link with an interview where Barb talks about the most appealing aspect of writing short stories, how her careers as a journalist and lawyer have influenced her writing, what some of the most frequent mistakes she sees writers make, and what’s her best advice for submitting to an anthology or contest.

Start you New Year right: reading and writing shorts!

A New Anthology by the Bethlehem Writers Group: An Element of Mystery

by Paula Gail Benson

The Bethlehem Writers Group holds a special place in my heart. My first short story appeared in its online publication, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. At that time, the monthly Roundtable was a nonpaying market, but I remember how thrilled I was to be selected as the February featured story and asked to write a top ten list for the issue. I compiled my favorite romantic musicals, including Sound of Music, 1776 (remember the songs between John and Abigail Adams), La Cage aux Folles, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Hello Dolly!

Since that time (2013) and that story (“Nectar of the Gods”), I had two additional featured stories in the Roundtable, “Long in the Tooth,” which received third place in the 2013 short story contest (that year judged by Hank Phillippi Ryan) and later was reprinted in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s winter anthology, Let it Snow, and “Cosway’s Confidence,” which placed second in the 2020 short story contest. My tale of interspecies mediation, “Apple’s Lure,” appeared in the 2014 July-August issue.

During pandemic times, the Group began meeting by Zoom. I felt privileged when along with Debra H. Goldstein I was asked to join.

This year, Debra’s “Death in the Hand of the Tongue” and my “Sense Memory” appear in the Group’s An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The anthology contains twenty-three stories, all by Group members except for the two by contest winners: “Good Cop/Bad Cop” by Trey Dowell (the 2021 short story winner, judged by Charlaine Harris) and “The Tabac Man” by Eleanor Ingbretson (the 2022 short story winner, judged by Kate Carlisle). Members of the Group whose stories appear in the volume are Courtney Annicchiarico, Jeff Baird, Peter J Barbour, A. E. Decker, Marianne H. Donley, Ralph Hieb, D.T. Krippene, Jerry McFadden, Emily P. W. Murphy, Christopher D. Ochs, Dianna Sinovic, Kidd Wadsworth, Paul Weidknecht, and Carol L. Wright.

While many of the stories involve crimes, the required element was mystery, so some focus on puzzles rather than unsolved offenses. With expert editing and selection of cover design by Marianne H. Donley and Carol L. Wright, the anthology was released in September and is a perfect gift for the holidays. By purchasing An Element of Mystery, you’ll be helping to support a Group that is developing and supporting writers. Please give it your consideration.

A New Story for the New Year

by Paula Gail Benson

I felt very privileged and humbled last year when I learned
my “Cosway’s Confidence” had received second place in the Bethlehem Writers’
Group’s 2020 short story contest. I have a special fondness for this Group.
Seven years ago, my first published story appeared online in the Bethlehem
Writers’ Roundtable. That same year, my “Long in the Tooth” placed third in the
short story contest, with Hank Phillippi Ryan as the celebrity judge.

Currently, “Cosway’s Confidence” is one of the featured
stories in the online publication, the Bethlehem Writers’ Roundtable. Debra
Goldstein’s “Wabbit’s Carat,” an honorable mention winner in the contest, also
appears in the issue.

Submissions for the 2020 contest had to be about animals.
My friends’ ferret Maggie was the initial inspiration for my story, but I
wanted to distinguish the ferret I wrote about, to give that animal an
unexpected quality.

I remembered having a discussion with a student who worked
in our office about her difficulty in obtaining the paperwork she needed to
have an emotional support animal in her dorm. I wondered, what if a person with
a support animal tried to get a job with a restaurant? Would there be any way that
person could bring the animal to work?

Thus was born Cosway, an imaginary emotional support ferret.
And, thus also arose the dilemma for my protagonist, Arleen Schuster, a private
cook opening her own café: how could she refuse to hire her best catering
customer’s nephew who carried his imaginary emotional support ferret in his backpack?

If you would like to see how Arleen handles this problem and
several others, here’s the link.

While writing the story, it occurred to me that imaginary
creatures had provided opportunities to demonstrate courage and build
confidence throughout the ages. Here’s a list of ten that I’ve found

Dragons: I’d hope they might be more friendly
than ferocious, but they certainly have offered challenges from St. George to Harry

Unicorns: Gentle, yet elusive, these creatures
have graced tapestries as well as poems. Unicorn horns and blood are strong
protectants, but harming a unicorn may cause a person to be cursed.

Hippogriffs, like Buckbeak in Harry Potter
and the Prisoner of Azkaban
, can be arrogant, but, if treated with
courtesy, are great allies for a quick getaway.

Gremlins originally took the blame for mischievous
malfunctions in WWII aircraft, but they now have infiltrated more mechanical
devices, particularly computers.

Leviathans are mentioned in biblical passages as
well as ancient sailors’ tales. These sea serpents, sometimes associated with
whales or crocodiles, have a more ominous presence than their cousin Nessie in
Loch Ness, Scotland.

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, King Kong, the Abominable—large,
ape-like, wild, and hairy—yet in so many stories, they convert from menace to semi-friend.
Sort of and sometimes.

Phoenixes have long lives that end in flames
before miraculously regenerating from the ashes. A phoenix is featured on San
Francisco’s flag, in commemoration of rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake.

South American legends describe encantados, or
shape-shifting dolfins, also called dolphin men or weredolphins. Reminds me of
a scene from Sharyn McCrumb’s If I Killed Him When I Met Him.

The jackalope, a rabbit with antelope horns, is
familiar throughout the American west, but the Swedish Skvader was constructed by a
taxidermist in 1918 and is on display in a museum in Sundsvall. It is part hare
and part wood grouse, a semi-reality of a creature from a hunting tale.

(10)Sobek, the mythological Egyptian
crocodile god, who was powerful, yet unpredictable. Anthropologists have studied
small, sealed messages left for Sobek to understand ancient Egyptian culture.

Do you have an imaginary animal that’s intrigued you?


Bethlehem Writers Group

by Paula Gail Benson

Since 2006, the Bethlehem Writers Group has been showcasing short fiction through its online literary journal, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable (now a paying publication — $20 for featured stories, $10 for other stories, and $5 for poetry — issued quarterly), and through its terrific anthologies, which include:

Each year, the Group holds a short story contest with a celebrity writer judge. Three winning stories receive cash prizes. First place is usually published in the Group’s anthology and the other winners and honorable mentions often are included in the online journal.

I’m proud to say that my story, “Long in the Tooth,” was a third place prize winner the year that Hank Phillippi Ryan was the celebrity judge. It’s also included in the Let It Snow anthology.

If you haven’t already discovered the Group or its Roundtable, please check it out. You’ll discover some delightful reading.