Tag Archive for: Bethlehem Writers Roundtable

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
intriguing:

(1)   
Dragons: I’d hope they might be more friendly
than ferocious, but they certainly have offered challenges from St. George to Harry
Potter.

(2)   
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.

(3)   
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.

(4)   
Gremlins originally took the blame for mischievous
malfunctions in WWII aircraft, but they now have infiltrated more mechanical
devices, particularly computers.

(5)   
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.

(6)   
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.

(7)   
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.

(8)   
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.

(9)   
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 Roundtable

by Paula Gail Benson

A
writer never forgets the first place her work is published. The Bethlehem
Writers Group, in existence since 2006, gave me that opportunity through its
online publication the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable (BWR).

At the
end of 2012, I had recently joined the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime and
decided to commit to serious writing by submitting my work. I read the BWR was
seeking 2000 or less word stories on the theme “Dead Valentine” for its
February issue. I sent in “Nectar of the Gods,” and, miraculously, it was
selected as February’s feature story, which meant I also had to come up with a “top
ten” list. (My topic: the top ten romantic Broadway musicals.)

Subsequently,
I entered the BWR annual short story contest. That year, it was being judged by
Hank Phillippi Ryan, who I unabashedly adore as a fabulous writer and
incredible human being. I wrote a story based on personal experience, drawn
from an incident that happened to my mother during her final days in the
hospital. I will never forget the joy I felt in placing third, behind K.B.
Inglee, another author I very much admire.


For
me, the BWR is the gift that keeps giving. My three stories published there
remain accessible through the online archives. My prize winner also was included in
a print anthology available in paperback or Kindle formats on Amazon.

When
I first submitted to the BWR, it was issued monthly and offered no payment. In 2017, it became a
quarterly publication that pays for accepted stories ($20 for featured authors
and $10 for &More selections). Submissions should be no more than 2000
words.

This
year, the short story contest is being judged by Carrie Vaughn, the New York
Times bestselling novelist of the Kitty series, featuring a werewolf who hosts
a radio talk show. Paranormal stories are being solicited and must be received
by March 31, 2017. There is an entry fee of $10 per story for the contest. (Regular
submissions require no fee.) In addition to publication, the top three prize
winners receive cash awards. Personally, I think the contest fee is very
reasonable and consider it a means of supporting an excellent organization.

If you’re a short
story writer, please consider submitting to the BWR. I have found its editors
to be wonderful, caring individuals, and I am very proud to be among their authors
(including my Stiletto Gang partner, Debra Goldstein). Check it out at: http://bwgwritersroundtable.com