THE ART OF WRITING SHORT STORIES

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As the Las Vegas Literary Salon gears up for its Elmer Schooley Short Story contest with a 2,000 word count limit, we felt this would be a good time to remind writers of some of the conventions common to writing shorter pieces of prose. Remember, the story you submit for the contest must be based on the Elmer Schooley print shown here.

  1. Create a character who wants something and another character who wants the same thing, or who has reason to oppose the main character’s attempts to get what they want. For fiction this short, there will not be room to develop more than three characters.
  2. Bring the conflict to light as close to the beginning of the story as possible. Make the reader want to read on to find out what happens next.
  3. Consider point of view: who will be telling this story? Will it be told in the first, second or third person?
  4. Choose a place that has significance for you. Close your eyes and pretend you’re walking toward it. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Touch? Awaken all of your senses to draw the reader into this adventure with you. If you are using an entirely fictional location, free write to figure out the sensory details of that place.
  5. Story is a catalogue of events. (The man planted a garden. He died there.) Plot is a listing of events with causality. (The man planted a garden. He died there when an elk jumped the garden fence and trampled him.)
  6. Make your characters real. Address their internal and external conflicts. Use physical description, speech, and action to make the characters relatable.
  7. What is the subject of your story?
  8. What is the theme?
  9. How does it end? It’s okay to surprise the reader, as long as the ending makes sense within the context of the story. I recently read the top three winning entries in a short short story contest. The contest required a maximum length of 1,000 words. One writer told the story in backwards order. Another writer described what the main character was like before The Thing That Happened, and then described what the main character was like after The Thing That Happened. She never told the reader what it was that happened. Never gave any detail about it at all. But because of the way she described the actions and feelings and even the clothing the main character wore, the reader knows, instinctively, what happened. The third story had a more conventional structure. All of the entries were well under the 1,000 word limit.
  10. Write with wild abandon, and then when you rewrite, write tight. With limited word count, it’s necessary to make every word work.

The above list is not meant as a road map to writing a short story, but merely as a reminder to include these basic elements that will enhance the reader’s enjoyment and understanding of the story you tell.

For additional writing advice, check out this link to entertaining words of wisdom on writing short stories from Kurt Vonnegut:

https://promote.irevuo.net/2022/01/07/kurt-vonneguts-8-rules-for-writing-a-short-story-2/


Click on Elmer Schooley Short Story for more information about the contest.
Deadline for submissions: July 1, 2022


THANKS TO THESE GENEROUS DONORS WHO HELP SUPPORT LAS VEGAS LITERARY SALON

The Las Vegas Literary Salon Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize fund-raising effort is supported by donations from educator, author and artist Ray John de Aragon, and Rosa Maria Calles, artist, playwright, and folklore dramatist. Among the offerings are signed posters of paintings by de Aragon and Calles depicting cultural icons Gorras Blancas and Los Penitentes, and several of de Aragon’s books, most with cover illustrations by Calles. Ray John is a recognized expert on the Spanish colonial arts, traditions, heritage, and folklore.

The 19 x 25 signed posters sell for $50 each; the books are available at prices ranging from $16.95 to $24.95. The books (listed below) are a mix of fiction and nonfiction.

• Images of America: Lincoln – Arcadia Publishing, $21.99
• The Legend of La Llorona – Sunstone Press, (Illustration, Rosa Maria Calles) $16.95
• Recollection of the life of the Priest, Don Antonio Jose Martinez, by Pedro Sanchez, (Original Spanish text translated by Ray John de Aragon – Illustration, Rosa Maria Calles) $16.95
• New Mexico in the Mexican-American War – The History Press, $21.99• The Penitentes of Hew Mexico, Hermanos de la Luz/Brothers of the Light – Sunstone Press, (Illustration by Rosa Maria Calles)$24.95
• Hermanos de la Luz – Brothers of the Light, Heartsfire Books, (Illustration, Ray John de Aragon)$16.95
• Padre Martinez and Bishop Lamy, Sunstone Press, (Illustration, Rosa Maria Calles) $18.95

To purchase any of these items, contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com, or contact the Las Vegas Arts Council, Gallery 140 (140 Bridge Street), Las Vegas, N.M.

Read more on the two artists who are donating their work to support Las Vegas Literary Salon and the Las Vegas Arts Council.

From PeoplePill: “Rosa Maria Calles, artistic director for Matraka Inc. wrote and produced the thrilling play Cuento de La Llorona…The play … attracted rave reviews from critics throughout New Mexico…the story is told in the form of a spectacular stage play with music, song, dialogue, and dance that captures the very essence of Spanish Colonial traditions, heritage, culture, and history in the Southwest.” From Latinos In the Industry, October 2004, a publication of the “National Association of Latino Independent Producers.” Read more of Calles’ bio at this link https://peoplepill.com/people/rosa-maria-calles

From PeoplePill: “Ray John de Aragón was born in Las Vegas, N.M. It is generally agreed that the most significant biographical link between de Aragón and his work is this fact of his birth and growth to maturity in his native New Mexico. Here is the source of his knowledge and love of his Hispanic culture and traditions, his biological view of life, and many of his characters, whether true life heroes such as Padre Antonio Jose Martinez, who is the subject in many of his writings, or the legendary La Llorona, who is the wailing female ghost of Hispanic folklore.” (Jim Sagel, Ray John de Aragón in Profile) Read more about de Aragon at this link https://peoplepill.com/people/ray-john-de-aragon

Our deepest appreciation to husband-and-wife creative team, Ray John and Rosa Maria.


Please make checks payable to Las Vegas Arts Council with Lit Salon in the memo line. Click here for more information about the Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize.

SEEKING SHORT STORY ENTRIES

WHAT DOES THIS ELMER SCHOOLEY PRINT CONJURE UP IN YOUR WRITER’S MIND?

If you enjoy writing short stories, this is for you. The Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon, made possible by the generous donation from Lorenzo Martinez of four Elmer Schooley prints. The print seen here has been chosen by the Las Vegas Literary Salon to be the subject of short story entries. We’re looking for good writing and creative panache!

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What does this image conjure in your mind? Write that in a short story of 2,000 words or less and submit. Three cash prizes will be awarded. Prize-winning stories and qualifying submissions will be those that best reflect the hidden stories behind the image. Qualifying submissions among non-winners will be included in an Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize Anthology along with the top three winners. Authors included in the anthology will receive one free copy of the book. Click on Call for Submissions in the menu to download the Submission Guidelines.

Three of the four prints by this well-known artist will be available for sale as part of a fundraising initiative for Las Vegas Literary Salon. One has already sold for $2,000. The buyer wishes to remain anonymous. For details about the available prints, contact lvliterarysalon@gmail.com.

Elmer “Skinny” Schooley (February 20, 1916 – April 25, 2007) was an American painter and printmaker. He received a BFA from the University of Colorado, and an MA at the State University of Iowa. Schooley was a Professor of Art and Head of the Department of Arts and Crafts, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, New Mexico. His works are included in collections at the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, among others.

The image above and the two below are available for purchase. The items are valued from $1,500 to $2,500. Funds raised from sale of the items will go to support Las Vegas Literary Salon projects, including the Elmer Schooley Short Story Prize and publication of an anthology of qualifying entries. A portion also goes to our fiscal sponsor, the Las Vegas Arts Council to support its ongoing efforts to showcase and promote art in all its forms.

Patti Writes

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“Why do I read?
by Gary Paulsen

I just can’t help myself.
I read to learn and to grow, to laugh
and to be motivated.
I read to understand things I’ve never
been exposed to.
I read when I’m crabby, when I’ve just
said monumentally dumb things to the
people I love.
I read for strength to help me when I
feel broken, discouraged, and afraid.
I read when I’m angry at the whole
world.
I read when everything is going right.
I read to find hope.
I read because I’m made up not just of
skin and bones, of sights, feelings,
and a deep need for chocolate, but I’m
also made up of words.
Words describe my thoughts and what’s
hidden in my heart.
Words are alive–when I’ve found a
story that I love, I read it again and
again, like playing a favorite song
over and over.
Reading isn’t passive–I enter the
story with the characters, breathe
their air, feel their frustrations,
scream at them to stop when they’re
about to do something stupid, cry with
them, laugh with them.
Reading for me, is spending time with a
friend.
A book is a friend.
You can never have too many.

Gary James Paulsen (May 17, 1939 – October 13, 2021) was an American writer of children’s and young adult fiction, best known for coming-of-age stories about the wilderness. He was the author of more than 200 books and wrote more than 200 magazine articles and short stories, and several plays, all primarily for teenagers. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1997 for his lifetime contribution in writing for teens. (Source Wikipedia)

Celebrating young writers

Thanks, Next Gen writers! Writing is a solitary endeavor and we never know the gift our words are to others until we share them. The Next Gen event on July 25, at Gallery 140, was well-attended by an appreciative audience whose support for young writers was evident. The seating limit was 35 and there were a few people standing, ergo, we had a standing-room-only crowd!

Thanks Maya Sena, Josephine Morales, Dominic Garcia, Christian Lopez, Viviana Rivera and Joshua Sandoval. You all did an excellent job and we at the Las Vegas Literary Salon look forward to working with you and encouraging you in your writing journey. We appreciate you taking time to share your work.

Thanks also, to those of you filled out an “I Want to Help” form. We will be getting in touch with you soon. And our deepest appreciation to those of you who donated.

Next Gen is the 14th presentation by the Las Vegas Literary Salon since launching in July 2020. Thanks to our fiscal sponsor the Las Vegas Arts Council, Las Vegas Community Foundation, and a Mustard Seed Grant from the First United Presbyterian Church, LVLS has shared the talents of more than 30 writers from the Las Vegas area! Previous events have been virtual, thanks to Zoom, a technology that has allowed us to take a dream concept to reality. We will return to Zoom for our next event, La Nina: The Story of Nina Otero-Warren. Details and registration form here.

We invite you to join us in celebrating the written word as a writer and a reader. The craft of writing is a skill set that goes beyond putting pen to page. It is immersing oneself in the art of creation and bringing your reader along for the ride.


Fill out the contact form below and let Las Vegas Literary Salon know how you would like to be involved as a writer, reader or volunteer.

Yea! Open Mic Event a Success

I’m going to crow just a bit. Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Edwina (Patti) Romero, suggested we do an open mic event in recognition of poetry month, celebrated annually in April. We already had an April event scheduled, Dreams and Creativity presented by Jan Beurskens, but we decided to add the event to the schedule and see how it developed.

It developed very well. Eighteen signed up for the first Open Mic poetry reading on April 29, to read poetry, either their own or the work of another poet. Thanks to these amazing talents who shared their passion for poetry. Three of them were West Las Vegas High School students, and one was their teacher, who also read the work of a student who couldn’t make the Zoom event. See the names of participants here.

This is the eleventh Lit Salon event since we launched in July 2020. Check out our Guest Roll to read more information about the presentations, authors, and books we’ve featured.

So, why a Literary Salon? The founders of the Las Vegas Literary Salon, Patti Romero and Sharon Vander Meer, wanted there to be opportunities for writers and readers to come together in a welcoming environment where the art of the written word may be celebrated.

It appears, we’re on the right track. With the encouragement of Susie Tsyitee of the Las Vegas Arts Council, and with funding from a Mustard Seed Grant, we moved the idea forward, one guest – sometimes more – at a time.

The Great Pandemic of 2020-2021 was not the obstacle it might have been. Through Zoom, we have reached a growing audience and expanded our network.

One of our projects is the publication of Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry, a collection of written work by Las Vegas and area writers. To qualify for the publication, you must live – or have lived – in Las Vegas or Northeastern New Mexico. Submissions that reflect the area are preferred, but not required. There is much to celebrate – or comment on – about Northeastern New Mexico, a diverse area with a broad mosaic of cultures and lifestyles. You will have lots of fodder for your writing muse. And, yes, speculative fiction, mystery, suspense, comic relief, ghost stories and any other genre you can imagine – and write in short-form – is admissible and encouraged. Essays and poetry are open to the writer’s imagination and creativity.

Tapestry authors will receive a copy of the book as compensation and a publishing credit to add to their writing resume.

This is a fundraiser for Las Vegas Literary Salon. Proceeds from sale of the book will go to the Las Vegas Arts Council, our fiscal sponsor, to support future programming and workshops. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2021. Projected publication date is mid-November, just in time for Christmas sales.

Stay up-to-date on Lit Salon news and upcoming events, follow this website lvlitsalon.org. We appreciate your support and participation. If there is an author you would like to see featured, contact the Lit Salon at lvliterarysalon@gmail.com.

Our Visit with the Author May 23, will be retired educator Alvin Korte. More to come about Mr. Korte and his work.


Other Lit Salon news:
Call for Submissions – Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry.
Find out more here. Deadline for submissions, June 1, 2021
A Visit with the Author, Alvin O. Korte, May 23 on Zoom.
See our Poetry Open Mic event video here.


Patti Writes

APRIL IS FOR WORD LOVERS

The Las Vegas Literary Salon joins the rest of the country in celebrating the joy of poetry. The Academy of American Poets – https://poets.org/national-poetry-month – designated April as National Poetry Month recognizing poetry in all its forms and styles from rhymed verse, to free form, experimental, cowboy and cowgirl poetry, prose-poetry, and on and on.

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Poetry provides us all – even those of us who do not think of ourselves as poets – with the means to express strong feelings through imagery, rhythm, and sometimes a special, concentrated language, a language we do not use in our daily communications. People who write poems write from the heart.

When my daughter was born, my mother — not a writer or a poet and not a high school graduate — wrote:

Rarest of children, child of my child
Angel on earth with a heavenly smile
Cherub to cherish although far apart
Here or there you are still in my heart
Eternally I’ll love you never forget
Love is the answer give and you’ll get.

Poetry gave my mother the means to express her deep joy at the granddaughter born a thousand miles away. 

I think you’ll agree we can all benefit from spending time with poems. So please – forget politics and pandemics – join us for an hour of non-stop poems.

THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2021, 6:00 – 7:00 PM via ZOOM
for THE FIRST ANNUAL Las Vegas Literary Salon
Open Mic(rophone)Poetry Event

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4635856164

DROP in and –
• READ a poem or three – your own work and/or your favorite poet’s,
• HANG OUT quietly and listen,
• SEND COMMENTS (not required),

Please join us.


Call for Submissions – Tapestry: Tales, Essay, Poetry.
Find out more here. Deadline for submissions, June 1, 2021


GET LIT WITH LAS VEGAS LITERARY SALON

On Sunday, Feb. 28, 4-5 p.m., bring your topic and let’s talk writing. Get Lit with Las Vegas Literary Salon is an open forum on the topics of writing and publishing. Scheduled participants include Bob and Mary Rose Henssler talking about creativity, inspiration, and poetry, Susie Tysitee reflecting on writing as an art form, and Sharon Vander Meer presenting the pros and cons of self-publishing. And whatever topic you would like to add to the mix.

The Lit Salon development team will also put out a call for submissions for A Northeastern New Mexico Tapestry: Poetry, Essays, Tales, a publication featuring area writers and their poetry, short fiction and essays on the topic of Northeastern New Mexico with a focus on Las Vegas.

Bob Henssler is an artist, musician and photographer, in addition to writing poetry. Bob will read some of his work and discuss the seeds of inspiration, where they come from and how they sprout. His work reflects multiple artistic endeavors. His poetry is taken from personal experience and observation. “I may view a photo or painting and react by writing out what I see and feel. My fears from the past well up and need to be verbalized and take the form of a poem. I don’t adhere to any measured metric or rhyme as life doesn’t come to us in form noted out on a staff.” 

Mary Rose Henssler is equally multi-talented. She resides in San Miguel County, New Mexico with Bob, two dogs and a cat. “I fill my time with reading and writing: poetry, plays, comedy sketches, memoir, short stories and novels.” She also enjoys block printing, drawing, and watercolor painting, acting with the Nat Gold players, and gardening. Her talk is entitled, Quick fixes when you’re not sure what to write. Mary Rose is on the planning team for Las Vegas Literary Salon.

Susie Tsyitee is the executive director of the Las Vegas Arts Council, and was the creative prod that got LVLS from concept to reality. LVLS early efforts to organize its first event came to a halt when Covid descended. Susie, always a creative thinker, saw the possibilities to launch LVLS offered through Zoom, a digital tool provided through a grant from Las Vegas Community Foundation. And the rest – as they say – is history. Susie will present on the topic, “Writing as an art form.”

Sharon Vander Meer, a co-organizer of LVLS with Patti Romero, is a published indie author and freelance writer whose work appears periodically in the Las Vegas Optic. Her books and other writing are featured on her website www.vandermeerbooks.com. Sharon will talk about the pros and cons of self-publishing. She has published five novels and two chapbooks of poetry.

Sharon will also talk about the collection of poetry, short fiction, and essays to be published in early November. The guidelines will be available upon request. The working title is A Northeastern New Mexico Tapestry: Poetry, Essays, Tales.

SAVE THE DATE: SUNDAY, FEB. 28, 4-5 PM
Register below to receive your Zoom link to Get Lit With Las Vegas Literary Salon.

What is the Literary Salon

Howdy! We’re glad you’re here

Sharon Vander Meer

Las Vegas Literary Salon hosted its first event Sunday, July 12, thanks to the Las Vegas Arts Council and the Las Vegas NM Community Foundation. The event was a delayed launch because of the pandemic. Originally, thanks to a Mustard Seed grant from the First United Presbyterian Church, the first event was to be a poetry workshop in April featuring Carolyn Martin.

After waiting for life to get back to normal, which clearly wasn’t happening soon enough for us, Patti Romero and I, founders of LVLS, decided to make use of Zoom technology to get LVLS up and running. With the encouragement and help of LVAC’s Susie Tsytee, we produced a Writers & Readers Roundtable featuring five authors. It was well attended for our first foray into the digital world and gave us much-needed encouragement to continue.

Thanks to our guests, author Ray John de Aragon, poet Joy Alesdatter, historian Tim Hagaman, poet Kathleen Lujan, and writer/performance artist Beth Urech, we saw the potential for more.

Since then we have had an event each month through November and will return to programming in January with Toby Smith, author of Crazy Fourth: How Jack Johnson Kept His Heavyweight Title and Put Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the Map.

This is the launch of our website, which is very much a work in progress. Click on Guest Roll for a brief bio and contact information for previous LVLS guests.

Going forward, we will continue with A Visit with the Author, and expand on workshops, like the one conducted by Carolyn Martin. We’re looking for ideas, so if you have a topic you would like us to explore, or a presenter who LVLS might invite, or suggestions for improvement to the site, please let us know by filling out the contact form below.

There is no cost for participants or audience members. We want to thank the LVNM Community Foundation and the Las Vegas Arts Council for their encouragement and support. And thanks to the First Presbyterian Church of Las Vegas for its Mustard Seed Grant, which allowed us to resubmit the grant request with revised deliverables. With the grant, we will purchase a one-year Zoom license and get this website off the ground. The remaining grant funds will be used to published a collection of short stories and poems by regional writers. But, that’s a story for another day.

LVLS events are generally held from 4-5 p.m., the fourth Sunday of the month. Registration is required so we may send you a Zoom invite specific to the featured guest or program. In the future, we hope to switch to in-person activities. Until then, our programming is digital.

Please share this post with your friends who love writing and reading. We’re excited about the future of Las Vegas Literary Salon. If you would like to become a member, click on the Contact tab and provide us with your email address. We will send you notification of upcoming events. We also invite you to follow this website so you don’t miss any of our posts.

A special thanks to Jim Terr who has generously edited some of our videos. We appreciate the donation of his time and expertise.

The Las Vegas Literary Salon Team
Sharon Vander Meer
Patti Romero
Mary Rose Henssler