River Styx: Microfiction Contest

20 Feb

It’s Market Monday, my reminder to spark your ambition. And mine.

If you’ve got all the confidence and energy you need, and you just want an introduction to a new market for your very short fiction, skip to the Market Monday details below. If you’re in the thick of the winter doldrums, if like me you’re so sick at the state of our country you’re finding it hard to show up to the writing (and submitting) desk, if you’re doubting yourself and your work for any reason… read on.

2017 is going to be a year of self-talk, that’s becoming very clear. And that’s what a blog is for, first and foremost, whatever we bloggers like to think: I’m helming this Daily Shorty ship, and these posts are my captain’s log.

Today the captain is heartsick. Just as I was on December 5, when I talked about election dejection, then four weeks later, when I had to remind myself why I write, and then four weeks after that, when I used the words “election dejection” again. The captain’s heart veered from its pattern today because it has been only three weeks since the last time it cracked. This, the captain hopes, is a fluke.

In four weeks, in three weeks, every day, whatever. The solution is work and connection. For writers, work and connection amount to the same thing—writing. But on the other end of the connection is a reader. And no one can read your work if it’s not published.

So you must write. And you must publish. Both of which require ambition. And it’s tough to nurse ambition when you’re heartsick. Today I need a little help. So to follow through on this Market Monday blog post, I ignite my ambition by turning to my mother:

Over and over, as a girl-then-teen-then-very young adult, far too many times to guess at a count, over and over like the caption to the picture of my face, like a motto taped to the fridge, like theme music for the sitcom starring the nice-enough-but-comically-bumbling me, my mother said, “Ambition is unattractive in a woman.”

Oh, you were expecting encouragement? She’s not that kind of mom. But you’re in luck, because I am that kind of blogger, and I hereby offer this toast, which I have silently made to myself for many years now, every time I need to light a fire under my own ass: Here’s to being ugly.

Here’s to wanting to be seen and heard. Here’s to wanting your words to live in the world, your stories to linger in the mind of someone you will never meet. Here’s to answering the call, to donning your superhero costume, to screwing up your who-cares-if-it’s-pretty face and howling at the moon (at 10:00 in the morning, if that’s when you find time to work, the moon is out there like always, I promise). Here’s to doing your job.
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Spotlighting River Styx’s Microfiction Contest

I could have picked a better season to talk about River Styx’s microfiction contest, given its December 31 deadline, but I vowed to highlight on Market Mondays my preferred magazines who have published my own micros and flashes before moving on to my hopefuls. I’ve got a flash coming out in March, but until then, River Styx is the last journal that fits the bill. Well, you can’t say you don’t have time to prepare a submission.

Do I like what River Styx publishes?  Yes, and what’s more, I think most would agree, given the wide range of voices RS publishes, something I’ve found rare in my review of litmags. RS is living on a new site and they haven’t yet populated all their archives pages, but I quickly found some live links to shorties I love, including Allison Alsup’s “Pioneers,” Ethel Rohan’s “That Mama,” and Amina Gautier’s “Minnow.” All stories about material I would never address and in a voice I would never come close to adopting, yet I was published here, too. I really appreciate that kind of diversity.

Aesthetics? Again, River Styx is unusual in that they produce lovely print journals but also maintain a very polished and substantial online presence.

Do they nominate authors for awards? Yep. All the usual ones accounted for on their About page.

Guidelines? As I’ve noted already, there’s no particular aesthetic the magazine appears to be aiming for. Instead it’s apparently all comers welcome, and your modest entry fee (only $10 if you don’t want a subscription) gets you three bites at the apple. They limit their contest entries to 500 words.


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The personal is the universal, we writers like to say. It reminds us why our stories matter. If my protagonist finds solace by the end of the story I give her, a reader, somewhere, may find that same solace. Or inspiration or justified anger or cathartic bleakness—whatever was my goal, my ambition, for the story. The personal is the universal, so I keep a captain’s log in the hope I tell you something about your writing life, or—talk about ambition, wish of wishes—I give you a small tool to help you on your path.

Today I am heartsick. But just that little bit more ambitious from having written this post. I hope it’s catching.
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7 Responses to “River Styx: Microfiction Contest”

  1. cynthia February 21, 2017 at 10:31 AM #

    This post is SO SO GOOD–the way you incorporate the state of the world and the winter season and writing in general and River Styx in particular and all in the voice of our captain! I don’t even write short fiction, but I loved every word. And I also love River Styx. Looking forward to reading your flash in March–congrats!

    • Claire Guyton February 21, 2017 at 10:38 AM #

      Oh, thank you for that, I really appreciate it. As you know, when you do go out on a blogpost limb just a bit to include something more personal than usual, the fear that maybe that wasn’t such a great idea immediately follows. But that’s writing, we have to get naked one way or another…. And yes, River Styx is such a great mag. I love all the good stuff on their site. They’ve been around for more than 40 years, yet they keep their voice so fresh. I hope they get another 40.

      • cynthia February 21, 2017 at 3:16 PM #

        And also the childhood thread!

  2. suzannefarrellsmith February 21, 2017 at 12:53 PM #

    Love your Market Mondays, and this one hits hard and good. Ambition … true, ignite it and it disfigures the pretty. In fact, it atomizes it, replaces it with something much, much better. You’re inspiring me to dig out some ideas I’ve logged and set a match to them.

    • Claire Guyton February 21, 2017 at 2:22 PM #

      I mean who the fuck cares about pretty, right? Woot! Burn it up! And thanks for encouragement on the post!

  3. Sarah February 22, 2017 at 9:15 AM #

    I read this post three times–for the beauty of it, everything Cynthia said–and for the nerve it struck. I’m in the thick of winter doldrums and life seems cast in grey. I ruminate about things beyond my control. As much as I learned about steering my own ship during those 365 blogging days, I still very much needed this wisdom: “2017 is going to be a year of self-talk, that’s becoming very clear. And that’s what a blog is for, first and foremost, whatever we bloggers like to think: I’m helming this Daily Shorty ship, and these posts are my captain’s log.” YES! Because the self-talk that happens when I meet myself at the page is very different than the cyclical self-talk that develops when I’m away from my writing for long stretches. I need to captain the ship, to maintain the log. Otherwise, I’m just sitting back getting tossed about the choppy water. Thank you, thank you for this life raft, for including the personal, for turning my attention to River Styx (I’d just recently added them to my submission spreadsheet), and for inspiring me to continue onward!

    • Claire Guyton February 22, 2017 at 9:53 AM #

      When I get crabby and snappy, the husband will gently ask, “When was the last time you wrote something?” Or less gently say, “You need to sit down and write.” Thank YOU for all the kind feedback, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that my encouragement is landing somewhere useful. You have a terrific voice and plenty to say–I have enjoyed everything I’ve read at your blog and I would love to read more of your work. Trust yourself, keep going, get it done. Oh, and one last word: The intensity of the seasons in Maine and the very long winter have taught me to LIVE according to season. I now see winter as a time to acknowledge and even welcome melancholy as a way to slow down, reflect, absorb the lessons of the previous months. And then as spring approaches, I start storing the lengthening sunshine and preparing myself to tackle projects. In short, winter is necessary down-time easing into prep-time. It didn’t happen overnight for me, but I pretty reliably get through winter feeling good about it, these days. My heartsickness right now is all about our ongoing national catastrophe. (She says, doubling over in pain.) And now I go back to the page….

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