Photo by @NickMorrison/Unsplash.com
Last fall, after nearly six years dabbling in creative writing, I thought about how I had produced dozens of flash fiction, blog posts, and essays, but no novels.
Most writers I know had managed to finish one or more drafts. Why couldn’t I?
Part of me felt like a failure, and the other part thought, “I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.” Some of my stories and essays had won Honorable Mention in a few contests and been published. Why not focus on short-form works? They gave me the most joy.
Around this time, a friend forwarded information about a new literary platform that would debut in October 2017. Zathom’s editors invite users to think of it as a “combination writing catalyst, microfiction literary journal, and social media platform – but when the sum of these parts is expressed, we are something different than any of those things.”
The bottom line: “Zathom is about creating and collaborating.”
I answered the call for submissions with a few stories, and to my delight, the editors chose “Mr. Snuggles” for the website launch. A payment of $10 was promptly sent to my PayPal account. For the January contest, they chose two nonfiction and one story for payment. Again, $10 each.
The contests charge no fees, are open worldwide, and offer unlimited entries. Prize amounts vary. For the March contest, featuring the theme “heroes,” they offered a first place prize of $550; second, $250; third, $100, and seven honorable mentions, $10. One of my stories received honorable mention out of 600 entries. Here it is, with Fathoms bolded.
“Your Average, Everyday Hero”
You vanquished another demon with grace. All the gods think highly of you, even Mercury. Last time you visited Mount Olympus, he threw a feast in your honor. But it’s nothing compared to the love of your human family. Save the world, kiss your husband and kids, unwind with Netflix. Repeat daily. This is Heaven.
In the April 2018 contest featuring the themes “sex and nature,” my story “Head For The Hills” won second place out of 700 entries and $150. First place won $350, and third, $100.
A stream meanders through the meadow, ice-cold water to quench their thirst after hiking into the mountains. Ramona breaks bread; Vic adds slices of cheddar. Beautiful. Peaceful. Music — faint notes from a flute — breaks their reverie. Vic’s satellite phone rings. “We got a lock on him. Half a mile west of you. Go.”
Want to give it a try?
After creating an account at http://www.Zathom.com, you’ll see Read, Desk, and Feed at the top of the screen. Search and Menu are in the top right corner. Menu provides links to Current Contest, About, Profile, Featured Authors, Settings, etc.
One you click on Desk, you’ll choose 55 Mode and see three randomly-generated Fathoms, words designed to tap into the psyche. You can Accept Fathoms, or select up to two to keep and click on Keep Fathoms; a third new Fathom will appear. Choose Accept Fathoms or Revert to Original Fathoms.
Zathom will prompt you to enter a title and begin writing. The Desk keeps count of your words (55 or fewer required) and automatically saves your draft. Each of the three Fathoms disappear from the top of the desk as you use them in the story.
When finished, select Ready to Publish. Publishing Options will appear: your story title, category (story, nonfiction, or poetry), and theme (choose from the list). Choose a Continuation Option (“me” is usually required for contests).
Read other writers’ stories in the Featured, Read, and Feed sections, and vote for the ones you like by clicking on the arrow at the bottom. You can follow favorite authors, list social media links in your profile and gain new friends.
Zathom has boosted my creativity and motivated me to write almost daily: before work, during my lunch break, and in the evenings. I’ve received ego boosts from seeing my stories, such as “Grandma’s Gift,” featured @Zathom37 on Instagram. Maybe one day I’ll write a novel in snippets, like Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison.
When I publish a story and see that readers have “upvoted” it, I’m motivated to keep writing. The same happens when a story garners fewer votes; I know I can do better.
What’s interesting is that most of the time, when a story takes only 20 minutes to write, it rates higher than those I labor over for an hour. I find it best to go with the first thoughts and images that come to mind.
Good luck, and happy writing!
(P.S. – After publishing this post, I won second place in the Zathom April 2018 contest with my story “Head For The Hills.” Soon after, editors notified me that two of my stories, “The Shining Sea” and “New Words, New World” would be highlighted in the Featured section at Zathom.com starting June 11. Thank you for kick-starting my creativity eight months ago, Zathom!)
Katherine Valdez is a former newspaper reporter and nonprofit communications director who writes under the Zathom handle @KatValdezWriter. Read more insights about writing at Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, www.KatherineValdez.com. Receive posts (about two per month) directly to your inbox by typing your email address in the Follow box. Watch for the confirmation email to complete the process.
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