Literary Triathlon

I really love CBC’s Canada Writes website. So far I have entered three contests there: the short story, the creative non-fiction, and just a few weeks ago, a mini contest called the Literary Triathlon. I haven’t won anything (yet), but these are great exercises and prompts to motivate writers. They have certainly motivated me, and then at the end of it, I have a piece of writing that I can do something else with one day.

The short story that I submitted last fall is now the first chapter in a set of linked short stories that I’m working on. I have completed four and plan one more to finish the set. Writing them has been a challenge in starting and completing a chunk of writing. If you are anything like me, you know that starting to write something is relatively easy. Finishing is quite another thing.

The theme for the recent Literary Triathlon was Speed. Writers had to submit a poem of 50 words or less, a nano story of 100 words or less, and a piece of creative non-fiction of 150 words or less. The short story was to be based on this photo:

Luckily for me, the linked short stories that I have been working on are centred around a running group. The stories are told from the perspectives of the different runners, and so I read through my drafts and picked a couple of excerpts to work on for this contest. I wrote two different ones, then submitted the one I liked best. You can tell me if you agree with my choice.

For the creative non-fiction, I chose to write about the time when my youngest daughter ran her first 2K race and you can see what an irresponsible parent I was. For the poetry – ah, the poetry. I have never understood or been able to write poetry, and so I just did a stream of consciousness piece that I had no idea if it made any sense, or was really even poetry.

For your amusement, I am posting my entry here. I am including the word counts with each piece so that it’s clear just how short these entries had to be. When I was editing, I focused on trying to make every word count.

I thank Denise and Sasha for providing most helpful edits and comments.

You can read the winning entries here and what I submitted is below.

Poetry (50 words maximum)

Always Faster  (50 words)

Always faster
How do you slow down when there is so much to do?
Her heart races, but not from exertion
No one does what they need to do
When she needs it done
She wants to cry but that would slow her down
So she runs
Always faster

Short Fiction (100 words maximum)

The Marathon (option 1; submitted) (100 words)

What the hell was I thinking? Martha asked herself as she walked in her new white running shoes, the frosty downtown air making her gasp for breath. They’re gonna be a bunch of goddamn snobs in their fancy lululemon clothes.

Martha stopped outside of the coffee shop. I should just go home and forget this bullshit running club.

The door opened a crack and a runner poked his head out. “Are you Martha?” She paused, then nodded. The door opened some more. “Come onnnnnnn in! I promise, we won’t bite. He held out his hand to her.

Damn. Too late.

The Marathon (option 2; not submitted)  (96 words)

“So what made you folks join our run club?”  Ty asked them after the run.

“Um…” Mike looked uncomfortable and glanced over at Tina. She nodded, and he continued. “It was actually our marriage counsellor who suggested it,” Mike puffed, looking down at his new white running shoes. “She suggested we pick an activity that we could do together, and we wanted to get into shape anyhow, so we thought what the heck, why not try running? It was either this or ballroom dancing,” Mike finished.

“Yep, guess who won the coin toss.” Tina sighed, out of breath.

Creative Non –Fiction (150 words maximum)

Her First 2K  (149 words)

I swear I didn’t know she had H1N1. It was the early wave and she was one of the first; no one knew what it was. She had been a little under the weather, feverish and lethargic, but she was much better now and she assured me that she wanted to run in the 2K race. We would run together.

She was small and mighty, but her usual kick in her step was missing. We walked much of the way, meandering under sprinklers as we came upon them through the neighbourhood streets as the other runners streamed by. With 500 meters to go, she had nothing left in her little five-year-old body. I stooped low for her to climb up on my back and I ran and walked with her until we crossed the finish line together.

There were medals for both of us, and this made her happy.

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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16 Responses to Literary Triathlon

  1. I so agree that entering contests like this is a great way to flex those literary muscles. And yes, writing is much like learning to run…easy to start, but persevering and finishing tends to be tougher. But worth the effort.

  2. those are all awesome Finola!

  3. Sasha says:

    I guess you could compare these contests to running a marathon – it’s not just about winning. You already know what I think about the pieces :). Keep running – one of these days I just might join you :).

  4. Lara says:

    Great job! I really like them and now I’m off to check out that site 🙂

  5. Brie says:

    These are great Finola! It is awesome that you entered.

    I am going to confess to liking the second fiction story better. I want to know more!

    • Finola says:

      You weren’t the only one who liked the second one better, but people were pretty evenly split between the two. I chose because I felt more of an emotional connection to Martha.
      You will get to read more soon 🙂

  6. If you may enter only one, I choose the first one. It has more breadth in that it gets you to think about what that woman’s story could be and where she might end up. All great though. Well done! I love the idea behind the linked stories, by the way.

  7. Eileen says:

    I loved ‘Her First 2K’. A courageous little girl that gave the run everything she had, and her loving Mother. It touched my heartstrings.

  8. jenny gee says:

    I love them all – great job, Fin. You have a lovely voice. 🙂 Inspiring me to re-flex my writing muscles, which have been far too dormant lately. As for the running ones, well, stupid injuries… 🙂

  9. coffeewithjulie says:

    This is so impressive! A) that you are making the time and submitting to these writing contests, and B) that you are sharing your writing with us. Is it just me or would you never had done this a couple of years ago? I am so inspired by you Finola. This ROCKS.

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