where the writers are
Red Room Stirs Competitive Spirit

The number one cause of disagreements during our family get-togethers isn’t forgetting to buy a new girlfriend a Christmas present or rehashing an old argument over who got Aunt Kate’s teapot.
Competition is the number one cause because games are an integral part of our family history. My great-grandmother, Leona Schlautmann, started teaching me to play pinochle when I was five.  I did okay but I didn’t understand German.
When I was four, a nail pierced my upper lip and cheek when I fell down a set of cement steps.  I was racing my older brother, Brad.  He won that race. Brad bounced my off a teeter totter when I was seven. To this day, I don’t know what game we were playing. I went flying and landed on the asphalt, shattering my elbow. I spent two weeks in traction in the Greeley Hospital, where I picked up the Asian flu from the little girl next to me. Double Jeopardy?
In 1970, when I should have been baking cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, I was playing Chess with Brad at my grandparent’s house in Sterling, Colorado. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I was so excited because I was one move from capturing his king. It would be my first win in twenty games.  Brad made his move and put me in Stalemate. I threw all the kings' horses and all the kings’ men across my grandmother’s kitchen.  When I was fourteen, I ran into a tree skiing at Loveland because I was trying to keep up with Brad, who was skiing off the run. When I was...

Our family holidays always include games, and for the most part the fun outweighs any discord. We’re open to new games. We've played Monopoly, Spoons, Uno, Spinners, Twister, Jenga, Fictionary, Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. Outdoor games are very popular—lawn darts, badminton and our favorite; croquet. We set the meanest, croquet course possible because in extreme croquet, the more rocks, hills, and ditches you have to get around the better the course. Any game is fair game in our family, as long as it doesn’t interfere with a Red Sox or Bronco’s game.
We were fairly civil until the game Boggle was introduced to our family. Competition escalated.  (Too many wordsmiths in the family.)  My competitive drive kicked into overdrive.  Eventually all but three family members stopped playing. My Dad declared Boggle was no fun. Others said why bother playing when they didn’t have a chance of winning.
Finally, I was the undisputed champion of something in my family. I glowed during my reign as Boggle Queen. But, it’s lonely at the top and it wasn’t nearly as much fun playing without the rest of the family. I didn’t like how competitive I’d become so I sanded my razor sharp competitive edge. I stopped caring if I won and guess what? I stopped winning.
Other family members started playing Boggle again.  Although I’ve been accused of not trying when I play Boggle, I am trying. (I can’t help it if a lot of time goes by because I’m only looking for 5, 6, and 7 letter words.)

I was content not trying to win until I joined Red Room and saw the word “contest.”  Unused electrons sparked in my brain. Memories of 1985 and 1986, when I entered every poetry contest listed in the Writer’s Market, flashed before my eyes.
RJ got home from work at 5 p.m. on Thursday and found me in my pajamas, trying to type as fast as I was thinking.
“Still writing a blog?"

“No, entering a short story contest,” I corrected. “Only two days to write it.”

RJ collapsed into his office chair. “So, I guess  you didn’t make it to the grocery store today?”

“Nope,” I said. “Subway tonight.”

“And probably not to the post office, either?”


“Trying to win some books again?”

“Yup, and a trophy.”

“And a trophy,” RJ repeated slowly. “Don’t you have a Grant Application for the KAL Children’s Garden due today?”

“Yup,” I answered. “Do it later.”

“Do many people participate in these contests?” RJ asked.

“Yes, of course. My competitors are very talented.” Memories of the chess games with Brad flashed before my eyes.
“How do you think you’ll do?” RJ asked.

I shook off the memories of the chess games. Think of Boggle I told myself. “I’m going to win,” I said weakly.
“I bet you will,” RJ replied.

“You always say that RJ.”

“Why do you do this?" RJ asked worriedly. "I mean, what are you doing? You take it so seriously.”
I stopped typing. I peered at RJ over my reading glasses. Wasn’t it obvious?

“I’m back in the Writing Game, RJ. That’s all it is.”

11 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

You made me smile and I liked your spirit.Keep winning Jules!!!

Comment Bubble Tip

A winning smile

I'm glad I made you smile. That makes me feel like a winner.

All we can do is try, right? 

"Rise and rise again until lambs become lions."


Comment Bubble Tip


hahah! Besides You do have a lovely smile that showcases your winning spirit.
Yes, like a phoenix one should rise out of one's own ashes!
Participation is very important!
The fun is in the chase and not the kill! I believe.
The height,as you said is lonely!
And you must be knowing already Nono Wrimo, the writing competition is coming up, I have signed in already, Have you? We can have a wonderful conversation then on our developing stories, Cheers!!!

I understand you are a very warm person by the vibes I get while writing to you :)

Comment Bubble Tip


Another Writing Competition? Are we talking NaNoWriMo? Oh, my. I was unaware of this competition until I just googled it.

Ut oh.

Not sure how to sign up, etc...

Not sure it would be good for my menatal health to sign up, etc...


Comment Bubble Tip

The winner!

No one else ever had a chance. I will remember to wear a helmet if I ever enter a contest against you. You're fierce! Very cool recognition for your invincible spirit.


Comment Bubble Tip


I'm a lightweight compared to some of my family members (whom I will not mention by name to ensure I get a Christmas present.) Jules

Comment Bubble Tip

What I like about this...


What I like about this, is you knew you would win before you started writing! A true warrior or what!


Warm regards


Comment Bubble Tip

Not Really

Leslie, you are too kind. Writing is tough. I don't know I'm going to win in writing. The majority of the time I don't.

What I do know is despite all the losses, I'm compelled to keep trying.


Comment Bubble Tip

Writing Slam

Jules you crack me up. I was laughing thinking about a poetry slam with you at the microphone. The world would never be the same again. Be sure to keep up the sneak attack strategy - Christmas presents are everything!


Comment Bubble Tip

Enjoyed your post and all

Enjoyed your post and all the comments!

I loved doing NaNoWriMo! It's the best kind of contest, too, because you are really competing with yourself, trying to reach 50,000 words in a month. In theory, everyone can win.

I tried recently to write a short-short story to submit to NPR's Three Minute Fiction contest. But I gave up and turned back to writing a Red Room blog about the nonfiction experience that inspired it. I've concluded that for me contests make the most sense if they help harness my energy to move along a path I'm already trying to follow.


Comment Bubble Tip



Your comment about harnessing the energy of the path you're already on for contests hit home. I had a similar experience during the recent short story contest.

I debated entering the contest because of the time restriction and pressing work and life responsibilities. I started two stories and scrapped them. The first paragraphs were painful to write, like a term paper outline in your least favorite subject.

I glanced at my desk and noticed the copy of my poem, "October's Treasure." I'd set the original 1984 copy aside to remind myself to add it to my member page. I decided to give it one last shot and see if I could turn "October's Treasure" into a short story instead. The words didn't flow effortlessly, but I knew I was on the right path.