Upcoming Writing Events in November

With numerous competitions, workshops, and readings, November promises to be a busy month for creative writers at GCC and around the valley. Here’s a quick list of important dates and events:

November 4th: GCC is holding a series of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) writing sessions in the library. The first session is November 4th from 4PM to 5:30PM in L-138. Additional sessions will take place on November 12th, November 18th, and November 25th. Full flier here.

November 15th & November 22nd: ASU is offering scholarships for their Desert Nights & Rising Stars conference. While the conference will be held in spring, scholarship applications are due this month! More details here.

November 16th: GCC is hosting its third and final Saturday Workshop for this semester. David Martinez presents “Learning to Bleed on the Page with Style.” The workshop runs from 10AM to 12PM and is free/open to the public.

November 18th: The Maricopa County Community Colleges District is holding a creative writing competition where winners both get published and paid. The new deadline for this competition is Monday, November 18th. Read all about this Artists of Promise competition here.

November 19th: Mesa Community College is hosting Tiffany Midge for their Literary Reading Series. Midge is a bestselling author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and she will read from her book Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s. The reading begins at 7PM and will be held in the Mesa Community College Art Gallery.

November 20th: GCC is hosting its annual Poetry & Prose Slam. Participants share their original, creative work (poems, very short fiction or prose) to a live audience and a panel of judges. The top three participants earn monetary prizes! This event is free and open to the public.

November 30th: GCC’s Library is holding a Fabulous First Chapter Contest and the deadline lands on the final day of November. This competition is open only to GCC students. Full details can be found here.

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) looms and GCC is taking part. Interested in writing a novel? See the flyer below for more details on how to get involved in GCC’s events, get support for your own writing, and how to enter the Fabulous First Chapter Contest sponsored by GCC’s Library.

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Artists of Promise – District Writing Competition

Each year, the Maricopa Community Colleges hold district-wide arts competitions and celebrations. A writing contest is part of these celebrations, and as writers, you are contractually obligated to submit your creative work to this contest. It’s right there in the fine print, if you look close enough, beneath the bits about imprisonment for tearing mattress labels and how breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Winning this competition not only results in publication in the district’s annual Passages magazine, but also a monetary award. Writers who place first, second, and third receive $300, $200, and $100 dollars respectively. First Place winners will be entered in the  National Student Literary Competition sponsored by the League for Innovation.

Much like GCC’s Traveler competition, the district accepts work from four genres (listed below). To review the guidelines in depth, and to submit your work, follow this link: https://events.maricopa.edu/event/artists-promise-creative-writing.

The deadline is November 18th, 2019! (Updated)

  • Essay: 2,000 words
  • Fiction: 3,000 words
  • One-Act Play/Script: 3,000 words including stage direction and/or production notes
  • Poetry: 67 lines

Writerly Advice: Death by 1000 Cuts

Most serious writers learn from experience why revision and editing has to be an important part of the writing process. So many of us have had the experience of working arduously to create a specific image or character, only to learn after talking to a reader or a workshop that we haven’t succeeded in delivering our vision to the reader. Of course, this is one of the things that makes writing an art form: you can approach perfection, but you can never quite get there. You’re always striving to capture the elusive thing that’s in your mind because the words themselves are an imperfect medium for your idea.

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But we try. And try. But how long do we keep trying before we call something done? Should we rework our poems, stories, and chapters endlessly until they see print somewhere, or is there some way to tell when we have made that piece of writing the closest, clearest approximation of our vision so that we can move on to other projects? The answer is, of course, different for different writers. I think most of us can agree, though, that if you’re not careful, you can edit something to death. You can poke at it so many times that eventually it just lays there on the pavement bleeding out of its myriad wounds.

I do not profess to have any concrete answers here and would encourage you to approach those who claim they do with skepticism. I can, however, tell you from personal experience what doesn’t work: Revising constantly based on different feedback from different readers.

I don’t know what the magic number is, but I do believe there is finite number of times you can workshop something before it loses its vitality, that original vision that drove you to write it in the first place. Revision should be about helping you achieve your unique vision, not trying to please everyone. The feedback you receive is a means to reach your own goals with the work, not an end in itself.

Inundating one reader with multiple drafts that have minor changes. Revision means adding or deleting scenes and potentially reorganizing the structure of your story, poem, chapter, etc. It does not mean changing a word from “desk” to “credenza.” (That’s editing.) It’s a beautiful thing to have someone who is willing to read your work. Don’t abuse them by offering too many drafts. Just like you, after the third or fourth time they look at it, things start to glaze over.

Spending too long on one project. One of the most exciting facets of any artistic process is the knowledge that you have created something concrete others can experience and enjoy. If you never call the thing done, you’ve never finished that creative process. Bringing an idea to fruition does not always mean publication. You the creator have to grapple with your own artistic conscience to determine when something is finished.

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Grapple is the operative word there. How do you know when it’s finished? Perhaps it’s a set number of drafts. (One is not enough and 1,000 is probably too many.) Perhaps it’s a deadline you’ve developed based on an upcoming contest or one that is driven by time constraints in your own life (trying to finish that novel before summer is over, for example.) Or maybe if you’re not sure, you just take a few days or weeks away from the draft entirely. When you return, if you find you have fresh ideas for revision, apply them. If you dread picking that piece of writing up again or if you’re distracted by something new you want to work on instead, it’s probably because the previous project is finished or very close to it.

So yes, prick at your draft. Accept that bloodletting is a part of any art form. But apply your red ink with restraint, and, in the end, know when to call something finished. That’s a beautiful thing.


Jeff Sanger received his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and teaches English composition and creative writing at Glendale Community College. In October, he will be running a free Saturday Workshop: Where Does Your Story Happen? The workshop is free and open to the public.

Saturday Workshop: Where Does Your Story Happen?

October. The moodiest of months. So dark. So brooding. With its long hair and Black Sabbath t-shirt. Its worn jeans and Judd Nelson tattoo that, with age, now looks like Al Pacino or wrinkled fruit or a wrinkled Al Pacino eating fruit. Welcome, October. Welcome the pop-up costume stores filled with glowing skeletons and child-sized Avengers and sexy iterations on mundane professions and forest critters and root vegetables. Embrace the candy, cast out the raisin-givers and the unprepared. Admire the faux spiderwebs spread across porches and balconies and tree-limbs. Visit, with perverse interest, the darker places of the world: graveyards, abandoned buildings, Walmart, and (you had to see this coming) GCC’s Main Campus on the morning of October 19th from 10AM to noon.

And why visit such a dark and dreary place as GCC on a Saturday? Because we’re having a writing workshop, of course. Our second of the year. Details below!

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Where Jeff Sanger summers.

Whether you’re writing a memoir, a short story, or a novel, your story has a setting, a place where the events of the story happen. Your readers rely on you to provide some specific details about the setting so they can begin creating the scenes in their minds. But how much detail should you give? And where? And how might the answers to those questions depend on the kind of story you want to tell? Come to this workshop to discuss these and other important questions about your story’s setting.

Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Water will be providing–begrudgingly. Also, maybe, treats.

  • What: Where does your story happen? with Jeff Sanger
  • When: Saturday, October 19th from 10AM to 12PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Everyone is entitled to one good scare writing workshop in October

Saturday Workshop: Writing Vivid Villains

Hello. Is it us you’re looking for? Good. Good. Despite rumors to the contrary, the operators of this site are neither dead nor sacked, and they are (in fact) planning your doom a brand new series of Saturday Workshops and content posts for the 2019-2020 academic year. The first of those Saturday Workshops is just around the proverbial corner–assuming that corner is September 21st. Do you see it? Lurking. Waiting (a little too impatiently for our tastes, mind you). Standing outside your window with an (obviously) Bluetooth-capable Bose speaker over its head, blasting [insert modern-day romantic music here] like that one guy did in that movie long, long ago. He even wore a trench coat. It was pretty sweet. Do you know what else is sweet? Transitions.

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In the first Saturday workshop of the new academic year, we will discuss what traits make a complex and compelling villain. Attendees will evaluate villains in film and literature and examine the often complicated relationship between antagonist and protagonist while using writing strategies to create their own caustic characters. Everyone leaves with a bad guy!

Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Sometimes, water bottles and store-bought pastries spontaneously generate right there in the room.

  • What: Writing Vivid Villains with Jayme Cook
  • When: Saturday, September 21st from 10AM to 12PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Give us your heart Attend the workshop. We’ll give you a pen We’ll help you craft a villain.