Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Stepping off a fictional cliff & landing on my feet May 8, 2013

TS 19 in which my poem, "Hit-and-Run," received honorable mention.

TS 19 in which my poem, “Hit-and-Run,” received honorable mention.

IMAGINE THE SWEET SURPRISE of learning you earned honorable mention in a writing competition.

That would be reality for me, dear readers.

I received a thick envelope from Sharon Harris of the Menahga-based Jackpine Writers’ Bloc recently announcing that two of my entries, a poem titled “The Farmer’s Song” and a short story, “The Final Chapter,” were accepted for publication in The Talking Stick 22.

Getting my work accepted into this Minnesota anthology of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry is nothing new; this marks my fourth time in the annual book. I’ve previously had poetry and creative nonfiction published here.

Neither is the award of an honorable mention novel. In 2010 I received honorable mention for my “Hit-and-Run” poem based on the real-life experience of my son being struck by a hit-and-run driver at age 12.

But this year marks my first time submitting a short story. Decades have passed since I penned fiction. I can’t recall ever entering fiction in a contest. So when I submitted “The Final Chapter,” I did so with minimal, if any, confidence.

I labored over every word, every paragraph, of my short story before finally deciding if I didn’t submit, I would never know whether I’d written a piece worthy of publication. Sometimes you just have to step off the cliff.

I would have been content simply getting my story about an 80-year-old woman losing her grip on reality accepted. (Twenty-five pieces of fiction were selected for publication.) But then, to experience that additional affirmation of honorable mention…, well, my confidence level soared.

It gets even better, dear readers. After members of the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc read all of the submissions, they forwarded their top picks to published writers in each category. St. Paul author John Reimringer, who won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award in novel and short story for his book, Vestments, chose and critiqued the top three short stories, including mine.

Rare is the opportunity to receive such personal, professional feedback. Until you read “The Final Chapter,” you will not fully understand Reimringer’s comment. But, here’s what he wrote:

I like the economical, unsentimental sketch of Clara’s life, and the way she chose third person narrative in the last few paragraphs keeps us in Clara’s pov (point of view) even as it’s clear she’s losing her grasp on reality.

OK, then, basically Reimringer likes my story, just as I enjoyed Vestments when I read, and then reviewed, his award-winning book several years ago for Minnesota Moments magazine. Little did I know then that I would connect with him several years later.

I was hopeful I could meet Reimringer at The Talking Stick book release party in late September. But that won’t happen. My eldest daughter is getting married the same weekend. And that wedding, dear readers, easily trumps honorable mention.

FYI: To learn more about The Talking Stick, which publishes for the 22nd time late this summer, click here. And click here to learn more about The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

18 Responses to “Stepping off a fictional cliff & landing on my feet”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Congrats again!!! You are rocking the awards these days!! Good for you for trying and submitting!!! I am very proud of my friend!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Beth Ann. I’m working right now on polishing up a second short story for another competition. We’ll see how that one is received. I’m learning.

  2. Julie Fakler Says:

    Congratulations on you honorable mention!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Julie. It was a welcome surprise and a great encouragement to me to write short stories.

  3. How EXCITING – Congrats!!! Happy Hump Day Indeed:)

  4. Hey, Congratulations, my friend! How great for you! Very encouraging to you as a writer. And, I’m certain, absolutely deserved. 🙂

  5. Well, how cool is that? Nice, Audrey! I love what you said about stepping off the cliff. Good advice for all.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This was a big step for me to try fiction. But I’m getting too old to hold back and wonder “what if.”

  6. Jackie Says:

    I’m so happy for you Audrey, such great accomplishments you have had! Way to go-for-it and step off the cliff….it paid off!


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