From fiction to poetry, Tallahassee writers shine in literary competition


About eight years ago, I began a journey of self-improvement and rehab with admittedly selfish motives.

I was a newly published author of, I thought, a great new science fiction, coming of age, love story, adventure novel. We needed the press – a magazine in the Tallahassee Democrat. I was told in polite but straightforward terms, you should contact the Tallahassee Writers Association.

It was life changing.

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I knew so little about the publishing industry that I didn’t know what a vanity press was, and I soon found out that it was the right label for my publisher. But joining the TWA has done a lot more for me. I quickly joined the board, volunteered for the conference committee helping produce two regional conferences, and in no time became president of TWA.

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This temporary 12 month stint introduced me to some of Tallahassee’s powerhouses and literary shakers, boosted my self-confidence, and certainly stimulated my desire to continue writing. Along the way, TWA provided access to review groups, an editor, and other writers with skills in book design and development.

And most importantly, I became the one committee that organized the TWA Seven Hills Literary Competition / Penumbra and Haiku Poetry Competition. This annual competition culminates with the publication of the Seven Hills Review, which features the best entries in several categories including flash fiction, short story, novel snippet, young adult novel snippet, poetry and haiku. . We then added 10 minute pieces.

Others helped market the contest, finding readers to rate the entries. I usually fought over the judges who had the final say in the first, second and third places. I used my newfound book production skills to compile the journal for publication on Amazon. It was very fun; I learned a lot for my investment of time and effort.

I have met many new friends and colleagues, and am now on the board of directors of a statewide group, the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

I ran the Seven Hills competition for five years and produced the book for those five years with one major regret: I was never able to enter the competition myself due to the obvious conflict of interest. Most of my work is in novel form, but I have also produced a few dozen short stories with varying success, winning awards in other people’s contests, and published in other people’s literary journals.

This year, the second year with a new competition committee in place, I was able to submit two short stories to the Seven Hills Literary Competition. I am proud to say that both stories were deemed worthy. I will be honored to appear in print form in my own organization’s publication.

Of course, it’s nice to be published in the annual journal of the West Florida Literary Federation, or another one in Michigan (no thanks, I won’t be attending the banquet). But being recognized in my hometown in a blind competition was and remains rewarding.

If you’re a TWA member, rejoice! We will soon have face-to-face meetings again after many months of Zooming. If you are not yet a member, consider the benefits of membership. We offer advice, technical expertise, encouragement, review groups, professional services, presentations by industry professionals and friendship.

Thanks for the ride, I think I’ll be staying a bit longer.

Here are the results by category of this year’s Seven Hills Literary Competition and Penumbra Poetry and Haiku Competition.

Seven Hills Contest Winners

Flash fiction (Anna Yeatts, judge)

Premiere: Aftermath, by Lyla Ellzey, Tallahassee, Florida

Second: His Way, by Richard Key, Dothan, AL

Short stories (Lyla Ellzey, judge)

Premiere: Dead Lakes Promise, by Bruce Ballister, Tallahassee, Florida

Second: The Purse, by Bruce Ballister, Tallahassee, Florida

Extract from an adult novel (Marina Brown, judge)

Premiere: The Real Story, by James Christy, Princeton, NJ

Runner-up: Impasse, by Kenneth Robbins, Ruston, LA

Third: May Oak Murders, by Lydia Malone, Tallahassee, Florida

Extract from a novel for young adults (Joyce Sweeney, judge)

First: Atlantis’ Son, by Katie Clark, Tallahassee, Florida

Personal test (Chip Livingston, judge)

Premiere: The Fire, by Leigh Healy, Havana, Florida

Second: As We Forgive Our Debtors, by Richard Key, Dothan, AL

Third: Dad’s Grief, by Leigh Healy, Havana, Florida

non-fictional works (Dr. Cheryl Jennings, judge)

Premiere: Missing Hands, by Faith Eidse, Tallahassee, Florida

Second: Family Banishment, by Doug Alderson, Tallahassee, Florida

Third: Moon Matters, by Richard Key, Dothan, AL

Poetry (Ben Dugger, judge)

Premiere: Paradise, California 08/11/2018, by Bob Gibbs, Tallahassee, Florida

Second: The Phantom Crucifixion, by Robert Douglas, Palm Coast, Florida

Third: New Life, by Bob Gibbs, Tallahassee, Florida

Haiku (Katya Taylor, judge)

Premiere: Hot September Day, by Renee Szostek, Scotts, MI

Second: Night-Blooming Mushrooms, by Jonathan Roman, New York, NY

Third: Blown Bare Brown Branches, by Renee Szostek, Scotts, MI

Bruce Ballister’s books can be found on Amazon at our two local bookstores. Signed copies can be ordered from its website

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