A Midsummer Tale 2017

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A Midsummer Tale is a summer-themed narrative writing contest open to non-genre fiction and creative nonfiction.

The theme of the 2017 A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest is: Summer Love. Some loves last a lifetime, while others are transient. Write a story—fiction or nonfiction—about the love of someone or something that only lasts the length of a summer.

Deadline for entries is June 21, 2017.

March 2017
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandWrite about a stand-up desk.
  2. Use these 5 words: unadvised, cross, tick, equable, groovy.
  3. Write about talking past each other.
  4. Use this line of dialogue: “People in _____ don’t know anything.”
  5. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: appear, author, really, smooth, workings.
    2. Write about watching someone in the morning sun.
    3. Use the phrase, “That’s not what they told me should happen next.”
  6. Include a character with no friends and no money.
  7. Choosing to ignore sound advice.
  8. Use these 5 words: lovely, cooing, tart, queue, absurd.
  9. “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adulthood.”
  10. Use this line of dialogue: “Grown-ups ruin everything.”
  11. Trying not to whine, and failing.
  12. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  13. Negotiating a working schedule
  14. Scenario: the moon explodes and the dead return to life.
  15. Beware the Ides of March!
  16. Use these 5 words: zealous, bow, slimy, unequaled, please.
  17. Something embarrassing from your MC’s past is discovered.
  18. Use this line of dialogue: “I have to ask: what is the point?”
  19. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  20. Include a character who is only going through the motions of being alive.
  21. Make up something that only happens on the equinox.
  22. Use these 5 words: jumbled, truculent, dust, trace, loaf.
  23. “Sorry; I had to take a work break.”
  24. Use this line of dialogue: “Will you please go and study?”
  25. Where a message goes when you press “send”
  26. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  27. “There’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.”
  28. Start with: Here are a few things to argue about…
  29. What happens after you walk away.
  30. Use this line of dialogue: “She doesn’t know when to stop giving.”
  31. Why do April fools get their own special day?

Three Cheers Spring 2017 is OPEN

The Spring Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest is now open.

Entries must be received by 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, March 19, 2017.

Write a mystery story that centers around a message hidden in a crossword puzzle.

Word count: Between 2250 and 2350 words.

  • Send entries to: threecheers17@toasted-cheese.com
  • Your subject line must read: Three Cheers and a Tiger Contest Entry
  • Paste your story directly into your email. No attachments please.

For complete rules:
Three Cheers and a Tiger Guidelines
General Contest Rules

February 2017
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Start with “February is that 6-week period…”
  2. Use these 5 words: increase, compare, uppity, frantic, stingy.
  3. “I would, but the weather’s terrible.”
  4. Use this line of dialogue: “Oh, wow. I’m a grown-up.”
  5. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: corner, pledge, pestilence, strand, light.
    2. Write about an autocorrect error, or other misreading.
    3. Use the phrase “I didn’t know they were open on Sundays.”
  6. Scenario: everyone leaves in disgust, alone.
  7. “Do it now; we’ll be very busy later.”
  8. Use these 5 words: unhealthy, towering, present, coil, zinc.
  9. A conversation of just one word, repeated.
  10. Use this line of dialogue: “But, like, get over yourself.”
  11. “My new electric fork is on the internet!”
  12. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: these, destination, pianos, hand, means.
    2. Write about getting to know someone very different.
    3. Fill in the blank: “The land is silent, waiting for ____.”
  13. Software suddenly stops working
  14. Include a character who wears clip-in bike shoes.
  15. Writing a letter of reference for your character.
  16. Use these 5 words: bat, shelter, huge, roll, precede.
  17. “You’ll find that on the next page.”
  18. Use this line of dialogue: “Don’t you @%^&$#! say a word.”
  19. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: beyond, spring, stone, synthesis, harbor.
    2. Write about hearing yesterday’s news for the first time.
    3. Use the word “onionsauce” to refer to a non-food item.
  20. Scenario: a reasonably good but slightly dull relationship.
  21. Waiting for a traveler to arrive.
  22. Use these 5 words: mate, annoyed, travel, tough, polish.
  23. An unexpected hole in something
  24. Use this line of dialogue: “Something terrible is going to happen.”
  25. Now where did I put that scrap of paper?
  26. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: ready, glazed, street, moaning, traffic.
    2. Write about getting ready to leave.
    3. Use the phrase, “I do not want to have that conversation.”
  27. “Are we there yet, Dad?”
  28. Start with: I’m not the kind of person who thinks…

January 2017
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: pestilence, glazed, hands, regard, walls.
    2. Write about something that’s an unexpected color.
    3. Use the phrase, “Tell me some lies.”
  2. Use these 5 words: alcoholic, milky, pretend, repulsive, connect.
  3. Waiting for breakfast
  4. Use this line of dialogue: “Aren’t you just a little bit scared?”
  5. It will get worse before it gets better.
  6. Include a character who is holier-than-thou.
  7. Banter in a short-order kitchen
  8. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: prisoners, comes, light, lunar, life.
    2. Write about busily ignoring something other people are fretting about.
    3. Fill in the blank: “The _______ are advancing.”
  9. Finding a category to fit.
  10. Use these 5 words: versed, numerous, pets, melodic, harbor.
  11. Trying to focus while groggy
  12. Use this line of dialogue: “Maybe you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
  13. Is it supposed to sound like that?
  14. Scenario: a situation that’s both perfectly ordinary & utterly catastrophic.
  15. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: eaten, border, began, stairs, probe.
    2. Write about sunlight revealing something previously unnoticed.
    3. Fill in the blank: “It is the end of a/an _______.”
  16. Use these 5 words: impress, weary, melt, possible, trade.
  17. Asking for help
  18. Use this line of dialogue: “Why are you forcing me to be mean today?”
  19. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
  20. Include a misfit who’s trying to figure out what to be when she grows up.
  21. Missing something because of a distraction
  22. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: smooth, cannot, convulsive, yard, talk.
    2. Write about finding mistakes slightly too late.
    3. Fill in the blank: “I think they just want to have _______.”
  23. “Are you helping, or just watching?”
  24. Use these 5 words: moaning, pull, border, scarf, stone.
  25. “We play fair: we take turns cheating.”
  26. Use this line of dialogue: “I’m a complete failure as a person.”
  27. Meeting a crush years later
  28. Start with: As a child, I was terrified…
  29. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: poor, cotton, shall, bone, fading.
    2. Write about ignoring instructions.
    3. Misuse the word “alternative.”
  30. Use this line of dialogue: “Where’s my pizza?”
  31. That sinking feeling in your stomach

Dead of Winter 2016 Winners

The winning stories in our Dead of Winter 2016 contest are:

1st: “The Hands of Fate” by Ellis Sinclair
2nd: “The Dead of Winter” by Catherine J. Link
3rd: “Helping Hands Retreat” by Red Lagoe

These stories will be published in our March 2017 issue.

We are also awarding an honorable mention to “The Philosophy of Pre-Determinism” by Michael Grantham. Although the story will not be published, we appreciated the story’s clever callbacks to Manos: The Hands of Fate and its telling of the story of two minor characters, both cleverly named.

We enjoyed reading every entry and thank the entrants for sharing their creativity with us.

Dead of Winter 2017 opens October 1 and we invite you to enter. Our next contest is the 48-hour challenge “Three Cheers and a Tiger,” which runs the closest weekend to the beginning of Spring.

Keep writing! The Master would approve!

December 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. And so it begins…
  2. Use these 5 words: emptiness, train, artfully, exposure, stone.
  3. Streetlights on in the daytime
  4. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  5. Note-to-self doesn’t match memory
  6. Start with: “Who is _____ going to kill?”
  7. People on the other side are happy about this.
  8. Include a Supreme Court case in your story.
  9. Holding a contradiction
  10. Use these 5 words: cheats, jealous, riches, stalking, pied-a-terre.
  11. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  12. Start with: “It’s good to see you here.”
  13. “Am I going to regret this?”
  14. Include a meteor shower in your story.
  15. “I used to be able to do this without thinking.”
  16. Use these 5 words: workout, yurt, cliche, veneer, slower.
  17. Rituals for someone else’s holiday
  18. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  19. “I am not your metaphor.”
  20. Start with: “Our diversity is our strength.”
  21. Things to do on the longest night of the year
  22. Write about a chimpanzee smoking a cigarette.
  23. A creatively named pub or bar
  24. Use these 5 words: jellyfish, never, inventive, curated, illustration.
  25. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  26. Start with: “I’m not expecting to ever be recognized.”
  27. “Two days retired, and you’re bored.”
  28. Write about a boot camp.
  29. “I can’t read the label on the bottle.”
  30. Write a story inspired by the first photo you see after reading this prompt.
  31. Merriment makes a character sadder

Coloring Within the Lines

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

In the past year or so, adult coloring books have become very popular, with countless articles written about the trend in an attempt to understand it. Here are just a few:

Some are dismissive of the trend, viewing it as “Peter Pan” behavior by adults who don’t want to grow up, parallel to the rise in popularity of young adult fiction among adults. Others take a more generous perspective, seeing coloring as akin to meditation and other meditative activities such as knitting, a way to quiet one’s mind and be creative within boundaries.

Coloring offers that relief and mindfulness without the paralysis that a blank page can cause. It’s easier in the way that ordering from a restaurant with a small menu is easier than deciding what you want at Denny’s, where you could eat almost anything. This is the paradox of choice, and it’s been well-studied—too many options is overwhelming. But with coloring, you know what you’re working with. You just choose how to fill it in. … [T]he coloring … involve[s] repetitive motion and limited space in which to work, creating a locus point around which thoughts can revolve. [Julie Beck, “The Zen of Adult Coloring Books”]

Like coloring books, writing contests, prompts, and challenges provide a frame to work within. Facing a blank page can be intimidating. Having a place to start can help assuage some of those fears.

This month’s exercise is to choose a frame and “color within in the lines.” Don’t think of the parameters as a limitation. Think of them as freeing your mind to be creative instead of staring at a blank page and stressing about what to write.

Some suggestions for your frame:

  • contest guidelines (even if you don’t actually plan to enter, give them a try)
  • writing prompts (try using more than one at a time) or challenges
  • formal poetry has built-in constraints—make your frame a sonnet or haiku
  • use an existing story (perhaps from another medium, such as a movie or TV series)
    • retell a story (e.g. a fairy tale) from a different character’s point-of-view or in a different time period or setting
    • write a prequel or sequel to an existing story
    • flesh out an existing story
  • make up your own rules, for example:
    • choose a theme (alphabet, seasons, cities…)
    • restrict word length
    • restrict genre
    • write all in dialogue
    • limit the number of characters
    • include a specific person (e.g. a celebrity or another famous person)

If you like, you can transform these pieces later, but first and foremost think of this exercise as a low-stakes warm-up, a way of getting past your blocks, stretching your writing muscles, and easing into your primary writing project (perhaps that one you’ve been avoiding). To make it more like a coloring book frame, have both short-term (equivalent to completing a page) and long-term (equivalent to completing a book) end-points.

Toasted Cheese 16:4

The December 2016 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Darren C. Demaree, Rose Knapp, D.W. Moody & Timothy Pilgrim; flash by Timothy Bastek, Isaac Buckley, Lori Cramer, Travis Keys, Michelle S. Lee & Tim Love; and fiction by Nancy Christie, William Locke Hauser, Jay Merill & Dacia Price.

TC 16:4 also includes the fall Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest winning stories by Robert Walton, Valerie Lunt, Christina De La Rocha & R.J. Snowberger.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Buried Gold by Bill Lockwood, and Bill Lockwood reviews The Last Cadillac by Nancy Sullivan.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Stephanie “Baker” Lenz.

The cover image is by H is for Home on Flickr, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

November 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a departed friend or relation
  2. Use these 5 words: fingernail, seamlessly, mistakes, tapestry, twists.
  3. “I still have to live with you tomorrow.”
  4. Start with: “Who says it doesn’t snow in _____?”
  5. Being banned from the bathroom
  6. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: round, against, chair, treacherous, juicy.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s past my bedtime.”
    3. Write about doubting one’s own sanity.
  7. A complete makeover
  8. Write about an annual festival.
  9. Living with someone who works the opposite shift
  10. Use these 5 words: gift, lessons, sensitive, understanding, magic.
  11. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
  12. Start with: “I do not believe in _____!”
  13. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: remorseful, toadstools, song, librarian, screams.
    2. Use the phrase, “that’s so tight.”
    3. Write about postage stamps.
  14. Include an Olympic hopeful in your story.
  15. “I really won’t have time for this next week.”
  16. Use these 5 words: radar, signs, alarming, chart, handwriting.
  17. Keep going by force of habit
  18. Start with: “I used to love telling the story of how we met.”
  19. A reflex you didn’t know you had.
  20. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: waterski, against, incantations, funeral, beyond.
    2. Use the phrase, “Look at the hustle.”
    3. Write about a reflex you didn’t know you had.
  21. No sense of the passage of time
  22. Include an impersonator in your story.
  23. Missing an important part of the instructions
  24. Use these 5 words: teacup, log cabin, soup, magnet, hanging.
  25. Write about temporary illiteracy
  26. Start with: “You should definitely try it.”
  27. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: overhead, relations, beach, dress, towards.
    2. Fill in the blank, “I wonder what _____ is doing, right now.”
    3. Write about an inconvenient sunbeam or shadow.
  28. Write about a daring look.
  29. The weirdest Tuesday on record
  30. Make a list of 10 favorite books based on a theme.