October 18, 2022

Institute for Writers

Editor: Kelli Panique

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Thrillers are the books that grab us from the first page, take us through breathless twists and turns, and end in a way we never saw coming. They keep us on the edge of our seats with feelings of suspense, surprise, anticipation, and anxiety. These are the books that are almost impossible to put down.

As our judge Lynne Smith says, “A cozy mystery is a cup of hot tea—a thriller is a can of Red Bull.”

Entries for this contest will be 1,000 words or less and include a one to two-sentence summary of the plot.

First prize is $650!

Click here to enter!




My father was a great man. Maybe not Einstein or Lincoln great, but to my siblings and

me, he was up there. He taught us appreciation and respect. He taught us how to fix small appliances. He gave us his love, a comfortable standard of living, and his genes for height. Like him, I’m a respectable six-foot. The rest of my siblings range from five-foot-seven to six-foot-four.

While height comes in handy for many things – playing basketball, reaching items on the

top shelf, seeing well at concerts -- it was another innate gift from my father that I Appreciate even more: his sense of humor. My father was a funny man. He knew how to tell a joke and how to relate a humorous story. He appreciated a good pun, and he knew how to laugh. As a family we laughed often. We still do. It’s that sense of humor that I particularly cherish and enjoy.

Considering how we felt about our father, it was understandably difficult when, at age 71,

he unexpectedly died of a heart attack. My siblings and I gathered around our mother to provide the support we all needed, and we made it through the funeral planning stage strengthening ourselves with cheerful memories of the man who meant so much to us.

At the wake, we lined up next to our mother and greeted the many people who came to

pay their last respects. We had multiple calling hours to accommodate the flood of Mourners,some travelling in from other states. There were many people I didn’t know – some who had worked with my father 30 years before and some he had only met recently doing work for his church – and there were plenty whom I hadn’t seen since I was a young boy. I was impressed by the turnout.

I stood at the beginning of the receiving line next to my sister Sharon. One person after

another filed past, stopping long enough to shake our hands and offer their condolences. At the end of the line of mourners was an older man of medium height and build whom I didn’t recognize. He introduced himself as a former workmate of my father’s and told me he was sorry for our loss. I shook his hand and he moved on to Sharon.

As I stood there during the lull in traffic, I overheard the man engaging in the same

conversation with my sister that he’d just had with me. At the end though, there was a slight difference. As Sharon shook his hand before passing him down the line, I heard her say, “Thank you, Shorty.” I glanced over at the man who, with a strange look on his face, continued to our next sibling.

Hmmm, I thought. Is that what he told me his name was? I didn’t think so, but I’ll be the

first to admit that I’m terrible at registering names. Perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps my sister – ten years my senior -- was familiar with a nickname that my father had affectionately called this man when they’d worked together years before. It seemed a little odd though. He wasn’t particularly short – shorter than my sister, yes, but still maybe 5’9”. Perhaps he was a late bloomer. Perhaps I’d simply misheard.

In the middle of all the solemnity, over the mournful piped-in organ music, I turned to

Sharon and whispered, “Did you just call him Shorty?”

“Yes,” she whispered back. “That’s what he said his name was.”

I mulled this over for a few seconds.

“He didn’t say, ‘I’m Shorty,’” I informed her. “He said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

By her slightly furrowed brow, I could tell Sharon was replaying the conversation in her

head. As her eyes widened a bit, I knew that she too had come to the realization of what had just transpired, and why a kind elderly gentleman who had stopped to pay his last respects to an old friend had walked away with a perplexed, if not actually stunned look upon his face.

I’m sure anyone looking on at that moment assumed the tears streaming down our cheeks were tears of sorrow. They were mistaken. We tried desperately to stifle our laughter, but it came forth in full body spasms – a week of powerful emotions bursting forth over the dams in our eyes. I like to think our father was there in spirit laughing alongside us, encouraging us to find the humor we needed to overcome our sadness.

Yes, my father was a great man. He taught me many things and gave me many of the

tools that have helped me succeed in this life. He taught me how to fix a toaster, build a fire, and tell a story. And he gave me a sense of humor that has helped me, on many occasions, find my way through a difficult time.


Writer's Database offers easy charts to track your submissions and search for markets.  


In order to get published, get your writing in front of people who are in charge of accepting items for publication. That can seem like a scary proposition at the best of times; and if you’re new to this whole writing-for-publication business, it can be utterly paralyzing! But if you approach this in a logical, step-by-step process, it doesn’t have to be so scary.


If you entered our recent Funny Family Personal Essay Contest, listen up! Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting submissions for funny stories. They “want them to be silly, outrageous and hilarious, and they absolutely must brighten our day and make us laugh! Good clean fun—and sometimes a tiny bit risqué too.” Deadline: October 31, 2022. Good luck!


by Susan Ludwig


I admit to sometimes barely remembering back so long ago, but there was no internet when I began sending out my stories, essays, and articles. Instead, we writers had to maintain a supply of printer paper, printer cartridges, manila envelopes, business-sized envelopes, and plenty of postage stamps. Putting together a submission package took serious time and labor: first printing out the completed manuscript, rereading it one last time and occasionally finding an error and printing it again; preparing a self-addressed, stamped envelope; paper-clipping everything together and getting it into the 9” x 12” manila envelope.


It was easy to spend an afternoon just assembling submission packages and meticulously charting what it was, where it was going, and when it was sent for each one. I would schedule a submitting day every other week and send out all of my packages, often driving them to the post office since they were sometimes of varying weights.


These days the submission process is easier. Although some editors still prefer mailed-in submissions, they are becoming fewer as markets today accept emailed manuscripts and submissions uploaded directly to their websites.


Aside from those methods, there are now submission programs that greatly streamline the process and are easy to use. There is no reason not to check out these sites and see how they can work for sending out your manuscripts.


Here are two popular ones:



The IFW Team
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