NYC Midnight 250 Word Microfiction Competition


Back in October, I felt supremely brave. Brave enough to enter a writing competition put on by NYC Midnight. I haven't written much but social media posts and journal entries for the past 10 years. Why did I do this...? Maybe to prove I still had chops? Maybe to just have fun? I'm not entirely sure. But I'm glad I did.

The challenge? 250 words. Thousands of writers. 24 hours. They give a genre, an action, and a word. 

I had a great time doing this. My first assignment was fabulous: Sci-fi, the word "wing," and the action was recording a conversation. I immediately had an idea pop into my head and rattle around all day - then I wrote it in about 30 minutes and submitted it with no hardcore edits. My husband said..."Where in the dark depths of your brain did THAT come from?!" HA!

My first story assignment got me third place in my round! I was shocked and thrilled. Very proud of my piece, too. It was unique and original for me, and I have no desire to add on or change a single thing about my work.

Round 1 Group  Genre: SciFi Word: Wing Action: Recording a conversation

The Aviary: A Retirement Community
“He volunteered, that’s why.” The keeper gestured upward. “First time it’s worked, tell the truth. Ain’t sure what we did right this round.”
“Or wrong,” Glenn looked at his phone. Video recording time: 12 minutes.
“Nah, that’s not it, they volunTEER, see. They ain’t got much time left. Might as well live, really live, a little longer,” he sauntered toward the atrium’s center, smiling. “I’ll call him down. Ask him hisself, he’ll tell ya.”
A whistle echoed in the bright glass dome. Glenn steadied his phone and raised his arm to shield his eyes. A great wind stirred, a whumping echo followed.
“Here he comes!” The wind whipped a stench: an animal cage long past needing cleaned.
Glenn’s mouth went dry. Soaring overhead was a naked man whose folds of ancient skin were covered by coarse white hair. 80? 90?
Herman descended. With power. A wing brushed Glenn’s outstretched phone arm. Too close! The man landed on crepe-paper legs, knees crackling. He folded his wings - bright white feathers. Herman stared.
“See? Ain’t it the greatest? Picked an eagle! Herman how ya feelin’ today, bud?”
The white haired man stared with amber eyes. He did not answer.
“Maybe he’s not in the mood,” said Glenn. He stepped back. The wings shuddered.
Herman’s gnarled feet clacked on the tile.
“Release me,” his voice a strangled caw. “Release me.”
Herman’s gaze darted to his keeper, whose hand rested on his pistol.
“Herman, tell Glenn here how you wanted to be a bird.”

I absolutely loved getting feedback. Here's what the judges said about my R1 submission.

Judge's Feedback (The judges are numbered, not named):


{1970}  I especially like the amount of personality you were able to bring to the characters in "The Aviary: A Retirement Community". Particularly that of the keeper. Love the voice you chose for him. Herman's character is heartbreaking, well done. You've also created an entire world in which the reader is immersed, I could smell the smells, hear the sounds, and even felt the humid air that all of this would generate. Thanks!   

{2167}  I like the dynamic and conversation between the keeper and Glenn. I also think that the author crafted two excellent lines here with the closing: "Herman’s gaze darted to his keeper, whose hand rested on his pistol.

'Herman, tell Glenn here how you wanted to be a bird.' "

That is a fantastic bit of dialogue to leave off with!  

{2102}  I really liked the way you introduced and described Herman. It felt so vivid even I could smell the stench coming from his cage. Well done.    


{1970}  I think this is a fabulous story, written with skill and thought. What could use a bit of work? The only thing I can put a finger on in Herman's request for release. Yes, I get that he wants, even needs a release, but is it from the wings, life itself, or the 'retirement community'? And, who is he addressing? The Keeper, or Glen? All this said, how important really is it for the reader to know the specifics that I've mentioned? Sometimes the wondering about this sort of thing adds to the reader's experience. So, this is simply food for thought, and based upon your intention when you wrote the words, you decide if it needs work. Thanks again!   

{2167}  I understand why the author may only give us one line from Herman, but my only suggestion is to scrap some of the conversation between Glenn and the keeper for another line or two uttered from the Herman-creature.   

{2102}  Glenn's reaction felt a little odd for someone who apparently knows what goes on at the Aviary. Yes, it could very well be the first time he sees one of their experiments turn out to be successful, but you could make Glenn so much more believable—and relatable—if this were his first day on the job and he were discovering all of it for the first time, just like the reader is.

My responses to these: 

Herman's request to release can be interpreted however the reader would like. Release from life, the bird experiment, or simply his cage are all appropriate interpretations. 

Herman said more after the story ended. But I was only given 250 words. Ha!

Glenn's role has been misinterpreted a few times. He is a reporter and that is why he's recording the conversation on video. It's not his first day on the job - he's writing/telling about The Aviary and it's his first time ever being there at all. 

After I went on to round 2, I had another 24 hours to write my second piece. I didn't love it from the get go. It didn't flow from me like Herman's story. But I did it. I challenged myself and hit submit.

Today, I waited with a too-fast heart rate and shortened breath as the results of round 2 were announced. To be honest, the assignment was not my favorite. I am a sci-fi/fantasy or history person through and through, and the Round 2 assignment challenged me greatly. I'm not a huge fan of thriller/suspense, and found myself struggling with the action piece of the assignment, which presented in a way that made me feel like the setting was already in place, and it was difficult to deviate from it. 

I asked for some advice from my parents who are expert writers. They said, well grab your favorite thriller/suspense books and read the first paragraph and the last paragraph. So I did. I grabbed Stephen King's 11/23/63 and Annilhation by Jeff Vandermeer. Then I wrote. 

FYI because I work on Saturdays, I had from about 6am-7am, and then 6:30pm-10pm to write both of these. So instead of working on these two pieces for 24hrs, I worked on them for about 4hrs apiece.

But truthfully, I'm glad I tried, and glad I wrote. It had been too long. Since round 2 ended, I've worked more on the fantasy world and novel I started more than 6 years ago. It feels good to be in that world again, even if I'm the only one who ever reads it. 

Today, I got the results. I didn't place! And that's okay. I tried, and placed higher than thousands of others just by making it to Round 2. Moreover, I was able to WRITE!

Read my Did Not Place Round 2 

Round 2 Group 14: genre: thriller/suspense word: crack action: getting an oil change


Salt crystals grated under her sticky sneakers. Cast away all remnants... the last step. A “Free Wash with Oil Change” seemed good enough – let someone else blast the debris from her tires. “All done, ma’am,” the mechanic called from the shop door, wiping oily hands. "Where'd you hit road salt in July?" He flashed a battered smile. She startled. A glimmering purple sheen hovered above him. The pulse in her neck hammered vibrantly with panic. Her stomach clenched; the sheen reflected in her widening eyes. What went wrong? Step by step: her salt-circled car, the sticky destruction of the damned cursed purple box under her tire, the Latin incantation, the final act of discarding the remnants. Cake-sweet bile rose in her throat. The sheen pulsed. It was bright, angry. The mechanic followed her gaze, face spotlighted. Crack! In a purple storm-wave he was slammed to the dirty tile floor. She leapt to her feet. The mechanic’s skin was glow-stick bright, inhuman lavender. Blood pooled behind his shattered head. Her keys were in the ignition. Salt crystals scattered as she ran, peppering the mechanic with burns on impact. She sprinted to the car and a heartbeat later, shifted in reverse out the garage door. She skidded, slammed into drive. Purple light flashed and the mechanic was on his feet, silent. His fingers and eyes shone blindingly, the rest of him glowed. Every movement crackled with power. He wiped the sizzling salt away. His battered smile twitched. He felt devilishly fast.

When the judges give their feedback, I'll post them too. Thanks for reading. Maybe you'll read more of my writing in the future. It'd be nice to share snippets of the book I've been dreaming of for year as well. Let me know if you'd like to see it.

Love you all! Jillian


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