Two published stories from one

by Janice Nigro

Like a lot of beginning business writers, I waver between those moments of feeling like an imposter and feeling professional. The only way to gain confidence is to go out and do the job. “Say yes” people tell me. Saying yes is the easy part. “Saying yes, 50% deposit thank you very much” is another thing.

My business niche is science writing. Much of the work I do though is not for the public. And if it is, the work is of interest to a limited audience. No likes, followers, or comments makes you an anomaly in today’s world of marketing.

To add some more public depth to my portfolio, I entered a story writing contest in a local newspaper this summer. The contest was in a highly revered local paper in Southern California, the Easy Reader. Each year the Easy Reader runs a story contest so it’s your chance as an unknown to get published. The grand prize winner receives money, but honorable mention is still good enough to see your story and your name in print. In a magazine!

The call in this contest was for any story. Fiction, non-fiction, or even poetry. The only guidelines offered were a preference for shorter stories taking place in the South Bay.

I took up the challenge, although life is pretty quiet for me in the South Bay. As sort of a twist, I wrote a behind the scenes story about a piece I had published in the LA Times. I did a classic repurposing of material; two different stories from a brief, but revealing conversation about travel with a Colombian expat living in Munich.

It worked. I won “honorable mention” for a story about the story. Just like that, it’s in print. I think I have to go back and have more conversations with that woman in the café.

Contests tend to be annual events, so as a strategy for generating those highly desired clips early in your career, it does have limited possibilities. But a win (or even a place) can build up your confidence, add to your reputation, and importantly expand your audience. Maybe you will discover a new writing niche.

It’s also a great experience to have an editor go through your work. Editors cut; unnecessary sentences you can’t seem to part with? The editor will gladly delete. My story in the Easy Reader without the original last two lines got right to the point – that the story would never have happened if I hadn’t, well, if I hadn’t said yes to the trip to Munich in March.

There is no secret to winning. Just assume you have a chance and enter. You don’t even have to pitch your story, but professionalism still counts; proofread your work.

One final point, as a friend pointed out, I can now say I am an award winning writer (ah hem).

Read the Easy Reader story: The cherry on top of the Hawaiian toast

©Janice Marie Nigro/

Looking for a scientific editor or writer? Contact Janice Nigro at Janice Nigro Ink. I have published in Cell, Science, and Nature, and articles I have edited have appeared in Cancer Research, PLoSONE, the Journal of Surgical Oncology, and Oncotarget.


Many newspaper sponsored contests have already run for the year 2018, but here is a list of some worldwide requiring no entrance fee. Some contests limit entries to local residents, but many accept stories from across the USA for example. Find out if any newspapers in your area sponsor an annual contest. I bet they do! (Hermosa Beach, CA) (Santa Fe, NM) (open to residents in all 50 states and the District of Colombia; Chicago, IL) (suburban Chicago, IL) (Laguna Beach, CA) (area based residents; Bethesda, MD) (residents of the UK)–.html (residents of Ontario, Canada)



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