Last fall, I entered the Fantastels writing contest with two stories, Alchemia and The way we were before. Yesterday was the award ceremony, which was a lot of fun! I went there with my boyfriend (I'd never taken him with me to an event like this before), and we had a great time. I saw a few familiar faces and a whole lot of new ones. My, I wish I wasn't so shy and could just walk up to people and get to know them, because there sure are a lot of really interesting people in the Dutch fantasy/SF scene!
Anyway. The award ceremony was fun! Anaïd Haen hosted the show (and the contest) and did a great job. We counted down from place 145, so it took two hours all in all. I loved how several judges popped in to say something about certain stories, proving that even though a story ended low on the list, it doesn't mean it's bad or without potential.
My first story, Alchemia, came in at position 83 (although it's apparently 82 now because of a late disqualification). I'll write a lot more on this story in a later blog post, but for now let's say I agree with both judges and looking back on the story, I know what went wrong and how I can fix it. It has so much potential, but it's just not suited for a short story. Lesson learned, and the comments from the judges are really helpful.
I was sure my two stories would be close to each other, so I was thinking The way we were before would come it at about place 60 or so. It didn't. My boyfriend and I went sort of crazy when it still hadn't turned up at position 10 and we went nuts when it ended up in 3rd place!! I really couldn't believe it at all. This is my 4th contest ever and the first time I participated in Fantastels, so I was totally stunned that I had actually won third place!
The way we were before, or 'Hoe we vroeger waren' (for once I came up with the English title first, I had a hard time finding a proper translation) in Dutch, is the story of Willem Deutz, an old man put into an elderly home by his children. He's upset by this and doesn't want to live there and feels like his life is over, until one night he encounters a floating lantern on his evening walk which leads him to Sophie, the evening witch.
Oddly enough this story started out in my head with Sophie. I wanted to write about an evening witch, someone who represented the end of a day, the final hours in which there's only a little light left. I imagined her going around, showing people their lives, blinding them by the light of their daytime now that they lived in the shadow of the evening.
Willem himself only showed up later, a grumpy old man who was angry at the world, even though he had lived a good life. He's so different from any of my other main characters; elderly, annoyed, sarcastic and lonely. He walked into my head and stubbornly stayed there until I wrote down his story, and I'm grateful that he did.
Oddly enough some of the judges compared it to A Christmas carol by Charles Dickens. I can see the similarities but I hadn't thought of that story even once while writing. Willem is not selfish or greedy, he's lonely and sad and doesn't want anyone's pity. He's one of my stronger lead characters and he really ended up telling his own story, I ended up following his words instead of making him go my way.
I guess this was the story of something I think we will all have one day: that moment where you look back on your life and wonder if you've made the right choices along the way, and if you'd do it differently if you could.
Usually I'd end this post with a link to the download page of this story, but I hope to have this story published somewhere, after some editing. Thanks to the wonderful judge comments I now know how to make this story even better and hopefully you can all read it someday soon.
So I'll end this with a big thank you to all the wonderful people from Fantastels, my proofreaders, my supportive boyfriend and all you people who kept my spirits up when I was outright exhausted from writing so much!