Welcome to the Winner’s Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL students. Join us in congratulating Colleen McAllister on her win in the Holiday Story Contest!
What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
ICL Holiday Story Contest
How many writing contests have you entered?
Tell us the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.
Naughty is the letter written to Santa by a well-intentioned kiddo imploring him to remove her from the naughty list. As she tells it, a year’s worth of ‘naughty moments’ can easily be explained as ‘misunderstandings’ if Santa would just hear her side of the story…
What inspired your winning entry?
I have the distinct memory of being a young kiddo myself, desperate to leave the dinner table and yet not being allowed until I cleaned my plate. So, when I was sure my mother was turned away I dumped my leftovers in the nearby potted fern. I then proceeded to convincingly (or so I thought) persuade my mother that when her back was turned a Barn Owl—Yes! Mom, an owl!—SWOOPED in and took off with my food! Can you believe it? No, neither could she. But I had convinced myself. By the end of the week that devil owl had done a whole mess of rotten deeds and I had loads of colorful stories to back it up. I think this story sprung from my love of mischief makers who often have the best of intentions at heart, and who sometimes think they’re more covert than they actually are.
How has entering this contest helped your writing?
Getting recognition for my writing is SUCH a confidence booster! I love sharing my work—and take any opportunity I can to do so. So when I get a positive response back it gives me such a boost to keep going, keep working, keep honing the craft and sending it out into the world—hoping it can bring a smile to at least one person’s face.
Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your “day job”?
I have started to get paid for my writing but my full-time job is working as a Television Executive for Hasbro’s slate of animated Television shows.
How long have you been writing?
Since I could write.
What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
Keep submitting it! The little voice that emerged in this story has a lot more to say so I’m going to keep writing, see what other trouble she may be getting into and trying to get herself out of. She may even pick up an accomplice in her travels!
Any fun plans for the prize money?
Putting it toward booking my next Writer’s Retreat!
What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
One thing that often compounds negative thinking is when I feel like I’m not devoting enough time to my writing. When you have a full-time job doing something other than putting pen to paper, the guilt complex of ignoring your own muse tends to kick in. So I try to book a weekend at an AirBnB rental once every few months. I don’t go too far away from home, but far enough that I’m not tempted to do laundry/book social obligations etc – and I call it a creative retreat and I tell people I’m doing it. You’d be surprised how quiet even two days devoted entirely to creative time can be, especially when you let people know you’ll be “off the grid”. It’s surprising how much putting that on your calendar can help quiet the “guilt” voice.
If you could go to the yard sale of any character in the history of children’s literature, whose would you go to, and what would you buy?
It’s got to be “Samantha” from the American Girl Doll series. Think about it! She had access to all those fantastic Victorian attics – it would be a treasure trove of antiques! Meanwhile, if I was in the market for books I have to think Roald Dahl’s Matilda would have excellent pickings at her yard sale.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your ICL experience?
I’m so thrilled to have held myself to the desire to submit to an ICL contest. Like so many things, it’s easy to say you’re meaning to write, meaning to send out your work and then never do it. I cannot say enough about the thrill of following through – I’m proof that not only is it worth it, it pays!