Winners' Circle: Elizabeth Jepson

November 6, 2020

Welcome to the Winners' Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we're celebrating winner Elizabeth Jepson! Her entry Calling Julia came in Third Place in our Photo Prompt Short Story Contest!

What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
Photo Prompt Short Story Contest

How many writing contests have you entered?
Only two, both sponsored by the Institute of Children's Literature.

Please give the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.

My story, Calling Julia, is about a timid woman who visits a Starbucks coffee shop in the early morning hours, and becomes intrigued by a man seated next to her table. She suddenly finds within herself the courage to connect with the stranger when he leaves his cellphone behind as he exits the coffee shop.

What inspired your winning entry?

I was sitting in a Starbucks and thinking about the photo that was the "prompt" for a story idea. I began to think about the customers in the shop, what might be going on in their lives, and how some might be yearning for connection to other people. I wrote the story before the Covid-19 pandemic began, never realizing how precious my memories of Starbucks would be in future months!

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
Entering the contest gave me renewed courage to work on my writing. This is a dream that I had abandoned for many years while I was working full-time and involved with family. Now I feel as though I have renewed hope - it is a great feeling to have inspiration again!

How did the critique in the Winners' Workshop help you?
The critique helped me enormously. I have a lot to learn about formatting for publication, character development, and story structure, but the support I received in the critique was gentle, encouraging, and thoughtful. It was extraordinarily helpful, and gave me the courage to keep going and to seek out even more guidance.

Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your "day job"?
I am not a full-time writer. I worked for 27 years in the legal publishing sector, and currently work part-time at a college library.

How long have you been writing?
Since I was about six years old. I have always kept a journal, and have tried to write short stories off and on for the past ten years.

What will you do with your piece now that it's been recognized?
I am not sure yet! This experience has made me want to learn more about what to do next!

Any fun plans for the prize money?

I am saving it for a special occasion, post-Covid!

What do you do when you're feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
I go back and read the encouraging words of Brenda Ueland and Anne Lamott, two of my heroes. I make myself just sit down and write something, just anything at all, and try to give myself permission to do some "moodling," as Brenda Ueland would say. I try to write no matter how I am feeling.

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?
I would go to the yard sale of Hogwart's Professor Minerva McGonagall and I would buy one of her hats and some of her teaching textbooks. If she would have a cup of tea with me, the experience would be perfect!

What do you like about ICL and our opportunities for writers?
I am very grateful to the Institute for sponsoring the contest. After years of discouragement about writing, this Photo Prompt contest inspired me, and helped me to find my voice again. Thank you, thank you!

Are you our next contest winner? There's $1,300 of prize money up for grabs! Check out our current contests on our Contests Page.

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