Do you believe writing a good story will increase your chances of winning big bucks? Think again.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Like so many online writers, you’ve seen the ads on Facebook and Instagram for high-value short story and essay contests offered by the writing platform

“$20,000 for a short story under 2000 words?” you say when you see it. “Certainly, it’s worth $10 to enter all their contests for one month, at least.”

Then you work hard to create a story — a real work of art — to submit. Looking through the other entries people submitted, you think, “I’ve got a pretty good shot at this.”

But you don’t. Writing a good story will not help you win…


Photo by George Bohunicky on Unsplash

The first thing Carole noted about her AirBnB guest was that her name, Xaria Lemieux, both began and ended with an “X.” It made her lip curl.

She got all types staying in the guestroom of her two-bedroom Ardmont, Pennsylvania rowhome, but those bookend X’s gave her a bad feeling: this would be a weird one. She clicked the guest’s profile. Shocker — Xaria Lemieux was from California. A hippie freak, probably. Likely to stink up the place with incense and weed. Either she didn’t eat meat, or she was one of those crackpots who only ate meat.

Carole sighed…

A story in 200 words

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Joey rummages through each paper bag in the coatroom.

Lisa Kifer’s mom must have tossed a random handful of Halloween candy into hers, on top of the sandwich, chips, and juice box. A Three Musketeers bar might be overlooked — Joey inhales it, buries the wrapper under a bomber jacket that’s escaped its hook.

The search continues. In Kel Crawford’s bag, there’s only an apple, surely not enough food for Kel’s appetite. Joey feels around for more. …

A poem by a professional caretaker

source: depositphotos

“You’re purple today,”
the girl says. Her unicorn leggings
are splashed with stray acrylics,
brush cup water
stained green.
She glides lilac paint over a face,
thick paper spanning
across her kitchen floor.
I’m rendered, circle-headed,
two dot eyes and an upturned strand smile,
bodiless legs extended.

“I do feel purple,”
I agree. Yesterday, she’d deemed
me orange. An improvement
over Monday’s gray.
Some kids take to me instantly,
like funnel cake. A special treat
during life’s frenetic carnival.
A bonus adult, no grown-ups competing,
disrupting precious playtime with dull talk
of traffic, trump, and taxes. …

…and why other menstruators with a freakishly low cervix and tilted uterus should consider doing the same thing.

Image from

I’m sure the headline has already pissed some people off, but you know what? I’m pissed too.

I’m pissed because I’d love to have a “normal” uterus and cervix. I’d love if tampons worked, and didn’t start leaking immediately while staying mostly dry. I’d love if so-called “low cervix” cups went low enough to catch the blood I expel from *my* low cervix.

But that’s not reality. My cervix while I menstruate is so low that I can reach it by inserting…

One teacher’s words changed my life. Was it for the worse or better? It’s unclear.

(source: deposit photos)

The year was 1987, I was four years old, and I’d just become public enemy #1 in Mrs. Williams’s class at Penn Wynne Pre-K.

Why? Because I threw a chair at the teacher. And I did not regret it.

I remember holding the chair up over my head. It was a child-sized and light, easy to lift. Mrs. Williams did that thing adults do to kids, where she held perfectly still except one pointed finger and warned me through gritted teeth DO NOT THROW THAT…

Melissa Balick

Fiction writer, nanny, reader of books, type 1 diabetic, coffee addict.

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