Creative Writing Institute

     In This Edition:

  • Short Story Competition Winners Announced
  • Searching for a Word?
  • Halloween Writing 
  • Self-Esteem
  • Winning Short Story

Halloween Writing

by Angela Butler

Halloween writing is perfect when ghosts, goblins, and witches abound. What an opportunity to soak in all the sensations of the season and create a haunting story! As you engage in festive activities with family and loved ones, take a few minutes to jot down what you see, hear, smell, and feel. 

And, of course, Halloween writing must include the foods of the holiday! What candies do you snitch from your children’s trick or treat bags? How many times do their tummies cramp from too many caramel covered apples and chocolate chip cookies? And then there's the pumpkin shopping.

When you visit the pumpkin patch, be mindful of everything around you. Feel the autumn chill in the air as the sun goes down and remember how cozy it feels to wear long pants and a fleece jacket. Notice the aroma of fresh cut hay bales and corn stalks as you wind your way through a corn maze.

As you stumble through the pumpkin patch, listen to the crackling of brittle vines, fallen leaves, or the yell of “help” when your little one needs help to carry the biggest pumpkin he’s ever seen. Which one has he picked? Is it bumpy, smooth, deformed, perfect, robust or lanky?

When you take the pumpkins home, carve them, and set them out, what feelings emanate? Do you remember how your mom posed you with your pumpkin on Halloween night? Can you still hear her voice insisting that you smile behind the leopard mask? And your muffled reply was, “I am smiling.”

How does it feel to watch your children go through the same paces? Reflect on your past as you help with costume changes. Of course, the kids won’t want their dinner, but remember your giddiness at their age?

As you peek through the camera lens, the ghost of Halloween past may visit again. Mother saved your leopard suit for your children, and now the oldest is wearing it. “Smile,” you say to the masked face, and a little voice replies, “I am smiling.”

Take good notes on Halloween’s aromas, pumpkin selection, trick or treating, tummy aches, costumes, and seasonal traditions to capture the detailed essence for Halloween writing. You can write either fiction or nonfiction.

Submit your entry to small online markets five to six months in advance and relive the experiences again when you see your byline in print. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

*Angela Butler is a volunteer staff member. You can visit her blog at Get more great writing tips at


When I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do. Anne Sexton

Diane Maciejewski

When Diane received notice that she had won first prize, she said, "How exciting! Thanks so very much for this opportunity." Congratulations, Diane! May you go forth to win many writing contests.


Our unedited newsletter was sent by mistake yesterday. Please excuse us as we mop up our blush.



Thank You, Judges!

No contest would be successful without judges. It is a thankless job, hard work, and requires team effort.

Ms. Jo Popek was our head judge again this year and Annie Evett did a wonderful job as coordinator. Also serving on the panel was Mr. Lynn Carroll, Ms. Terri Forehand, Ms. Diane Davis, and Ms. Linda Cook.

Thank you very much for your service and leadership. It was an honor to have each and every one of you.



Searching for a Word?
by Annie Evett

When you're in the flow of writing, there's nothing worse than getting stuck in a rut, looking for an elusive word. We've all been there... grasping desperately for correct terminology or perfect prose.

Rather than floundering in front of a block of chocolate, try these hints.  

Skip it and it will come. Ignore the phrase that eludes you. Blob the spot with a highlighter, and don't stop the creative juices mid-stream. When the perfect word arrives, pop it into place. 

The more you obsess about a recalcitrant word or phrase, the deeper it will sink into your sub-conscious.

Keep it simple. Sometimes flowery or unnecessary content crowds out needed words. Try to slash 10% of the paragraph and allow your word to appear in its own time.

Work around it. Try a synonym search to activate your brain or search the internet. Search engines learn how to deliver targeted information. Type in a partial sentence and within seconds, you'll have suggestions.

The right words. If you're looking for the correct words for a song, poem, film, or quote, use this website for your search.

Phrase Finder. Need to search for dialogue phrases? Try and - quite possibly the best sites with the widest scope.

It IS worth the time to find the exact word you need.

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter; it's the difference between the lightning-bug & the lightning."

Written by Annie Evett, scribbler of short stories; herder of cats... and recalcitrant words.
Writing is better than chocolates. Just ask our winners!

Read the first place winner's story at the bottom of this page. Invite your family and friends to read all the winning entries at

*1st Place - Cupcakes by Diane Maciejewski
*2nd Place - Shadow Horses by Laura Armstrong
*3rd Place - My Private Practice by Helen Keevert Crall
*Honorable Mention - The Orchids by Jacqui Valota
*Honorable Mention - Dr. Fenster and the Bank Robber by Pat Decker Nipper
*Honorable Mention - A Gentle Slow to a Stop by Clare Potts

CWI Welcomes New Staff Member

Creative Writing Institute proudly presents its newest staff member, Dr. Helen Tucker, MBChB; BSc.Micro.

Doctor Helen will offer free guidance to CWI students and staff regarding personal health, grief, relationships, fears, stresses in writing, and life issues. This will especially benefit students on cancer scholarships, but we urge all students and staff to take advantage of this new service.

Watch for the new Dr. Helen column in our newsletter. Dr. Tucker is a published writer in consumer health and enjoys her family, dogs, and freelancing in her spare time.

Low Self Esteem Vs. Developing Confidence

Take This Self-Esteem Quiz

By Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

Low self-esteem can turn new challenges into a daunting task, but developing confidence will bring a new perspective. Have you ever accepted a new challenge and afterwards wondered if you had the ability to complete it? Such feelings are often due to low self-esteem.

Do you look at the negatives and compare yourself unfavorably with others despite evidence to the contrary? How can you improve self-esteem and develop confidence?  You are a unique human being. Yes, you have faults but, more importantly, you also have strengths.

1.  Tackle life one day at a time

2.   At the end of each day, list everything you accomplished

3. Praise yourself for every victory

In due time, you’ll find others reacting more positively toward you. That’s because your self-esteem is improving and you’re developing confidence. Take this short self-esteem quiz. When someone compliments you on an achievement, do you:

1. Accept the compliment graciously because you feel you deserve it?

2. Think you could have done better and consider all the mistakes you made?

3.  Wonder if the compliment was genuine?

Don’t doubt the sincerity of others and don't doubt yourself. These are two easy ways to help develop self-confidence.

Give yourself quiet time to grasp the idea that is in the back of your mind.

Congratulations, winners, and many thanks to everyone who made this contest a success. In January of 2013, we will conduct our first anthology contest. Don't miss out on this historic event. Watch for announcements in the January newsletter.
Read all the winning entries at

by Diane Maciejewski 
   I squinted into the glare of the late morning sun. Recognition flamed into a burning need to strike at my enemy.  The woman before me cocked her hip and repeated her order. “One Carrot Crunch and one Chocolate Chaos cupcake, please.”    
   The milling crowd at the Farmers’ Market receded, replaced by Susan – the woman who had stolen my husband. Relaxed and smiling, she apparently had no idea who I was, but I could never mistake her face. I’d found her picture in Bill’s wallet while searching for singles and held on to it as a reminder to keep my heart to myself.
   Three years with Bill hadn’t changed her. Chestnut hair brushed against her shoulders, and her face remained line-free, a claim I could no longer make. Dressed in a coordinating, plum jogging suit, she made my khakis and T-shirt look frumpy.
   I gritted my teeth, longing to wipe the smile off her face with coarse sandpaper. But this wasn’t the moment for revenge. I had a reputation to uphold as the Maple Lake Cupcake Lady.
   As I shoved Susan’s cupcakes into a bag, I deliberately smeared the cream cheese frosting and poked my thumb into the bottom of her Carrot Crunch.
“Who’s next?” I growled as I grabbed her money.
   The tang of barbecue from a nearby concession primed shoppers for the cupcakes I’d baked the evening before. Since setting up a stall in the Farmers’ Market, I’d developed a loyal following for my three varieties. I also stocked a couple dozen giant-sized, Chocolate Chunk cookies, mostly for the kids, but it was the cupcakes customers came back for.
   My location was prime, squeezed between Henry Witter’s Honey, hive-made by local bees, and Dan Berk’s Dairy, with his seven varieties of artisan cheeses. Sales were helped by the photos of homeless cats and dogs I’d posted next to my Peanut Free sign; all my profits went to the local animal shelter where I volunteered.     
   Cupcakes were my hobby. I’d started baking a decade ago when I married Bill. He loved sweets, but had an allergy to peanuts that made him break out in hives. Before peanut warnings were slapped across every packaged brownie and cookie, he’d had some nasty experiences.
   Unlike his brother, who swore he could smell even a trace of peanut oil in a product, Bill’s nose failed him every time. My cupcakes were the answer to his gluttonous prayers.    
   When I discovered Bill’s cheating, I was sorely tempted to replace the canola oil in my recipe with peanut. But despite how he’d hurt me, I placed the blame for his infidelity on Susan, the younger woman who’d convinced him to jump back on the tilt-a-whirl during his post mid-life crisis.
   Now I imagined them snuggled up to each other in bed, munching on my cupcakes and licking frosting off each other’s fingers. I bit my lip; the image still hurt. I hoped she wouldn’t come back, but she showed up the next week.
   “I love your cupcakes. They remind me of the ones my husband brought me when we dated. He’d never tell me which bakery sold them; said it was his little secret for delighting me. Unfortunately, they went out of business shortly before he proposed.”  
   A jolt went through me. “He brought you cupcakes?”
“Mmm, sweet isn’t it? He loves your cupcakes, too. Think I’ll take him a Coconut Concoction this time.”    
   I snapped open a paper bag so hard it ripped. I yanked another from the pile and threw in her order. He’d brought her cupcakes! My cupcakes! The ones I baked each week for his supposed Friday afternoon office meeting.
   I’d lapped up his lies of how his boss loved the Carrot Crunch and his secretary swore I baked better than her grandmother. What a fool I’d been! Now I understood the inscription Susan had written on the back of her photo, “For my loving cupcake.” Bill had been courting her with my cupcakes! A sandstorm of anger swirled through me.    
   The last of the blueberries were for sale when Susan stopped by again. Her eyes were puffy, her hair gathered haphazardly at the back of her neck. Her jogging suit pulled tight across her hips; she looked like she’d been on an eating binge.
   “Give me a half-dozen of the Chocolate Chunk cookies.”
   “No cupcakes today?
   “I never want to see another cupcake as long as I live. They remind me of my husband, the rat.” She pulled out a crumpled tissue and blew her nose.
   “Husband problems?”
   “He’s been…oh, never mind. Just give me the cookies.”
   I couldn’t stop myself. “Has he been cheating on you?” She nodded and walked away.   
   I wanted to punch my fist into the air and shout, “Yes!” Betrayal and loss were her companions now. The score was evened and she’d gotten what she deserved. Satisfaction spread through me like Henry Witter’s honey on a warm buttermilk biscuit.
   After a few days, though, something began to niggle at me. Susan had paid a price, but how about Bill? He always came out the winner, moving from one woman to the next, discarding us like ripped rag dolls.
   Old doubts about myself came sneaking back with my anger. Hadn’t I been good enough for him? What about his first wife and Susan - were all three of us lacking as partners? That couldn’t be. It wasn’t us; it was Bill who lacked what it took to make a marriage work: loyalty, empathy, compassion, and commitment. Wasn’t it time he paid a price?
   Each week after that, I held a special box of Coconut Concoctions in reserve while hoping for Susan’s return.
   Green beans, yellow squash and pumpkins came and went, but not Susan. Then, as I took down my Peanut Free sign on the final day of the season, I heard her.
   “Any cookies left?”
   “Not a one,” I said as I took in her doleful expression. “How are the husband problems?”
   “I’m divorcing him. Haven’t told him yet; been getting my finances together.” She frowned. “I was really looking forward to those cookies.”
   “I do have a few cupcakes left.” I looked her in the eye. “Coconut Concoction. Bill’s favorite.”
   “How do you…? Do you know my husband?”
   “I know him well.” I took a deep breath and plunged in. “I’m his second wife... the woman he left to marry you.”
   Her eyebrows shot up like flying Frisbees. “You’re Donna? He left you? But he told me you’d left him for another man and broke his heart a year before we met.”
   It was my turn to be surprised. “You didn’t know he was married?”
   She shook her head in denial. “No, of course not! I never would have gotten involved with him if I’d known he was married.”
   We looked at each other, taking one another’s measure, acknowledging our common experience. I saw myself in her: the pain, the disappointment, the shattered dreams, fear of a lonely future and long nights, huddled tightly against a pillow, hoping for a faint whiff of his scent. She saw the same in mine.
   She held her hands out to me. “I’m sorry.”
   I believed she was. We’d shared a man and shared the pain. Like me, she was a victim of Bill’s philandering. I stepped around my shuttered stand and squeezed her outstretched hands.
   “I have fantasies about making him pay,” she said. “I'd love to ring his neck.”
   I smiled. “I have a better idea.” I handed her the box I’d been saving at the back of my stand. “Let me tell you about these cupcakes.”
Copyright © 2012 Creative Writing Institute, All rights reserved.
Your subconscious keeps writing long after you have physically stopped. ALWAYS keep a notepad handy for those brilliant ideas.