Moab Poets & Writers is hosting a short story workshop on July 29 featuring critically acclaimed author and Castle Valley resident M. Dressler. The workshop will kick off the group’s short story contest, “Shorty’s Shorts,” a three-month-long competition intended to inspire the Moab community to write.
“The mission of Moab Poets & Writers is to foster fiction and nonfiction poetry and prose by promoting the literary arts as a resource for community involvement,” said the group’s president, Marcy Hafner. “You do not have to be a published writer to participate. We welcome anyone who has the spirit and desire to explore our world through language.”
“Shorty’s Shorts” will be the group’s third writing contest, according to Hafner.
“Our first two generated a lot of excitement and showed writers what they could do, which inspired them to keep on writing,” she said.
Moab Poets & Writers member Diana Adams said the Shorty’s Shorts contest has no theme, in an effort to simply encourage people “to write what they want to write.” Submission lengths can also vary, from no less than 500 words to no more than 3,000 words.
“Our main goal is to support and encourage writing in the Moab Valley,” Adams said. “The purpose of our contest is to encourage writing and celebrate writers’ work. We want people to write.”
The contest will run through Oct. 1 and an awards party will be held in November with the writers of the top three stories receiving cash prizes.
For those attending Dressler’s workshop on July 29, Adams promises a dynamic experience to help craft stories already in mind or not yet invented.
“M. Dressler is a joyful, focused presenter,” Adams said. “Her ability to teach writing concepts with laughter is amazing. Any attendee would leave the workshop smiling with new tools in their writing toolbox.”
Dressler — a critically acclaimed author of novels, short stories, and essays — has received several honors, including a Paisano Fellowship in Literature, the Carson McCullers Center Fellowship and a Fulbright Award.
Acknowledging that one of the greatest challenges of the short story is creating a “rich world” for characters to inhabit, Moab Poets & Writers representatives said Dressler’s workshop will focus on context building and developing fictional worlds “in short order.”
Dressler acknowledged that short story writing can be very challenging, as the format does not have the “wide spaces” of a novel to establish the world of the story.
“You don’t have the luxury of the wide spaces of a novel, chapter after chapter, to establish setting, place, mood, what the world of the story feels, looks, sounds, and tastes like,” Dressler said. “So you have to find ways — often through what we call the ‘telling’ image or the ‘significant’ or ‘resonant’ detail — that will very quickly pull the reader in and convince them they are inhabiting a fully realized universe.”
The Dressler workshop will run from 10 a.m. to noon on July 29 at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 East 100 North. The cost is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to RSVP.
Dressler has some advice for those embarking on the Shorty’s Shorts contest, namely to remember the reader’s five senses when writing.
“There is no quicker or more powerful way to a reader’s heart and mind than through the five senses, yet often when we begin a story we concentrate on the sense of sight, which is good, but forget or omit the other senses,” Dressler said. “... The reader needs to believe it is a world, and not just words, they have entered into.”
The reader, according to Dressler, is of the utmost importance when crafting a compelling story.
“Stories aren’t static. Look at your story and ask yourself, ‘did I carry the reader to somewhere different than where the story began?’ Always, always remember the reader,” she said. “Our stories are not just for us. They are for the world.”
For more information and details about the Shorty’s Shorts contest and the M. Dressler workshop, visit the group’s new Facebook page, Moab Poets & Writers.