FINAL ROUND: NYC Midnight Short Story Contest

Published June 24, 2022 by Philip Ivory

On and off over the past few years I’ve participated in writing contests held by NYC Midnight. What’s unique about these competitions is that writers receive parameters — genre, locations, objects, and etc. — and tight deadlines within which to incorporate these parameters into a successful piece of writing.

Each contest has multiple rounds that writers proceed through if advanced by the judges. I’ve never made it to the final round … before now.

This week I learned that my third round entry in the NYC 2022 Short Story contest has earned me advancement to the final round.

Sure, I’m excited, but the looming reality is that the final round begins (gulp!) at midnight NY time this evening. That’s 9 pm for me here in Tucson, less than four hours away. That’s when I’ll receive a new prompt for a 1250 word story that needs to be completed and uploaded in 24 hours.

Whatever happens, I’m grateful for NYC Midnight for its sometimes maddening but always stimulating prompts, which bedevil a poor writer by informing him that, for instance, he has 48 hours to write a short story in the romance genre featuring localism and an evening student. (That was round three. Romance not being my favorite, I tore my hair out for a while but finally set down to write a passable piece, which got me to tonight’s final round.)

In fact, while I haven’t yet come close to winning the contest, I’ve greatly benefited from the prompts, which helped me arrive at some published stories I would never otherwise have written. Here are two of them:

The Swamp Rat

Miss Brompton Falls 1938

Wish me luck tonight! I’m grateful to friends in The Writers Studio, especially including Rene Bibby and Betsy Mahaffey (Happy Birthday, Betsy!), who provided feedback and encouragement to help me survive earlier rounds.

Learning Writing Lessons from Sgt. Pepper

Published June 1, 2022 by Philip Ivory

This morning, I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head … and remembered that on this date in 1967, the Beatles released the album that would dominate the charts and airwaves for much of the rest of the year, becoming the soundtrack of the “Summer of Love.” That album carried the peculiar title of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

A few years back, I wrote an essay pointing out insights about good writing that can be gleaned from this landmark of popular music. The folks at Bookends Review were kind enough to publish it. Take a look!

Sgt. Pepper at 50: What Can Writers Learn?

Thanks for reading.

What Would Orwell Say About Tucker Carlson?

Published May 18, 2022 by Philip Ivory

Reading George Orwell as a young person taught me the value of precision in language, and how language itself can fall victim to insincere communicators who twist and torture words in order to obscure truth for their own political purposes.

Tucker Carlson’s use of his phrase “Legacy Americans” to describe those he designates as the victims of the great Replacement Theory is an interesting linguistic gambit, one that I wish Orwell were here to help explain for us.

Tucker has advocated fiercely for Replacement Theory, although since the horrific racist gun massacre in Buffalo, NY on May 14, he’s made some fumbling attempts to walk back his position.

But who are “Legacy Americans”? He uses the phrase without defining it, which is a good trick used by shifty folks who wish to say what they want to say while evading responsibility.  

I think we know. Legacy Americans are white folks who have held power for a long time, who now fear losing that power to demographic changes. Those changes are happening, and not because, as the Theory tells us,  Jews and liberals are masterminding those changes in order to enjoy political windfalls.

I mean, Replacement Theory is just white supremacy with a fancy new suit on. But if you go around saying you’re defending the interests of white supremacists, people give you funny looks at parties.

What other phrase can you use? “Original Americans?” That doesn’t work, because it makes you reflect upon the inconvenient insight that the first great replacement in this country was white folks replacing (by eradicating and marginilizing) the indigenous peoples who were here for thousands of years.

You could say “Non-Jewish, non-Hispanic, non-Black citizens.” But that … well, it just makes you sound like a Negative Nancy.

It doesn’t leave you much, which is why Tucker has invented the phrase “Legacy Americans,” which he will continue to use but never define, even though the phrase vaguely makes me think of commemorative Presidential plates.

So all credit to Tucker for inventiveness. And for being a smug trust fund dingus who should have just gone for it and traded in his bow tie for the requisite white robes and conical hat.

And to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel: “Where have you gone, George Orwell? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

THE SWAMP RAT: New fiction published

Published November 19, 2021 by Philip Ivory

“Man towers above the rest of creation so long as he realizes his own nature, and when he forgets it, he sinks lower than the beasts.”
— Boethius

It’s been a while since I had any short fiction published, since I’ve been devoting myself to finishing a novel. But here’s a story I wrote about three years ago which has finally found a home. It’s called The Swamp Rat.

The story arose from a flash fiction contest I participated in through NYC Midnight in 2018. While the story didn’t win, I thought it was worth developing, and expanded it from 1000 words to a fully-fleshed 7000 word story.

It’s set in Paris during the 1930s, and is a bit of homage to the style of early spy/mystery stories by such writers as W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.

I’m excited that the story has found a home at The Chamber, an online journal of dark fiction. My thanks to the publishers.

READ IT HERE. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the whole issue.

My thanks also to friends who helped me in the development of this story, including Reneé Bibby, Alice Hatcher, Frances Lynch and my fellow students in the Tucson Writers Studio Master Class, who gave me excellent feedback.

I hope you’ll let me know what you thought of the story by leaving a comment, either here or on The Chamber site. Thanks!

New Online Course: Writing About Childhood

Published June 13, 2021 by Philip Ivory
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Through The Writers Studio, I’ll be teaching a new special 6-week class starting next month, Writing About Childhood.

Childhood from the perspective of an adult writer can seem like “another country,” a strange land where our powers, responsibilities and perceptions were vastly different. And yet it is the place we all come from. And while the lens through which we viewed the world as children may have seemed innocent and magical, our sensibilities were always vulnerable to the hard truths of encroaching adulthood. In this class, we will examine techniques and voices crafted by celebrated writers of poetry and prose such as Sandra Cisneros, Seamus Heaney, and Ray Bradbury. How did they use imagination and memory to regain a foothold in childhood’s not-so-distant realm, conjuring its wonder, joy, and pain? Whether working in poetry, prose, or creative nonfiction, can we apply similar voices and techniques to our own unique material? Let’s bring the world and experience of childhood to vibrant life again through our creative work.

This class is open to all writers of poetry and prose, including those who are new to The Writers Studio as well as those who have already taken classes. Students will respond to weekly exercises, posting their assignments to an online class space where feedback will also be posted by other students and the teacher. Our class will then meet for a one-hour online video discussion focusing on the technique described in the exercise using the Google Meet. No special software needed, and no transcript will be available for those who miss the discussion.


Too Late To Be Outraged By Trump

Published January 7, 2021 by Philip Ivory



It’s TOO LATE to walk away from the 45th president.

It’s TOO LATE to be outraged, if you haven’t been outraged yet.

It’s TOO LATE, if you stood by him after he …

Smugly boasted about committing sexual assault

Insulted a grieving Gold Star family

Proclaimed there were “good people on both sides” at Charlottesville, when one side included white supremacists who had just committed murder

Tried to ban a people based on their religion, in a country founded on principles of religious freedom

Denigrated the service and suffering of John McCain, and by extension all prisoners of war

Humiliated the United States at Helsinki by taking the Russian dictator’s word over our own intelligence agencies

Tried to strong arm Ukraine into damaging the family of his political opponent prior to the 2020 election

Turned the attorney general into his own personal mob lawyer

Called African nations “shithole countries”

Attacked and defamed our electoral process as “rigged” even before the 2020 election took place … and continued to spread this damaging claim even after being rebuked by the Supreme Court …

Let’s not even talk about his heartbreaking mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

You can’t walk away now, even though you are outraged that he incited a terrorist attack on our nation’s Capitol building that has resulted in four deaths

It’s too late. If you stood by him after all those other things …

                                                You will ALWAYS be standing alongside him.