How To Tell A Great StoryGreat StoryTelling Network Newsletter
Volume 14, Issue 10 – 31 October 2018

It took time, but I figured out how to upload a video to youtube! So, here’s the link to the first video for the launch of both books. I hope you can view it and that you enjoy the show. In it, I explain why I chose the title ‘The Age of Smiling Secrets’.

I also share the speech that I gave during the launch. Read it to discover why I was once called a Martian.

Meanwhile, Rohi shares a post about nine contests for writers with no entry fee.

Happy storytelling.
Aneeta Sundararaj


–> Video montage of the launch of Two Snakes Whistling at the Same Time and The Age of Smiling Secrets by Aneeta Sundararaj

–>Nine Fabulous Contests for Writers With No Entry Fee by Dr. Rohi Shetty

GUEST BLOGOvercoming Writer’s Block with Automatic Transcription by Jason Kincaid

STORY ME – Speech by Aneeta Sundararaj at the Launch of Two Snakes Whistling at the Same Time and The Age of Smiling Secrets 


Before I share my journey to publication of three books in 2018, I thought I should answer a question many have asked me. Who are the two men I’ve dedicated these books to and why? The novel is dedicated to Dr. Rajah Sundararaj. He is my father and the reason for dedicating the book to him is obvious. But why did I dedicate the collection of stories to the SwamiGuru?

Our story begins three years ago when I made an appointment to consult him at the centre. This was in Old Klang Road. When I arrived, it was dark. I couldn’t find a parking spot and I was miserable. “At least this one speaks English,” I remember thinking. You see, I had assumed that SwamiGuru was yet another astrologer I had to meet.

With barely concealed hostility, I sat before him and we had a pleasant enough conversation. When my allotted time was over, his assistant motioned for me to go down on all fours and touch SwamiGuru’s feet to seek his blessings.

“I can’t do this,” I said. Sensing everyone’s irritation, I quickly explained, “It’s not because I don’t respect you. If I go down on all fours, I don’t think I can get up. These jeans are just way too tight.”

So what if he was offended? After all, I didn’t plan to meet him again. When I looked at him, though, his eyes were dancing. He was amused and I was intrigued.

In the following months, drawn to his organisation, I began to attend SwamiGuru’s discourses. One day, the photo of Maha Avatar Kriya Babaji that he had stuck on the wall was about to fall off. I told him and in a nonchalant manner, he said, “I have met him.”

Met Kriya Babaji? I couldn’t believe it. That very night, I decided that this SwamiGuru was someone I wanted to learn from. If he could meet Kriya Babaji, then, maybe, someday, I would be worthy enough to meet the deathless saint as well.

Meanwhile, my father’s health was deteriorating. Before and after my father died, SwamiGuru and my newfound brothers and sisters at 7C family showered me with the support, love and compassion I desperately needed.

As I picked up the pieces of my life, I started to share with SwamiGuru my stories of shame, rage, sorrow and laughter. I also shared my woes working with literary agents and editors. For example, one Englishman wanted me to fundamentally change my novel and create a scene in the civil courts to prevent the involuntary conversion of the child to Islam to show the superiority of the English legal system. When I insisted that it wasn’t plausible and my people would laugh at me, the reply was, “We don’t care what Malaysians think.” A local editor told me to give up on the novel.

SwamiGuru’s response to all this was, “Publish it yourself.”

Last June, on a whim, I answered a call for submissions and sent one chapter of the novel (called Legend of Nagakanna) to the Commonwealth Writers. Three months later, I received an email that it was accepted in an anthology that would be published in the new year. To date, I am the only Malaysian whose work is included in this anthology called We Mark Your Memory, Writings from the Descendants of Indenture. I am told that it’s currently one of the few books in the world that explores indenture in the Commonwealth.

Curiously, it is this Legend of Nagakanna that is closest to the truth. My grandmother’s name was Nagarathinam. My grandparents lived in Foothills Estate, which was deep, dark and cool. The ghost is based on two characters who also lived there. The temple did exist. And we had to cross a bridge over a stream to get to it. Just two nights ago, my uncle in Singapore said that he remembered going to this stream.

Equally true were the socio-economic and racial problems the estate folk endured. For example, when I once explained to a Ceylonese lady that my father was born and brought up in a rubber estate, her candid response was, “You mean your father still became a doctor?”

That question made me think. Do all people judge the good work a man does based on the colour of his skin, his clothes and his backstory? When I told my mother all this, she reminded me of a conversation with a lady many years ago.

“You must be a Christian?” she said.
“No. I’m Hindu.”
“Oh. You must be Malayalee or Punjabi?”
“No. I am Tamil.”
“But you’re so fair.”
“OK. I am half-Tamil.”
“See! I was right. Your mother is Chinese isn’t it?”
“Huh? Chinese? No. My mother is not Chinese. Her side of the family comes from Maharashtra state. In India.”
[She took some time to think about what she’d heard then blurted out the next words].
“That means, Aneeta, that you’re a Martian.”

So, earthlings, I bring you greetings from Mars.

These are the sorts of conversations that I used to create the stories in Two Snakes Whistling at the Same Time. As SwamiGuru said, “They are meant to trigger your emotions and connect you to each character as someone in your life.” Readers have written to say that they’ve cried, the books are ‘unputdownable’ and revealing. I suppose, animal lovers understand the theme in Bitter Sweet that when you give your heart to a dog like Ladoo, it will give you back its body, heart and soul.  My favourite story remains Ammachi which is about my remarkable third grandmother and our shared birthday.

I was overjoyed when MPH Publishers decided to publish these stories. Also, buoyed with confidence after the publication of We Mark Your Memory, I was willing to self-publish the novel. The team at MPH agreed to help me and they’ve been such a joy to work with. The darlings took my simple ideas, like my paintings of the two snakes and a photo of the fountain in my grandmother’s house can created these visually stunning covers.

Three weeks ago, SwamiGuru and I were involved in another panel discussion about AI, Industry 4.0 and their impact on our world. I’d said that I am now beyond writing to please editors and readers. Instead, I write what I love. His response was, “You don’t have to write worrying about whom to please. A time will come when you will be able to write what you like and know who will be pleased with it.” I pray that the time is now.

Lastly, I trust that you understand why I dedicated the collection of stories to SwamiGuru. I loved writing these two books and I love reading them even more. With God’s grace, I have faith that you will too.

Thank you, once again.

STILLNESS AND FLOW: Nine Fabulous Contests for Writers With No Entry Fee by Dr. Rohi Shetty

When you participate in free writing contests, you not only have a chance to win prizes but it can also help you to complete projects within deadlines and show how you measure up against the competition.

Taking part in a writing contest is a great way to combat writer’s block because most contests have clear guidelines and deadlines. If you don’t win, you can repurpose your entries and publish them elsewhere and/or enter them in other writing contests. And of course, if you win, the boost to your confidence and credibility are priceless.

If you are new to writing contests, start by entering writing contests with no entry fee. Here are nine free writing contests that you can enter right away.

1. 53-Word Story Contest
Description: Each month Prime Number Magazine invites writers to submit a 53-word story based on a prompt. 53 words—no more, no less—titles are not included in the word count. (The prompt for October was doubt.) Stories not meeting this rule will be disqualified. Send only stories; poetry with line breaks will not be considered. One submission per person. All rights revert back to the author upon publication. Email your submission directly to
Prize: The winner gets published in Prime Number Magazine and receives a free book from Press 53
Deadline: The last day of the month by midnight Eastern Standard Time

2. The Crucible Poetry and Fiction Competition
Description: Open to all writers. All entries must be completely original, must never have been published, must be in manuscript form, and must not be involved in other competitions. Winners will be notified by October of the same year. Crucible will receive first publication rights to winning entries, after which rights will revert back to the author. Winning entries will be published in the fall issue of Crucible published by the Barton College Department of English. Fiction must be limited to 8,000 words or less. Poetry must be limited to five poems. Entries must not be entered in other competitions. All entries should be submitted electronically to:
Prize: Poetry: First Prize: $150.00. Second Prize: $100.00
Fiction: First Prize: $150.00. Second Prize: $100.00
Deadline: May 1 of each year

3. St. Francis College Literary Prize
Description: The biennial $50,000 Literary Prize is sponsored by St. Francis College to offer its support and encouragement to the literary community and mid-career authors who have recently published their 3rd to 5th work of fiction. Self-published books and English translations are considered. The next Prize will be for work published between June 2017 and May 2019.
Deadline: May 15, 2019. (Shortlist will be announced on August 15, 2019.)
Prize: $50,000

4. The Iowa Short Fiction Award
Description: Any writer who has not previously published a volume of prose fiction is eligible to enter the competition, including non-US citizens writing in English. Writers are eligible if they have self-published a work in a small print run. The manuscript must be a collection of short stories in English of at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages. Stories previously published in periodicals are eligible for inclusion.
Prize: Award-winning manuscripts will be published by the University of Iowa Press under the Press’s standard contract.
Deadline: Entries for the competition should be postmarked between August 1 and September 30; packages must be postmarked by September 30.

5. International Flash Fiction Competition
Description: The International Micro-Story Contest conducted by the César Egido Serrano Foundation accepts flash fiction entries in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew. Over 43,000 writers participated in the fifth edition of the contest.
Prize: $20,000
Deadline: The details of the sixth edition have not been announced as yet. Check the Foundation website for updates.

6. ServiceScape Short Story Award
Description: For this award, any genre or theme of short story is accepted. All applicants should submit their original unpublished work of short fiction or nonfiction, 5,000 words or fewer, to be considered. Along with receiving an award for $1,000.00 USD, the winner will have his or her short story featured within our blog, which reaches thousands of readers per month. The contest participants will retain all the rights to their submitted work. In order to qualify as a contest participant, a person must successfully submit the application form and must be at least 18 years of age.
Prize: $1,000 and the winner will have his or her short story featured in the ServiceScape blog, which reaches thousands of readers per month.
Deadline: 29 November 2018

7. Inkshares Mystery And Thriller Competition
Description: Any writer with a manuscript (partial or finished) that falls under the mystery or thriller genre can enter the contest by first creating a draft project on Inkshares, which includes your pitch, logline, working title, and genre. The book doesn’t have to be complete for you to participate. You simply need to build your project page and upload a chapter or a few to get started. Winners will be selected on the basis of both independent evaluation by Inkshares and unique pre-orders. The contest will end at 12 p.m. PST on December 14, 2018. At that time, the top three projects as determined by the highest unique reader pre-order counts (as long as they have a minimum of 250 unique readers) will remain on the contest leaderboard in first, second, and third place. Inkshares will evaluate all submissions for publishing and representation, even if they haven’t sold any pre-orders. (There is also a Horror Contest at with the same deadline and conditions.)
Prize: The purpose of the contest is to publish and represent at least three novelists in the mystery-thriller space. Each selection will receive the same editorial, production, distribution, and marketing support as any Inkshares project, including distribution into independent bookstores as well as Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. Each project will also receive representation in foreign rights as well as film and television. (The last published mystery by Inkshares receives a starred review in Publishers Weekly, was featured in the Washington Post, and is being developed for television.)
Deadline: December 14, 2018.

8. Novella-in-Flash Award
Description: Runs once per year. 6000 to 18000 word limit – each flash should not be more than about 1000 words. Enter the Novella-in-Flash Award here online. Winners will be announced in April 2019 on the Winners pages.
Prize: £300 prize for the winner, two runner-up prizes of £100. Winner and two runners-up are published in a one-volume three-novella collection. Each published author receives five copies.
Deadline: January 14, 2019 (midnight GMT).

9. 101 Word Short Stories Contest
Description: Write fiction stories with exactly 101 words. Don’t send previously published work and don’t publish your story anywhere else on the web, including your own website. Do not submit excerpts from your latest novel or short stories. Flash fiction should be a complete story. The title of your story does not count towards the total word count. You retain all rights to your work. If your story is selected for one of our anthologies, you will be emailed a formal contract to review and sign.
Prize: $10 for stories selected to be in Flash Fiction Magazine anthologies. You will be contacted with further details should you be selected. Also, every single story gets valuable feedback from one of their editors. (This equates to about $20-$40.)
Deadline: Ongoing.

Take Action Right Now!

  • Select one of the writing contests above
  • Schedule a time to work on your entry
  • Submit it at least a day before the deadline.
  • Let us know which contest/s you have entered in the comments below so that we can cheer you on.

(I plan to start with the 53-Word Story Contest.)

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