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Peter Lahanas writing contest
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Peter Lahanas

My perspective on life changed after my recent near death experience, I left my average job with the full support of my family to pursue my love for the written word. In my original bio, I mentioned lack of education in regards to the art of literature, (outside High School) but after seeing some of the talented, educated people on here; I felt embarrassed to leave that part in. My family noticed. They believe, I should showcase what passion is capable of achieving, and I should be proud of everything that's shaped me into who I am. They're right, and I'm a lucky guy to have them.

Story: A gold star for Henry


Each week authors will be given a new question to answer which will lend additional insight into their story and writing process. Do you have a question you'd like to see the authors answer? Tweet it to @aNextAuthor!

What is the best writing advice you've ever heard?
Don't plan the ending. If the author knows, then the reader may see it coming. Stephen King explains this in detail in: Stephen King on writing.
When you start a new story do you prepare an outline in advance or do you just jump right in?
An outline works for me and is usually conceived via the 'what if' scenario. I simply build a story on the foundations of a strange observation, and before I know it, a story is born.
How do you deal with writing criticism, apart from just ignoring it?
Criticism is a necessity. It provides us with a new set of eyes to look at things from a different angle, which we otherwise wouldn't have considered, and ultimately makes us better writers.
America's Next Author has been running for almost 8 weeks. If you could re-submit now, would you change anything about your story?
Absolutely. Although I proof read my story before entering it, I obviously hadn't paid closer attention to punctuation. But, thanks to the feedback and reviews by fellow writers, I realized my mistake and now know, what to watch out for.



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First I want to thank you for reviewing my story peter, your review was uplifting and heartwarming, to make me as a dreamer, Walt Disney :) what an honor. I am so glad you enjoyed Missy’s story. Sorry didn’t get to your story earlier with a review, but I do want to say one thing I really liked it, not so much the sparrow getting shot, due to me being an animal lover, did bring me back to the time my son, with his uncle, shot his first bird, me, no I didn’t want to be involved; that was their thing, but I love the middle heartwarming, kindness, and the end which was even more cheerful. I loved it! It made me smile. It takes a lot for me to get wrapped in a story, though the sparrow thing, in the beginning almost veered me away, I was able to continues, excited and curious of what was going to happen next, and so happy with the ending, thanking you for your story, and please keep writing. :)


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Has left me absolutely spell bound. What superb imagination and creativity Peter. This is nothing short of beautiful. It even brought tears to my eyes - unusual for me. Well done.

Fred Ruark

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Peter: You have the makings of really good story. An emotional beginning with strong characters. But those emotions lose a lot of their punch when presented as a third person narrative. And an omniscient narrator at that. An all seeing narrator that knows what everyone, including the cocker spaniel and the 'angelic' sparrow in the finale is thinking. That was a real stretch. I believe that your story would be better served if we knew how Henry felt by letting him speak for himself. What was in Henry's gut when he ran to his Mom for comfort? What did Henry smell when he met Paul? Also there is a lot of unnecessary verbiage, i.e., you don't need to tell readers things they already know, like a 'leather shoe'. And I'm not sure if the ecological spin regarding the disappearance of sparrows, mynahs and grasshoppers adds anything. (And in Australia? Sparrows would be an invasive there. If you are going to use that phenomena as a pivotal part of your story, do a little environmental research. You have real talent and your ideas have potential. Work harder to get your readers inside of your characters instead of getting their information about characters third hand. Good lUck KEEP WRITING


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Nice story, little stilted in places, and watch out for those redundant apostrophes! Nicely done, all in all...

HM Gruendler-Schierloh

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Great story - one very much after my own heart. I love the way the author made the connection between childhood and adulthood events. I do believe that the emotions we feel while growing up do impact how we conduct ourselves later in life. Besides, being an animal lover, I felt touched and impressed. Yes, the writing could use a little editing, but that can always be done - if not by the author, then by someone else. However, first there has to be a story - and this is a good one.


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This was a wonderful, sweet story. I loved the characterization of Henry at the end, and his occupation was an interesting idea I did not see coming! Definitely made my day better reading this!


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Your story reminded me of an event in my life, only it was a robin and not a sparrow, and it was peer pressure from friends- not my father- that caused me to pull the trigger. Your story, overall, is very well written. I felt the strongest part was the opening. Just my opinion, but I think it would have been stronger if you had honed in on all the tension and drama of the initial moment rather than suddenly removing us to a completely different place. My interest began to wane at that transition. I also think the emotional aspect of this story might have come through a little better in a first person POV. Again, just an opinion.

Alyce Wilson

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What a sweet story! While the beginning at times was very hard to read -- and the characterization of the father a little two-dimensional -- I loved where you took this story and how you showed that a childhood incident can influence an entire life's pathway. I hope that you read my story, "Dating Safari," and enjoy it as much as I liked this.


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Really great story! I was captivated throughout it. I have to say that the beginning is the strongest part. I could really see the characters interacting, the boy crying and the guilt growing, the comforting mother, etc. Once he is a grown up there is a lot of internal narrative and not enough dialogue and action. And I agree that there are quite a few punctuation errors (in the future it's good to have at least 3-4 people scan your story for these kinds of mistakes). Even with these little flaws it's still a great story and you clearly have a natural talent for writing. Well done!!!

timothy leary

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your story sucks bro

Da Cicero

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I found your story riveting. I particularly like how you succeed in transiting from past to present without sacrificing the sequence of your plot. I see great promise in you and would love to see more of your rwritings.

Margaret Alice

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I really loved this story! I liked how you turned the destructive action of killing the sparrow into good (such as Henry helping the homeless man and becoming a veterinarian). This is a very heartwarming story, and I would be curious to read more of what you write! Could you please check out my story, "The Fate Continuum?" Good luck!


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I really enjoyed your story and appreciated the rawness you gave the characters. It's always refreshing to read something where you feel convicted by the lessons learned. Great job!

Rose Burke

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This story won my heart. Your descriptions and writing style truly captured Henry's emotions after he shot the bird. I loved how it was quick, yet engaging. This piece is a great example of how a single moment in a child's life can shape who they become. Excellent!

Cat in a hat

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Brilliant. Made me emotional.


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Good work, great description of Henry's horror and sadness at killing that bird in the beginning. Brought in all those emotions.

Summer Beth

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This was a good, quick read with very detailed descriptions. I'm not sure the homeless man fits in the story though I know why you added him in. One thing I really liked was the subtle way you introduced Henry's occupation which of course ties in with what he witnessed as a young kid. Nice work.

One Red Sock

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Love this story!!!!

Lisa Rose

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Welcome to the contest. Your story is very heartwarming. Some boys would remember the incident as a joyous thing; the day their father taught them to shoot! But Henry used that moment to shape his life around helping people and animals. Awesome story. There were a few punctuation issues. There should be a period at the end of dialogue. Also some on your sentences need a comma. You wrote: "I'm okay dad. I'm sorry I made you mad." You need a comma after okay and Dad should be capitalized when you use it in place of a name. Also when one character is speaking to another you need a comma. You wrote: "No need to be sorry son." His father said. It should be: "No need to be sorry, son," his father said. If you have the time please read my story 'Drift Away' and leave a review to let me know if you liked it.


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I know a good story when I start reading and can't stop. Not many stories make me want to jump into the page and hug the characters, but this one did. You captured me from your first line. Your way of writing is unique and captivating, I felt as though I was there watching it happen.I look forward to reading more of your work, nice job.

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December 18th, 2012
The winner of America's Next Author 2012 has been announced! [...]
December 7th, 2012
Questions and answers about the Battle Round. [...]
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#ANA2012 | What Fans Have To Say


America's Next Author is the first social writing contest. Friends, family, fans and publishing industry experts will read authors' submissions and nominate their favorite to be America's next major author. Everyone can participate!