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S. E. Cates writing contest
S. E. Cates wants to be
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S. E. Cates

Words are whispers in my wandering mind. You can ask a thousand questions, and I'll tell you a rhyme. Wishes are blue jays that beg on the wind. These fables that haunt me, their wings growing thin, Are ready to fall now, come down the ground. Place your bets quickly; I'm coming around. Shards of a future, they gleam and the glint. But magic's in my fingers, and I'm going to win. *** *** *** I'm 19, a college student. I've won a handful of contests on Figment, some poetry contests, been published in some HS lit mags as well as Cornell's. Also, I'm mainly working on a fairy-tale retelling novel. But I've also got a zombie novel, a steampunk Oz novel, some fable-esque short stories, and so many other things in progress.

Story: The Lion and the Unicorn


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?
Read your own stuff. Read other people's stuff. The most crucial part of writing is reading. It isn't narcissistic to read your old writing or your recent writing. Trust me, I'm a psych major.
When you start a new story do you prepare an outline in advance or do you just jump right in?
I think people see writing as a super organized thing. But really, it's like thinking. It's messy, chaotic. If I outline, it's purely mental. I tend instead toward lists of inspiring scraps, phrases that I may or may not be able to decipher later.
How do you deal with writing criticism, apart from just ignoring it?
Sometimes I think I take writing criticism /too/ seriously, but for the most part I just try to separate the good from the bad and integrate accordingly.
America's Next Author has been running for almost 8 weeks. If you could re-submit now, would you change anything about your story?
I'd make it less florid. When I wrote this, I was really feeling the fairy-tale vibe, but my tastes change with the wind and I wish it was a little more modern or quirky. Also, I'd fix some formatting things and change the beginning for clarity.


Lisa Rose

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This is a really good story. Your words create a beautiful world and I felt like I was there in the woods watching the love story unfold. The characters of the unicorn and lion (woman and man) are very unique and memorable. The poor unicorn cursed with the magical sight knew for certain that theirs would not be a happy ending, but still could not help falling in love with the lion. Good story. I especially liked the ending. If you have the time please read my story 'Drift Away' and leave a review to let me know if you liked it.

Margaret Alice

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This is a beautifully written story. I absolutely loved the imagery. I thought it was fascinating how you chose to have the creatures turn into people. Too often we read stories about people turning into magical creatures. I really enjoyed your spin on the fairy-tale genre. I liked how the story ended up becoming a wonderfully written history about how humans were formed. You truly have a gift in writing! I would like to hear your opinion on my story, "The Fate Continuum." Good Luck!


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I have read your work in the past, Miss Cates, on Figment. You are a wordsmith through and through. You create delightful images in the mind of a reader without it becoming overwritten, or pompous with description, which is often the failing of young writers in this genre. Very nice!


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Beautiful and engaging. You have a unique flair that deserves to be recognized.

Happy Dagger

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Love is a beautiful and treacherous thing, leaving change and ruin in its wake. At least that is the impression I got from this tale. I enjoyed how you brought the flurry of divine mythical creatures into a more honest portrayal of the outcomes that often occur while any being is in the throes of Eros stages of infatuation and coming to terms with the bitterness of enduring love. The one critique, I would suggest a quicker hook in the beginning paragraphs. However, I do admire your light touch/finesse on story telling. Good luck in the contest.

N. T. Saint

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Magnificent! This story took ahold of me and wouldn't let go until the end. Very well done.

Wanda Hartzenberg

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I loved the twist in the story. Very well done.

Teresa Garcia

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THIS, THIS, ah this... I am a very big fan of fairytales and unicorns, and the unicorn is such a never ending wellspring of possibility. This story is a delight. I find it as much a satisfying read as I do "The Last Unicorn," which was and is a favorite. This short is sensuous, and captures the tenacity of the lion and the fleeting nature of the unicorn almost poetically.

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Not a great read
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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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!