Contest Winner! Olympic Cup for the United Nations, plus Alphabet Soup: AtoZ Reflections, IWSG Day, and ROW80

First post-A to Z post!

The rush of posting every day is over. I did my Saturday posts in advance, and one day managed to do five posts in advance, which gave me spare room to catch up on all the lovely comments I'd received, and actually visit a few new-to-me bloggers, too.

Now's the time to post our Reflections on the 2016 Challenge.

For those who haven't done it, I definitely recommend a theme. It helps keep you focused, and it's easy to stray from the theme if you need to; easier than trying to come up with ideas at random in the middle of all that hectic blogging. Something conducive to lots of photos is definitely a plus. Even if you can't write them all in advance (and doing so does take away from the challenge and the thrill a bit), formatting them is helpful. I was able to do this this time around; I set up each post as a draft, and entered my daily drop cap, and added a few lines of what I meant to share that day, and as many of the links and photos as I could. Then, on the day of, it was easier to focus on the actual text, without all the time spent collating photos and references.

This sort of thing is helpful for insecure writers on Insecure Writer's Support Group Day, too!

That is, even for those of us who are pantsters, it helps to have a few kernels to play with. Especially during NaNoWriMo, for instance, when I try to end each writing session with a question or a comment for the next day (even something as simple as "why doesn't he just kiss her?" or "how is she going to keep this a secret from him?"). That way, when I come back to the story, even if I feel inspiration-less, there's a problem to be solved, and I can start working right away.

By contrast, what I'm doing now is about the worst thing that can be done -- not writing at all. Inspiration or muses or not, what the writing muscle needs is constant use. The fact that I'm thinking of new stories is not enough. I ought to write! Even if it's 10 minutes a day (and 10 minutes are so easy to find), even if it's only 100 words (100 words is nothing!) each morning. My trouble is that because I should be editing already-written stories, I feel badly for starting a new story. But that's silly. Better to write than do nothing at all!

I did get a sponsor post written for ROW80, though! And I'm going to try (but I'm not committing to it for fear of failure) to write something for the May writer's exercise on the Forum, set this month by author Barbara Rogan:

"Here's a challenge to stretch your writing muscles. Create a character who does something very wrong. You don't have to show the awful deed unless you want; it's enough to allude to it. Use POV and any other techniques you can muster to induce readers to sympathize with (even if they don't approve of) the evil-doer. This is a bit complicated, so I'm going to allow 750 words for this exercise—but extra credit to anyone who can carry it off in less. On your marks, get set...go!"

But back to the A to Z. Having been both a mere participant and a minion for those tireless organizers, I'm struggling to come up with suggestions to improve the challenge -- I think it works very well, and seems to run almost seamlessly!

I'm going to admit something here... I was in the middle of drafting one of the final posts, X or Y or Z, and suddenly, I thought of a great theme for next year! Only 365 days to go...

Don't forget to pick up some A to Z Challenge gear!

And now...drumroll...our contest winner!

In the past, to draw winners, I've used babies and cats. This time I went with the simple and efficient Random Number Generator.

And the winner of the 30$ gift card to the online book retailer of her choice is...Hilary!

Congratulations, Hilary, and thanks to everyone for playing along and commenting!

In other awards news, the United Nations was awarded the Olympic Cup last week:
The ceiling sculpture is by Spanish artist Miquel Barceló.
"The sculpture consists of many layers of coloured paints composed of pigments from across the globe, sprayed across the ceiling to create stalactites. The work is groundbreaking both artistically and technically and represents the themes of multiculturalism, mutual tolerance and understanding between cultures."
 The Olympic Flame in two lanterns. It looks so small!

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave an inspiring speech. This year, for the first time, refugee athletes will be participating, under the Olympic Flag. The Secretary-General said, "win or lose, they are champions of the spirit. ... They want a flag that waves for their rights. ... They want hope, not tents. ... Sports give children the basic human right of being children, who at least for a few moments can laugh and play."

He added, "Let us all be on the team of the refugees until there is no need for such a team at all."

Congratulations to those of you who made it through the A to Z.
Whether you participated or not, what suggestions do you have for the challenge?

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