Creative Writing Institute Short Story Contest

Creative Writing Institute

The Mystery Lady

Short Story Contest

(details at bottom)

by Deborah Owen, CEO and Founder



What would you do if the doctor said you have cancer and don’t have long to live? This story is about such a woman – a woman who has essentially created a writing school that she knows nothing about. But, let me start at the beginning.


In the spring of 2008, I browsed the Internet and happened across the picture of a woman whose smile was so captivating that it compelled me to read about her. She was a Texas businesswoman whose world had come crashing down with the words, “You have cancer.” As her body wasted away, friends and coworkers visited less. At length, only immediate family and one friend remained. Nearing the end of her journey – bald, sick and suicidal – the lady decided to do something she had always wanted to do – write.


At first, she wrote a couple of times a week, but soon learned she could escape her sorrows by writing new worlds into existence. The more she wrote, the better she felt, neither knowing nor understanding she had stumbled into a new science called writing therapy.


As writing therapy melded with medical treatment, she experienced a miraculous recovery. Restored to health some months later, the dear lady returned to the hospital where she was once a patient and taught other cancer sufferers how to escape their sorrows. She collected their stories, took them home, wrote comments, and returned them to the patients.


The article concluded by saying this woman had but one desire – to take a writing course. A week later, I found myself still thinking of that brave and compassionate woman. Her one wish was to take a writing course someday, so I decided to donate one – but alas, try as I may, I never found that article again. I call her the Mystery Lady.


If I had found her, I suppose that would have been the end of the story, but by not finding her I felt compelled to carry her torch. God rained ideas on me:


The new writing school already underway could be a non-profit organization that would scholarship cancer patients. We could educate and encourage sick children and the blind. We could train the unemployed and give senior citizens new purpose in life. Public tuition, grants, and donations could support a scholarship program. The possibilities were endless! That’s how Creative Writing Institute was birthed on October 8, 2008.


We are still trying to locate the Mystery Lady and bestow honors on her. We believe the story originated in Dallas or Austin, Texas, perhaps in 2007. Perhaps you would like to help us locate her. Just write to me at


SHORT STORY CONTEST – Creative Writing Institute’s short story contest is in full swing and you are invited to participate. We offer 15 chances for publication in our anthology, in addition to cash prizes of $200, $100, and $50. The first-place winner may choose a free, tutored writing course in lieu of $200 prize.


Our anthology will also publish several stories written by best-selling guest writers, as well as stories written by CWI staff. (Anthology will be available in December.) Word limit: 2,000 words. Themed, unpublished story must include this sentence: “I am completely and utterly lost.” No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc. Contest closes midnight, EST, August 31, 2017. 


See the full set of guidelines and book cover at Direct questions to head judge, Jianna Higgins, at


*Deborah Owen is the CEO and Founder of Creative Writing Institute. She and her husband of 56 years live in Indiana. “We have been full-time RV’rs for 17-years,“ she said. “Sometimes the motor home gets a little small, but this is the life we love. Traveling and writing makes it well worth the sacrifices to live this lifestyle.”


Connect with Deborah Owen at:


Twitter: writingclasses






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