Schwartz; competitive writer

Samantha Lee, Staff Writer

IB English teacher Brian Schwartz has always been an avid writer and has had a talent for writing since he was young.

“When I was in high school, I was on the school literary magazine, so we would publish short stories and poems,” said Schwartz.

At the time, he was writing just for fun, but it wasn’t until college that he realized how serious he was about it.

“When I got into college, I started taking more creative writing classes, and so that’s when I got more interested in writing seriously.” He added, “Going to college and being able to take actual writing classes and have people read your work and discuss it seriously was definitely the thing that made me want to continue with it.”

Schwartz’s passion for writing has paid off, as he’s been published in multiple magazines and received recognition for his work. However, it hasn’t been easy for Schwartz to get to where he is.

“I have been published a couple times, but it’s really hard for me to want to publish stuff because I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to writing.”

The content he writes about is a little “bizarre,” but nothing controversial.

“It always puts you in a position of vulnerability to show something creative to somebody.”

A majority of the short stories he writes are focused more on the attitudes of the world, and often are dark, with bleak content. He also enjoys writing in the magical realism genre, one that’s more centered around a piece of truth, and even uses his own personal experiences in his stories as well.

“A lot of times I’ll take a situation that happened to me in real life and reimagine it with a stronger attitude or tone.”

Schwartz doesn’t just write for fun though. He was also in a writing competition for about two years starting in 2018. The nature of the competition includes writing short stories based off specific prompts of 1200-1500 words with groups of 25-30 people competing every week. Once each group’s story is submitted, a judge picks the winner and loser of the week. The winner becomes the judge for the next week, and the loser has to suffer a form of public humiliation.

“The loser would have their avatar online changed to something really obnoxious or embarrassing,” said Schwartz.

“Depending on what was bad in the story, the person who was the judge would change a person’s title so there would be like big red text next to your name that said something like ‘I’m a big baby.”

“The goal was to hurt feelings sometimes, but we all entered it willingly, so we all knew what we were getting into.”

Schwartz said that what is often looked at in good creative writing is writing that isn’t cliché and has an adequate word economy.

“We would acknowledge that art is inherently subjective,” said Schwartz. “We would sometimes disagree.”

“Judging was usually pretty easy because one thing that I like about the group is that we always talk about how subjective feedback is.” He added, “Usually you wouldn’t give someone a loss just for writing a story idea you didn’t like.”

Stories of all different genres have been submitted, and he often wrote fantasies and action stories, but personally preferred stories about technology, science fiction, and dystopias. Some of his winning stories included giant bees and changing one’s emotional state at will. There are also several stories he wrote that he felt were better than the ones that won.

“It really did help me become a better writer,” Schwartz explained further.

Schwartz said it’s been a couple years since he’s taken writing seriously, but has been working to get back into writing more lately.

“I’ve got hundreds of stories that haven’t been submitted or done anything with,” said Schwartz.

Check out a short writing excerpt below.

Harvey waits in the boat for hours, so he lets his mind wander. The pearl farmer is a man named Lawrence who’s known throughout the Eastern Shore for his wealth and enmity in equal measure. He occupies his plantation in solitude, save for a few underpaid dockhands who cut the oysters from the reefs.