Attention middle grade writers: it's time for the annual Highlights Fiction Contest! This year's theme is fiction involving an embarrassing moment. The deadline to submit is January 31.
If you don't write a lot of short stories, such as those of us always mired in novels, this is a great chance to practice story lines and emotional arcs in 750 words or less. You will learn to get to the point and stick to that emotional arc. Plus short stories take so much less time to write than novels that it will hardly bother you at all when your critiquers tell you to rewrite it.
Every year around this time, I write and submit a story. I've never made a sale or won an honorable mention, but I do get something out of the contest: finished, polished stories!
Here's the link: http://www.highlights.com/highlights-fiction-contest