Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:45 pm

Introduction

In recent threads on the forum, we have discussed KD's concerns that people were accidentally leaving identifying information in what are supposed to be anonymous submissions. KD currently (September 2011) is being forgiving on this subject while we all work out the kinks of electronic submissions; but at some point, this identifying information could disqualify your story!

Since I have a lot of experience with MS Word and since I spent a decade writing and teaching software design courses, I decided I could easily write a tutorial on how to anonymize your story using MS Word 2010 and Windows 7. With Brad's encouragement, I'm making a two-part post that I hope will help some of you.

Please note: I can only help you with Word 2010 under Windows 7. If I dig through my DVDs, I could find older versions of Word and Windows, and I could install them on a virtual machine. I could also download and install OpenOffice and Linux. I could even borrow a copy of MacOffice and a Mac. But to do all of that, I would have to quote you my hourly rate and an estimate of how many hours it would take, plus a nuisance tax because I hate that kind of work. As much as I want to be helpful here, I can only help with the tools I have. Some of these instructions will work with other versions of Word and Windows. Heck, for all I know, some of them will work with OpenOffice and Linux! But I'm only claiming they'll work on Word 2010 and Windows 7 -- and even there, sometimes weird stuff happens.

Please note as well: If you know those other tools, I encourage you to chip in and explain how best to anonymize with them. It would be great if we could get a small set of tutorials to help our fellow contestants. I was just remarking to a friend how odd this forum is, because we're a bunch of competitors all after the same scarce prizes, yet we all encourage each other and help each other out. It's odd, but odd in a good way!

Why Does Anonymizing Matter?

Because the contest is blind-judged, of course! But removing your name and address from your first page (And your headers! Did you check your headers? Most of my stories have my last name and title in the page headers!) isn't enough if you have a typical installation of MS Word. During a typical installation, Word asks for your name. If your copy of Word was installed by your computer manufacturer, the name might be set to "HP Customer" or something like that. If your company installed Word, it might be "XYZ Corporate Employee". But if you installed Word yourself, or if you later changed your settings, then Word might know your real name -- and then attach it to your documents!

For instance, here's what I see in Windows 7 Explorer if I hover the mouse over one of my stories:

Image

Notice how the little popup (called a Tool Tip) includes my name as the author! And that's not all: look what happens when I click on the file:

Image

The status bar (the little bar at the bottom of the window) also shows my name!

So without even opening your document, KD might see your name attached to your story!

Oops! What Can I Do About That?

Well, one answer is to remove your name from Word. I don't actually recall how to do that; and I advise against it anyway, because usually it's good to have Word identify the author of the document.

But there are two fairly simple ways to remove your identifying information. One is a single step, and works fine if you never use two of Word's advanced editing features: Comments and Track Changes. That's the process I'll explain in this post. In my next post, I'll describe the more complex but more powerful approach; and for a bonus, I'll explain what Comments and Track Changes are and why you might use them.

The simple approach is...

Save As RTF

RTF (Rich Text Format) is a common format used by many different word processors; and in the case of MS Word, RTF is sort of the "second choice" format. Word is designed to work best with its DOCX format (or DOC format for older versions of Word), but it has strong support for RTF to make it easier to share files with other word processors.

And here are two important facts: Writers of the future allows you to submit your stories in RTF format; and RTF strips out the author information that's stored in DOCX.

So to save your file as RTF, simply go to the File ribbon by clicking File in the upper left, and then click Save As:

Image

That will open the Save As window. Click the dropdown for Save as type:, and select Rich Text Format (*.rtf):

Image

Save your file, and look at the Tool Tip:

Image

And at the Status Bar:

Image

Presto! The author name is gone!

So Is That Good Enough?

Maybe. It depends on how Word is installed on your machine, and also on whether you use Comments and Track Changes.

If you don't intentionally use Comments and Track Changes, Save As RTF is probably good enough. But sometimes Word can be installed in such a way that Track Changes is on, and you don't even know it! Plus there are reasons you might choose to have it on by default.

So if you have any reason why you might suspect Track Changes is on, or if you use Comments, you'll need the more advanced technique I'll explain in my next post.
Last edited by Martin L. Shoemaker on Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby s_c_baker » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:26 pm

Great tutorial. Although, a friendly tip--titling your story "Martin's ... story" probably doesn't help. wotf007

(Also, I'm pretty sure you can handle this software-independently on Windows with a right click and selecting "Details".)
Stewart C Baker - 1st place, Q2 V32
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:34 pm

s_c_baker wrote:Great tutorial. Although, a friendly tip--titling your story "Martin's ... story" probably doesn't help. wotf007


Wait'll you see the story in Step II. The title is the least of its problems!

(Also, I'm pretty sure you can handle this software-independently on Windows with a right click and selecting "Details".)


Yep! That'll be in Step II. Save As RTF was easier to explain, so I started there.

Thanks!
Martin L. Shoemaker
F:1V28,1V29
SF:4V28
HM:2/3V28,2/3/4V29,1/2/3V30
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WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Grayson Morris » Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:02 am

For those who use Scrivener on a Mac: you're probably safe as long as you do the obvious things to keep your name out of the file. I save mine out ("compile") as Word 97 - 2004 format (unchecking the "First page header" under "Contents" and removing <$surname> from the header under "Page settings," obviously), and when I open the resulting file in my Word 2011 and click on "properties," there is no summary information whatsoever - no author, in particular - even though Scrivener, Word and my Mac know they're registered to me.

All this is on OS X (10.5), however; I don't know if Scrivener for Windows behaves differently.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby katsincommand » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:28 pm

Sneaky computer programs, trying to sabatogue our best efforts!

Thanks so much for posting this. I consider myself pretty tech-suavy, but I didn't realize DOCX would store it and RTF wouldn't. :)
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby soulmirror » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:37 pm

I've only submitted this one last story electronically, due to time panic, and I used .rtf simply because with my limited tech savvy it seems to protect the format ... but thanks for posting this, it gives me a little more confidence about the eel-submissions.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:51 pm

katsincommand wrote:Thanks so much for posting this. I consider myself pretty tech-suavy, but I didn't realize DOCX would store it and RTF wouldn't. :)


Heh. Neither did I when I started writing the tutorials. I found it out by experiment.

Thanks!
Martin L. Shoemaker
F:1V28,1V29
SF:4V28
HM:2/3V28,2/3/4V29,1/2/3V30
3rd:1V31

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
NNiNN

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby D.J. Carani » Tue Sep 06, 2011 8:10 am

Great post Martin! I completely forgot about all the data hidden in a docx file. Now my Q4 sub will be nice and shiny clean come submission time.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Junca54 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:55 am

Thanks, Martin. Very useful. wotf008

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby dr-phil » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:16 pm

If you go back to Word 95 (grin), and the older .DOC formats used through Word 2003, there is a table called Summary Info, which can be accessed under File | Properties. If you have assigned an Author name under Tools | Options, and Microsoft wants to default doing this and may take your name from Windows during Word installation, it will show up in all .DOC files. You can delete it from each .DOC file or remove the global Author name.

BUT... here's the kicker. When Word sames your file as an RTF file, the Summary Info is STILL INCLUDED. So you still have to edit it out using either the Summary Info icon added to your Toolbars or using File | Properties.

So you do have to work harder than just removing your name from the file and from any page headers that you would normally use for submissions.

Someone upstream once asked about PDF files -- Adobe uses the Summary Info block information to help make PDF files, so you have to strip that info from .DOC files before creating a PDF as well.

In general I am a big fan of RTF files for submissions, because (1) it is harder to load a virus into an RTF file (never say never, sadly) than a DOC or DOCX file and (2) Word functions like Track Changes, useful in working with editors, actually survives the RTF file process.

Pesky programs, make it hard to be anonymous...

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby madison » Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:18 am

OMG, this is the first time I've seen the information on imbedded information wotf018 I didn't even think of what might be on Word's file properties. I just made sure to take my name off the header and left only page number and title. Now I'm going to be worried sick, after making all the other effort to be careful not to mention the title or topic of the story while talking about short stories to folks online. This makes me want to cry. Where's the boo-hoo sobbing smilie?

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby mattj » Sat Oct 01, 2011 6:15 am

Last night, I went into my Word 97, opened the properties tab, and under security, there is a link to remove personal information. I just clicked on that.

Even easier than Martin's easy way!
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby madison » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:21 am

Just noticed Martin's tutorial was from Sept. THIS YEAR so maybe they'll still be showing mercy to the newcomers who didn't know about stripping files. I'm working on next quarter's story already, though, so I'll be sure to submit a truly clean manuscript next time! I don't know why I assumed they'd all get printed at some point for the judges to read, though. It kind of defeats the purpose of electronic submissions to do that.

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby s_c_baker » Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:43 pm

madison wrote:Just noticed Martin's tutorial was from Sept. THIS YEAR so maybe they'll still be showing mercy to the newcomers who didn't know about stripping files. I'm working on next quarter's story already, though, so I'll be sure to submit a truly clean manuscript next time! I don't know why I assumed they'd all get printed at some point for the judges to read, though. It kind of defeats the purpose of electronic submissions to do that.


At the moment they are ignoring this sort of thing. I accidentally left mine in for Q3 and didn't get disqualified. as here: http://webnews.sff.net/read?cmd=read&artid=%3C4e6295cb.0@news.sff.net%3E&
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Scott Kennedy » Thu Oct 06, 2011 11:03 am

Well, bother. I wish I'd read this post before sending in my submission. I'm glad they're still showing mercy in this regard. Because my name sure shows up when I hover the cursor over the file. *facepalm*

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby wellsdesigned » Thu Oct 06, 2011 12:51 pm

Scott Kennedy wrote:Well, bother. I wish I'd read this post before sending in my submission. I'm glad they're still showing mercy in this regard. Because my name sure shows up when I hover the cursor over the file. *xxxxxx*

Careful Scott, you don't want to link your story to your name here either.

Which makes me wonder, do they hand out masks for still aspiring writers who go to the awards ceremony? wotf001

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:36 pm

wellsdesigned wrote:
Scott Kennedy wrote:Well, bother. I wish I'd read this post before sending in my submission. I'm glad they're still showing mercy in this regard. Because my name sure shows up when I hover the cursor over the file. *xxxxxx*

Careful Scott, you don't want to link your story to your name here either.

Which makes me wonder, do they hand out masks for still aspiring writers who go to the awards ceremony? wotf001

Only if you plan on talking about the story you just submitted. wotf011
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Strycher » Fri Jun 22, 2012 4:20 am

Bump

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Strycher » Sun Jun 30, 2013 5:52 pm

Bump.

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Rebecca Birch » Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:17 pm

Strycher wrote:Bump.


Good call! wotf010
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Imagination Vortex » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:29 pm

Ok so I can't believe I missed this, but I think my name has been on every file I've submitted to this contest! Just today I was going to save a file and I noticed my name showing up in the Author section. But the weird thing is that after I've saved it I scroll the mouse over the file (like in Martin's picture) and I don't see the Author section or my name come up. And I have been saving every file as docx. which Martin said we should avoid. But even if my name isn't showing up after it's saved, could this explain all of my rejections? Now that I'm thinking back, my only HM was saved as an rtf. (but that was the first quarter that DF took over, perhaps they were still forgiving the mistake at that time?) I do know that last year I wrote a story in docx. and the quarter after I think I re-submitted it as an rtf. but it still got a rejection. I'm just not sure - could I be overthinking this? Or possibly trying to find excuses for my rejections? Or have I really been submitting things with my name on it all along, even though it's not showing up after I save the file? I tried to upload some images but they wouldn't show up in my post, so I really hope that this makes sense and someone can help!

Oh and one more little note: I'm using Microsoft Word Starter 2010 with Windows 7.

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby s_c_baker » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:22 am

Imagination Vortex wrote:Ok so I can't believe I missed this, but I think my name has been on every file I've submitted to this contest! Just today I was going to save a file and I noticed my name showing up in the Author section. But the weird thing is that after I've saved it I scroll the mouse over the file (like in Martin's picture) and I don't see the Author section or my name come up. And I have been saving every file as docx. which Martin said we should avoid. But even if my name isn't showing up after it's saved, could this explain all of my rejections? Now that I'm thinking back, my only HM was saved as an rtf. (but that was the first quarter that DF took over, perhaps they were still forgiving the mistake at that time?) I do know that last year I wrote a story in docx. and the quarter after I think I re-submitted it as an rtf. but it still got a rejection. I'm just not sure - could I be overthinking this? Or possibly trying to find excuses for my rejections? Or have I really been submitting things with my name on it all along, even though it's not showing up after I save the file? I tried to upload some images but they wouldn't show up in my post, so I really hope that this makes sense and someone can help!

Oh and one more little note: I'm using Microsoft Word Starter 2010 with Windows 7.

wotf027

Sounds like overthinking to me. :)

Keep in mind that we're not really sure how the submissions are viewed at all, and this is more a precaution than anything else. For all we know, the submission software just strips the text and displays it in a specialized program anyway.

And in any case, it's highly unlikely that any of the judges will be idly right-clicking and viewing the properties of a file (or hovering the mouse over it for a few seconds) just on the off chance that it has identifying information in it. Remember, it's in their interests as well as yours to make sure they're reading the stories blind.

My suggestion would be, after you finish writing it and just before you send it in:

1) right click the file, select properties
2) click "details"
3) click "remove properties and personal information"
4) click "create a copy with all possible properties removed"

And then send in the copy. This will strip all the author ID stuff from the file properties regardless of your file format.

(Edit: Martin has a tutorial on this too, with pictures: http://forum.writersofthefuture.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1017&start=0)

I always submit in either doc, docx, or odt, and do this before I send in the file. Of course I have no way of knowing whether my rejections are due to DQing or just being a bad fit, but my understanding is that Dave, at least, goes out of his way to NOT put entries in a position where they'll be disqualified, and isn't on the hunt for IDing information.

In short: take a page from Dr Strangelove and learn to love the (Windows file properties) bomb.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Imagination Vortex » Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:03 am

Thanks Stewart! I'll make sure to create a copy from now on before I submit any story, just to be safe. I'm over my moment of panic now, time to submit my Q1!
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby storysinger » Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:29 am

I have a story to send that has to be rtf.
I didn't have a clue on how to make that happen until I read Martin's post.
Thanks for todays forum supplied lesson.
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Ease » Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:06 pm

Argh! I completely forgot about the Author metadata last Quarter! Here's hoping that's why my story was rejected (so quickly, too)! Going to scrub all metadata from my story, and triple check for any name-slips, and resubmit (along with all the little fixes I've made) for this Quarter. Yippee!
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Strycher » Fri Sep 26, 2014 8:11 am

Bump, plus don't forget Standard Manuscript Format.

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby elratliff » Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:13 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:
The simple approach is...

Save As RTF


Thanks, Martin! Useful post!
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby amoskalik » Thu Jun 25, 2015 4:20 am

I'm not saying we shouldn't be conscientious about anonymizing, but I have been blithely ignorant of this excellent advice and have not been disqualified for it (yet). I imagine if they start clamping down on author names in the file metadata, they will issue some official instructions on the submissions form, or prescreen the submissions and give the author a chance to rectify.

So anyway, my point is, follow this advice, but don't freak out about all the potential caveats. Certainly don't worry to the point that you submit by mail instead (or don't submit at all).
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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby Strycher » Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:10 am

wotf046

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Re: Anonymizing, Step I: The Easy Way

Postby storysinger » Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:35 am

Image
When I write a story for the contest I never put my name in the file anywhere.
I submit through this website and follow all the rules and guidelines.
Easy and stress free.
HM-1
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