Go Ahead! Scroll down to the bottom. You know you want to.
But then come back to join me, won’t you?
First, let me get my angries out of the way. Someone anonymous left a comment after Tuesday’s announcement that implored those who had not voted to participate, and the comment was “yawn”. I invite whoever that was to go be bored elsewhere. The crew at A Word with You Press, particularly Diana Diehl and my son Morgan Sully in Berlin went to extraordinary lengths to get us up and running when technical issues beyond our control interrupted the very smooth flow of this contest. How dare you belittle our efforts with such a stupid remark! Kindly fall on your own anonymous staff.
A Word with You Press is dedicated to nurturing a community of writers by creating a readership and forum where none existed. And we do this un-fucking-paid! Why? Because all of us here believe that writing–good writing– allows us to connect to our fellow beings, and the expression of thought and feeling, well articulated, is the great equalizer.Eventually, perhaps this year, our efforts will be rewarded and we can sustain ourselves through editing and publishing services, and by selling our own novels and those of others on our site, rather than me subsidizing this site by grueling, back-breaking labor.
Ok. I feel better. Now down to business…
I am delighted to say that there were between sixty and seventy stories submitted to our contest, and a good number of them by people who have never been to our site before. Our numbers can only increase with time, particularly given the quality of the writing that has been submitted to the site for on-line publication.
For reasons beyond my comprehension I did not shed a tear when my mother died, and yet, when our favorite collaborator Peggy Dobbs left us, I sobbed uncontrollably. She radiated goodness, and everyone who interacted on the site felt the same way, based on their comments when I posted the news that she left us for that great publishing house in the sky.
Our contest, THIS contest, was created in her honor, and I intend to make it an annual event. Peggy never submitted any writing until she was 77, and I have no doubt that the writing, and sharing the writing with all of us, added wealth to her final three years on the planet. It is never too late to express yourself in the written word, and by so doing, expose your strengths and vulnerabilities to your fellow beings. Simply put, we are family, and the bonds that we have created on-line are every bit as real as if they were formed across the dinner table. And so our prompt for the First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage was completely fitting: “I swear, it’s not too late.” I want to thank Diana Diehl for coming up with the prompt.
Seven people advanced to the finals. The two leading stories ended up getting exactly the same number of votes before I weighed in, so, yeah, it all came down to me. Perhaps that is fitting. I do my best to be very inclusive and deliberative, but in the end, I am the editor-in-chief. But do not accuse me of favoritism, because, quite honestly, everyone of the finalists has become my friend; some I have met in person, some only on-line but friends none-the-less.
The other five stories each received about the same number of votes, and comments are worthy for each of those stories. I will take them in no particular order.
First, Miryam Howard wrote a very strong story and many of you urged that she become a finalist. Miryam and her husband Brian, very much like Peggy Dobbs, radiate the kind of integrity that seems in such short supply. Miryam and Peggy became great friends and that love showed in Miryam’s entries. Miryam was contestant number two, and her story title was “Helen.” The most poignant line in her story? “There was a sinking feeling of death gone awry, leaving behind a vaporous abyss of loss, that only God can heal.” Eventually, we all contemplate the abyss. Thank you Miryam for your story, and for being my friend.
“Poetry, written intimacies, requiems to star fated launchings. Her Princess lips on mine awakened me, her Sleeping Beauty. Our beginning kiss labeled taboo, but by then, it was too late.” Contestant number 6, who revealed that she was the authoress is Madame Parisianne Modert, whom I also came to meet in person when the towers were still in Oceanside. Everyone of us has benefited from her observations and comments on all the stories. Parisianne rather boldly let it be known that her own sexual oddesy has been far from mainstream. Her relationship experiences have dominated her writing, and I am longing for the time that she uses her considerable intellect to write about topics where gender is not a recurrent theme.
Contestant #3 was our token male, Mike Stang, who entered almost thirty of our contests (are we here to stay or what?) before he won a while back. I know everyone is persuaded that I am macho man, but his entry “Pop” made me weep. Stang can do that, and with some consistency. His story for our finals is called “Bess.” Here is one take-away from that:
There are times encapsulated within our mortal lives when faith stretches too fine to escape the rim of the abyss.
“All it takes is Faith and Trust” was the story submitted by contestant #1, Claudia Barillas. Claudia left us for a while, and I can only hope that she is back to stay. I believe that she has a future as a writer, the tell-it-like-it-is kind. She is easily able to assimilate the persona of the characters she writes about when she strikes the keyboard. This is the rarest of talents. You don’t know if it is Claudia, or her character speaking. Isn’t that what all of us want to achieve in our writing? I just 250 words, she created a complete story, with an implied back story that had readers pulling for her. She inspired a dialog of 33 comments to what she had written. That says something. Welcome back, Chuck. You are not allowed to let loosing depress you, unless it results in more great writing efforts. Your audience awaits.
Contestant # 7 is Stefanie Allison. Though a finalist, with $500 on the line, she cast her own votes for someone(s) other than herself. T’was a pity, because many people thought that she should be our winner. Stefani developed a very close and special relationship with Peggy, and references her freely in her entry “The Scrap-book”. She was certainly the emotional favorite to win, for so clearly invoking the spirit of the contest and Peggy Dobbs in her final submission. All of us have watched Stefanie grow as a writer over the years, and this kind of development is exactly why A Word with You Press is such a gratifying endeavor for me. I fully expect Stefanie to acknowledge all of us when she saunters up to the podium someday to collect her Pulitzer. Read her entry, and understand what Peggy meant to all of us.
And then there were two: Kristy Webster was contestant #4, with her story Mother Song, and Muscovite Elizabeth Sloan was contestant # 5 with Looking for Love. I was sooooo hoping that one of them would be a clear favorite so that the burden of disappointing someone would not fall on my shoulders. But honestly, every other vote that came in would edge one of them ahead.
I am sipping on Palouse Gold Mead, as I write. Produced here in Moscow. I know…get down to it!
Stephen King referred to himself as the Big Mac and Cheese of the literary world. A very satisfying read. Looking for Love was a delight to read. With the exception of Stefanie’s Scrapbook, all the final entries bordered on the melancholy. (Actually, forget the border!–they emigrated to somber-land!) Who of us was not surprised by the way Elizabeth’s story ended? And uplifted by it? It reminds me of the story when John and Yoko met. It was Yoko’s gallery exhibit, and John Lennon climbed on top of a ladder to view something in the telescope that was dangling from the ceiling. He expected something like “F*** You” but instead, the message was “Yes”. Something so very positive. Looking for Love was like that, and difficult to fault the writing.
And so ye of seductive–oops!– deductive reasoning capacities have by now realized that the winner of The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest, and $500 is Kristy Webster, for her story “Mother Song.” Within 250 words, we discover a woman who has found her power. Am I the only male who has found himself in those grains? Those terrifying and miniscule worlds?
Kristy’s first story in our competition set the bar very high, and she did not disappoint us with her final entry.Kristy has originality, imagery, pathos, and a unique voice that deserves the reward of a broad audience. Let’s all hope this helps launch a career, and that she remembers us!
Congratulations, Kristy Webster, winner of The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of -Passage Contest.
And thank you all for participating. On behalf of Moi, Diana Diehl, Gary Clark, Derek Thompson, Ruth Joyce, Teri Rider, Billy Holder and Morgan Sully, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good write!
See you after the first of the year with a great new contest!