NO ONE I know writes for the money, including best-selling authors and even Pulitzer Prize winners I count among my friends. But, whatever our private motives, all of us write with the anticipation that we will be understood. Isn’t that what we are really after, to be understood? Is it “I am, therefore I write” or “I write, therefore I am.”
The intent of Once Upon a Time has been to encourage writers to take a battering ram to the portcullis of their consciousness, and free the prisoner-novel languishing in a sun-starved dungeon.
Many of you have done just that, and are actively committing words to paper. Granted, momentum was lost due to my inattentiveness to this contest, as I was consumed by all the work involved in meeting one of our other priorities: to see that worthy authors get published.
Many of you have contributed to that success, and I am pleased to say that Fred Rivera’s Raw Man will soon be published; best guess is that it will be on the shelves in 30 days.
I intend to post Fred’s first chapter, and the first chapter of a work by Mike Casper (who was disqualified from the competition because I am also his editor for his novel) and Tiffany Monique, who wants the feedback that all of you so generously provide even though she did not make it to the semi-finals. If any of you would like your subsequent chapters posted, the entire staff in Moscow (that would be His Moiness) will see that it gets posted.
But back to the business at hand: selecting three finalists from the five semi-finalists.
Nothing flattens like flattery. But here is my dilenema: I am equally taken by all five semi-finalists, and each for different reasons. In no particular order:
Laura Girardeau successfully inhabits the mind of a child in her entry, and makes “adult” commentary seem absolutely credible and appropriate from the child she has channeled. “…my fingers following the logic of wildflowers…” is an expression of depth that a child can discover, and an adult can articulate. It reminds me of the time I was stunned when I saw a Stevie Wonder album entitled “The Secret Life of Plants.” Genius.
Parisianne Modert never fails to entertain and to educate with her entries, and also her comments for other authors. Her work is highly stylized, and it is as if she is preserving an entire era with a manner of writing that at times evokes Victorian formality but then, paradoxically, shatters it with characters whose sexual conduct is anything but proper. Her struggle is that of many if not all authors: converting our own life traumas into art. She is doing just that, one chapter at a time.
Wendy Joseph does a magnificent job of inhabiting the character from another historical era, and blending language to support the belief that what she is really submitting is a discovered journal of Robert MacBride, who is actually impersonating a woman as a stow-away on a tall ship. Wendy’s own love and experience with the sea makes reading her work a true pleasure. The path-less-traveled by Wendy is not a path at all, but the briny deep. Deep water and deep reading, and, in spite of a storm or two, smooth sailing.
Michael Dilts became an immediate favorite of mine with his prologue for his work-in-progress, “The Proprietor.” It is completely unlike any of our other entries, and at once demonstrates Michael’s love of books and of the written word. It also demonstrates a subtle and engaging word play, which is enough to propel a reader through an entire book without even caring if it is fiction or non-fiction. I know that Parisianne left uncharacteristically unflattering comments about his entry, but the very things that she found unsettling or distracting were the very things that drew me deeper into the story. It is a reminder that so much is subjective when evaluating someone else’s work. Bravo, Michael. You do have a fan in me.
New-comer to our site is Robert Marazas. “Dimensions in Ego” is a period piece, which he clearly establishes in the first few lines “The Fifties are half gone and he’s in a hurry.” It’s a great line, anchoring the time, establishing action, and cementing a style. There is no comma after “gone,” which supports the notion that he really is in a hurry. Robert has chosen to relate most of the story in the present tense, and I am anxious to see how that works over the course of the novel. Robert does not really have to worry so much about style, though, as he has what every writer wants: a story! He’s got that, a sympathetic character, conflict, and a real knowledge of the world his character inhabits, that he easily shares with his reader.
Those of you familiar with the site and our contests know that when I select finalists, I choose three according to my personal tastes, and two or three totally at random, because “taste” is such an subjective variable that only by including others selected randomly can I at least approximate fairness in finding a winner.
Never before (in 40 or 50 contests) have we had five such distinct styles represented for semi-finalists. Am I to throw a dart at a board? At this point, any one of them could be our overall winner, and certainly all of them deserve to be semi-finalists.
So, the Grating and Powerful Moiz has decided to let each of the semi-finalists submit their next chapter, and the contest will be decided by the overall impact of the prologue and chapters one and two. Please send them in within the next week. I hope to have all of this wrapped up in the next few weeks. Events of the last few months have shown me the folly of adhering to a deadline, at least for this particular contest.
I will create a ballot that I will submit to thirty of our most loyal participants, excluding the five finalists, and try to get as much reader -participation as possible to determine who wins $250. I will be sending Barnes and Noble gift cards to Parisianne, Michael, Wendy, Laura, and Robert later this afternoon.
If you would like to help judge this one, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary? Peggy? Howemydoin?