We have held somewhere between forty and fifty contests over the years, and this is the part where everyone scrolls to the bottom of the page to see who won. Not so fast.
Fiction holds forth two possibilities: To conceal who we are, creating an imaginary world that we animate with our own desires and fantasies and control the outcome, or, to reveal who we are, and in so doing bonding us with out fellow creatures, who recognize themselves in our stories. Concealing who we are can end up being most entertaining, mainstream fiction; revealing who we are can be most enlightening, literary fiction.
I am often asked, “What is literary fiction?” Easy answer: The Old Man and the Sea is not about fishing.
The contest we have just concluded asked each writer to become the archeoligist of their own lives, excavating in particular the passion we once felt for our first love: a memory preserved, not decayed, by its ancient burial. Lost Love. Pick and shovel, whisk broom and pen. This was not a writing contest; this was a dig.
Before I announce the winner, let me add a few words about each finalist entry, in no particular order.
Everyone praised Fred Astaire as being such a marvelous dancer, inventor of the moon-walk who made everything look so easy. Of course, Ginger under-credited-Rogers did everything Fred did, only backwards and in high heels. I feel that way about poets and poetry, and was gratified that so many poets entered this contest. Writing narrative fiction that conveys the author’s thoughts and feelings in an engaging manner is difficult enough, but it is absolutely Ginger Rogers to have to impose upon it rules of meter and rhyme, clipping vocabulary, while still maintaining a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. Grant Lawrence, through his poetry does both the Samba and Waltz. Listen to this imagery: “… know that we are one, unblemished by God’s experienced ax…”
“In a room where the sheets and towels were washed and bleached, seldom replaced when bloodstained, she looked out to a billboard of a portrait of a girl all smooth skin and anemic bones.”
This is as fine a first sentence to any story I have ever read. In a few short words we already have a sense of drama and irony, and are keenly aware that something is about to happen. Andrew was persuaded to join us by Jon Tobias, himself a finalist whom I have met in California, so I am imagining that Andrew is relatively young, meaning he has a career ahead of him as a writer. I hope Andrew continues to post his work with us, and I hope that readers give him feedback about what works, and why. Isn’t that our purpose here?
Elizabeth is an exceptional writer, and I am pleased to call her a friend, residing here in the land of the double-entundra. While her finalist entry is whimsical, it was really the entry that got her into the finals that showed her ability to craft a story out of the anguish of Lost Love. I highly recommend you go to Amazon and pick up “When Songbirds returned to Paris,” an amazing novel based on historical fact and an intriguing photograph. Elizabeth’s writing is sensitive, poignant, and completely engaging.
Jon is impressive as a writer because of his sustained passion for his art, not just the results that it brings. Jon’s finalist entry is, to my thinking, a portrait, a cameo appearance, and told in such a way that the reader immediately understands the love the narrator feels for disturbed character who ambles through an army surplus store. It’s George and Lenny. Should he care to, I personally think this short entry could be the start of a significant novel. In addition to the portrait and the story, I am drawn in by an imagination that speaks of “… the language tall buildings write on the sidewalk…”
I am a language junkie. “Muscle of redrock and sinew of stone carry me down the path…” That kind of language carries me through her story.In the full length work of a novel, sometimes just the absolute beauty of the creative use of language is enough to pull me through when the story line sometimes swirls in little eddies before it joins the current again. “… I found solace in masala at the Indian buffet to steel myself against the small burger town back home.”–an entire back-story completely understood with just a single sentence. The spirituality of a humble Indian meal; the crass confrontation of a town filled with carnivores. And to this, add the fact that there is a story here, the coming to terms with her father, catharsis. “…Finally, the equations were solved…” Her father’s career a metaphor for the imperfect mathematics of their relationship, finally made whole when gravity intervenes.
This is Martin’s first foray into our website, a de-facto writer’s workshop. Martin is a professional writer, and I hope he will use this site to pen some experimental work in the future. He mas made it clear, he is an accomplished story teller. His finalist entry is perhaps the most imaginative take on the prompt. It was a pleasure to read something so playful! And, pro that he is, Martin knew enough to keep us dangling. This was not an accident; this was a complete understanding of the craft. His original entry was the first that was posted, and he set the bar very high for the rest of us…
And now…the winner! It is…( I think I will take a clue from Martin, and leave you dangling for a bit. It is three in the morning here at the Towers that are A Word with You Press. A few hours sleep, and I will post the name of the winner. See you at NOON!)
In the meantime, can you dig it?