Despite my lack of sleep, however, I’ve truly enjoyed the process. In all sincerity, Simon has been a pleasure to work with (especially once he forgave me for bloodying his lip), and the stories that were submitted were just a breeze and a joy to read and explore. Of course, this made for great difficulty in our judging. In fact, the entries were so remarkable that we want to share a little something about each and every one of the stories we did not select. I think by the end, you will understand why Simon and I nearly ripped each other to shreds in the judging process.
(Frankie Writes, First Novel’s Club)
Frankie’s story, "Poison Words," about the torments of high school and adolescent suicide, is a moving portrayal of a reality all too common in the lives of many youths. Such a sad story, but well crafted with subtleties and vivid details that add to the somber atmosphere.
I shoved the phone under the sand. It buzzed again making little specks jump up and down. They danced beside me in a strange rhythm against the waves until Marissa gave up. I guess she found some other loser, stupid enough to listen to her. Or…like I’d known all along, I just wasn’t important enough to bother with.
Liza Carens Salerno (Middle Passages)
“The Sting of It” is one of those stories you can’t even sum up without doing it an injustice. You just have to read it to understand how clever it is crafted—how it leads the reader towards an irony so great, you almost laugh despite the tragedy at the end. And the characterization is so strong, the images so vivid. And check out the tactile language in this….
Adjusting the tilt of the umbrella so that it sat directly over her head, she turned back to the novel that had engrossed her until the itch became too distracting. “I’m just going to ignore it,” she muttered. “I’ve waited too long for this moment, and darn it, the ice cream truck hasn’t arrived yet.” In front of her, the teal sea swished and whispered as the tide measured its way in. The hard packed sand in front of her of lay frozen in washboard ridges shaped by the previous high tide. Dollops of drying seaweed fanned out like undisciplined hair through which iridescent mussel shells sprawled with open wings.
Anne Riley (Anne Riley Blog)
Anne’s "Turnabout is Fair Play" is one of those where you can’t quite decide who you want to be the victor. The narrator is painted in a rather unsympathetic light, and yet, the narrator’s adversary (his wife) is not exactly loveable. As such, it becomes almost a black comedy, a la War of the Roses, in which you’re not exactly rooting for either main character, but still eager to see the outcome. It’s a bit of a satire actually, filled with humor and irony. I was also particularly impressed with the characterization in this story.
She glanced at the storm, now hovering directly over her, and finished her wine as rain blew across the sea. The drops stung her face as they drove into her flesh, but she did not move. She took a deep breath and pushed a soggy lock of hair away from her face.
“Well,” she said finally, placing her chin in her hand. “That was easy.”
Yvonne Osborne (The Organic Writer)
One of the most impressive aspects of Yvonne’s story, “Remy’s Job” was the voice—it was just so strong. It really leaped off the page: the restrained emotion in the narrator, the desire to change what has been done, and the bitter realization that some things are unchangeable. We see a glimpse of beauty, of hope in the melancholy, and this, ultimately, is what drives the story.
He opened the urn and looked inside, not knowing what to expect. It was only half full. He gave it a shake and the contents shifted. A man’s remains couldn’t even fill an urn. A man’s remains were less than what could be swept out of a fireplace after a party. He held it aloft over the water, as though he were proposing a toast, and emptied it into the wind.
Nina’s “A Twist in Time,” depicts a flashback to a beautiful past which haunts because of a loss in the present. But the loss is embroiled in mystery and intrigue and a quiet desperation, so that the twist in the end shocks the reader by dropping them right back into that idyllic past, and yet…not. It’s rather like plunging a cold hand into a hot bath—it should feel good, and yet at first, it stuns you. “A Twist in Time” takes the reader through a multitude of unsettling emotions which echo that of the protagonist. I love it when stories do this, when the reader is no more aware than the characters.
Oh just to hear his voice again...The emptiness seemed to be overwhelming, she was so numb, she wished it would actually hurt. Her mom and dad, her brother, who was her best friend, are all gone. She was truly alone now.
Jeremy Wells (Flight Attendant Shop)
The beautiful thing about “Dead is Stan” is that all the clues to the ending were right there for you at the beginning, but you sort of glaze right over them as Jeremy did a fantastic job of making these small details seem like part of the exposition. And the thing is, you actually know what the ending will be, just not how you will get there—except you do, if you’re just paying attention. “Dead is Stan” is cleverly laid out for the reader with brilliantly descriptive language, to boot.
Only moments ago, Stan had been marveling at the lower half of a delicious brown serving girl as her tray eclipsed the sun. Down had come his martini like some alien craft shot from the tray’s corona. He had tipped the girl well, covering a curious tattoo on her hip - a snake in the shape of the number 2 - by sliding a large bill into the strap of her bikini bottom. He hoped she would remember his generous wallet and not his generous midriff, now bronzing in the sun.
Angie Kate (Always Write)
“Wanted and Unwanted” is a clever rendition of the story of Bonnie and Clyde and…Lucy? I loved the play with historical characters, the sarcasm, the dark humor, the vivid descriptions, and best of all, the dialogue in this piece—indeed, the story is told primarily through dialogue, but the clues to what is happening are layered. You think you’re being sneaky, that you’re picking up on what is really happening by focusing on the subtle actions/words of one character (Ha! you say as a reader), when ultimately, you’re missing the more obvious clues to be found in the direct words of another character. Very tricksy, this one!
"I'm scared," Lucy said. She looked again at the two martinis between them.
Bonnie sat up on her lounger and pushed back the brim of her sun hat. She removed her sunglasses to stare at the horizon.
"It's terrifying, Lucy. That's why it's perfect." She gestured to the sparkling expanse of blue water. "Don't you remember? The best things in life come from conquered fears."Can you tell from reading this which character gets poisoned? Dun Dun Dunnnnnnn.
"I don't think I'm ready to die," Lucy said.
There you have it, the remaining reasons why the judging process was so immensely difficult. Although, I’m not one to complain—not in this case anyway. We were very fortunate to have received all of these amazing entries. So for that, I say thank you thank you thank you to all of the entrants. You have made this contest worthwhile.
And Simon, you have made hosting a short story contest a far more pleasurable experience all around, despite the bloody battles. But have no fear, even though the contest is over, I will still make it a point to rib you every now and again. In fact, tune in tomorrow…or, um, maybe everybody but you should tune in tomorrow…hm, yeah.
And just for kicks….
*We were unable to track down a blog/website for Nina Watson, though we will create a link as soon as one is made known to us.