Monday, February 20, 2017

Final contest results

Here are the finalists for this weekend's contest

Susan 9:48am
I stumble up cracked concrete steps
to a brownstone
caught in shadow,
follow you into the house
where cobwebs drape like curtains
and dust scatters beneath our feet.

On the floor by the staircase lies a single sock,
shredded heel-to-toe,
and a birch broom stands in the corner
by the open door,
splintering at the grip.

There’s a dip in the couch cushions,
an empty wineglass on the table.

“I know this place,” I whisper.
“But it’s been so long…”
I sense the rain within me.
“Can we stay?”

You pause, hand me the broom.
“I never left,” you say.
I love the uncertainty here. "You pause" and "I never left" make me wonder what's going on.
It's also a beautifully understated story.

Sharyn Ekbergh 10:40am
If you are very lucky or very good
someone like this comes into your life.

I’m not good.

pay attention
this is grass
is this grass?
how soft it is, how wonderful

this is a tree
is this a tree?
how high I can climb
watch me, how high

this is water
is this water?
how good, how sweet it is
to drink this water

pay attention!
watch me, watch me now
touch me, touch me now
love me, love me now

How I love my days here with you


there is a time bomb in my chest
And of course, that last line just turns this 90degrees. A perfect twist, and a sublime one at that.

Timothy Lowe 12:44pm
I loved accounting. Dimes shimmered between my fingers. I squandered my nights under LED lights, whistling as I paved a road to hell with dollar bills.

Mustang: 42,000.00
Case of bourbon: 349.99
Lady friends: 200.00/hr
Dinner at Rocco’s: 1243.60
Drinks at Tenochtitlan: 3650.00
DWI lawyer: 14,000.00
Interlock device: 200.00 a month

I paid for my mistakes. Price Waterhouse fired me. My friends deserted me. But I met someone at AA who told me that happiness is free.

Now we have another beautiful child coming, our sixth.

But hey - who’s counting?

We're out of the abstract and the elegiac now, back to the straightforward stories. It's that last line of course that elevates this beyond the usual. 

And "I paved the road to hell with dollar bills" is one of my faves. 
And I had to look up "interlock device" to know the specific meaning even though I got the point from context.  That's deft writing right there.

Kate O 3:47pm
It smells like hot garbage.
Probably because I am in the garbage.
And the day is hot.
It wasn’t always like this.
I began life on a shelf, pristine beneath my plastic packaging. My bright future as yet unspooled.
But I was bought hastily, for a child with too much already. I was one of many.
If I had a heart, it would ache.
The garbage can tips. The indignity of something sticky smearing across my face as we tumble: strawberry jam.
A dog’s hot breath, its slobbery tongue.
But also, sunshine.
And also, a child’s voice.
“Mama, look! A doll!”
I just love this story.

Lennon Faris 4:35pm
Two saplings gaze into a pool.
“See my brawny branches,” says Oak, stretching.
“And my ample trunk,” Sycamore preens, digging roots into the Earth.
“Your bark’s like a fungus.”
“Your progeny’s the teats of a fox, who milked too long.”
Why fight? hisses Wind, joyriding between their leaves. What do you accomplish?
Ignoring Wind, Oak roars to his squirrel brigade, “Hurl my progeny at that blasphemous ogre!” Songbirds of Sycamore dive-bomb the squirrels, screaming back insults. War rages in the canopy.

Below, a beaver meanders into the glen. He builds his home.

Eventually, the silent stumps turn back into dust.
It took me two reads to understand what happened here.
I love a story that's so beautifully subtle that you need to read it slowly and savor every word to fully understand it.  This is gorgeous writing. And the concept is highly imaginative which is always a plus in these contests.

Madeline Mora-Summonte 5:01pm
The park bench is hard on Harriet's old bones. Nearby, a little girl begs her mother unsuccessfully for ice cream.

Harriet, her heart long unraveled by regret, recalls her son's voice, how it grated her nerves. She was a lousy mother. She pushed him away over and over until he stayed away on his own. If she could have another chance, she'd grab it, never let go.

The girl wanders over. Harriet glances at the mother, focused on her cell. Harriet stands, holds out her hand. The girl takes it, weaving her fingers through Harriet's.

They walk away.
I have this thing about people staring at their phones and ignoring the people around them.
A very serious aversion to it.
This story appealed to that.  A lot.

S.D.King 6:47pm
I think we drove over ninety to Ann Arbor the night he was born. First grandchild.

We were too late.

He was wrapped in a blanket at the graveside. I held him tight as they lowered her down.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

He didn’t cry. I shook uncontrollably.

Months of going through the motions.

Choking despair.

Toothless smiles.


First word: Meema

He sits on the floor playing with Russian nesting dolls, endlessly stacking and restacking. Laughing at a joke only he knows.

His toes flex up in delight.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

All I could think of when I read this was I so hope it's not based on our writer's real life experience. The raw emotion here is communicated so deftly, so simply, that you barely notice the words because of the overwhelming feeling the words evoke. That's powerful writing.

As usual, it took a couple hours of thinking and re-reading to settle on a winner. Youse guyz do not make this easy and this week was some of your best work.

In the end I went with the entry from Lennon Faris 4:35pm. It was not only a perfect gem of a story, it resonated with me like Jane Kenyon's poem.

Lennon, send me your preferred mailing address and what you like to read. I'll send you a book that I hope you'll love.

Thanks to all who took the time to write entries.  Your work was collectively awesome, and reading it was a great pleasure. Thank you!


CynthiaMc said...

Congratulations,Lennon! Well done.

CynthiaMc said...

Congratulations,Lennon! Well done.

Amy Schaefer said...

Nice work, Lennon Faris!

It is Family Day here in Ontario, and the sun is already shining. Time to get outside.

Theresa said...

Congratulations to Lennon and all the finalists. What a great way to start the week.

Another day of 50-ish weather here in central Wisconsin. Yesterday I saw a woman out on her driveway in bare feet, tank top, and shorts. I'm betting I'll see student in shorts today. I'm going to enjoy this for as long as it lasts.

french sojourn said...

Outstanding win Lennon, I must say you were in a fast heat in this race. Congrats to all the finalists, mentions and all the entries. And especially to the great finned one for her time, effort, and comments on the finalists.

Back to my salt mine for now.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Great job, Lennon. This was an extraordinary group of entries. Well-done everyone.

Unknown said...

Congrats Lennon, thanks Janet, great work all. I'll reread these entries more than once. I have a lot to learn. Enjoy the beautiful day!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Congratulations, Lennon! Well done, everyone!

And Janet, thank you for holding these contests and for your comments about each finalist's entry.

Kitty said...

Congratulations,Lennon Faris!

S.D.King said...

Congrats to Lennon - so much to visualize - loved it.

Thanks to Janet for the finalist comments - it means a lot and gives me reason to keep pushing on.

No, my daughter did not die in childbirth, but yes, Leo was stacking Russian dolls as I wrote the story.

My daughter is also a writer (nominated for UofM Hopwood Prize). On her ACT writing section, the topic was "personal story". It said that if you didn't have a personal story, you could write fiction. She wrote a "memoir" of her perfectly healthy brother dying of cancer. (got high marks) Maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Congrats, Lennon!

BJ Muntain said...

Congrats, Lennon! And everyone else, for that matter. :)

Timothy Lowe said...

Congrats, Lennon! Thanks for the contest, Janet!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Outstanding, Lennon. What a terrific win.

It's funny, just the other day I was thinking about how writers often talk about their affection for certain words. One of mine is "canopy"... I love that word; it makes its way into so many of my stories. And I'm always looking up when I walk in our woods. The feeling is so calm and peaceful. You caught me off guard, Lennon with "War rages in the canopy." It's invigorating to read something that makes you look at your familiar world in a new light.

Janet... Thank you for your time. These contests are the best.

Congratulations to all the finalists.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats, Lennon! That was the entry that grabbed me the most. I was in need of that twisty humor.

And thank you Janet for this new form for a contest. Inspiring, the Jane Kenyon poem and every one's entries.

Julie Weathers said...

I haven't posted the atta boy quotes for a while, so here's one from the Writer's forum I put up yesterday.


If you all aren't familiar with the Mary Kay Ash story, you should read it sometime. I was never a fan of the pink Cadillacs, but she was marvelous at motivating her ladies and had pretty good products from all accounts.

I know everyone is busy. The world seems like a scarey place and it probably is, but it's always been a scarey place. Think about Claire in Jamie's time. (The Outlander books.)

I'm reading a book called Battlefields and Blessings Stories of Faith and Courage from the Civil War now. It's a collection of excerpts from diaries and letters about how people kept their faith in tough times. One woman had lost two sons and a husband during the previous year to the war, but was thankful she and her remaining children and servants had enjoyed mostly good health and had enough to eat. The Lord was exceeding kind to them. This seems like a Pollyanna attitude, but she lived in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley where Sherman had vowed if a crow flew across it must take provender as Sherman planned to leave not a kernel of corn behind.

Perhaps her positive attitude helped her survive a difficult situation.

I'd like to ask you to focus on the positive again. If someone tells you you can't do something, put that "helpful advice" in a little box and tuck it away. You can do much more than you think you can. If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right, but it's all in what you think.

So right now, today, start anew in believing in your success. Start believing in yourself. Put in the work to make your dreams come true.

"Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway."

Mary Kay Ash

Colin Smith said...

Well done, TWO-TIME WINNER Lennon! I have updated the contest spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest to reflect the latest contest and results.

Well done to all who entered, those that were picked, and, again, our talented winner. :)

Finalists--enjoy Janet's comments. Take them as sincere compliments, and as the encouragement they are meant to be. As you well know, this kind of praise from an industry professional is not something we get on a regular basis. Don't second-guess it. Use it to fuel your dreams and press on! :)

Claire Bobrow said...

Congrats, Lennon! Wonderful creativity on display in your entry. We've got Oak and Wind fighting here in California today. The songbirds and squirrels are hiding.

Amy Johnson said...

Congratulations to Lennon and to everyone--I enjoyed reading all the entries.

Thank you, Janet, for the contest and for your time. Fun writing, fun reading the stories, your comments, and others' comments. And I learn from all of it.

Must get back to applying what I've learned.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Congratulations to Lennon! I love your entry also and I think you are lucky to have a wonderful name for a writer. It makes me think of John Lennon, lemons and ferris wheels all at once.

I could visualize your story happening as an animation as I read it.
And thanks again to Janet for doing these and giving her feedback and encouragement!

Michael Seese said...

Lennon's piece was truly lyrical. Nicely done.

Janice Grinyer said...

Congrats to everyone, esp. Lennon :) all were enjoyable to read! And Thank you JR once again for challenging me/us to write.

Susan said...

Congrats, Lennon! I just love when objects and abstract ideas are personified like this. It reminded me of a Madeleine L'Engle story, which is amazing.

Thanks again for this, Janet! I remain so humbled by and grateful for this community.

Beth Carpenter said...

Congratulations and thanks to Lennon and all the finalists, as well as Janet. I'm in awe.

Kate O said...

This was so fun! Nice work, Lennon! :)

Kate Larkindale said...

Congratulations Lennon and to all the finalists. What a talented bunch you all are.

RosannaM said...

Adding on my congratulations to Lennon. It was a very poetic story and it transported me straight into nature, where I love to be.

These contests are so valuable to us writers as each time we strive to create something within the constraints given us, we are strengthening that writer muscle, and stimulating our brains to stretch. If we do not end up published, this will not be wasted. We are, at the very least, staving off future dementia.

And for those who get a mention, a finalist spot, or a win--copy and paste the feedback, blow it up into a large font, and post it near your computer. And gaze upon it frequently.

Kate Higgins said...

Congratulations Lennon!
And the title of this story should be:
"Lennony's Thicket"

John Davis Frain said...

Such inspiring writing this weekend. Lennon, that was brilliant stuff. Tip o' my cap to you. So subtle, yet so visual. Loved it.

Also a shout out to Madeline. Your story stayed with me long after reading.

The talent here is endless, and y'all keep showing it off so well. I sure wish we could get together for happy hour.

Lennon Faris said...

Wow. Thank you Janet and folk. I am truly humbled. I nearly fell out of my chair.

Also, the more read Sharyn's the more I love it. I'm so sorry about your cat. To me, the story also sounds like a child, and the 'time bomb' is him/ her growing up -look away and it's done. So poignant.

My dog tried to kill herself via chocolate last night (I mean, if you're gonna go, I suppose...) but luckily we were able to get her to vomit it all back at us and all is well again. So the week is looking up & up all around.

Thank you again to everyone and especially Janet!

Karen McCoy said...

Lennony's Thicket indeed! Great title, Kate. And a beautifully written and imaginative tale, Lennon. Well done.

Kregger said...

A big Woo! Hoo! shout out to Lennon Faris!
Why I see your name as Lemmon Paris, I'll never know.
I don't even like French cuisine.
Well, I do have an eye appt next week, maybe that'll help.
As always, thanks for the opportunity Ms. Reid for prompting us to spread our wings.

BJ Muntain said...

Oh Lennon! Dogs and chocolate! I could tell you stories... but the gist would be: dogs will go to great lengths to kill themselves with chocolate. Luckily, I haven't lost a dog that way, but man. It's not easy to keep them apart sometimes.

JD Horn said...

Congrats, Lennon!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

John Davis Frain - thanks so much!

Mallory Love said...

So much talent here. Congrats Lennon! Loved all the finalists, so congrats to you all.