A whole lot of untimely death, vengeance and human failure is on the minds of metro Detroiters — that is, if one is to judge common persuasion by reading the 201 entries to Metro Times’ annual fiction and poetry contest. Reading the entries was a somewhat maudlin experience. There are a lot of writers out there who strive to make you cry, and some succeed. Is there a point? Sometimes yes, sometimes no — good fiction falls in the “yes” category.
Among this year’s entries was a tale of blissful newlyweds hit by a car as they left the church, lots of tales of failed parenting and marriage and the dark side of love, a letter explaining the death by torture of an uncaring vixen, a joke about a note written after the death of a family pet and a nicely written traditional narrative piece about an impassioned fireman who couldn’t save his love after she was engulfed in flames.
Despite the grim subject matter, the entries prove yet again that writing talent is abundant among readers of this weekly rag. Judges wrangled over top picks — it wasn’t easy. While many writers exhibited the ability to draw a reader into his or her grasp, each of the winning pieces shares a common virtue: In short, these writers show us something about humanity, or society, by seeing past the evil and the good to a more complex reality. Writing well is hard enough — shining a light on the many simultaneous facets of human nature while telling a good story is a skill not many possess. Finding the humor amid the insanity is a rare skill indeed.
In “Killing Time” (1st place, short fiction), Patrick Dostine tells a story about a trip to the landfill that forever changes a sensitive boy who doesn’t fit in with his tough/country family members. In “Six Fingers and Circumcisions” (2nd place, short fiction), writer Paul Bancel sets the story in a hospital delivery area to tell a subtle, humorous tale about a husband and wife quibbling with each other in front of a doctor about the fate of their six-fingered newborn. It’s a tale of marital love and the clash of class and culture.
In “The Sad Little Pen (As Told by a Jerk)” (1st place, flash fiction), A. Zayne Tawil of Livonia manages to tell a charming, funny and layered story in 101 words.
Poetry entries this year were limited to poems about Detroit, and some real stunners came in. “Empty Structures,” by Detroit’s Anne M. Rashid, won first place after giving goose bumps to more than one judge.
Our judges this year were: M.L. Liebler, author of the poetry book/CD The Moon A Box and the director of the new Springfed Arts: Metro Detroit Writers Organization (www.detroitpoetrynow.org); Aaron Hamburger, a Michigan native who recently had his first book of short stories, A View From Stalin’s Head, published by Random House; Dan DeMaggio and Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey, Metro Times freelancers who read and write voraciously; and Lisa M. Collins, Metro Times Arts Editor. Collins made final picks with help from fellow Metro Times staffers Brian Smith, W. Kim Heron, Sarah Klein and Michael Jackman.
Now, feast your eyes on some deft storytelling by the amateur writers that populate our midst. –Lisa M. Collins
Read the winners: firstname.lastname@example.org
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