Telling tales

To be witty and lively in a description of just a few words. To make a topic that’s interesting, but not obviously so, gripping. To stir the soul, not with beauty — that would be prosaic — but with an honest hand.

Whether working with subject matter as typical as a woman who craves Chunky Monkey (Jules De Ward’s story "The Day the Ice Cream Talked Back" received an honorable mention) or as complicated as the memory of a melancholy father, this year’s summer lit contest winners wrote with integrity, leavening sorrow’s style with humor and tempering hope with resignation. Beauty seemed to be incidental; they found ways to break waves simply by writing what they know.

Laurie Smolenski of Detroit is the winner of an extended weekend stay at the eighth annual Walloon Writers’ Retreat, produced by the nonprofit organization Springfed Arts. Smolenski captured the interest of all our judges; she was the only author to place in more than one category, awarded an honorable mention for her poem “centri sociali romani (roman squats),” second prize for the short story “Her Bones Stick out Like Weapons” and likewise for “Prostitutes,” her rendering of an overheard conversation on the streets of Spain. Because she shows so much potential, Smolenski seemed the perfect choice to work with such well-known writers as Jane Hamilton, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Mary Jo Salter and Doug Stanton, in between watching a few dawns rise over acres of shoreline and hills of northern Michigan.

In describing why she liked one of Smolenski’s characters, Metro Times’ judge Mariela Griffor explains what attracts us to any good story: “I feel tremendous empathy with her.” Good art, whether it’s a song, a painting or a poem, knows no less.


My Father’s Song — Grand Prize
Tom Schusterbauer, West Bloomfield

For Buzzy — Second Prize
Karin Hoffecker, Birmingham

Bubble Wrap and Packing Foam — Third Prize
Matt Sadler, Detroit

Centri Sociali Romani (Roman Squats) — Honorable mention
Laurie Smolenski, Detroit

Maps — Honorable mention
Doug Tanoury, Detroit



Some Tomatoes Please — Grand Prize
Larry M. Webb, Dearborn

Her Bones Stick Out Like Weapons — Second Prize
Laurie Smolenski, Detroit

The Fifth of May — Third Prize
Lori K, Redford

The Day the Ice Cream Talked Back — Honorable Mention
Jules Deward, Royal Oak


Stolen Lines:

Nitpicking — Grand Prize
A. Zayne Tawil, Livonia

Prostitutes — Second Prize
Laurie Smolenski, Detroit



Grand Prize
Pieter Wiest, Detroit

Second Prize
Jeremy Kreis, Fort Gratiot

Third Prize
David Holtek, Ann Arbor

Honorable Mention
Marty Winters, Oak Park

Honorable Mention
Michael Kelly, Pleasant Ridge

Rebecca Mazzei is arts editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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