As writers, it's important to take on challenges. It's easy to fall into patterns of writing the same kind of story, with the same plot line, the same kind of character, the same patterns, even the same page count. As such, we decided to throw down the gauntlet for our members.
This fall, we at The Writer's Center invited our members to submit their best sudden stories and prose poems for a contest. The only requirement was that submissions were not to exceed 250 words, and we would accept multiple entries. We were thrilled to see our membership step up, sending dozens and dozens of entries our way. With the help of our dedicated staff (and some heroic instructors), we whittled the pool down to the top 10 pieces. We posted them on the walls at our fall Open House and encouraged everyone who attended to vote for their top three.
As a special thanks to our top ten finalists (this week is all about gratitude after all), we will be posting their stories and poems on our blog for the next three days, the final day showcasing our top three finalists. Check back each day to remind yourselves of the power of the written word, and how very much can be said with so few words. To start us off, here are three of our finalists: Claire McGoff, Paul Rice, and Meredith Stivers.
Even now, she pushes away the hand that touched her, helped feed her. Over and again, she steps toward then back from the sweet-smelling cologne, and minted breath. She’s kept the dresses. From the of depths of her closet, the ghosts of price tags gossip, murmur the costs. She holds the cross, no longer against her neck, but in an open shaky palm. As the chain begins to slip between her fingers, she clutches the jewel tight until the mark it makes begins to hurt.
Without A Word
An immature white boy – racist in training,
forgetting the company in which he rode
demonstrated his bona fides to redneck teammates.
Leaning out the window of a safely moving car
he yelled “WHITE TRASH” to Blacks being passed.
A startled young Black man seated beside him,
amongst other White athletes,
stoically stared straight ahead,
as if he didn’t hear
what he wished he hadn’t
but all knew he had.
In the awkward, deafening silence that ensued,
the white boy, with his back to the offended,
slowly remembered what everyone else knew.
Mortified, he attempted to save face by concealing it,
hiding in front of his back,
engaging in inane small talk to no one . . . everyone,
pretending that what had been heard
had not been spoken.
In the ensuing void,
nothing said, nothing to be said,
A naive and cowardly white boy realized
he had been yelling at himself,
and a small life was changed
without a word.
-Paul R. Rice
F Street Entrance,
There’s always some street performer by the metro entrance you can hear from a block away. Tuesday morning it’s the guitarist with the graying dreadlocks and the patient dog.
I want to ask him, “Am I sad because you’re playing sad songs, or are the songs sad because I’m sad?”
But I never do. I just ride down the escalator and head to work, blinking back tears.