Next Wednesday, I’ll be on my way to New Orleans for my favourite event, the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. For the last few years, said festival has included a short fiction contest. This year (and last year), I missed the deadline, but I’ve entered three times (and been a finalist twice), and I have a story ready to go for next year’s contest.
This year’s winner was Maureen Brady, with “Basketball Fever.” I haven’t read it yet – I’ll get my copy next Thursday – but I can tell you I’ve always loved these collections, and the contest consistently surprises me with the range of entrants.
In 2010, “Ondine,” by Wayne Lee Gay was the contest winner. It’s a captivating tale of the intersection between characters and music, desire and repression, and faith, all wonderfully tangled – and untangled – in the space of the story.
In 2011, “Fishwives,” by Sally Bellerose was the winner. These were characters we so rarely see, financially marginalized lesbians who are truly struggling. This couple snaps and cracks on the page with a reality that weighs on the reader. As their particular day – and a particular argument – plays through the story, the layers reveal themselves. Time, love, money, fear, anxiety, health – everything has its moment in this short tale. The brevity doesn’t diminish the emotional punch one bit.
In 2012, “Wasted Courage,” by Jerry Rabushka was the winner. This was a wonderful mix of two men, one black, one white, colliding with lives lived openly and on the down-low, with passion running high and the potential for nearly anything to happen.
In 2013, “In a Chamber of My Heart,” by Sandra Gail Lambert was the winner. The set-up is deceptively simple: a woman on her death bed in a hospital, speaking to a historian who wants to know about her past. The conversation she has with this woman – and the past she is describing – unfold together within and without the haze of pain that she is trying to withstand a little longer, to make it to the time in which she can leave on her own terms. I was so moved by this story. It’s no wonder it won. It’s beautifully done.
Last year, the 2014 winner was “Corset” by Sally Bellerose (two-time winner!) It was wonderful in its exploration of love, addiction, and just beautifully written. Addiction, love, passion – it spins in a circle that left me on the edge of my seat.
I can’t wait for this year’s collection.