Keepin’ it short

CN&R’s readers meet the 59-word challenge

The CN&R was so impressed with the work the 1078 Gallery Literary Committee did judging last fall’s Poetry 99 contest that we brought its members back to choose the best from the hundreds of Fiction 59 entries. Additionally, the committee recruited Chico State English professor Rob Davidson to host a short-fiction workshop, which was attended by 25 people!

Upcoming 1078 Gallery literary events: Writer’s Voice reading series, featuring Martha Collins (March 14); Off the Shelf poetry reading, co-sponsored by The Bookstore (April 26); Watershed Review launch party (May 10).

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” That line from Hamlet is one of the notions that’s always been at the heart of the Chico News & Review’s annual Fiction 59 short-fiction contest. And when we sit and carefully count each entry’s words and argue over things like whether “racecar” should be one or two words (in the case of the Monopoly token, the answer would be one), there is another one of Polonius’ lines from that most-famous tragedy of which we must remind ourselves: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”

In the end, we were once again impressed by how well the winning writers—young and old—met the challenge of using little to say much, and so were our judges, the five-member 1078 Gallery Literary Committee. We asked the committee members to share with the contestants and readers a little about their process and this year’s experience. This is their statement:

It was the 1078 Literary Committee’s pleasure to judge the Fiction 59 contest. We appreciate the opportunity to read the variety of local writers’ written works. In the end, it was a challenge to rank the submissions. We worked hard to reach a consensus on each group of winners and runners up, and there was considerable debate and appreciation of the many commendable entries.

Our process and criteria depended on a few essential questions: Does this entry embody crucial elements of storytelling (plot, arc, character, etc.)? How is this author using language? Is there something surprising or unexpected that’s been presented?

Meet the judges: 1078 Gallery Literary Committee: (from left) Jeff Hull, Sarah Pape, Hilary Tellesen, Kathleen McPartland and Jason Willmon.

jason cassidy

Ultimately, we are heartened that the human desire to tell stories is strong in our community, especially in our children. For those wanting to hone their skills for next year, we would recommend [seeking out] the many excellent anthologies of sudden fiction, flash fiction and short-short stories.