The Blue & Gold

Short Story Contest Winners Offer Unique Look Into the Literary World

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Short Story Contest Winners Offer Unique Look Into the Literary World

The Lit Mag from last year. The 2017 short stories that won can be found here. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

The Lit Mag from last year. The 2017 short stories that won can be found here. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

The Lit Mag from last year. The 2017 short stories that won can be found here. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

The Lit Mag from last year. The 2017 short stories that won can be found here. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

Iris Tsouris

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The creative sector of Chamblee has always been goal-oriented, and Literary Magazine, a creative writing-focused club that releases an annual collection of writing and artwork from Chamblee’s student body, is no different.

Sponsored by language arts teacher Fred Avett and led by Editor-in-Chief and senior Isabel Bradford, the club hosted their annual Short Story Contest this fall. Aspiring writers could hone their skills by writing a compelling plot with well-developed characters and literary sensemaking– all revolving around a one-word theme.

“[This year], the word ‘glass’ had to be included either as a theme or as a word in the stories,” said Bradford. “Then we [the Literary Magazine members] all read the stories and grade them.”

The Literary Magazine, or Lit Mag, does allow their own staff members to enter the competition, but they do take extra precaution in order to ensure that the judging process is fair. Stories are assigned to judges that have no relation to their authors, which leaves no room for bias. Staff members also devote time to discussing themes prior to the contest’s announcement.

“We kind of just all get together and talk about words that we think could form good and really varied stories,” said Bradford. “So, last year it was fall, which was really good because it could be the season, or it could be like, tripping. There were a lot of things for fall, so we wanted to do another word that has a lot of different meanings… We chose glass because we thought it was the most interesting and it had the most varied options for writing.”

From all submissions, winners for each grade level are chosen and awarded a pair of Vans shoes under $70, while the overall winner, with the highest score, receives a watch that is under $200. This year, sophomore Rachel Lee took the overall prize, while freshman Camille Thorp, sophomore Lucy Roberts, and Bradford were grade level winners. None of the submitted short stories came from juniors.    

“[The turnout this year] wasn’t as big as we would’ve liked,” said Bradford. “We got around nine or ten submissions which obviously is not that big, but we were able to pick some pretty good stories out of them.”

Freshman winner Thorp described her reaction to her win being one of surprise, yet happiness. The story she wrote had a science fiction theme and developed the choice topic word of “glass” in multiple ways.

“My topic for the story was basically set on a spaceship, which the acronym [for its name] spelled out ‘glass,’” said Thorp. “[The characters] on the spaceship, they realized, ‘Why are we even on the spaceship? What’s going on with everything?’… They later broke the glass [of the spaceship], and they realized they had never left Earth in the first place.”

Sophomore winner Roberts said the contest assisted her in preparing for her Governor’s Honors Program application in communicative arts. Her story dealt with society’s relationship to technology and its consequences.

“The theme was glass, so I did the glass on your cell phone,” said Roberts. “I’m kind of interested in the way [technology] affects society so I just wrote it about kind of trying to quit your cell phone and how to spur that on but not really necessarily being successful.”

Senior winner Bradford’s story revolves around a girl’s desire for a more adventurous life.

“I won’t tell you the rest,” she said. “You’ll have to buy the literary magazine to find out. One thing I will say is that to fit in the ‘glass’ theme, a window breaks, and glass shatters everywhere.”

One thing that can be guaranteed about Bradford’s story is that it does break convention. In fact, Bradford was not expecting her win, mainly because she thought her story was rather “out-there.”

“I write things that aren’t easily accepted by people; I write about unusual and surprising stuff, which doesn’t always go over well,” said Bradford. “I considered trying to write a more normal story for the competition, but then I realized that I shouldn’t change my style to try to appeal to everyone out there.”

Overall winner Lee’s story had both supernatural and horror themes and served as an exploration of the human psyche. In her story, she depicted the life of a man following the traumatizing death of his brother, as well as how the event left lasting repercussions on his life.

“[The plot] mainly focuses on what happens several years later when he’s a working adult and how the guilt kind of his brother dying follows him through his adult life,” said Lee.

As for the method in which she incorporated glass into her story, Lee saw this year’s glass prompt as more metaphorical than literal.

“I saw the poster, and I saw the word ‘glass.’ I just kind of thought of how glass can represent a human relationship,” said Lee. “Relationships, like friendships and family bonds are really fragile, and when you think of glass in the way of a mirror, it can also be used as a reflection.”

And to future contestants, Lee recommends interpreting the prompt in a different way by including lots of symbolism and metaphors, but not venturing too far into unfamiliar genres.

“Try to find some ideas, but do a genre you’re comfortable with. I like horror; last year I did horror, this year I did horror. Last year I did it about a haunted painting made of blood,” said Lee. “Think of a good plot, and think about stuff that can represent other stuff. Can a ball represent something else? Can a fork represent the fragile relationship between a girl and her dog?”

Roberts, who is a member of Lit Mag, also observed a similar lack of prompt interpretation while reading other stories.

“A lot of people were kind of thinking the same way and doing the same thing. I would say consider multiple different ways to take your story,” said Roberts. “There was a lot of overlap in what people were writing about.”

The Lit Mag will host its next short story contest during the fall of 2019, where all students can enter and gain the experience of composing a story. Anyone interested in reading the short stories from this year can purchase the “Et Cetera” Literary Magazine, which will be released during second semester.

About the Writer
Iris Tsouris, Staff writer

Iris Tsouris is a sophomore and staff writer. Outside of the paper, she likes drawing, playing the piano, and eating pasta. This is her first year on the staff.

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