Finally, the finish line

When we officially announced our first-annual Indie 500 Fiction Contest (500 because short-story entries were restricted to that many words; “indie” for independent newspaper), we expected a decent trickle of entries — and received a deluge. Kind of like this year’s winter-weather scares, except the other way around.

After spending months poring over a snowy pile of manuscripts that swelled ever higher, we eventually narrowed the field.

Sharp imagery, wild creativity and deep vision were abundant in the tall stack of tales. And, alas, a sizable dose of dangling plot lines, unimaginable characters and inadvertently odd syntax showed up, too.

It’s worth noting that, before the final judging took place, each Xpress editor declaimed different favorites for his or her top-three picks — “blame” the sheer diversity of the entries we received, coupled with the inescapably subjective nature of such competitions.

Our first-place story, Chrysse Everhart‘s “Channels,” clocks in at only half the allotted word count — and captures enough of “modern” friendship’s sly dynamics for a story three times its length.

Second-place winner “Br_k_nh_art@singles.com,” by Robert McGee (no relation to Xpress Arts & Entertainment Editor Melanie McGee), is an urban-flavored zinger that got noticed for its skin-tight craftsmanship.

On the flip side, we also got a ton of tales worthy of their own country song — lots of drinkin’, lyin’, cheatin’ and beatin’ goin’ on. Which made C.L. Johnson‘s rhythmic, atmospheric “Creed’s Land” all the more effective. Our third-place winner, too, can be called a hard-luck tale — but, unlike other, similar entries we read, “Creed’s Land” didn’t have to shout to stand out.

— Melanie McGee

[Thanks to the following businesses for providing prizes: Accent on Books, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe and Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF).]

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