Once again, this wasn't easy. With more than 150 short fiction entries and more than 200 poetry entries, this year our judges faced a difficult challenge narrowing the best of the best down to but three top picks in both categories. We had many very strong entries this year, from a variety of voices, and had we the space we'd be publishing everything we loved.
Before we announce the winners, though, a few words to those entries that don't appear in this issue. We've been chastised for offering unconstructive criticism in this space in the past, so this year we thought it best to offer all the contestants the best advice any writer can hear: Don't listen to us.
No, we're not kidding. If you have something to say, write it, and contests such as this one be damned. Even with all the varieties of newspapers and journals and specialty magazines and web zines and blogs and journals and whatever else is being published these days, there are still some stories from some people not being told. And if you think you're the person to tackle that story, do it in any way you feel is emotionally honest and sincere to you. You may not be a winner in this contest, but we're only a small group of people reading your work, and we do not represent the wide audience of readers out there who might embrace your work. If we didn't connect with your writing, that only means that we didn't connect with it, and, let's face it, just what in the hell do we know?
The entire editorial staff read the first pass of both fiction and poetry entries. The poetry finalists were judged by local poets Lauren Bender, Bonnie Jones, and Adam Robinson; fiction finalists were judged by fiction writer and journalist Betsy Boyd, City Paper contributing writer John Barry, and CP's very own Wendy Ward. And in addition to being published in this very issue, the winners take home something much better: cash. In fiction, the first-place winner takes home $350, second garners $250, and third gets $150. Poets pick up $150, $100, and $50, respectively.