Week Three opened with one of our favorite prompts, combining two compelling themes: music and the outsider. We were surprised that no one took up the cause of the outsider in the stories this week. Before posting the prompt we had conversation about the word zingaro and its meanings—I (Emily) worried about the photo’s title being offensive. Zingaro is an Italian word meaning “gypsy,” derived from a Greek word meaning “untouchable”—as in the caste, not as in a superhero. Beth used both meanings of “untouchable” to great effect in the story she wrote for this prompt, which you will be able to read in our anthology. We decided to leave the title despite its unsavoriness to see what you all made of it, since even a word with unpleasant connotations can stimulate creativity in interesting ways.
For the first time during our judging of the contest, Beth and I had very little overlap in our personal selections, demonstrating what a strong group of submissions we received, spanning the range from experimental to traditional. Nice work, everyone!
Honorable Mention Winner: Wish by Laura Pinhey
Replete with clear and easily visualized images, Wish succeeded in showing us rather than telling us. Laura strikes a marvelous balance between leading the reader through the scene and leaving room for our imaginations. On the one hand, she provided beautifully drawn details: a wooden man with a Blue ball jar head, the bottle of Everclear, the inside cover of Led Zeppelin Four, and the crackling seed in the pipe. On the other hand, with Emmie’s nameless wish, she invites our speculation, leaving us to wonder why Emmie runs without looking back.
The Screaming, by Jacki Donnellan
We love a great opening line and what could be more enticing than a confession like this one? Jacki has given us a creepy tale about possession and obsession with an inanimate object as a central character—a character for whom we feel compassion. Anyone who has seen a great violinist perform knows that there is a palpable relationship between musician and instrument. This story takes that relationship into the realm of the supernatural. What if Itzhak Perlman’s violin turned on him? A horrifying thought. The Screaming’s flashback structure reinforced our narrator’s obsession, and the juxtaposition of the magic (music) with the mundane (tinnitus) added texture and layers to this piece that deftly captured the essence of magical realism.
The Zingaro Exclusive, by David Borrowdale
This boldly told story explored the dark secret behind a legend’s success. Our fantasy-loving hearts were pleased by the magic system wherein the musician evoked and then destroyed ghost-people with his playing—what a creative concept, ripe for further exploration. The clever use of redactions lent the story mystery, while precise details gave stunning specificity: horsehair caressing cat-gut, a G3 breve as a fat old lady, and middle C quaver as a sensual young woman. David demonstrated expert restraint while slowly revealing the conclusion.
The Storm King, by Voima Oy
In this lovely fairy tale, Voima appeals to all five senses with rich imagery: the unblinking blue sky, mouths as dry as dirt, notes falling like raindrops onto thirsty ears, a cool breeze stirring hair, and the scent of wet earth. These details built a world we could picture clearly and left us wanting more. The strong story structure introduced the central conflict early and led us to a satisfying resolution.
As always, judging was HARD. So many excellent stories. Thank you to all who contributed again this week.