Tuesday, November 10, 2009
What’s in a word?
Whether you write professionally or for fun, every writer has good days and dreadful days.
Included in the dreadful days are such things as writer’s block, misspellings (a homonym not caught), and the sin of what I like to call ‘florid writing’ or ‘sniveling drivel.’
How would you feel if your claim to literary fame was winning first place in a bad writing contest with your very own sniveling drivel?
For the past 27 years writers from all over the world have sharpened their pencils or turned on their laptops and set out to snivel the worst opening sentence for a novel, competing in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
The writing contest is named in honor of English novelist and playwright, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who coined such hackneyed phrases as: “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and “the great unwashed,” but who is probably best remembered for this:
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
Now, let’s have a drum roll… the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Grand Prizewinner is, David McKenzie, a 55-year-old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington. McKenzie’s has indeed honored Bulwer-Lytton with the following:
“Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.”
The Runner-up honors in the Bulwer-Lytton went to Warren Blair, Ashburn, Virginia with the following:
“The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor--the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn't use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride. “
Are you still laughing out loud over that one?
Some of my personal favorites came away with the distinct title of “Dishonorable Mentions.” The following, written by Lynn Lamousin, Baton Rouge, Louisiana reminded me a bit of Garrison Keillor’s “Guy Noir” alter ego on Prairie Home Companion.
“Darnell knew he was getting hung out to dry when the D.A. made him come clean by airing other people's dirty laundry; the plea deal was a new wrinkle and there were still issues to iron out, but he hoped it would all come out in the wash - otherwise he had folded like a cheap suit for nothing. “
And, how about this gem by Rita Hammett, Boca Raton, Florida:
“She expected a beautiful morning after the previous night's hard rain but instead stepped out her door to a horrible vision of drowned earthworms covering the walkway -- their bodies curled and swirled like limp confetti after a party crashed by firefighters. “
Or, this one by Harol Hoffman-Meisner, Greensboro, North Carolina?
“The first time I saw her she took my breath away with her long blonde hair that flowed over her shoulders like cheese sauce on a bed of nachos, making my stomach grumble as she stepped into the room, her red knit dress locking in curves better than a Ferrari at a Grand Prix.”
And finally, (I love this) the Winner of the “Vile Puns” category, Greg Homer, Placerville, California:
“Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals. “
Congratulations all – you’ve truly tickled some funny bones and honored the memory of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton.