Before I delve into the topic for this post, let me say, in no uncertain terms, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is MADE OF WIN.
I am an incredibly socially awkward person, yet I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the number of people I chatted with over the past four days. People from all over the Lower Mainland, people from around the province, people from across Canada, and even people who flew in from other countries to take part in one of the pre-eminent writing conferences in North America.
Many amazing things happened throughout the course of the weekend–one moment has likely changed the course of my writing career forever–but tonight I want to talk about the annual Silly Writing Contest.
I’m sure you’ve seen this type of contest before. Writers are given a story prompt (or beginning) and are required to finish it within a certain word count. Sometimes the contest is made more challenging by having an additional requirement where contestants must include certain words within their entry (Janet Reid frequently runs these sort of contests on her blog).
Anyway, hundreds of attendees entered, and three were chosen as the winning entries in the 20th Anniversary edition of the contest. As luck would have it, mine was one of those three!
Before I post my entry (because I am quite proud of it), I need to preface it. First, the conference had a theme: the roaring 20’s. Second, bestselling author Michael Slade writes and narrates Shock Theatre every year, putting his signature spin on tales of horror from decades past (this year he managed to mash up The Fly, Jeckyll & Hyde, Jack the Ripper, and a smattering of 50 Shades of Grey into an amazing retelling of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine). There was much noir-esque description throughout the performance, as well as a dramatic abuse of alliteration (followed by the breaking of the fourth wall–writers take note–to point out the alliteration).
Now that I’ve given you a little context for the contest, here’s what we were asked to do: We had to finish the following story in 75 words or less, and our entries had to include the words: gangster, twentieth, fringe, vamp, prohibition, and zozzled. Yes, zozzled is a real word. Google it if you don’t believe me.
The story starter:
Mike Slade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting angle under a thin mouth. His eyebrows angled too, giving him the look of a pleasantly greying Satan.
“Yeah, sweetheart?” he said to his assistant, Eileen Sea.
She was a real looker, her lips a slash of red above pearls and a dress of thin wool that clung to her like a lost kitten.
She finished shutting the door behind her, leaned against it and said: “There’s a girl to see you, Boss. Her name’s Miz Espenson.”
“I guess so. You’ll want to talk to this one. She’s a knockout.”
He grinned wolfishly. “A knockout with a problem?”
“A big problem. It’s her – husbands, Boss. I think they might be…”
And here’s where entrants had to fill in the rest.
Wanna know what I wrote?
Yeah, well I’m going to tell you anyway, so pffft.
Here’s my winning entry:
“A big problem. It’s her – husbands, Boss. I think they might be… zozzled.”
Widows seeking solace were one thing, but married dames weren’t worth dodging bullets.
“What’s the matter; the vamp’s for prohibition? They a fringe group of Amish?”
Slade eyed Eileen’s gorgeous gams—“gorgeous gams;” writers take note—and wondered if she’d let him run his letter opener through her envelope.
“This is the twentieth time it’s happened.”
“She should hire a gangster.” He fumbled in his pocket. “We’ve got mail needs tending to.”
By the way, the judging panel dubbed it, “50 Shades of Silly Writing.” I couldn’t have been more flattered.
Here’s hoping there’s another twenty great years of SiWC! :)