Smokin' Word

Six Portland Writers Scorch the Competition in Willamette Week's Fiction Contest.

Everyone's a critic? Maybe in New York. In Portland, it seems, everyone's a writer. In fact, writing may be the city's only true art form. For every local writer of national fame (Chuck Palahniuk, Ursula K. LeGuin, Tom Spanbauer, Whitney Otto, et al.) there are thousands of other budding scribes hitting open-mike nights, writing for small journals, self-publishing chapbooks or otherwise parking for hours on end at a cafe table with Powerbook or pen at hand.

Given the potency of the word in Portland, we decided it was time to dust off our annual literary competition. We offered two categories and a couple of caveats. For the short-story competition, in which the entries were limited to 1,000 words, the first sentence had to begin, "At 4 am she found herself under the Broadway Bridge." Poetry entries (limited to 200 words) had to include a reference to the Portland Streetcar.

Picking our way through 700 submissions, we found far too many odes to flowers and furry friends, and a disturbing number of pages seemingly yanked from sexual-dysfunction workshop assignments. Still, amid the mangled metaphors and tortured dialogue, there were many promising submissions. We passed the best of the bunch on to our panel of judges, who found it difficult to select just six winners. As a result, we think you'll find that our three top short stories and three best poems have earned the right to circulate in the City that Writes.

the Writers

Though he contemplates writing a novel sometime in the future, "Creative Thought 414" represents Peter McGarry's debut as a published writer.
Currently working as a marketing writer in Portland, Lynne Hasselman has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's in public health. This is her first foray into fiction writing.
Born and raised in Northwest Connecticut, Jon Carr studied English lit at the University of Connecticut. Prior to moving to Portland, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia.
Jon Seaman has a B.F.A. in performance theater; he worked as professional actor and playwright before going bankrupt. He's worked at the Sundance Playwriting Lab and Circle in the Square on Broadway, and he's had scenes from his play Lenses performed at the Kennedy Center.
Susie Meserve recently moved to Portland from Massachusetts, where she earned an M.F.A. in creative writing at UMass-Amherst. She has work that appears in the latest issue of Indiana Review. In truth, she has not yet ridden the streetcar, but she hopes to very soon.
Paul Mueller graduated Portland State University's master's program in writing with a thesis of poems titled Cemetery of Discount Saints. He's lived most of his life in the Portland area and in Walla Walla, Wash., where he received a B.A. in psychology from Whitman College.

the Judges

Rochell Hart
Hart is a Portland writer and poet who represented Oregon at 1999's National Poetry Slam. She is the author of From the Ghettos to the Heavens and A Black Girl's Song, and is a regular contributor to Luv Jonz, the weekly gathering of poets and spoken-word artists.

Myrlin A. Hermes
Hermes is a Portland novelist. Her first novel, Careful What You Wish For, gained much critical praise and is now available in paperback. Hermes is finishing her second novel, The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet.

Kief Hillsbery
Hillsbery is the author of the critically acclaimed novel War Boy, which has recently been published in German and Spanish. Hillsbery is currently holed up in a cabin on Washington's Willapa Bay finishing his second novel.

Dan Raphael
Portland poet and verse ringmaster Raphael is the author of Bones Begin to Sing, Molecular Jam and Showing Light a Good Time, among other titles. Raphael runs the monthly I Love Mondays! poetry readings at Borders Books and is the publisher of Unnum Books.

Carlos Reyes
Reyes is a Portland poet and translator who has made a name for himself on three continents. His poetry collections include Nightmarks, Puertas Abiertas/Open Doors and A Suitcase Full of Crows. In addition to translating many important Spanish and Latin American poets, Reyes is also a founding editor of Hubbub, a local poetry journal.

Jody Seay
Portlander Seay's first novel, The Second Coming of Curly Red, was nominated last year for the Oregon Book Award and has gone into multiple printings since its publication in 2000. Seay is currently at work on her second novel.

Caryn B. Brooks (a.k.a. Miss Dish) is the Arts and Culture Editor for Willamette Week.

Steffen Silvis is Willamette Week's Assistant Arts and Culture Editor and theater critic.

First-place winners receive $250, second-place winners receive $100, and third-place winners receive a prize pack of sundry treasures.



First: "Creative Thought 414," Steve McGarry

Second: "Blood Money," Lynne Hasselman

Third: "Floozy," Jon Carr


First: "Resonance," Jon Seaman

Second: "Diary," Susie Meserve

Third: "The Six Ball," Paul Mueller

W is for Wedgies: The cork-heeled kind, not the camel-toe kind.

X is for Xanax. If Winona Ryder couldn't shop(lift) without it, neither should you.

Y is for Yellow. Shade of sunshine, lemonade and a chiffon scarf for motoring.

Z is for Zippers. Sewn asymmetrically into the neckline of a vintage ringer T-shirt. If you don't sew, Urban Outfitters has 'em.

"Gems For You in 2002"
Big ol' gem and mineral show sponsored by the Tualatin Valley Gem Club.
Washington County Fairplex, 873 NE 34th Ave., Hillsboro, 648-6521. 9 am-5 pm Friday- Sunday, March 8-10.

Make a Blanket Day
Project Linus will host a donation- based event to hand-make 300 security blankets. Blankets will be delivered by the Department of Human Services to children in foster care.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, Lake Ridge Building, Overlook Drive, Lake Oswego, 320-0494. 10 am-
5 pm Saturday, March 9.

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