Friday, April 17, 2009

The Pulitzers - Plus a Flash Fiction Contest

It's that time of the year again. The 2009 Pulitzer winners and finalists will be announced this Monday.

This will be the first time the Pulitzers are announced since I began my project of reading all the Fiction winners. I wanted to read more good books, and the Pulitzer list seemed like a good bet. But reading only Pulitzers is a little like watching only the Best Picture Oscar winners. After reading a few you start to get an idea of what kinds of writing and stories the committee favors. (Though thankfully no books so far have been as bad as "Crash.")

If you think your novel might be the next Pulitzer, here is a helpful checklist to increase your chances dramatically. Every book I've read so far meets at least 80% of the following criteria.
  • Make sure you're American. This is a stated requirement. U.S. Citizenship is a little over $1,000. You might be able to get a better quote in another American country.
  • Preferably your book is about life in the United States. (And since you should write what you know, it helps if your primary domicile is in the continental 48.)
  • Your book should either be about or contain no less than 30 references to U.S. American wars. References to the U.S. Civil War count double.
  • You desperately need a character named Grace. She should be a peripheral character, talked about more than she is seen, and should represent everything good to your main character.
  • Include a handful of paragraphs devoted to descriptions of smells associated with sex or sexuality.
  • Your central character should have a stated enthusiastic enjoyment of literature. Triple points if the character is a writer who is narrating her/his experience.
  • Someone must die. Bonus points if your central character dies or is near death.
  • Your character must travel or, if your character is dying, talk at length of their time spent traveling.
  • Your story should span no fewer than 3 generations.
  • Double your chances by legally changing your name to William Faulkner, John Updike, Norman Mailer or Booth Tarkington. Or turn your book into a play and change your name to Eugene O'Neill to quadruple your chances.
Oh, and try use some foreshadowing and symbolism. Sad and true brush-with-greatness story: When I was a Sophomore in high school, my mom, an English professor, took me to a very small and intimate reading and Q&A session with Tim O'Brien, the author of "The Things They Carried", Fiction finalist in 1991 (he lost to John Updike--what did I tell you?). What did I, a young person, annoyed with his high school English teacher's drab teaching style decide to ask the near-Pulitzer winner? Winner of the 1979 National Book Award? Future winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction? In a room full of aspiring writers and students and professors of American literature, I intended to nip all this high school English bullcrap right in the bud. I raised my hand and patiently waited and finally asked "Do you actually use foreshadowing and symbolism?" And the answer, which might surprise you, was a resounding "Yes", complete with a stunned expression and just a hint of the restraint of an eye roll.

CONTEST: Write a flash-fiction story of 250 words or less that incorporates everything in the Pulitzer checklist to qualify for this RvD flash fiction contest. Post your submission in the comments section of this post. Deadline is next Friday, April 24, 5:00 pm. Winner gets $5 and possible distribution of your story at a future RvD event. (RvD members and their families are encouraged to submit since they comprise nearly our entire readership base.)

OK, Crump, go ahead and post the entry you should have written yesterday on top of this one.


Gamer18548 said...

I want a pulitzer! And/or $5 There are some curse words, though, beware!

My entry:
"Seeking Grace On A Lazy Saturday Morning"

I frickin love America. Being an American. A nattie citizen. Me and Nattie Lite are bros. Booth Faulkner. It sounds American. It sounds nattie.

I say this to myself in the mirror, every morning, as I get up to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Dubuque Iowa, fuckers.

This is where life happens? I can see in the mirror's reflection, as I do every morning, her. Grace. Grace, clutching my arm, as we strolled down Constitution Avenue, in our country's groin, D.C. She loved Lincoln. Damn. But a reflection. I won't take that photo down.

Grace is dead. Fuckers. I still smell her love juices. Yeah. I don't wash her clothes. I don't touch a thing.

I wish I could write today, like every day. But I've made a choice. Booth Faulkner is gonna hit the road. The folks at Lanie's Crafts-N-Things will say "Where's ol' Booth?" I'm gone, fuckers.

I have to find a new Grace. A new providence. What's a grizzled ol' war Vet like me to do in Dubuque? Kuwait. Iraq. Afganistan. More Iraq. Even a little Bosnia.

I look at myself in the mirror again, face cut from shaving. Blood trickling down my face.

I need a new razor. I need to hit the road. I need Grace. Love, Booth.

Yeah. That's the note I'll leave. On the table.

For Arnaldo...

lawrence a said...

“Gettysburg? Goddamn cakewalk. Antietam? Weren’t nothin but a high school dance. Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Now. That there was hell, son.” With that, Gramps was gone. His last breath lingered in the air, smelling vaguely like Grace’s shoes the day Dad shipped out for Pusan.

Funny how you remember those details. Never saw him again; just some black and white photos, and a few postcards. He lost both feet at Incheon; ended up staying there; shacked up with a nurse named Soo Kim.

Guess he couldn’t face life without war; or maybe it was war without him he couldn’t face. Or maybe it was me; his first born son, run off to Magill to sit out Vietnam teaching Hemingway and Faulkner in Toronto, he couldn’t face.

Starkmoor men lie rotting under crosses in Margraten and Omaha Beach, or were forever lost off of Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Whenever Uncle Sam needed foot soldiers, we, no, they were there. Even my brother Ulysses S. came back from Viet Nam with medals for valor at Phouc Long and Loc Ninh, and a dragon tattoo and a fatal taste for heroin was buried in Arlington. That’s why I had come back. To see him buried. All those brave Starkmoor men. All dead. All so I could read Faulkner or sit in my underwear and think about the smell of Grace’s shoes while I wait for the bottle of demerol to put me out of my pain .

margie said...

I lie dying in this hot, abandoned attic, the military campaign down below and outside going on gloriously without me.
The smell of blood and shit in these walls remind me of your caresses, your little brown nails you asked me to bite.
I could not do it, God forgive me now.

Ah Grace.
After you vanished, taking your smell of slightly dented cheeses with you (I could smell them in your hair when we made love, licked them from between your tight, pretty sharp little teeth), I began this little war.

It is my fault.

After you disappeared, taking the scent of old raspberries with you, staining the front of your apron and the creases round your sensuous, dry, chapped mouth, I lost the will to write.

I lost the will to write, Grace.
Damn you.
And so I began to erase.

I worked so hard to have the “g” erased from the name of our town: “Dunsford,” I told them, was more refined than “Dungsford”. But the truth is, I wanted that “g” gone because it reminded me of you.

But it went awry.
Oh, Grace. What a war.

Had I thought of the three generations before me, perhaps I would not have started it. The letter “g” withstanding, and the unfortunate syllabic “dung”, a lot of influential citizens in this community are still descended from my great-great grandfather General Dungsford, the Revolutionary War hero who saved his men from dysentery (although they were later killed near Bottom Gulch). We are a community with a glorious war history.

All awry, all awry.

margie said...

I realize I entered too late to win the Pulitzer this year, but it was still fun and worth doing anyway.
Favorite lines from this year’s entrants (in no particular order except chronological):

“…I say this to myself in the mirror, every morning, as I get up to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Dubuque Iowa, fuckers.”

“…All those brave Starkmoor men. All dead. All so I could read Faulkner or sit in my underwear and think about the smell of Grace’s shoes…”

More contests, please! These authors kicked butt!