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19th Annual Short Story Contest

Happy endings

By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 4, 2011

19th Annual Short Story Contest

It takes a lot of hoop-jumping to nab the brass ring, first place in our annual Short Story Contest. Take, for instance, Katie F. Perry's "The Main Treatment Options," a seriocomic story about a preschool teacher's long journey into a Demerol-addled night. Perry's story had to distinguish itself from hundreds of other applicants and survive the first round of competition, in which all stories received two blind reads from our panel of volunteer readers (culled from the Chronicle staff, fiction lovers all of 'em). The highest vote-getters –10, in total –moved on to our finals, at which point four judges from the local arts community jostled over which story would emerge victorious. "The Main Treatment Options" bested that round, too, placing high on judges' list of favorites ... and then it was disqualified.

But wait – we swear, this story has a happy ending. That was last year's competition. Late in the game, we realized "The Main Treatment Options" exceeded the allotted word count – by, we kid you not, 70 words. But we're sticklers for rules here, so we bid a reluctant adieu to the story and encouraged the author to try again next year.

Indeed she did, submitting a new draft of her story this year, and once again, it jumped through all the required hoops and found a lot of love with this year's judges, too. In every straw poll I took over the course of our judges' dinner last week at Threadgill's, "The Main Treatment Options" consistently made the judges' top three. Other stories were more hotly contested: Lydia Melby's unnerving "Fruit" was much admired, but the second-person narration troubled some judges, and the inconclusive ending was a sticking point for all. Of eventual third-place winner Kyle R M's "You Were Our Father, a Veteran and So Full of Desperation," judge Amelia Gray laughed, "That title is boss" –a sentiment universally agreed upon – but the story itself seemed to excite and aggravate the panel in equal measure. You can read both stories online at austinchronicle.com/books, and we strongly encourage you do just that. Due to the rolling blackouts, we had to cancel Wednesday's reception at BookPeople, so the prizewinners didn't have the chance to read their stories out loud to an audience.

Big thanks to the judges, who freely gave their time, careful consideration, and dinner companionship. Thanks also go to marketing champs Erin Collier, Logan Youree, and Dan Hardick, and to our savvy, superliterate team of first-readers: Nick Barbaro, Sarah Jean Billeiter, Wayne Alan Brenner, Jessi Cape, Mike Crissey, Wells Dunbar, Mark Fagan, Cassidy Frazier, Anne Harris, Susan Moffatt, Austin Powell, James Renovitch, Pamela Ross, Monica Riese, Audra Schroeder, Amy Smith, Jordan Smith, Sarah Smith, Darcie Stevens, Jason Stout, Katie Tomasino, Kristine Tofte, Molly Wahlberg, and Richard Whittaker. And, finally, thanks to the 418 writers who submitted this year. You keep writing, and we'll keep reading.

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