Choosing the right word is an art form. Whether it's conveying shock, the depths of despair or the heights of joy, a single word can be deceptively weighty. Now, consider only having 101 words to create an entire world.
That's just what the legion of authors who entered this, the 10th annual Fiction 101 Contest, did. More than 130 stories spanning the comic to the heartbreaking vied for the title and again proved that Boise has an impressive literary foundation. This year's winners are true artists of word choice, and the worlds they created are worth taking the time to explore.
Rick Ardinger: Executive director of the Idaho Humanities Council and owner of Limberlost Press
Laura DeLaney: Owner of Rediscovered Bookshop
Alan Heathcock: Board member of The Cabin, professor of English at Boise State and author
Michael Faison: Executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts
Mitch Wieland: Editor of The Idaho Review, professor of English at Boise State and author
First Place, $500
Sarah Masterson, Boise
Imarried the strongest man in the world.
On our first date he bit a quarter in half and we took the two chewed pieces down to the river. It was October and the water was a silver tongue. I imagined jumping in, letting the river carry my party dress, a sinking pink balloon. He would have to save me. Dipping his giant paws into the polished water and sifting me out, a wet petal.
"I've never liked the ocean," he said softly. "My wishes always end up back on shore."
I reached for his hand. It felt like a fisherman's.
Second Place, $300
Luke Felt, Boise
Every autumn, mayflies paint our city black. They fog the streets, blanket every building, every wall. Sam tosses a tennis ball against them. Their bodies crack. Wings stick in the fuzz.
At dinner, Sam butters corn, stares at the empty seat where Dad used to be. Mom chews cauliflower, tries not to do the same. "We'll be alright," she says. "Of course we will. Finish your broccoli."
Later, me and Sam count mayflies through our window. The air's thick with them, can't see much else. "Where they coming from?" Sam says. I shrug. "Don't matter. Soon enough, they'll leave us alone."
Third Place, $200
Jennifer Sanders Peterson, Boise
First Winter After the Divorce
Breathless, she steadies herself against the front door, turns to survey all she's done. A clear path shoveled through the snow. She realizes she's smiling, unforced.
Her son hoists the head onto a snowman, the ground around him rubbed with snow angels. "Good job, Mom!" he calls. She does a little bow.
There's nothing of the past in this moment. No fearful future. Just the truth of clean, right-angles of concrete; the V of winter geese barking overhead; sky, cloudless and shockingly blue; melting snow dripping off the roofline. Her heart, bucking hard inside her chest, reminding her she's alive.