Don't let the phrase "Fiction 101" scare you. This won't require any late-night typing or painful peer-editing. This Fiction 101 only requests that you head to Rediscovered Bookshop on Thursday, Feb. 3, and sit back and listen to the power 101 words can have.
In November 2010 Boise Weekly held our Ninth Annual Fiction 101 contest. We received more than 100 entries of super-succinct word art, and dished out cash to the winners as selected by a panel of judges. The Jan. 6 issue of BW featured the winning entries, and now many of those writers will bring their masterpieces to life when they read them aloud as part of First Thursday festivities.
This was the second year that Rick Ardinger, executive director of the Idaho Humanities Council and owner of Limberlost Press, helped judge the contest. He says picking winners was no easy feat, but ultimately he chose "something that struck me immediately and is memorable, and also something that lasts with me."
Ardinger says he has seen the Boise literary and arts scene mature during the past 30 years.
"The arts scene has definitely changed--it's amazing," Ardinger says. "In 1980 I knew one person published by a New York publisher; now that has changed tremendously. We have world-class writers in Boise and across Idaho."
We'd like to think of Fiction 101 as a contributor to that growth, offering a platform upon which writers are allowed to look anywhere for inspiration, albeit within a strict 101-word guideline.
First-place winner Jesus Jose Silveyra Tapia, a citizen of Mexico, says his writing stems from "frustration and ignorance." Tapia's cites Juarez, Chihuahua--the city he grew up in and where he currently lives--as a source for inspiration. Juarez is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
"I can't say if that's true, but it seems like every time I take a breath, a person dies violently," Tapia says. "It's frustrating. It's incomprehensible. So, out of ignorance, I try to create worlds that function on inner rules ... Truth is really stranger than fiction."
Tapia's short-term literary goal is to finish his first book, and he hopes "to be able to write a story that's as wonderful on paper as it is in my head."
Third-place winner Elisabeth Sharp Mc-Ketta believes that "everything is fodder for fiction" and uses part real-life experiences and part fiction in her works. After finishing her undergraduate degree at Harvard, McKetta took a year off and accepted every freelance job she could obtain, most of which she calls "very unglamorous." She also ran a literary magazine with a friend for three years, leads a number of workshops for writers and was the featured storyteller at Story Story Night on Jan. 31. However, McKetta says her greatest accomplishment is her new baby girl, who arrived two days before McKetta learned she had placed in the Fiction 101 contest.
"It really was a reaffirming thing," Mc-Ketta says of her eventful week. "[It was] kind of the merging of both continents of writing and motherhood."
Honorable-mention winner Daniel Clausen describes finding out that he'd placed in the contest as "a fist-pump moment."
"To know that someone else enjoys what I write, that's always encouraging," he says.
Clausen, who grew up in Idaho, is an outdoors enthusiast--he climbed Mt. Borah in 2008--and is currently working on a master's of fine arts degree at Boise State. He pictures his winning entry, "What a Shot Can Do," in which a man kneels in the cold gray of morning waiting for a doe, taking place somewhere like Owyhee County.
Honorable-mention winner Tyler Christensen also draws inspiration from real life--and a little from his psychology degree.
"I'm interested in cognitive action versus reaction," Christensen says. "People facing extraordinary situations, how they behave and why. I think it's something everyone can relate to."
Christensen--whose entry "The Anniversary" includes the words "pink," "crunchy," "guts" and "pooped"--had been so busy with grad school applications, he forgot he'd entered the contest. He didn't discover that he'd won until he logged onto boiseweekly.com after a night on the town.
The day after discovering his victory, Christensen was featured on the Boise Public Radio program Writer's Block.
"It's kind of like hitting a home run," Christensen explains. "All of my hard work is starting to pay off. I think everyone wants to have opportunities to share what they've worked hard on."
After obtaining a degree in psychology from Idaho State University, Christensen worked as a mental-health specialist and then decided that he wanted to take a different direction.
"I want to do what's going to make me happy," Christensen says. "And that's writing."
Christensen's long-term goals include publishing short stories, teaching and giving back to the community that he says has given him so much.
McKetta, Christensen, Clausen and several other winners will be in attendance and ready to read on Thursday, Feb. 3. Unfortunately, Tapia will be unable to attend, although his winning story, "Radio Sound Designer," read by his publisher, promises to be one of the highlights of the evening.