Our annual writing contest honors five — er, make that eight — area authors.
Our cup, as they say, runneth over. We picked up the tradition of an annual Desert Exposure writing contest when we took over the publication a little more than six years ago, issuing our first invitation to area writers to send us their best in time for our first-anniversary issue in April 2004. The annual showcase of contest winners moved to our September issue in 2005, where it's been a popular fixture ever since. Never before, however, have we had such a happy surfeit of honor-worthy entries.
Ordinarily, as announced in our annual call for entries, we pick one Grand Prize winner plus four additional winners. This year, however, as the entries poured in by postal mail and email, it got ever tougher to winnow the field to just five. Here's a good one! Here's another good one! Uh-oh.
Our staff agonized over which five to pick. One staffer narrowed her picks to five — except her fifth selection was "this one or that one." Cheating, but we couldn't blame her. Another staffer's top five — well, six or seven — matched that list — mostly. And so it went.
Finally, we decided the heck with it! It's our contest and we'll bend the rules if we want to. So instead of five winners, we, er, narrowed it down to eight.
That executive decision to not decide quite so much did not, of course, magically make more room in this, the issue showcasing our contest winners. So you'll read our Grand Prize winner and five other top entries in this issue, and enjoy the other three winners over the next several months. (Look for our distinctive writing-contest logo adorning each.)
We will, however, tell you a bit about all eight this month, so you'll know what you have to look forward to in this issue and the months ahead.
Our Grand Prize winner represents yet another break with the past, as it's the first time our top honors have gone to a poem. We always get plenty of poetry entries, and try to pick at least one among our final five (or eight). But frankly, we've learned the hard way that poetry is not as easy to write — well, that is — as it might appear. Poetry's very brevity, which makes it so seductive for a writer just stretching his or her creative wings, demands a scrupulous attention to every word that does make it onto the page. We wrote a lot of poetry back in junior high and high school; now we know better than to attempt it.
Happily, Mary A. McNeill not only attempts it but succeeds brilliantly, as you'll see in her Grand Prize-winning entry, "The doe I hit on Hwy 35." Every one of her 267 words counts toward McNeill's total, powerful impression. Her poem jumped out from the pack for everyone who read it, and quickly made its way to the top of the heap.
McNeill, who lives in Mimbres, is a first-time winner in our writing contest. While we're always happy to welcome back past winners, it's also a delight to discover new writing talent — which our area seems to have no shortage of. Five of this year's contest honorees are first-time winners. (As for those past honorees, you can still read all our contest winners from 2005 on at our website, www.desertexposure.com.)
Also inside this special issue, you'll find Albert A. Henderson's unusual story entitled simply, "NM 21-977." Yes, that's a license plate — one with a story to tell, as you'll see. Fans of Phillip Parotti, our 2007 Grand Prize winner who's also occasionally regaled readers with his yarns about growing up in Silver City (most recently, "Rollo and the Mountain of Doom" in April), will smile to see his byline back in our pages, atop a short story titled "Shadows." And readers who remember Jeannie Miller's 2005 winning story, "Sandulik Has a New Att-i-tude," will be especially touched by her winning tale this time, in which she says farewell to the big, lovable pooch — and hello to "The Visitor." Barbara Agte of Columbus will entertain you with her story of "Aunt Meg's Wish List." Finally, Deming author Jean Roosenberg winds up our presentation of winners with a kick in the modern Wild West tale, "One-Eyed Jack."
But that's not all! In the months ahead, you'll be glad for our judges' indecision, as we share two more equally deserving entries (as with this issue's winners, presented in no particular order). Lyle York will explore "Underground Silver City," both literally and metaphorically. And 2006 Grand Prize winner Laura Leveque, from Deming, returns with a real hoot, "Beans & Cornbread."
We could have gone on with several more print-worthy entries, but our judges finally agreed to cut it off there.
If this keeps up, next year we may have to devote most of two issues to great writing from our contest. What a happy problem to have!