I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Fortunately, our writing is much better than these contest winners! However, these provide a wonderful laugh.
Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners
For all lovers of good writing, here are this year’s winners of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, (aka “It Was a dark and Stormy Night” Contest) run by the English Department of San Jose State University, wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel.
10. As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.
9. Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens.
8. With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.
7. Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: “Andre creep… Andre creep…Andre creep.”
6. Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.
5. Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eking out a living at a local pet store.
4. Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.
3. Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
2. Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn’t know the meaning of the word “fear;” a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death — in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.
AND THE WINNER IS…
1. The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog’s deception, screaming madly, “You lied!”
and these: The new 2009 crop of Bulwar-Lytton winners are pretty good, too. Here’s the winners in the Detective category:
She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida – the pink ones, not the white ones – except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn’t wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren’t.
Sun Prairie, WI
The dame sauntered silently into Rocco’s office, but she didn’t need to speak; the blood-soaked gown hugging her ample curves said it all: “I am a shipping heiress whose second husband was just murdered by Albanian assassins trying to blackmail me for my rare opal collection,” or maybe, “Do you know a good dry cleaner?”
Los Angeles, CA
The appearance of a thin red beam of light under my office door and the sound of one, then two pair of feet meant my demise was near, that my journey from gum-shoe detective to international agent had gone horribly wrong, until I realized it was my secretary teasing her cat with a laser pointer.
Thanks, JE, for hosting Amanda and me last weekend. We had a wonderful time and were thoroughly inundated with artistic inspirations at every turn. I left with more motivation to return to my artistic nature than I have felt in a super long time, it was good for my soul. I would like to incorporate one of my current creative thoughts/challenges with the group. My proposal is that we craft a worthy children’s story with animation, a good message/lesson (perhaps like a fable) that would be timeless in nature and be something that our children would incorporate into their lives and share with their children. I recognize the huge undertaking here, but I think we definately have the talent between the lot of us to put something together. I have seen middle school projects where their work has been made into quality hardback form. Perhaps we could find something like this and have nicely bound copies that could be in each of our homes. I would think the logical place to start would be with the story’s arc and outline. I would like to extend this challenge to each of you. I would really like to be able to share the collective wisdom of our friendships with my child/children. So, who’s with me? Any thoughts about characters and stories?
On a second note- I am going to do some work on a graphic novel (semi-inspired by Maus) based on a character I will call Promi the Squirell, who steals a flaming marshmallow from a suburban fire pit. My initial sketches ceertainly aren’t of the caliber of Ned’s but, whacha gonna do?
This morning I heard about this piece, “The internet is killing storytelling” by Ben Macintyre of the Times from Steve Inskeep of NPR who heard about it from Tina Brown of the Daily Beast. I haven’t finished reading it yet but it seems relevant to many of our concerns. Hopefully I’ll find time to turn my attention to it later today and post some comments.
Eugene’s lips tilted to the side with a juicy twitch, his teeth opening and chomping as if on an invisible cigar. The stale scent of tobacco, sweat, and moonshine hovered around the spot he stood. He rubbed his meaty hands together, stained slightly with yellow. Now Pete wondered if those stains were caused by nicotine or by Grey Poupon. Eugene lurched forward and moved past Pete, his malodorous cloud lingering a bit and finally dissipating as he swung open the large metal door and slammed it home behind him. Pete heard a collection of rattles and sliding metal as Eugene bolted and locked the door.
Pete sighed, knowing he should get back to his post behind the glass counter, but he took a moment longer to wonder what was going on behind that door. A small shimmer of light dimmed and came back again behind the little peephole that looked out into the hallway. Pete gathered up his self-consciousness and hurried back behind the counter, slipping on an apron that was a little cleaner than the last.
Now standing on the familiar spot of linoleum, scuffed black by Pete’s shoes in front of the Espresso machine, Pete could see Francisco through the front window with his notebook under arm, his notebook splayed with pages jutting out randomly. Francisco was looking down at a couple of pages in his hand, like he was rediscovering them in the aftermath of the Eugene. Usually when he got tossed out, Francisco looked up at Pete afterwards to get an extra dose of self-indulgent pity.
Francisco often told Pete it helped him write better in the afternoon.
“I love you too sugar lips but ya can’t be pass’n out in the store.”
Francisco woke, relieved to see Eugene sneering down at him. Eugene, foul of smell and worse of character was rarely seen by customers yet Francisco saw a lot of him. Still, better to be thrown out on your ear by Eugene than face the phantom of your baby-mother ex-girlfriend.
Predictably, in the next moment Francisco found himself in a sprawling pile with a trench coat and notebook garnish on the street. “Another day in paradise,” he muttered and picked himself up.
Eugene locked the door, and trudged back toward the kitchen but Pete held him up.
“Hey boss, ol’ Francis out there has nearly drunk up all his product. You want me to call corporate?”
“Corporate? Fuck corporate. Five parts rot-gut, one part Grey Poupon. Mix it up your own goddamn self.”
Francisco woke on the other side of the bed from where he thought he had fallen asleep. He had always been a restless sleeper, Rachael told him. She was sleeping, her back turned to him still, and maybe she was dreaming something better than what they had become together.
He pulled himself up onto the pillow. The window was a frightening prospect, so he kept it closed, the shade down, a little longer, please. She’s pregnant, she’s pregnant, she’s pregnant. That’s all he saw now when he looked at her, the little heartbeat somewhere inside. This would be so much harder, he thought, placing his hand on her hip, if he loved her. The three of them rested there in the dark.
It was a memory from before the decision, one that returned when he lost time. One of the only times it seemed like there was a three of them to speak of. It was in that grieving period after Rachael had told him she was pregnant, where he pretended to happiness, even though he knew it meant their relationship would end, and where there was no more reason to take precautions with sex. She was over every night, and they wrung out whatever remained of their time.
“Yes.” She turned to see the ceiling. Then she turned to see his face. “Why do you remember this, Francis? Why this moment, every time. Every time you take that stuff?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, stop it. At least remember the sex, if that’s all we had. At least remember that.” She laughed and turned back away from him and yawned. Her whole body stretched beneath the white sheet.
“Don’t call me Francis,” he said. “I don’t know why I come back here every time. I’ve got to stop doing this.” He looked at her. His memories were supposed to be fixed. They weren’t supposed to talk back to him.
“Maybe you love me. Maybe you love our baby.” Her hand rubbed the sheet at her belly. “That’s why.”
No one ever understood creative types. “Maybe I’m in this for the story. And that’s it.”
“I think you love me more than the story.”
He stood up and pulled open the shades. It was dim morning, at best. He turned back to her. “I love the story more.”
Francisco didn’t understand the pretense of the old, green liquor bottle. Since he had agreed to this trial, Pete had behaved like he was Morpheus from the Matrix, administering some kind of epiphany from the milky green bottle. When Pete told him that he couldn’t do the drug trial himself because of company policy, Francisco had thought Pete’s explanation reasonable. Now he wondered if Pete had other reasons for not doing the trial himself. Why the strange meeting places to get the drug? Why the green bottle instead of the pharmaceutical bottle it must come in? Did Pete’s dad know there were potentially harmful side effects? Is that why he hadn’t allowed Pete to do the trial? And why the hell did he have to try the drug in different environments. Francisco knew there could be reasons. Maybe it was all part of a control group. He thought about trials where participants had been given placebos. What if the blackouts he experienced were an illness totally unrelated to the drug?
Pete’s gaze had intensified. He reached under the counter, eye contact unbroken, and raised up, smirking, holding an opaque green glass bottle whose label was so worn it was no longer readible. He set the bottle down on the counter as a hunter might display a prized kill. Francisco knew though, something inside him knew. This bottle, seemingly ageless, held a familiar, yet forgotten destiny. He had drunk from this bottle before. Many times, it had been presented to him to consume from.
His eyebrows raised and then tightened together as he examined Pete’s face more closely looking for something that he would recognize as he let out a sigh. It was always different. A moment had passed before either spoke. “Look, you know the drill, Frank.” Pete stated in a stern, almost fatherly voice. “your work here is done.” “C’mon, you didn’ think we weren’ keeping track of you did ya?” he added, tone changing to an apologetic, yet mocking tone.
"You look a bit ragged today, Frank." This was where the script, at last, left off, and they were allowed to improvise. Pete counted change. Francisco counted on his first sip of coffee, which eked into him like humidity.
"You know, you’re the only person I let call me ‘Frank.’"
“Should…I…consider myself lucky then?” Pete let the lilt grow in his words as he counted the mess of bills and coins Francisco handed him.
The rain stopped. Which surprised, irked, and depressed Francisco; in that order. He had intended to write another profound poem addressing themes of unending rain on cold city streets and the overall loneliness of his soul that would, like all of his poems, ultimately be ignored by any publication that he sent them to which he knew would magnify his depression deliciously. Francisco had a impressive collection of rejection letters from many distinguished editors. He planned to use each of these in some vindictive way against these distinguished editors once he had finally been recognized as a poet of fathomless skill and a human being of unheard of beauty. Whenever that happened.