Some of you may recall my expressions of surprise when a story of mine scored a 2nd place in the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition first round.
I spoke about it here, if you are interested or very bored.
This is an unusual event. I am normally weeded out as a joke in the first round and quickly discarded, but, occasionally, something slips through.
I can report, however, that in a return to normality, the judges awarded me with an equal last place in round 2. So I suppose I can return to writing silly meaningless ‘poetry’ and dine out on sour grapes for a while.
The feedback is always interesting in that it frequently seems self-contradictory. The following extract actually represents about 75% of the total feedback I received for this one.
“ The narrative’s journal structure is phenomenal, with the first section introducing this structure in its incredible and intriguing lines, “I am a survivor. My husband is a survivalist. There is a difference” and ending with the stunning revelation that “The notes will be brief and there will be errors of fact and clarity. For I am writing in the dark.” This section also successfully adds riveting elements such as the description of the bunker itself with its ammunitions stores and combustion stove around which they “bathe, cook, eat, sleep, talk and think.” The journal’s initial entry is distressing and compelling in equal parts, with the evocative metaphor of the “paratroopers, who descended like locusts to squabble over the scraps that the heavy artillery had left behind” and how these were “Evil little boys waving guns and chanting slogans they didn’t understand.” Katarzyna’s torturous experience, while deeply distressing and sickening, is realistic because rape throughout human history as been used as a weapon of war and sets the foundation for her lasting trauma. It makes perfect sense that she is “dying inside” and Aleksander’s expectation of sex underscores his inability to protect her, to understand and show empathy, and how he puts his needs before her own. All the journal entries have something engaging, wrenching, or thrilling about them, and the brief paragraphs that become single sentences generate a quick clip of a pace for the plot as it unfolds. Additionally, the way in which the accuracy of the dates devolve into question marks and finally, blanks, is fantastically reflective not only of the passage of time but also Katarzyna’s emotional trajectory. There’s so much in the story that’s tense, threatening, and/or bleak, from the strain between spouses in the bunker to the nightmares inside Katarzyna’s head to the nuclear holocaust outside the bunker. The final pages create further distress and conflict with the unknown figure approaching. It is a satisfying development when Katarzyna takes up her husband’s rifle and shoots him through the heart. I think you set the scene here wonderfully and create a complex character that the reader can follow throughout the story. Considering her experience, the isolation and cramped quarters, it’s not surprising that we watch this woman slowly going mad. The revelation that she kills her husband is so heartbreaking but makes perfect sense all things considered”