As I said yesterday, we were really impressed with this group of entries. I want to reiterate (for like the gazillionth time . . .) that you shouldn’t feel discouraged if we didn’t pick your entry. There was a lot of great material to choose from, and we can only pick what happens to strike us with those first 100 words. So if you’re looking for an agent on a project in one of these categories, you should definitely still query us. The query letter, or the 101st word, might just blow us away!
Let’s get to our honorable mentions . . .
We were only supposed to pick three honorable mentions each, but I had a really, really difficult time narrowing my list, so, since the rules seem to shift from contest to contest, I’m going to list four honorable mentions.
This was not an easy week. I think my short list, usually five titles, was somewhere around eight or nine, and narrowing that further was nearly impossible, but here we go . . .
Rodney —When Hearts Cry Out
Trudy Hale had watched seventy-four-year-old Liz McCall circle the parking lot six times.
“Mornin’ Liz. You doin’ okay?”
“Fair to middlin’.” Liz patted the sides of her sprayed stiff hair, the color of which resembled an uncirculated silver dollar. “I swear . . . some of those fools must’ve gotten their driver’s license out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”
Trudy pointed to an empty parking place only feet away from the salon. “Why didn’t you take that spot?”
“Shit. Do you really think I’d park my Cadillac next to that big old bucket that Vivian’s husband is driving?”
This had the feeling of really great, funny Southern women’s fiction to me. I laughed when I read this and got a very clear picture of everything that was going on. I could see Liz and Trudy and I could see the parking lot and the cars. Mostly though, I loved the thought of where this might be going and I love these characters already. They have great voices and seem fun, the kind of people you want to follow through a day.
Shalanna — Little Rituals
My life is filled with little rituals. I don’t know when or how I invented them; I don’t always rationally believe they work.
Everyone knocks on wood and avoids the thirteenth floor. Who doesn’t cross her fingers now and then? But the most powerful rite is more abstract: do something selfless, something selfish, then a random, anonymous act of kindness. In that order. Within a span of forty-eight hours.
Since we buried Cheryl three weeks ago, I haven’t been controlling myself very well, so I turned to ritual to give me control.
This is the charm that heals, I hope.
I’ll confess I get a lot of books about OCD and I suspect that’s what this is, but the voice was great here and I was definitely interested in finding out more about the protagonist. I like how she talks about her rituals and I like the way we’re left, hoping for healing.
Anonymous 9:50 pm — Stella June
Stella showed up on a Sunday. I remember exactly the time and place she entered my life and for years afterwards would wonder if she had any inkling of the damage she would cause. Tired and worn from one of Granddaddy’s sermons, legendary in our county for their length and fervor, I didn’t know who she was at first. Having never seen my mama, I only knew that this strange woman was the cause of the greatest spectacle Sparta had ever seen since the youngest Hyde child blew up the local bakery with an M-80 and his daddy’s shotgun. But this was different.
The voice, the writing, this is really a great entry. I immediately felt attracted to this protagonist. I felt sorry for her and was fascinated by her. Her voice shines through with a touch of Southern, but not too much that it becomes hard to read. And I really, really want to know more about Stella June and the trouble she’s going to cause.
Jeannie Ruesch — Petals of the Rose
The measured clip of her heels was a familiar sound. The aroma of disinfectant and pumped-in air conditioning filled her lungs. The sterile white walls were as familiar as home –more so, according to Nate. But as Dr. Danielle Stevens strode down the hallway, she sucked in deep breaths to calm sudden nerves. In all the scenarios she’d imagined seeing Melanie again this had never been an option.
Danielle was a pediatric cardiologist. She may have wished a number of things upon her former best friend’s head, but needing her expertise…
No, this was never — never — one of them.
I couldn’t let this entry go. This is the kind of book that grabbed me because of the potential. What a horrible, horrible situation to be in. You’ve tugged at my heartstrings in the first 100 words. That’s really powerful and I’m dying to know where this is going to take us. Is this a story about saving a child? About the relationship of two friends? What’s going to happen next? Well done.
Anonymous 11:01 am — Revealing Gigi
There are many silences.
There is the sort created by standing perfectly still in an uninhabited space under a huge sky. That silence is riveting; a surreal sensation of wishing the moment would not ever end because somehow the lack of sound brings a brief moment of understanding.
Then there is the kind of peace in those small quiet moments. Just pockets void of dissonance that allow my brain to process the day.
Finally, there is the awkward variety. It springs up between two people who have said far too much, for too long, with words that meant nothing at all.
I just found the writing here terrific and insightful. Even though I haven’t officially met any characters yet, I’m wanting to know about the two people who’ve said too much. There’s an implied mystery behind those words that is subtle, yet so intriguing. I’m hungry to see where this is going. . . .
Caren Crane — Tiara Wars
Katie Warren’s husband Larry haunted her garden.
With the North Carolina June suffocating her like a magnolia-scented blanket, she could almost see his grass-stained Topsiders and white lawyer’s ankles peering at her from behind the hedge as they had the day he died.
Despite the “Southern Living” layout potential around her, the memory of Larry’s legs sucked the joy right out of her retreat. Which only fueled her anger at him.
A burst of “Für Elise” sent her pruning shears flying. She fished the phone from her pocket.
“Mom,” Callista barked. “Where are you? I’ve been waiting 15 minutes already.”
Like Jessica, I’m a sucker for a strong Southern women’s fiction voice. The imagery of the first few sentences is terrific. I’ll admit that I wish I hadn’t been jolted away from it so quickly, but I’d still want to find out more about the husband’s death and hear what else this narrator has to share.
Robb — Hannah’s Voice
With that one word, I broke my silence of a dozen years.
“I said I want the goddamn pancakes.”
Finally, I got what I really wanted. Not the pancakes, but some silence. Everyone else shut up. Finally.
I didn’t decide to stop talking forever, or even for twelve years. I just chose not to speak at a moment in time. Sometimes decisions have a way of forging your future, setting a path before you that you must travel, even if you’re only six years old when you make the choice.
“Hannah, did you clean your room?”
It just occurred to me that I chose two entries that talk about silence. Maybe I was having a particularly loud day? No. These entries resonated with me for different reasons. I like that I’m being brought into the story at a pivotal moment. And that this momentous occasion—finally speaking after twelve years—is marked by such an everyday word: “pancakes.” The narrator is just brilliant, and complicated and somebody I’d love to learn more about.
Great work, everybody! You blew us away! And to think there’s just one more contest to judge. . . .