Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Aimee LaBrie, author of Wonderful Girl
, which won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize from UNT Press this year.
Aimee read from her collection of short stories and did an excellent job of capturing the attention of fatigued students with her vivid prose and wicked humor. I was Aimee's first reader on this prize...and had the experience of mining the gold from the slush pile. As a writer, reading for the KAP contest helped me see the other side of publishing: that daunting mountain of manuscripts (this year we had almost 300) and the overwhelming responsibility of slogging through each one, looking for glimmers of brilliance.
Yes, there are the manuscripts with clip art (bad idea
) with themes of unicorns and princesses (bad, bad idea
) and the strange single-space formatting, or worse, italics
. Those, thankfully, are the minority of entries, and each year the contest is filled with better and better applicants. The majority of entries we see are from people who publish widely in literary journals, authors who write with competence and confidence. To find the winner is no easy task. We separate the cover letters from the manuscripts for readers, so each entry is reviewed "blind" without the weight of accolades to push it past its prose. Which helps, I think, in giving an honest read.
Aimee's book came through with such shining strength, I had no trouble passing it along for a second read and in voting for it as a finalist. When it won, I did a happy dance, and it was no surprise that the author turned out to be just as engaging and witty as her writing. If you're interested in crafting short stories that get published, you should check out her collection and treat yourself to a great read. You won't be disappointed.
I'm off tonight to Dallas to visit with members of a book club who chose Potter Springs
for this month's read. I always enjoy meeting with readers who spend their time with my stories, since I think in today's world time is one of our most precious resources. I also like the questions and insights that other people bring to my work...when they argue over a character or see themes I hadn't pre-conceived on the page. I'll report back on the most interesting comments...In a Q&A session with an author, what question would you ask?