Tiny Light's Annual Essay Contest

Contest Results from 2005

Awarded Winners

First Prize of $350

Trauma Chic by Holly Leigh

Today I am a starfish. My body, tuned by instinct and memory, stretches in all directions. When I exercise, I am reaching for things beyond my grasp.

“Arabesque,” calls the aerobics instructor who wields us like pinwheels with her commands. Hamstring, biceps, quads, each part named in turn. From my place, I study all the sizes and contours of a chorus line of women stretched, scissor legs apart, arms extended in an open V.

“Abductor,” calls Jessica. We imitate star shapes, and I mimic the muscled limbs, unblemished and whole, of the promising ponytailed university women, replicas of my former self.

At age 23, a carfire severely scarred my face and ruined my hands. Now I live the “hand” in “handicapped,” moving through the architecture of the everyday world. Coins defy my awkward grasp. I gripe about smooth industrial-style doorknobs or those sticky with antiquity, about layers of packaging. I avoid buttons, belts, zippers. Even snaps on clothing can trap me. At the gym, I must ask someone each time to tie my sneaker’s shoelaces. But I find it’s the obstacle of people’s attitude and perceptions that most often trips me.

Before class started, a woman in neon spandex made a beeline through the Cybex machines until she reached me.

“I’ve seen you,” she said, and everyone looked up. “I must tell you, you are so brave, really, and a real inspiration—I just want you to know that.”

I said nothing, hoping to embarrass her with my implacable stare. But she bounced off, oblivious.

Strangers know nothing about me, yet I find I’ve been assigned a new persona based solely on my changed look. “I think I have problems, then I see you,” is one winner. “Brave” and “courageous” are labels that create caricatures of disability.

“I don’t know how you do it…I could never…I can’t imagine…” others say, and behind the gush of praise lurks a shady superiority. A line of separation exists: I am marked as different, isolated, out on some nether planet. Fending off “sensitive” remarks is the most tedious part of my day.

I stroll past all the bodies squeezing or rowing or treading on machines. We all are stripped down here, almost bare. In this cocoon of a sweat lodge, I hope women come for strength, power and satisfaction in the physical realm. But as on the outside, every greeting is about weight, clothes, hair, looks. Anyone disfigured is alien or suspect.

“Once you’ve had surgery, you’ll be fine,” people rush to say, not realizing I’ve had over eighty operations. Many people feel the need to approach and commend me or comment on the latest medical breakthrough they’ve just seen on 20/20. People freely tell me intimate medical details, trace out faded scars, describe their dream nose job or dispense random advice. They inform me of people with prosthetic limbs playing pianos or the wonders of artificial skin. At the gym, I hear, “Hi, I’m a nurse,” which invokes the patient role as my identity outside the hospital. Addressing the damage first cancels me as a person. Every mention stuns me, each sharp reminder feels like running into barbed wire.

“You’re lucky, you’re so skinny,” is the code compliment everyone gives me. But being so thin that your hips hurt when you lie on one side or so bony in the bathtub that you feel every vertebra is not fun. After years of hospitals and months of being confined during surgery, I have trouble opposite the norm. Working out is my sole key to appetite, sleep, thinking. When I skip the gym, my weight drops, so I like the small swell of muscle—calves and a thigh that fit snug in my pantleg. But I suffer from a symmetry complex: one leg scarred from hip to ankle, one arm gone, one breast marred, one eye ruined.

I really never know how or what to expect from people on the street. Once, a guy standing beside me at a crosswalk told me I looked like a living incarnation of a damaged goddess statue. “Oh,” was my meager surprised answer. Later, I appreciated his creative candor. I wondered if he was a sculptor, art student or teacher.

“You have trauma chic,” a friend tells me. He’s coined a term for the trail of turned heads I leave in my wake when I go grocery shopping, browse at bookstores, hop on the subway or walk into a restaurant. I have x-ray vision. Twelve years of fielding public inquiry has developed an acute awareness. Your reaction, whether invasive, respectful or indifferent speaks volumes about you.

Trauma perks do exist. My usually invisible status turns into celebrity stature on airlines. Being bumped up to first class or hustled through passport lines adds to the trauma chic aura. I don’t say no to pity concert tickets or free coffees. Last week, I had three women at a florist shop doting on me as they pulled together a bouquet of lavish blooms and ribbons I needed for a gift. Some gestures tip the balance back or simply surprise me.

Once, right after surgery, my friend Mona convinced me to go out to fancy restaurant even though I had a circle of gauze wrapped elaborately around my head. Fresh red patches of blood showed underneath, and though the restaurant was darkly lit, I knew people were staring. Undeterred, we lingered over coffee and desserts and when the waiter told us an anonymous patron had picked up our expensive dinner tab, Mona was amazed. “So there are good people in the world,” she laughed. She suggested I dress in bandages from now on.

By the gym lockers, a polite woman glances over as I brace the key against my arm. Without fingers, I can still manage to turn and open these flimsy locker doors as well as I work my apartment locks at home.

“I never know when to offer help,” she says. I nod, liking her casual tone. I tell her it’s nice if someone asks if I need anything, but not out of the blue or as an excuse to delve into medical topics. Skip any inspirational comments, I think. Trauma savvy means treating difference without undue familiarity or judgement and definitely without ceremony.

In class, I stand far back from the mirrored walls in the aerobics classes. No face, just a body in motion. We get close to swimming with the liquid sweat, our fluid selves moving in our spandex skins as if bathing in underwater currents. We are closed in by a glass wall, so aquarium-like, as the music flows in a rhythmic stream.

“Reveille,” calls Heidi, our ballet boot camp leader. We stretch on tiptoes.

“Glissande,” she calls, and like dancing stars, we leap from one foot to the other. Another step sequence and our legs are cutting the air in diamond shapes. For the allotted hour, an audible pulse threads through our inner ligaments, tendons, quads and flexed toes like a wave, moving us through the choreographed sequences. During this time, I breathe deeply, feeling both joined and anonymous, a part of the flow.

Afterward, as I stretch, splayed out across the wood floor, I think of the starfish. A hand with the strength of a fist, enough to open a clam, and the power to regenerate an arm. Today I wish to be a starfish. Gliding effortlessly through my day, my life. Unnoticed. Healed.

Bio: Holly Leigh has published poems and essays in The Alembic, Bardsong, Bellevue Literary Review, Christian Science Monitor, Colorado Review, Fugue, Moxie Magazine, New England Writers’ Anthology, Pilgrimage, Practical Horseman, Redwood Coast Review; forthcoming in The Healing Muse. She has since given up the gym to ride and jump horses, a former passion.

Second Prize of $250

Mistletoe by Suzanne LaFetra

“He didn’t even get a Christmas tree this year,” I say to my husband, as we twist along the curved mountain road, headed for my father’s chunk of the San Jacinto wilderness. I crack the window and a blast of cold mountain air whistles into the car. I have been dreading the visit—yet another family obligation and the complex tangle of feelings that come with visiting my father. I close the window and tuck my hands between my thighs, watching as the dotted yellow line in the road is sucked under our tires.

When we arrive, my dad walks onto the frozen deck to meet us. “Greetings,” he says, and gives me an awkward, one-armed hug. My four-year-old son, Alex, bounds up to his grandfather and begs for a ride on the tractor. “Hello, little one,” he coos to his not-yet-two granddaughter and scoops her up.

The living room in his cabin is a constant jumble of files and Fedexes, tangled paperclips, stacks of yellow lined paper. He works constantly, late into the night, even on the weekends. He pushes some of the piles aside and the kids tear into their gifts. My daughter Sofia squeezes a large blue mouse, a Christmas present from her grandfather.

“Kiss!” she says, and plants a delighted smooch on her new toy, before my husband shuttles her off for a nap.

“Grampa, you promised to let me drive the ‘dozer,” says Alex, a boy island in a sea of ribbons and colored paper.

“Well, get your coat on, young man,” my dad says.

I zip my son into his jacket, pull on his mittens and the three of us crunch across the icy winter debris that litters the ground. “Mommy, you said we could make a snowman,” Alex says, kicking a frozen clump of dirt. It’s cold enough, but no powder dusts the ground.

“I know you wanted that, honey,” I say, reaching for his hand. “But it just hasn’t happened up here yet.” A frosty wind tinkles the icicles on the Coulter pine above us, and a red-tailed hawk slowly dips toward the horizon. My dad and I watch the soaring bird; my son focuses on a small muddy puddle. The wind picks up, and the sky is shifting.

“See that flower, Alex?” My dad points to bright blue spray tucked under a snarl of dogwood. “That’s called ceanothus.” My father knows the names of all the California natives.

As a girl, I hiked with him in the southern Sierra, carrying a pack too heavy for a child, absorbing the names of the mugwort and monkey flower and Indian Paintbrush. I followed in his bootprints, reciting botanical names, memorizing them because the names mattered to him. I remember him beaming down at me as I limped along with my field guide tucked into my backpack, basking in the warmth of his pride. I never told him I was tired, or that my moleskin had pulled away from a raw spot on my heel. We skipped stones across a glacial lake and he explained the way lichen thrives even on a frozen slab of granite, scraped over the eons by a slow moving mass of ice. I listened as we squinted across the stark landscape, in the shadow of Mt. Ritter. I thought it the most beautiful place on earth.

My father and my son rumble away from me, sitting side by side on the cold seat of the yellow John Deere tractor. Alex is four; sixty years separates him from his grandfather. As they bump along, I am caught by a slice of sky, the jarring color of an alpine lake. Outside, the stinging freshness feels antiseptically strong. I’ve been steeping for the last seven days in the cooped-up Christmas heat at my mom and step dad’s, in the lower elevations near LA.

We have made our annual pilgrimage to visit our families, to let the grandkids bask in the indulgences our parents couldn’t lavish on us. And this year, the family web is even more complicated because my dad is recently divorced. Again. I sighed when I heard the soon-to-be-ex’s low, soft voice telling me she’d left him. Her words wrapped around me like a wet fog, chilling me. I imagined myself caring for my grouchy, aging father; angry at the world, angry at himself. For a moment I was thrown back to the emotional age of my younger self, wanting to please him, needing to make him whole. I was desperate to prove that I loved him and would not leave him. I would be impervious to his black moods, sour stretches of time when he would not speak, just frown and flare his nostrils.

But today I am high in the San Jacinto mountains, outside for the first time in days. Over the brruutt brruutt of the tractor, I hear the excited shrieks from my son as he maneuvers the curved blade up and down, pushing dirt from one place to the next, lifting and dumping on a giant’s scale. “Hey, Alex. You’re doing a great job,” my dad says as he guides his grandson’s small gloved hands on the tractor’s black levers. “Now, just push in a little bit... that’s it... no, slowly.... There you go!”

My father has not always been so sure-footed around my children. He has never changed his grandchildren’s diapers, or made them lunch. He is sometimes gruff with them, growing quickly exasperated when Sofi whines before bedtime or Alex tells an endless, stream of consciousness story. Often he invites us to fancy restaurants for a get together, where the kids must be shushed, rather than eat pizza with them in a sofa-cushion fort.

But since his divorce a few months ago, he has come to visit us twice. He set up a Hot Wheels track with my son as I stirred the fire. My daughter sucked her thumb and fingered his earlobe, cradled in his lap while he read Goodnight Moon. He is thinner, and not as angry as he has been. He is thawing, and my children are benefiting.

Behind me is a cluster of granite boulders and a wide black oak with branches outstretched. I strip off one glove, and my fingers explore the rivulets of rough bark. I turn and squat, my back against the trunk. The low winter sun slants into my face. Above, the sky is cut into a deep blue jigsaw by the oak’s limbs. A dark clump is lodged in the branches over my head. The tree is choked with mistletoe. The festive parasite has already invaded its host, sending toxic tentacles deep into the bark. In the end, it will kill the oak.

I think of my own home in northern California, and the tiny shoot of mistletoe tied with a red velvet bow dangling above our front door. I nailed it up myself on December first and kissed my husband and both children underneath it, my hopes for the holiday glittering like the tree we had just trimmed.

“Can we push s’more dirt, Grampa?” Alex asks. And Grampa says sure, even though it’s below freezing and he’s wearing only a thin coat and no gloves. The tractor roars, and the two of them dig in for another round.

I jog behind the tractor for a while, not sure I want them out of my sight. But after a few minutes, I feel like I’m hovering, so I let them go. The air is sharp and blindingly clear.

The memories of my father are mixed. When I was a kid, he was usually so immersed in his business that my brother and I were left to fend for ourselves against older step siblings who terrorized us. A judge even ordered him to provide a safer environment, but the bullying and molestations continued for years. Often, he’d take me to his office on weekends, and I’d make photocopies of my hands all afternoon while he worked. But his dedication to his work has made the entire family wealthy; gifts of stock and cash sit in accounts for my own children’s college fund.

Sometimes on a Saturday afternoon during our weekends together, my dad and I’d sing “The Sweetheart Tree” and pedal the player piano together. I gave him a scalp massages while he read Edgar Allen Poe aloud. He once slapped my little brother at the breakfast table. When I was older, we fished for a week, casting lazily together in an Idaho stream. Another time he slipped into a dark mood while we hiked through temple ruins in a Honduran jungle and spoke not a single word to me for nearly a week.

We have a strange, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes parasitic relationship. He once told me I was the most important person in his life, but he has never given me his home telephone number. When I sent him a fax at his office announcing that my soon-to-be-husband had proposed to me, he never responded. But minutes after my son was born, he came into the room and held my hand as I lay groaning, groggy from the morphine of a c-section—he had waited forty-two hours in the hospital for his first grandchild. In a druggy fog, I wept and his image blurred between husband, child, and father.

Black Mountain looms to the south, and San Gorgonio is a treeless white hump to the north. The water from the sprinklers has created icicles on the bushes surrounding the house. I had hoped there’d be snow to play in, but the ground is a frozen brown. It’s a strange sort of winter wonderland. A slash of silver ocean floats on the horizon eighty miles to the southwest, and the landscape suddenly looks like a photograph negative, a white sea luminous against a darkened sky.

The tractor’s engine dies and a distant wail reaches my eardrum. I jump to my feet, maternal alarm clanging. A black crow bigger than my forearm thrusts out from the yarrow. I cut around a clump of trees and see my father helping Alex down from the bulldozer. He is shrieking in delight, not in fear, not reeling back from a smack or an emotional zinger slung by my dad.

“Mommy!” he runs to me, his cheeks glowing. “We saw a reindeer! It had big horns even...” He is breathless. I feel guilty and relieved. My dad is peering into the engine of the tractor, unscrewing a cap.

I glance back at the dying oak and the mistletoe twisting through the once-strong tree. I want to race back to the thick trunk, shimmy up and yank down a piece. I want to tack the soft, olive colored branch to the rough beam above my dad’s doorway. But I don’t. I can’t.

I grab my son’s hand. “Come on, honey, let’s go inside. It’s freezing out here.” And then, “You coming, Dad?”

“Be right there...” his voice tunnels down into the depths of the motor.

We brush pass manzanita and penstemon, salvia and snakeroot on our way back to the cabin. My father has planted hundreds of native plants since last spring, replacing the evergreens that are drying from the tops down, dead from a plague of bark beetles.

My dad’s still out in the cold as Alex and I stomp up the stairs. My husband opens the door holding our sleepy daughter and hands her off to me. She is still clutching her toy mouse, and she curls into me, her drowsy warmth penetrating my winter layers.

Crouching, my husband hugs his son. Alex beams, and tells him of his digging and dumping and the way he and his grandpa were reshaping the earth together.

I balance my girl in one arm, then the other, as I peel off my coat and gloves. Just then my father opens the front door, and a wave of cold rolls toward me. My daughter twists toward him and drops her mouse, arms stretching for her grandpa.

“Kiss!” she says. And she does, she can, under the rough beam in my father’s house.

Bio: Suzanne LaFetra’s essays have appeared in many magazines, anthologies and literary journals including the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Rosebud, Pilgrimage, Literary Mama, and on San Francisco’s local NPR station. She lives in northern California with her family, and is at work on a memoir.

Third Prize of $150

Oysters R in Season by Robin Beeman

It is with the promise of the quintessential oyster po-boy that I have lured my love to Louisiana. We have been together for two years and he understands as I do that a trip to the place where your true love grew up is an essential part of knowing each other better. He has driven me south of San Francisco to show me Linda Mar, the seaside town he loved as a boy—a place with hills for exploring and a stream complete with steelhead. Now is the time for him to enter my territory. Of course, the foods I grew up with will be a large part of this exploration.

As in any journey, we understand that we can’t approach our grail too quickly. We must whet our appetite with other delights first. We spend our first night after the flight from San Francisco to New Orleans in a friend's art-filled, high-ceilinged flat in the Garden District, and wake to a cool sunny November morning. Jolted by a couple of cups of chicory coffee, we board the swaying St. Charles Avenue streetcar, which is exactly as I remember it from my childhood days, olive drab outside and gleaming wood inside.

At Canal Street, we leave the streetcar to enter the narrow streets of the French Quarter, where I spent my first three years. Here we stroll along Royal Street, past the windows of countless antique stores, dim rooms filled with chandeliers, gilded French chairs, and an amazing number of old chess tables. We walk in the shadow of ironwork balconies from St. Peter to Chartres, passing the old Ursuline convent to which the nuns brought young women from France to marry colonists in the late 1700s. At Chartres, we turn left, and after a couple of blocks, we peer through a wrought iron grill into the leafy patio where I rode my first tricycle. From there, we walk through French Market stalls to Jackson Square.

All along our way are signs offering “Oyster Po-boys,” but I tell my love that he must wait, that these will not be "it." He agrees to resist and we choose the Court of the Two Sisters for lunch. Not only does it have an elegant courtyard and a sumptuous buffet offering a crash course in such Creole foods as gumbo and crayfish bisque, it is also one of my sentimental favorites. This is where my mother and I often ate lunch on visits to "the city" after we left New Orleans to move north of Lake Pontchartrain.

We cross Lake Pontchartrain the next day and arrive in the new South, with its forests and bayous filled and paved to accommodate Wal-Marts and countless strip malls. Our destination is my old hometown of Covington and a late 19th century brick building, a signless storefront with plate glass windows painted pea-soupy green and situated on the street behind what was once the parish courthouse.

"This is the place," I say, pushing open the unpromising looking door, “the true temple of the oyster po-boy."

My love looks dubious but follows me inside, where the same green paint used on the windows also covers the walls. Photographs of wildlife cut from magazines and pennants from the local high school football team, the Lions, decorate the walls. A long wood bar with a mirror but no liquor bottles and no stools for patrons occupies the left side of the room.

When I was young, this was where my father came to buy oysters by the sack, always admonishing me to stay in the car while he went in. It was a male place and off limits to little girls. Of course, I always got out and peeked in through the same door that is now painted green. In those days this was a popular bar, an establishment for the men who worked in the courthouse or in the downtown businesses. I remember a robust crowd, lifted glasses of amber liquid, and much flourishing of cigars and cigarettes under an ever-lowering cloud of gray-blue smoke. Often when he came back with the sack of oysters, he also returned with a warm wax paper-wrapped oyster po-boy for us to share, thus establishing for me that this was the place my father revered for all things to do with oysters. Sometime between then and now the bar became a lunch spot. It’s the one place I make sure eat in on each of my visits back to Louisiana.

We are late for lunch—it’s almost two. Except for three people at another table, the place is empty. Within a minute of our arrival a tiny blond-curled bespectacled woman appears. She's wearing a print dress with an apron and bedroom slippers. She's been here ever since the place became a restaurant. She waves her hand in the air like a conductor extending a note, and I breathe a sign of relief. Everything is as it was—which for me means the way it should be.

"Y'all just sit wherever you want," she says and scuffs in her slippers back into the kitchen.

We pick a table with a paper plate of fries and a bottle of Coca-Cola on it. In no time at all she is out again with a rag to clean up. Her eyeglasses sparkle gleefully, magnifying her flax blue eyes. I'd always thought of her as old, but she appears utterly unchanged, and I have no idea what her age might actually be.
"I already know what I want," I say. "An oyster po-boy."

She nods approvingly, which pleases me. I want her approval very much. She is, after all, the keeper of the votive flame. "Dressed or undressed?"

"Just lemon and butter," I say. Again she nods approval.

"I want a po-boy too," my love says. "What does 'dressed' mean?"

"Tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise,” she tells him.

"I'll have mine that way," he says.

She approves of this too.

"Do you have any oysters on the half-shell?" he asks.

"We don't do that any more." She shakes her head ruefully, unsettling the curls. "The health department says we have to sterilize our shells before we can serve on the half-shell." She rolls her eyes. "I don't have the kind of staff to do all that."

I glance into the kitchen where one woman works at a counter, another at a stove—the staff. They appear busy, but not too busy to laugh wildly at something, then subside into giggles.

"I remember coming here with my father to get oysters by the sack," I say. "Back when the bar was going.”

Again she shakes her head. "We don't sell them by the sack anymore, either. Too many regulations.” But," she brightens, "we still get our oysters from the same man and they're still the best." We order two beers, and she goes back into the kitchen where more laughter breaks out.

When I was growing up, my parents and their friends had oyster parties throughout the winter months. “Oysters R in season,” was the guiding phrase, because the months with r in them are considered the right time to eat oysters. In the warm waters of summer, oysters can become susceptible to bacteria, which makes them unsafe.

I recall shivering in the January air as I watched my father and his friends working outside at night on our terrace, their bottles of beer placed strategically around the table, a wet burlap sack opened to reveal a mound of crustaceans at their feet. The tools for the job were simple. Each man had a V-shaped wooden trough before him to hold the oyster and keep it from shifting as they wedged the shell open with a short, sturdy double-sided knife. Each man brought his own knife and trough to the party. After opening the shell, he would sever the ligament fastening the oyster and pop the silver creature into a quart mason jar.

An unspoken rule allowed that for each oyster placed in the jar, the opening party got to devour one on the half shell. Such things as crackers, lemon, or napkins were niceties for inside. Except for the tools and open bottles of beer, a large bottle of Tabasco was the only other object on the table. Sometimes if I were standing beside him, my father would open an oyster for me. "A gift of the gods," he'd say, shaking a drop of Tabasco on it, watching amused as I lifted the coarse edge of the shell to my lower lip and drew in that ineffable briny scent, too heady and primordial for words. I'd tilt the shell until the globe slid into my mouth to be swallowed whole, leaving a trail of heat and flavors that convinced me I knew what the gleam of silver tasted like.

When the mason jar was full, I would carry it into the hot kitchen where the women, their own beers sweating on the counters, waited. One sliced loaves of French bread lengthwise. Another melted butter to brush on the sliced halves. My mother stood at the deep fryer. I handed her the jar and watched her dump them oysters in a colander to pick about for bits of shell. My mother liked raw oysters but the other women didn't. For them, I'd show-off, reaching into the colander for an oyster and gulping it down with what I hoped was suitable panache.

After the oysters were picked through, my mother dried them on paper towels and began rolling them about in the gold of seasoned cornmeal. "The secret," she said to me so that I might correctly perform this task someday,” is not to put in too many in the hot oil at one time." Though both of us liked raw oysters, we liked fried oysters even more. When the oysters were cooked perfectly, she set them to drain on brown paper, after which she placed them between the buttered halves of bread.

In a few more minutes, the men would come in and the second stage of the party, the reverent consumption of po-boys, would begin. At the long picnic table on our glassed-in back porch, everyone ooohed and aaahed and looked heavenward while kissing their fingertips. After dinner, the men and women moved from beer to bourbon and my father went out to shuck whatever oysters remained to save for gumbo the next day.

Our hostess arrives with our beers and two foot-long cylinders each wrapped in waxed paper and cut in half. I am seized by a sudden wave of panic. What if after all this build-up, after all my tales of how incomparable this meal will be, it somehow falls short? What if my love is not impressed by my chosen food? Will his regard for me suffer? Could things between us fall apart?

I find myself holding my breath as I watch him unwrap his cylinder, then pause respectfully to let the odors fill his nostrils—a good sign. All I can do as I wait for his reaction is to turn my attention to my own. I gently part the layers of waxed paper and inhale the first heady scents. Then I lift the top piece of bread and squeeze out a bit of lemon and dash on a few crimson drops of Tabasco—rubies against the vermeil of the oyster. I close my eyes for the first bite—the crusty bread, the lemon, the vinegary sting of Tabasco, and finally the desired object itself. The progress of that first oyster on its way down suffuses my throat with a glow that radiates in all directions. I am in one of those moments when memory and the present merge in perfect synchronicity. I eat slowly, each bite offering up a new wealth of subtle mineral flavors.

When I finally look up, I see that my love has already finished his first half. He notices my gaze and smiles, the lazily happy smile of a man who doesn't need to speak. I return the same lazily happy smile and understand that indeed a future does await the two of us, a future which will begin with the next bite.

Bio: Robin Beeman has published three works of fiction: A Parallel Life and Other Stories, A Minus Tide, picked by The Reader’s Choice: 200 Book Club Favorites; and The Lost Art of Desire, which won the Texas Review National Novella contest. She is an Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate and teaches Creative Writing though Extended Education at Sonoma State University. “Oysters R in Season” is a venture into the territory of non-fiction.

Honorable Mentions

In alphabetical order

Contestants received $

In Good Hands by Anne Warren Smith, The Messenger by Cyndi Cady


In no particular order

Something about Cherries by Nancy Colvin, The Lock Box by Grace Culbertson, River Run by Richard Goldstein, My Caribbean Winter by Sue William Silverman, Ad Astra and Back Again by Susan Starbird

Entries of Note

And Comments from Susan

I have said it before and I'll say it again: Thanks to every writer who cared and dared to enter this contest. Your essays surprised, provoked, amused and moved me. They affected the way I look at the world. They changed me.

I've also said that contest entries are weighed on a peculiar set of scales that tries to balance tone, subject matter and craft. It's an inexact science, to put it mildly.

All contest participants will get a chance to judge the results for themselves when they receive a contest issue this summer. Additional copies can be purchased for $5 by sending to:

Tiny Lights Publications

P.O. Box 928

Petaluma, CA 94953

As always, keep writing. Please try your skill and luck with us again.

Susan Bono, Editor

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