The quality of the essay in the Victoria A. Hudson Emerging Writer competition is key for finalist selection. Each entrant’s essay is read through in the first round. Essays that are predictable, dispassionate, or fail to illicit imagery, emotion or curiosity rarely make the first cut. Each essay selected for the second round is read again with a more critical eye, similar to how one would read something in a peer workshop or writing group. In this round each is also compared against the rest with the most striking selected for the third round. There is no set number selected, though usually about 50% are cut from all received. In the third round each entrant’s writing sample is also read and this with the essay is used to select for the finalist list. Again, there is no set number that will move forward. Historically, about half will again be cut out. In the finalist round, the essays are again read critically, followed by the writing sample. If essays are very close in quality, the writing sample provides additional insight on the entrant’s writing capability. If there is no clear stand out or if the quality is evenly divided between essay and writing sample, the finalists’ entries are sent for additional reading by one or more readers who are published in their genre. This year’s reader was Amos White, Haiku poet. Input from the readers then is considered in the final judging. There were 24 entrants this year with five tiers of evaluation before the final selection was made.
This year there were two finalists. Quanie Mitchell of San Jose, California was selected based upon the clarity and imagery evoked in her essay. She will receive a registration scholarship to the San Francisco Writers Conference 2013. In addition, she receives a one year sunshine membership at the San Francisco Writers University online writing community and with thanks to BookBaby, a standard book publishing package. Honorable Mention goes to runner up Eric Bratcher of Hayward, California. He will receive a one year membership at the online writing community, San Francisco Writers University.
Next year’s competition opens on September 1, 2013 and runs until December 1, 2013. Guidelines will be posted at https://vickihudson.com/sfwc/ and will generally remain the same as this year’s guidelines.
Congratulations Quanie Mitchell and Eric Bratcher.
Here is Quanie Mitchell’s winning essay responding to the prompt “I write because…”
I Write Because
I learned to write on my grandmother’s porch, listening to my mother and aunts gossip about the people in church, the people in town, whoever was getting cheated on by their husband, or, whoever’s husband spent all the bill money at the casino and came home with his lips balled up and his hat in his hand, embarrassed to tell his wife that the water was going to be shut off at any second. My grandmother, the ring leader of gossip, would shake her head and say, “That bastard can’t keep a job long enough to keep a pack of meat in the freezer. I don’t see why she won’t leave him.” My mother and aunts would nod in agreement, sip their coffee, swat at the mosquitoes, and shout at each other because the train was passing and no one could hear anything.
Then, my grandmother would suddenly decide that she needed eggs, and my mother would suck her teeth and say, “Didn’t we just come from the store?” But we would all pile into my mother’s Thunderbird anyway, and somehow, the eggs turned into sugar, bologna, milk, and a whole host of other things that made my mother’s blood boil as my grandmother strolled out of Winn Dixie with a basket full. She would say to my grandmother, “Eggs, huh?”
My grandmother would wave the comment away and say, “Your ass.”
I would giggle and peek inside the bags to see if my grandmother had remembered to bring the chocolate candy I begged for (most of the time, it was half eaten by the time she got into the car), and then, it was back to the porch. I find myself glued to the computer most mornings, unable to get my family out of my head and creating characters that are variations of the strong willed women who shaped me. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that doesn’t involve a trip to the store, or someone saying, “Lord have mercy, chile,” while fanning themselves in the heat. I write because I love to put these women on the page, let their mouths get them into trouble, and find out how in the world they are going to get themselves out of whatever mess I’ve created for them.
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Find out more about Quanie Mitchell and her writing.