Adult Writing Contest

Announcing the winners of the 2022 Adult Writing Contest!  In November and December  of 2022 we solicited entries for our first Adult Story Writing Contest at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library.  The theme was “Writing Your Memoir” and there were two categories for submission: short (300-1000 words only) and short-short (six words only.)  Read the winning entries below.  Congratulations to our winners and to all who participated!


Winners for the 300-1000 word category

 

Essay 1st Place Winner
Where I Come From
by Dimitri Manginis

Where I Come From, KIPOI, EVROS- When people ask me what part of Greece I’m from, it would be most convenient to lie. Not just for my own sake, but for theirs too.

It wouldn’t be hard. I could easily claim I’m from Athens and tell them all about the reckless taxi drivers who roar through the city streets, somehow managing to sip their coffees, smoke their cigarettes, and curse at clueless pedestrians, all simultaneously. Or maybe I’d take a different route. A less chaotic one. Describe the peach-painted sky of Thessaloniki as the sun sets behind the White Tower. It would be so much easier. And would it really matter? If I’ll never see them again, why wouldn’t I give them the more digestible answer, the one which fits their preconceived notion of what Greece, my country and their future vacation destination, is like. In most cases, that’s what they want. But it’s not what I give them. Instead, like I’m preparing to plunge into a pool, I take a deep breath and dive into my explanation.

I’m not quite sure where this pride for my village comes from. Maybe it’s just because I like being different. Maybe it’s something my baba or pappou instilled in me. Or maybe it’s something older. Something that goes back to the region’s ancient conflicts with forgein invaders and the slogan that they coined. Evros Den Peftei. Evros Doesn’t Fall.

This intense sense of nationalism is ironic when I really think about it. Situated on the Evros river, the natural land border between Greece and Turkey, as far North-East as it is possible to go, Kipoi and the villages around it, are all built on once disputed lands.

The few Greeks left in these tiny, rundown villages, where sheep outnumber people 100 to 1, may in fact, be the least Greek of them all. The results of an ancestry DNA test my baba, a man born and raised in Kipoi, took a few years ago, came back as only 30% Balkan. The rest consisted of other Eastern European and Middle-Eastern countries. Despite this, what villagers like him lack in genealogy, they make up for with their fervor for the Patrida, the Fatherland.

Much like the Asphodel meadows, the region of Hades home to those deserving neither the Eden of the Elysian Fields nor the eternal torture of Tartarus, Kipoi is a sort of limbo. A world forgotten. Caught between Greece and Turkey. The Mediterranean and the Middle East. Where locals use the Greek word kafe for coffee, but the Turkish cezve for coffee pot. The Greek moro for baby, but the Turkish leylek for stork. And both asvos and borsuki are interchangeable for badger.

As is the case for the majority of rural villages in Greece, Kipoi faces many difficulties which may soon leave it deserted. With the current population barely holding at around 60 residents, most of whom are at least 70 years old, if not older, and a lack of opportunities for the up-coming generations, the village is slowly shrinking. Houses are left abandoned, dogs are left ownerless and the unevenly paved village roads grow quieter by the day.

 

Essay 2nd Place Winner
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
by Barrie Levine

I was the victim of a scam in junior high. The library was my safe haven. On the way home from school, I stopped in at the main branch to get a start on my homework. I wasn’t on a sports team, not my thing. I didn’t stay after school for glee club rehearsal; I failed the audition. I wasn’t part of the co-ed group that hung out at The Sugar Bowl, the soda fountain for the popular kids.

My idea of school was to take good notes, raise my hand if I knew the answer, do my homework, and study hard for tests. I read everything I could get my hands on and acquired countless vocabulary words in the process. Miss Corey, my seventh grade English teacher, taught us to diagram sentences. I struggled with math, but never with words. I found grammatical structure far more interesting than isosceles triangles. I devoured the classics assigned in each school year, including Canterbury Tales in Olde English, A Tale of Two Cities, Julius Caesar, and Silas Marner.

In Mrs. Walker’s eighth grade English class, we studied Greek drama and Plato’s Dialogues. She was openly expressive in her lectures as if she were on the stage in an ancient amphitheater, looking to the distant mountains, expounding to the multitudes. I was mesmerized by the human tragedies writ large by Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Euripides. On one of my library afternoons, I found a volume of the complete Oedipus Cycle in the stacks: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Kolonos, Antigone. Exhilarated, I read for hours until the librarian tapped me on the shoulder at closing time. Just before I exited past the front desk, a good-looking young guy, who looked to me to be of college age, asked, “Excuse me Miss, I forgot my library card, could you do me a favor and sign out this book for me?”

He caught me by surprise and I agreed quickly without thinking, not even asking for his name. The librarian promptly consummated the transaction, ready to turn off the lights and lock the doors. The young man was out the door with the book, a buddy joining him on the sidewalk. This all happened within minutes. Walking home, I felt stunned. I tried to slow down the sequence of events in my mind but it didn’t work. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. I knew something wasn’t right and it worried me for weeks.

A month later, a postcard came to my house that a book whose title I didn’t recognize was overdue. I just knew that it would be a matter of time before that notice would arrive to ruin my day. Too ashamed at what happened, I told my mom I forgot to return it and would take care of it right away. The next day, I took eight dollars of my babysitting money to the library desk and paid the debt, a steep one.

It hurt, not just for the loss of my hard-earned savings at fifty cents an hour, but for the humiliation. There were scheming, dishonest people in the world and I hadn’t seen it. I was an easy mark and fell for the con. Thirteen year old me, shouldn’t I be smarter? It felt so wrong for such a thing to happen in a sacred place where the written treasures of civilization honored by Miss Corey and Mrs. Walker resided. This was a lesson that I had so much more to learn in life, and that not all of it would come to me from conscientious schoolwork or reading in a secluded corner of the library.

But in a while I felt better. After school recessed for the summer, a boy from the next town over showed an interest in me at a Y dance. Was it the way I carried on a conversation without awkward silences? My serious, bookish side that endeared me to him? Or my smile outlined with a touch of cherry-red lipstick? The memory of the disturbing incident in the library fell away into my pre-teen past. I was a real teenager now, just turned fourteen, and the summer of ‘58 beckoned.

 


Winners for the Six Word Memoir category

 

Six Word Memoir 1st Place
3 A.M. Feeding
by Luke Dobie

Stubbed my toe. God. Damn. It.

 

Six Word Memoir 2nd Place
The First Three Months
by Alexandra McDougall

Confused. Crying. So was the baby…

 


Original contest rules are included below.

Our first ever Adult Writing Contest is now open for submissions! The theme is “Writing Your Memoir”. Everyone has a story to tell- what’s yours? We welcome you to submit your entry to one or both of our contests.

Here are the contest rules:

  • Give your memoir a title.
  • Entry must be your original work
  • The first contest will have a word count between 300 (minimum) and 1,000 (maximum) words.
  • The second contest will have a word count of six words only.
  • Tell us your story; share life lessons learned, a funny anecdote, or reminisce about a momentous event from your past.
  • Maximum of one entry per author. You may submit an entry to one or both
  • Entries are due by midnight, Sunday, December 11th, 2022.
  • The preferred method for story submission will be via the Google form below.
  • Entries will also be accepted in paper form, but your entry must be typed in 12 point, Times New Roman font on 8.5″x 11″ paper. If you submit your entry on paper, you must include on the back of the last page: your first and last name, phone number, email, and word count. Paper entries that do not follow the above guidelines will be disqualified from the contest.

Our contest judges will use a rubric that scores points based on:

  • Length: Is the entry between the minimum and maximum word count?
  • Content: Is the writing indicative of a memoir? Does it convey the author’s firsthand account of an event?
  • Character(s): Is/are the character(s) clearly described?
  • Writing: Does the word choice convey a clear picture?
  • Grammar: How is the spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.?
  • Creativity!: Surprising? Imaginative? Compelling?

$ Cash prizes to be awarded $

First ($100) and Second ($80) place cash prizes awarded for submissions to each contest. Prizes are funded by the Friends of the Hamilton-Wenham Library.

Contest winners and any honorable mentions will be announced Monday February 6th on our website and through direct notifications to the winners. Winning stories, along with author’s name, will be published here on the Library’s website! We can’t wait to read your submission!