Sunday, February 5, 2012

And the Winners Are. . .

Over the course of two evenings of readings at Around the Table at StageNorth, I heard stories about ants in the pantry, apricot-burping baby dolls, bad waitressing, beluga whale tail, crow's feet, eels, everything bars, food fights, green bean salad, ham addiction, Indian food vendors, lawyers (the fish), lutefisk, malt shakers, sacred coffee machines, onion rings, olives, spry old women, sugary cold cereal, the virtues of Jell-O and cake mix, a dinner party saved by rock and roll, verivorst and zucchini, of course — "the rabbit of the vegetable kingdom," read poet Hope McLeod.

 A few things surprised me about the weekend: one, I had read all of the stories and poems and had helped in the final selection so I knew going in that I liked them. I just didn't realize how much they would come alive when read aloud before an appreciative audience—a patchwork of food stories stitched together over two nights to enthusiastic applause. We laughed so hard as a community that we had to wipe away the tears. Food really is the universal theme.

The second surprise is all the incredible connections, collaborations and conversations that took place in the lobby at StageNorth before the show, at intermission, and afterwards. People told their own food stories, brainstormed other projects, talked about possible pig roasts, made new acquaintances and had a heck of great time. Our two Duluth writers made their first visit to StageNorth Friday, stayed the night, and by Saturday, were ready to move. 
Beth Dooley

Minneapolis food writer, Beth Dooley, sat in the audience both nights listening and laughing along with the rest of us. She had agreed to act as guest judge, choosing her favorite stories and poems. Judges Claire Duquette and Cynthia Belmont, who had selected the 34 pieces that were read from a pool of 70 submissions, had strong ideas about their final choice. In the end, all three agreed.

And so here are the winners, the top dogs, the big zucchinis of the Second Annual Writers Read. Because the line between fiction and non-fiction felt fuzzy, the judges decided on their favorite two stories—not worrying about whether it was fiction or non-fiction—along with a poem. I will publish these over the next few days along with comments from the judges. I will also post short videos of the event that are being produced by True Norse Productions.

Laurie Otis, "Life and Times at the IGA"
Phil Sorenson, "Monty Simo's Revelation"
Rob Ganson, "Pavlov's Epicure"

Phil, who has now earned his first $50 from fiction, sent these words to me this morning via email:

"I'd like to thank you for giving me this opportunity; Heather for her superb direction; thank you to the judges; to my mother, my father, my children Lincoln and Trey (daddy loves you, it's bedtime), my girlfriend Lynn who never lost faith in me, the St. Croix tribe and the Hole-in-the-Wall Casino motel, Craig Schowalter and the Chequamegon Health and Fitness Center, the former Snug Harbor and Wildwoods supper clubs, the Inside Out cafe, the Breakwater restaurant, Burger King, Popeye's Fried Chicken, the Platter restaurant, Plato, my dog Bo, Mrs. Ruby Wilson my sixth grade teacher, E.B. White, William Strunk, Dave Strzok, O. Henry, so many others ..." [cue the music...]

Thank you everyone. It's been a hoot. Next year's theme? "In the Elements." Now, get writing.

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