CL Writing Contest 2016: Fiction

Sheree L. Greer on selecting this year's winner, and some of her other favorites.

click to enlarge Fiction Judge Sheree L. Greer reads from her new novel, A Return to Arms, at the 2016 Writing Contest event at CL Space on Mar. 16. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Fiction Judge Sheree L. Greer reads from her new novel, A Return to Arms, at the 2016 Writing Contest event at CL Space on Mar. 16.

Green. This year’s contest theme created stories ripe with imagination.

Green was a newness. In Craig Anderson’s “Lucky Stars,” which made it to my personal top three (and won in the voting for Readers’ Pick), green was about a rebirth and an implicit challenge to discover. The main character, Frankie-but-not-really, learned lessons in aim — from the misfire of a dart to the deliberate stroke of a thumb. His understated naiveté served as a launch pad for a slow summer tale of what could be, what lies just beyond. A stronger, more deliberate push to develop the main character into more than just a bystander would have catapulted this story to the very top of my list.

Second in my top three came “We Faded Green Like the Sun When It Falls Off the Earth” by Brian Lott. In this story, green was a warning, a prelude to certain disaster. Lott created a witty story with dry humor and interesting characters, whose descriptors made for entertaining, relatable friends, just in time for the end of the world. The world isn’t actually ending; a green glow indicates a virus that mutates humans into invisible beings, floating clothes and walking hair. The quick-telling, separated by the months it takes the virus to spread throughout Tampa, is filled with pop culture references and even a jab at the governor that made me laugh out loud. In the end, I wanted to feel more — a love scene between the main characters hinted at a powerful connection that could have created more emotional weight, more urgency and fear, about what would become of them.

The story that captured me most was “The Missing Season” by Jenni Nance. In the story, green is scenery; green is the lush foliage full of potential and hope. Green is also the secret language of rustling palm fronds. Green is nature and need. In “The Missing Season,” Nance crafts a story of loss and passion through deft scene placement and beautiful, emotive use of language. The dueling scenes between Tom and Gary and Tom and Shelby create a tension and ache that moves the reader between immediate action — an expertly described hunting trip — and memory — a recollection that’s a dramatic mix of honesty and betrayal.

A Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, Sheree L. Greer hosts Oral Fixation, the longest running LGBTQ Open Mic series in Tampa Bay, and founded The Kitchen Table Literary Arts Center to showcase and support the work of ancestor, elder, and contemporary women writers of color. The author of two novels, Let the Lover Be and A Return to Arms, and the short story collection Once and Future Lovers, Sheree recently published a writing guide for student writers, Stop Writing Wack Essays. She teaches composition, creative writing, fiction workshop, and African American literature at St. Petersburg College in Florida.

Read our Judge's Pick: "The Missing Season," by Jenni Nance

Read our Readers' Pick: "Lucky Stars," by Craig Anderson