In the fall, the Pemberton Library ran a Tiny Stories contest – a wee little creative contest that gave writers just 420 characters (ie LETTERES and Spaces) to work with.
There’s a whole tumblr dedicated to winning entries from library contests around the world, but happily, the Pemberton Library gave us permission to share them here. So every Tuesday, starting next week, we’ll offer up a locally crafted tiny story.
We’ll share them anonymously, which is how they were submitted, and if the writers want to have their names added, we’ll do that after the fact. (Just email me at email@example.com, to give your consent, please.)
I had the honour of reading all the stories, alongside the incredibly talented Katherine Fawcett, with Val Fowler as our guide through the process, to help pick the winners.
But first: some confessions, from my seat at the judging table.
The thing I learned from my experience is that there’s no way you can ever be truly impartial. Because, I’m partial to certain things, and if a story speaks to me, it just does, and it might not speak to you.
Books are like that – they languish on bedside tables even after friends glow about them. You pick them up once, twice, and 6 years later, it suddenly leaps into your arms and you devour it in a single eye-searing sitting.
I’ve been a judge before – for the Western Magazine Awards and the North American Ski Journalists Association – but it was judging the most spare, stripped, focused, pure, raw kind of writing – micro fiction no more than 420 characters long – that I realized how personal and partial judging is.
I mean, I didn’t know the authors. All the stories were presented to us, blind, no identifying details. They were all inputted into a single document, so I could read them at the same time, in the same mood – that way, no one would be victimized by a bad sleep, a headache, a desire to kick a dog.
And the thing is – they were all remarkable.
I tried my hand at writing a few, after I agreed to judge, and it was hard. It’s an incredible hard format to master. There’s no excess. There’s no room to waffle. There’s no chance to warm up, meander, play with point of view. You need to get a beginning, middle and end in there.
It was easier to judge them, than to write one. And that’s saying a lot. Because it was hard to judge them. Hard. But pleasurable. And a privilege. And inspiring. Darkness, humour, drama, and empathy.
Technically, they were all top-notch. From a craft perspective, every single one was well-written. So, it boiled down to stories, and my partiality, that month, for things polar, funny, unexpected.
That’s why I’m so happy we get to share them here. Because what won my heart that week might be different from the tiny story that wins yours.
And taking a 2 minute exercise in empathy, which reading stories is, once a week, makes us all winners. Right?
The Alice in Wonderland photos are from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation’s January Winter Classic fundraising event. The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation has been a fantastic supporter of the Winds of Change and the Wellness Almanac over the years, and we love them.