December 7, 2017
Top-prize recipients in SNHU's 2017 Fall Fiction Competition include first-place winner Candice Lee for her story, "The Buffalo," second-place winner Meagan Lucas for "What She Lost" and third-place winner Caitlan Honer for "The Old Lady from Apartment 3B." Each of the top three winners will receive tuition scholarships that may be used toward an online degree program: $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 respectively, along with a prize package featuring a variety of writer-related products and books. Fourth- and fifth-place winners, Alexander Olson for "The Dead Gunslingers" and Lonormi Manuel for "A Charitable Donation," will also receive a writer-related prize package. Each of the finalists' stories will be published in The Penmen Review, SNHU's online journal for creative writers. Tonya Moore was the sixth finalist, recognized for her short story, "Shelter."
With more than 400 entries in Southern New Hampshire University's 2017 Fall Fiction Competition, preliminary reviewers had their work cut out for them in choosing the semi-finalists, whose stories would go on for final judging. Judges' scores, based on originality, thought process, structure and grammatical correctness, determined the six finalists who then vied for the top five spots. Public voting led to specific point values, when combined with judges' scores ranked winning submissions for SNHU's 3rd annual competition.
"For the third year in a row, SNHU's fiction contest was successful and saw hundreds of stories submitted for consideration," said Derrick Craigie, MFA, associate dean of faculty for creative writing and literature. "Talented writers from within the university and beyond shared their work with us and I admire both their determination and their skill. The scholarships awarded to the top three finalists provide an opportunity to further their craft and education. I'm excited for them as they continue to explore the art of writing and congratulate them on their success."
For Lee, the competition was the boost she needed to move forward with a writing career. "I am finishing a novel I started many years ago and sending out other short stories," she said. She hopes to one day write a novel that expresses, to her satisfaction, "my ideals, struggles and mythologies as an American woman of multiple cultures."
Thus far, Lee has self-published a novel, "The Innocent," which she said is "a multicultural retelling of 'Beauty and the Beast.' It is a novel about love, individual identity and spiritual freedom." She also wrote another novel under a pen name, "Unicorns Don't Come to Black People," a collection of modern fairy tales, she said, "about the horror, the love, the struggles and the humor of growing up in the ghetto."
"I am tri-racial - Native, African- and European-American - so my stories usually synthesize bits from all three storytelling traditions," Lee said. "I believe my great grandmother started me on a path to writing. She told me stories about our people, the Wampanoag, when my father brought me to visit her when I was a child. I know I complained that the stories were not 'happily-ever-after' ones like I'd read before, but I still remember them now when I have forgotten all the others. She started me on the path to loving stories and myths."
A program Lee read about, one that releases bison back into the wild, served as the inspiration for her first-place winning story. "I thought about the relationship between Native people and the buffalo and what the animal symbolized to them and what it could symbolize to us today," she said. "There is also a nod to one of my favorite stories, 'Beauty and the Beast.'"
While Lee is not currently in school, she "would love to join a master's program at SNHU. I have heard a lot of positive things about the new creative writing MFA. I am really excited to have a chance to join it."
Lucas, whose story garnered second place, is currently working on her eighth class in the master's in English and creative writing with a concentration in Fiction. She has had seven stories published over the past two years, in journals such as The Santa Fe Writers Project, Four Ties Lit Review and Dime Show Review. She's also won the 2017 Scythe Prize for fiction for her story, "Kittens."
It was a prompt from one of her English courses that became the genesis for "What She Lost." "We were asked to write a story that takes place in another country, but we were not allowed to say the name of the country," Lucas said. "Additionally, our protagonist had to lose something."
She writes literary fiction with a Southern twist, and most of her work is set in her adopted home of Western North Carolina. "This assignment felt like a stretch for me. My first thought was Italy because I'm a bit food and coffee obsessed, and I felt I could do the setting justice without having been there," Lucas said. "I also wanted to play with the idea of losing as gaining. If you've read the story, you know that Clementine loses her wedding bands, and possibly so much more. But she also gains something, a realization, and that I think is more valuable than the rings."
Lucas hopes to one day publish and to teach. She said, "This program helps me do both. The creative writing classes strengthen and mold my skills as a writer. Over the last year, I've been very lucky to be inspired and pushed and prodded by my professors and classmates here at SNHU to produce more and produce better quality work. Additionally, the academic classes give me the background I need to get my foot in the door teaching at local colleges."
SNHU Bachelor's Student Earns Third Place
Third-place winner Honer is currently enrolled in SNHU's bachelor's in creative writing and English program. "The creative writing program has shown me more about the industry I hope to be part of one day, as well as letting me challenge myself to try new things in my writing," she said. "Expanding my skills has always been the goal and this program is helping me do that."
Honer said her story came about almost accidentally. "I had the idea to involve ghosts, and I knew pretty early on I wanted it to have that 'full circle' moment, which is where the main character Ben googles how to bring a ghost back, rather than how to get rid of one. But most of the story just spiraled from that initial idea of ghosts into what we see as the final product," she said.
She self-published "Hello, Honeybee" in 2014 and followed up with a sequel about a year later. "The Old Lady from Apartment 3B" will be her first published short story. As for her goals in writing, Honer said, "Whether through novels or scripts, or something else entirely, I'd like to reach a point where I can make a living off my writing."
Review and Judging Panel
Initial Review Panel
Semi-Finalist Judging Panel
Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.
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