Commentary

About The Bridge is Down

The Bridge is Down was actually the first “short, short” that I ever wrote. At the time, I didn’t even know I was writing a short, short. The voice of the narrator just came to me in an outpouring of words. I knew the piece had a certain concentration of language, and I could sense that the images and the situation had an organic “rightness” to them.

It was about a month later, however, when I happened to pick up a copy of Poets & Writers magazine and saw a call for submissions to something called: The World’s Best Short Short Story Contest, sponsored by Florida State University.

The contest sought submissions of work no longer than 500 words each. I opened The Bridge is Down and did a quick word count: 500 exactly. Hmm. So I popped it into an envelope along with a couple of other pieces that were shaping up, and that was that.

The Bridge is Down ended up winning the 2004 World’s Best Short Short Story contest, which was judged by Robert Olen Butler.

A few months later, I was flown down to Tallahassee to do a reading and met the man himself. I heard anecdotally that after selecting the story, Robert Olen Butler had mentioned to one of his students that he was looking forward to meeting the woman who wrote it. Turns out that in judging the contest, the process was to conceal the contestant’s name on each entry. Mr. Butler had simply assumed that the subject matter of the piece would have only been written by a woman — which I guess was a compliment of sorts.

I went on to attend Robert Olen Butler’s creative writing seminar at the Nebraska Writer’s Conference in 2005, in which I learned as much about writing and the writing process as one could ever hope to do. Robert Olen Butler later published a book based on his creative writing seminars titled: From Where You Dream. It’s a candid, revealing, and completely inspiring book about what it takes to make literary fiction.

I suppose if anything, winning the contest that year gave me the confidence to keep forging ahead.

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