Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 1

January 7th, 2019

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…..On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician .will publish the 50th .winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

…..Beginning on January 7 – and on every Monday through March 4 – we will publish five or six profiles of participating authors, along with their winning story.

…..For this feature, authors were provided with a list of the following questions as a guideline for creating their profile:

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What do you remember about your winning story?

Did winning this contest impact your writing career? 

What did the publication of your story mean to you?

Are you still writing?

What are five books you have recently read that you would recommend to others?

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…..Many writers responded in a short essay, and others did so via a “question and answer” format.

…..These profiles are an entertaining, enlightening, and at times emotional look at the stimulating, rewarding process of creative writing, and the people whose work has made important contributions to this publication over the years.  Many thanks to everyone who took the time to so thoughtfully participate.

…..I would also like to thank everyone who has thought enough of this publication to submit their work for consideration.  In 49 contests spread out over 16 years, we have chosen 46 winners from over 7,000 stories submitted — a stark reminder of the challenges of this art form.

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This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 1 – 6

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To read the edition for winning stories #’s 7-11, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 12 – 16, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 17 – 23, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #24 – 28, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 29 – 34, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 35 – 38, click here

 To read the edition for winning stories #’s 39 – 44, click here

To read the edition for winning stories #’s 45 – 49, click here

 

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Deb Ewing

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #1

Coloring Outside the Lines

Published October, 2002

 

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     I wrote my winning story, “Coloring Outside the Lines,”. during a writing workshop in Palm Springs, California. I was deep into the writing process when I realized the CD actually was skipping, and I let that be part of the story. I can’t remember for sure, but I want to say it was Miles Davis’ Aura.

I relocated to Washington, DC, and was trying to peddle short stories when I found the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest. My story was short – really short – so I tried to flesh it out and make it meet the requested minimum word count. The fleshiness was cumbersome, though, and stuck out all over the place. I gave up and sent the work in its original form.

That acceptance letter was pure joy, like a new baby. The check was pretty cool, too – I considered for a very few minutes just keeping it and framing it. It remains a special compliment that my work was accepted by such a well-curated website. I enthusiastically refer Jerry Jazz Musician to friends who love jazz and the arts. And I keep trying to put my work out there.

Everything I write is a story. Probably even my grocery lists are stories. I sneak Shakespeare references into work e-mails incorrigibly. I meet a group every Monday to critique each other’s writing; it’s a great workout. We’re brutally supportive.

It’s crucial to keep a balance between input and output when it comes to creativity; I’ve had to consciously step away from the keyboard and spend time reading. I do a great deal of work – study, writing, painting – around the psychological intersection of spirituality and science, so much of my reading crosses those boundaries. My book club’s been reading one book for over a year now: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It’s pretty dense, convoluted, and fascinating. I’m telling you here about books I love so much I’ve bought them more than once:

The Akhmatova Journals – Lydia Chukovskaya. This is an historical chronicle of friendship between two literary women in Stalinist Russia.

The Short Cut – Ennio Flaiano. Published in 1950, this is a fictional account of an Italian soldier in occupied Ethiopia ca. 1935. I learned things about twisting plots from this book.

Robert Frost on Writing – Already terrified of his poetry, I fell in love for his cantankerous words to editors, writers, people he just felt obligated to set straight.

Beowulf – J.R.R. Tolkien translation. I read every version I can find; this is far and away my favorite.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo – It’s translated into English in the back, if you need to know. I love it for the visual power but occasionally look up the meanings.

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The notebook where I wrote the first draft of “Coloring Outside the Lines”

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Débora Ewing operates as a catalyst around Annandale, Virginia. Her first published short short story, “Coloring Outside the Lines,” can be found at Jerry Jazz Musician and is cited as a resource in the book Jazz Fiction: A History and Comprehensive Reader’s Guide by David Rife. Friends describe her as having a restless mind with her highest priority being to “reconcile reality with what should be,” She likes to write stories about people on the edge and blogs almost daily at. www.debnation.com.

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“Besitos,” a portrait of the author’s daughter

 

Coloring Outside the Lines

by

Deb Ewing

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #1.  Published October, 2002)

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…..I like the jazz because it plays in different colors: deep green and blue, translucent purple, ivory black; city storefronts, magenta sunsets; watercolor splashes here and there like a yellow crocus on snow or an orange goldfish tail — sudden, surprising, but always carefully placed.

…..Like the way people come in different colors — they just don’t know it. People walk along in darkness daily, ignorant of the color that’s surrounding them or the beat their music plays. That’s what I’m lying here thinking about, in my dark bedroom between the folds of cotton sheets. Africans, Asians, Seminoles…they all come in different colors — not their skins, but their insides.

 

Click here to continue reading the story

 

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Kirk Bjornsgaard (in 1968)

Winner….Jerry Jazz MusicianShort Fiction Contest #2

Tin Soldiers

Published February, 2003

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Publishers Note:

During my recent efforts in reaching out to the winning writers, I learned that Kirk passed away in April, 2009.  According to the website of the Edmond, Oklahoma publisher 4RV, Kirk served as an acquisitions editor for the University of Oklahoma Press and Penn Well Publishing Company.   

His novel Confessions of a Former Rock Queen, (which was to be the first of a trilogy) won the Oklahoma Book Award in Fiction in 2010.  The novel was released in March 2009, a few weeks before the author’s death.  “Kirk got to hold his novel in his hands and signed a number of copies, autographing the 50 copies he determined to finish on Monday before he passed away Wednesday morning.”

     Kirk’s experience also included stints in public relations/media relations/ marketing, writing for an advertising agency, working as a newspaper and radio reporter, and freelancing as a magazine writer.

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Tin Soldiers

by

Kirk Bjornsgaard

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #2.  Published February, 2003)

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…..Donna walked into the student union on the evening of the Kent State shootings while thunderheads roiled over the Toledo River. They invoked little-girl notions that God brought storms until she checked herself with the atheism sweeping the Milestone College campus that semester. In the foyer mirror she stroked long chestnut hair and nodded terse approval of her denim mini-skirt, leotards, and khaki jacket.

…..Descending the circular staircase to the basement, Donna replayed the scene in the dining commons–Chris, flanked by his entourage, requesting that she report after dinner; how girl friends had flashed wide-eyed grins that heightened her excitement–“God, Donna! No freshman poly-sci’s ever been invited to work with him before!” Perhaps her 4.0 average enabled Chris to refute the administration’s charge that the political left attracted only losers, she thought now. Maybe Chris and his campus crew dug a renegade who kept her own counsel, remained open to all points of view, and slept alone, as if to emphasize her independence.

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Click to continue reading the story

 

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Kate Robinson

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #3

Dancing Universe

Published July, 2003

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #19

Offkey

Published November, 2008

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I’m honored to be the first writer to have won a New Short Fiction Award twice at Jerry Jazz Musician (2003, 2008). I recall the thrill of receiving an email that my first winning story, Dancing Universe, would be published in June 2003. The story of an artist facing single motherhood after ending a difficult relationship with a musician is both a universal tale as well as a personal one.

On the eve of election night 2008, amidst the excitement of Barack Obama’s election as our nation’s first African American president, I received the email that my second winning story, “Offkey,” had just been posted at the Jerry Jazz Musician website. A bit of synchronicity, as the story features two budding young jazz musicians, one white and one black, who fall in love and marry after their friendship had been thwarted during elementary school.

Winning or placing in contests like the JJM New Short Fiction Award is a psychological boost that propels me forward on my quest to improve my writing craft. I certainly haven’t reached a pinnacle of writing success by any stretch of the imagination, but neither have I abandoned the writing life. I cherish my small successes along the way and am grateful to kind and visionary people like Joe Maita who make these milestones possible. I still write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, though my professional life is dominated lately by my freelance editorial and publication services business.

What five books would I recommend to others?  That’s hard to narrow down because I’m a reader with eclectic tastes and some years don’t read nearly as much as I should. Because I’m most enamored of the appearance of the extraordinary in ordinary daily life and love dreamlike tales, I would recommend many of Haruki Murakami’s works. I haven’t yet read them all but The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and IQ84 are three of my all-time favorite novels. And Murakami is a big fan of American jazz to boot! The Known and Unknown Sea by Alan Bilton and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman are also compelling reads that explore the vast depths of consciousness and perception, and appeal to both adults and young adults.

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AKA @katerwriter, Kate Robinson promises to dance always with paradox and absurdity. She began her literary career writing bad poetry at age ten. After working as a grocery clerk, nursing assistant and home health aide, city bus driver, museum aide, a variety of clerical positions, and K-12 substitute teacher, all while studying (BA 1999, MA 2010) and raising a family, scribbling looked like a suitable diversion. She’s the author of Heart of Desire: 11.11.11 Redux, a metaphysical sci-fi thriller (2014), and she collaborated with author Joe DiBuduo to pen and produce The Contest and Other Stories (2017), a connected collection of quirky tales inspired by the paintings of international artists (including “Night Café,” one of DiBuduo’s New Short Fiction Award winners at Jerry Jazz Musician).

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Dancing Universe

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Kate Robinson

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #3.  Published July, 2003)

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…..Though she sat alone, Mira wasn’t lonely. Woman, chair, patio, trees and sky merged in her nightly meditation. Mira finished her prayer, touching the crown of her head, forehead and heart center with folded hands, crossed herself, and opened her eyes to the East, observing in one smooth movement her indigenous heritage, Catholic upbringing, and conversion to Buddhism.

…..Gathering and tossing her long raven-wing hair over one shoulder, Mira shifted her weight from one hip to the other, rubbing her ample belly. She turned over mental stones from the last few months, examining the process of shock, resignation, and acceptance that marked this pregnancy. The youngest of five daughters, she ruefully watched her older sisters succumb one by one to the entanglements of family life. She vowed while still a teenager to never clip her wings.

     Don’t ever say never, abuelita, her grandmother, told her, life has its own way of happening.

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Click to continue reading the story

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Off-Key

by

Kate Robinson

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #19.  Published November, 2008)

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…..If Mom and Dad had heard about my friend Benny and all that jazz from me, they’d have handled it. But when my fifth grade teacher ratted on us, it became a big, fat deal. Mom had to meet me in the front office after school and we silently trudged back to my classroom, both taking refuge in our own mental world.

     Mrs. Drake motioned us to identical chairs in front of her desk. “I don’t want to alarm you. This isn’t an emergency, Mrs. McKenzie.” She forced her goosy face into a sympathetic mask. “Cathy’s not a problem child by any means.”

     Mom’s shoulders relaxed under her starched cotton housedress, but her hands clutched the white gloves and tooled leather pocketbook positioned mid-lap.

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Click to continue reading the story

 

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Qevin Oji

(in a photograph provided Jerry Jazz Musician in October, 2003)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #4

Anacostia

Published October, 2003

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Publisher’s note:

I was unable to reach Mr. Oji for this feature.  At the time of this story’s publication, he was living in Los Angeles, teaching at Language Arts at Crenshaw High School.  He said that the publication of this story was .“encouraging and a breakthrough for my fiction.”  At the time, he was writing fiction, drama, and poetry, and was writing a first novel and stage play.  I invite readers to enjoy “Anacostia,” which remains brilliant and timely 15 years after its initial publication.

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Anacostia

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Qevin Oji

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #4.  Published October, 2003)

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…..One. Anacostia lay there. Two. Three. Counting gunshots. Four. Five. He imagined the bullets cutting the sky, wondered how this tradition had begun. Six. The first time he held a gun, fired his first shot, he was six years old. It was on this same night — New Year’s Eve — thirteen years ago, just after midnight. Seven.

 

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…..His father’s yellowy, roach-burnt fingertips stretched and folded his hand, his small fingers, barely skilled using a pencil, around the handle and trigger. I’m gonna make you a man. A chill shook his small body. He had never felt anything so cold, not a popsicle fresh from the ice cream truck, not the cold air gushing from inside the fridge onto his face in summer. Not even snow was this cold. When he had finished molding the boy’s hand to the gun, he let go. It fell immediately to Anacostia’s knees. A flat, open palm, smacked the back of his head. You ain’t no bitch. Lift that gun up, boy!

…..His understanding was as cloudy as he was young. What had he done wrong, this time? Tears welled in his eyes. Why? Not one tear betta not fall, either! He looked at the boy’s mother, Candace, who he had promised to make his wife, one day. She rolled her eyes up from polishing her nails, blowing to dry them between words. I told you about hitting him. Leave him alone. Maybe he don’t want to learn how to shoot a damn gun. I ain’t raisin no sissy. Bad enough you named him Anacostia. If he was Darryl or Anthony, we wouldn’t be havin this conversation. Ain’t nothin wrong with him, or his name. He’s named for something beautiful. You call a damned ghetto and a raggedy ass high school beautiful? There’s more things got his name than you know.

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Click to continue reading the story

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Kay Sexton

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #5

Traveling Magic

Published March, 2004

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Ms. Sexton responds in a “Question and Answer” format:

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JJM  What do you remember about your winning story?

KS I remember the absolute joy of placing a story about jazz – it was the first time I’d ever succeeded with a story about any kind of music, and jazz is closest to my heart.

JJM  Did winning this contest impact your writing career?

KS Looking back, I can see that winning the Jerry Jazz Musician contest influenced me greatly although I couldn’t have recognised it at the time. It gave me the confidence to trust that there would be a readership for the things I wanted to write about. Since wining the contest I’ve placed three other stories about music (the two about jazz are the first two parts of a trilogy, I’m still looking for a home for the third part!) and had success with stories that I probably wouldn’t have written if it hadn’t been for Jerry Jazz.

JJM  What did the publication of your story mean to you?

KS  It meant actual money in the bank (I believe no writer forgets their first genuine payment), the beginning of a literary resume and validation that I was a real writer. These three are probably the most significant experiences for any writer and I got them all in a single moment.

JJM  Are you still writing?

KS  Oh yes! I’ve had two non-fiction books and one novel published, I’ve placed a couple of hundred stories, and won half a dozen more contests.

JJM  What are five books you have recently read that you would recommend to others?

KS  I have an eclectic reading pattern, which is particularly shaped by what I’m writing. So, for example, when I was writing the novel my agent is currently taking to publishers, which is about Victorian England, I read only science fiction so as not to have any ‘bleed through’ from other historical writers. Now that I’m back to work on a contemporary novel I can read historical fiction again which explains the bifurcation of my list!

 

  1. Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky. A total page turner of a tale that spans actual millennia in a completely coherent and logical fashion that is incredibly satisfying to the reader.
  2. Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer. Another science fiction, but this one is often kaleidoscopic and confusing, beautifully written. Part of a trilogy of immense scope and imagination.
  3. The Wig My Father Wore – Anne Enright. Enright is a favourite novelist, her characters are fully rounded, her dialogue sparkling and the themes she covers are huge. This one’s got angels, death and suicide but it’s also as funny as hell.
  4. Golden Hill – Francis Spufford. A rip-roaring novel set in 1740s Manhattan with a central premise that I won’t spoil for the reader but which is deftly handled.
  5. A Long Way From Home – Peter Carey. 1950s Australia brought to life through a two person POV narrative which has as a key theme the very same premise as that which powers Golden Hill but tackled from a completely different perspective.

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Kay Sexton has been a finalist for several writing awards including the Sunday Times Short Story Award, the Willesden Herald .Fiction Contest  and winner of both the Fort William Festival Contest and the Wollongong Literary Festival Short Story Contest.  In addition she has had two non-fiction books and one novel published.

Click here to be taken to Kay’s website

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Traveling Magic

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Kay Sexton

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #5.   Published March, 2004)

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…..There are coyote in The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in West Travis County, Texas. One family; with three cubs. As always, the alpha female is the only one to breed, her two sisters will help her rear the cubs to maturity. She is a young female, less than two years old, and her sisters are her littermates: this family, barely more than striplings themselves, have fought hard to establish themselves in this reserve, managed for deer and birds, but not for coyote. Most Texans still shoot first, and ask themselves only afterwards if the beautiful golden corpse in front of them could possibly have posed a risk to livestock or pets.

…..This alpha female is unique. If you could see her, in the settling light that follows sunrise, as she and one of her sisters head out to hunt the forest edge for small mammals and unfledged birds, you would see what makes her into the rari canis. She has green eyes. Green as jade, greener than Texan grass.

…..She crests the hill-line and looks back, blinking into the light of the mid-morning and — as she drops her head and closes her eyes, to scent the air for other predators, for prey, for the currents all around that shape a world as full of odour as of colour — her eyes change.

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Click to continue reading the story

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Rebecca Marshall-Courtois

(in a photograph provided Jerry Jazz Musician in July, 2004)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician .Short Fiction Contest #6

The Place Where Colored Notes Play

Published July, 2004

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Publisher’s note:

I was unable to reach Ms. Marshall-Courtois for this feature.  .At the time of this story’s publication, she had been living in France for 14 years, and had stories published in several online and print publications.  She was also a teacher and doctorate student whose research work was based on the role of jazz in Toni Morrison’s novels.

“The Place Where the Colored Notes Play” is a story of deep love, and how music plays a role in the loss, romance, and hope at the end of life. 

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The Place Where the Colored Notes Play

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Rebecca Marshall-Courtois

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #6.  Published July, 2004)

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…..Today, Celina is going to live up to the promise she made to him fifteen years ago, that November day in the neurologist’s parking lot, when he told her, “When my voice goes, I go.”

…..Ray can still hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on the umbrella they’d shared that day, drumming out the minutes that passed as they stood, emotionally and physically immobile, terrified at the thought of taking another step. And he can still recall the wet wool smell of her sweater when he tucked his face into the hollow of her neck to hide his tears.

…..But he thought Celina had chosen to forget that day and her vow, until two months ago when she asked him if he’d changed his mind. “Squeeze my arm if you still want to,” she’d told him.

…..And he managed somehow to control his left hand long enough to answer her. Since then, she’s cried every morning under the shower, and he’s pretended not to hear her.

…..When she dresses him, she fumbles with the butto, and hope.

…..It was through her first love, literature, that she was reintroduced to an old friend and lover, jazz. Now her CD racks are filling up about as fast as her bookshelves. Writing fiction replaces her unfulfilled desire to sing. Nothing can bring her to tears like the emotion a great voice transmits.

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Click to continue reading the story

 

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This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 1 – 6

(To read the edition for winning stories #’s 7 – 11, click here

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Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Yusef Lateef and Chet Baker

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