Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 5

February 4th, 2019

 

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James Baldwin

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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 24 – 28

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To read the edition for winning stories #’s 1 – 6, click here

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 #’s 29 – 34, click here

 

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Abby Cummins

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #24

“Alone: A Love Story”

Published July, 2010

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

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Q: What do you remember about your winning story?

A: I wrote this story when I was 18, and I recall writing it partially in my high school senior year Topics class (so sorry, Ms. Richardson) and finishing it in a burst of inspiration while sitting outside in the woods in the middle of a very cold hike. I began this story after watching a spate of horror movies with my boyfriend in October, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that it must be a singularly odd experience to be a child actor in a film that would end up terrifying and captivating adult audiences. Then I thought, “What happens later when you grow up and understand more about that experience?” I read voraciously and couldn’t remember ever coming across a book about the topic, so I decided to write it for myself.

 

Q: Did winning this contest impact your writing career? 

A: This contest absolutely impacted my writing career! This was the first writing contest that I won that had a paid prize, and my first published story. I felt extremely flattered, and proud of my own achievement for the first time as a professional writer. It contributed to giving me the necessary drive to continue writing and to enroll in a BFA Creative Writing program for undergraduate work the next year.

 

Q:  What did the publication of your story mean to you?

A: The publication of my story was very much a validation of hard work, as well as an exciting entree into the world of publishing for me. I had only just begun writing short stories that year, and had had no real instruction in the medium at the time. This remains my favorite story from that period in my life. I was also part of a jazz music program in high school, playing in a youth big band that tours internationally, and now as an adult I work part-time for that same organization. So to be published in a contest by a site that values and promotes my other near-and-dear passion was a real thrill.

 

Q:  Are you still writing?  

A: I am still writing! I published a few stories in various university journals throughout the course of my undergrad, and have since turned to novel writing. I write every day and am hard at work on the final draft of a piece that I’ve been tinkering with for some time now. Fingers crossed that the world might get to see it as well in the future.

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

In no particular order:

1) Into the Drowning Deep .by Mira Grant

2) The Witch Elm. by Tana French

3) My Best Friend’s Exorcism .by Grady Hendrix

4) VE Schwab’s .Shades of Magic Trilogy

5) Katherine Arden’s. The Winternight Trilogy

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My biography:

I grew up in Northern Virginia, and while I have traveled extensively, have lived locally all my life. When I’m not writing, I’m working a couple of different “to pay the bills” jobs around town, as both a Legal Assistant for a Fairfax family law firm and as Operations Manager for Virginia Music Adventures, a non-profit that takes youth jazz musicians overseas to perform internationally. I have previously published stories in .Volition, and in .Juxtaposed Journal. in addition to this story in Jerry Jazz Musician. I’m currently working on the latest draft of a novel about a crime set in Northern Virginia. You can find out more about my writing life on my Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/crimewritergirl/

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From Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt

Alone:  A Love Story

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Abby Cummins

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #24.  Published July, 2010)

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…..When I was ten, I was in a movie. It was a very famous movie. It ran in theaters for over a month, bringing in more and more revenue for the production company. When it finally came out on VHS (it was old enough that it was a tape, with reels inside it), the film grossed in the millions. The director was hailed as “visionary”, the actors as “superb”. The film itself became famous for having been one of the best horror movies of the year (1992). Critics said that it had “truly ushered in a new era of horror, one in which the innocent and benign murder recklessly”. The review that held these words was taped to my wall, for I’d been mentioned by name, praised, and it was a very well known newspaper, indeed. “Sharon Ellis, a real child actor who will no doubt amount to something great, gives a phenomenal debut performance. Her emotion and sensual expression are truly remarkable for such a young girl so new to the scene.” I used to read those words, over and over again, and imagine the critic who had written them watching me on the big screen before them.

…..They didn’t know me, but they thought they did. This was what I came to find out. The critics and movie lovers, basically the spectators of the game, were sure they understood me and all of my motivations. I could be classified. The Shirley Temple of horror, I was even called once. (What a moniker, as if anyone wanted to be associated this way!)

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Danny C. Knestaut

(photo from 2010)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #25

“Farenheit”

Published November, 2010

 

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Attempts to reach Mr. Kenestaut for this feature were unsuccessful. “Farenheit,” is a tender story of an elderly man’s loss, and how a note from a trumpet — and the use of tobacco — helps him deal with it

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Fahrenheit

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Danny C. Knestaut

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #25.  Published November, 2010)

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A trumpet squealed in the hospital halls. The note, like a brass rabbit, zipped past room 334. Moments later Mr. Fahrenheit watched two orderlies jog past the open door: not too fast, not real slow. It appeared to be the speed of indicated hurry. A few more notes from the trumpet whizzed down the hall before they too slowed to a jog, and then drew themselves out into expressions of gold, blue, green – then stopped before Mr. Fahrenheit could call the name of the song to mind. The next few notes he tapped out on the back of the hand he held in his own. His wife did not respond. Even he had begun to forget to expect a response. She inhaled. She exhaled. The eyes beneath her blue lids quivered and shimmered.

Outside Mr. Fahrenheit’s study, a blue jay grasped a birch tree’s branch. The limb bobbed. The blue jay fluttered its wings, shook its head. It squawked. Mr. Fahrenheit dropped his concentration. The effort to recall the notes of the old jazz tune lifted from his mind as if made of steam and then disappeared into the air of the room. He tapped at the oak of his desk where several bills from the hospital and statements from an insurance company laid, splayed like soiled laundry. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest as he regarded the bird, the marks on its wings. It shook itself again, the autumn mist repelled. Above, snow fell from clouds, but the air clasped too much heat yet for it to reach the ground.

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J. A. Reynolds

(photo from 2011)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #26

“The Improvisational Distance”

Published March, 2011

 

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Attempts to reach Mr. Reynolds for this feature were unsuccessful. “The Improvisational Distance,” is about a jazz musician’s quest for authentic love

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“Casa da Malota,” by Stephen Henriques

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The Improvisational Distance

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J. A. Reynolds

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #26.  Published March, 2011)

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Everyone is afraid to knock on the door when they hear the trumpet behind it. A closed door is like an On Air sign or a red light outside a dark room. Still, they have to talk to him. Sonny is nowhere to be found. And Thibodeau is too busy eye-fucking the women at the hotel bar to practice. And Baldwin is just tired.

They wait for a lull, a break. Three minutes waiting outside the door, and it comes. They knock soft, one of those we didn’t want to have to bother you but didn’t see any other recourse knocks; a musician has a way of using sound, its timbre, its breadth, to say everything. Knocking is no different.

Dress-shoe footsteps and then unlocking, the door opens. A tall, lean man with fingers to match wipes the sweat from his eyes, sighs heavy-like, but says nothing, nods.

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Ben Murray

(photo from 2011)

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #27

“The Open Marriage”

Published July, 2011

 

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Attempts to reach Mr. Murray for this feature were unsuccessful. “The Open Marriage,” is a musician’s dreamy, poetic appreciation of and connection to the love of his life

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“The Jazz Club, 1953,” by Rene Dickerson

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The Open Marriage

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Ben Murray

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #27.  Published July, 2011)

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ten minutes into sound and I have begun to lean, to lean forward in these shared chairs towards glissando, towards pluck and sizzle and crash. Ellen is a grace note, a cello curve beside me in this dark, lovely, smitten club of jazz.
that I know it’s Ellen’s thigh and hip accompanying mine is a testament to the radii of our ring fingers, the shiny bands there that play so seriously at patience and time.
the sax guy’s finished his bit. he was fierce, his alto breathing, exhuming Dolphy and Jackie Mc. my applauding hands dream of trading fours with his, a mischievous dream because I keep his hands, refuse to trade them back, knowing fully well they’re just ordinary digits without the brain above, all those synapses full of next notes, phrases, pauses. but that doesn’t matter, it’s my crazy-ass dream and his fingers will be enough. enough to put this non-playing buff on stage to blow rings around standards and originals, around these club walls coated in the royal spit and exhale of kings and dukes and counts and birds.

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N. Barry Carver

Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #28

“Resolution”

Published November, 2011

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Mr. Carver responds in a “Question and Answer” format:

 

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Q:  What do you remember about your winning story?

A:  My father died when I was 10. He worked on the assembly line at a Ford plant just outside of Detroit and suffered his second heart attack after coming home from work one night. This means I’m somewhat trapped in trying to figuring out what I should think of the few real memories I have left. I’m more than a decade older than he was when he passed and, while I had a few father figures (in older brothers, uncles, and employers) I’m continuously processing all the missing parts of that relationship.

My dad, a veteran of WWII and Korea, was very mechanically inclined and didn’t speak much even when he had time. However, his love for me, and my siblings felt (still .feels) obvious and reassuring.  As I sat to write “Resolution,” I tried to imagine it the other way around. As if I’d been abandoned and thought myself unwanted. The inciting action would be the reunion in the story, and all the anger and pathos such a moment had to offer.

It is exceedingly rare that I look down at the page when I’m done and truly like the work. In this one, I marvel at it as if it’s someone else’s. I’m really proud of it and wish I could more often duplicate the journey in it and, of course, the resolution.

Q:  Did winning this contest impact your writing career?

A:  I have been writing for a long time. I have many versions of the stories I like always clunking around in my head. This contest came along at a low point for me.  A crucial teleplay I’d written had originally been turned down and, in my opinion, plagiarized by the same outfit for a major film. There really wasn’t much I could do about it, ideas are not after all .copyright-able. So to dredge up feelings in a really brief piece and have it come together well was really satisfying for me. Then, to win a place and publication for it, that was a ton of affirmation I really, desperately needed.

Q:  What did the publication of your story mean to you?

A:  It simply meant that I was telling a story that touched something in people. I had deep doubts – doubts that resurface unexpectedly when little rejections come in, or an audience just stares at you and clearly didn’t get what you meant in the least. I haven’t ever had those big wins, or the “being discovered” moment, but there are certainly bright spots which I can look back on that remind me that, every so often, I can hit the nail on the head. This particular bit of vindication has been a beacon for me.

Q:  Are you still writing?

A:  As long as I can afford a pencil, I’ll write. I have recently finished my first novel and am now skulking about searching for an agent and/or publisher for it. It’s SciFi, deeply convoluted, and (I hope) packs a similar emotional wallop in the end.  We’ll see. I’m grateful for the ongoing interest from the site (in the person of Joe Maita) that this bit of work has earned me and I look forward to continuously reading and participating here in every way I can.·

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

A:  While a good question, it’s a little tough on me. I have been so buried in writing my own that I’ve been away from the bookstore longer than I should.  I’m going to have to fall back on things everyone says they’ve read and yet, in a discussion, on which they seem a little sketchy.  I highly recommend this fellow named Shakespeare, and that means all the plays your primary English teachers hoped you’d read (Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Henry V, and Macbeth – at least). You’ll find, even if you need to translate a few words on each page, he really had a good grip on who we’ve always been and likely ever to be. Buckle down and read them. The other mind builder is all that stuff from Plato. I can’t tell you how many folks cite “the cave analogy” and then lose themselves in the shadow of retelling it. Now neither of those guys need any help from me in generating book sales – for most of recorded history – but it is so good that it’s still worth all the head-scratching it takes to get through them.  And, I’d be remiss, if I didn’t mention Douglas Adams too. I’m afraid that will have to take the place of my list of five.

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Mr. Carver’s Biography

Barry Carver is an author, actor and disabled veteran. Grammarly says he’s a bit long-winded, but he’s a fairly unique word-stringer and occasionally hits the sweet spot of a sentence, paragraph, or story, that makes it worth all the crazy turns and clauses. He’s a father of two boys who are presently in their teens – so kind thoughts are welcome. He still wishes he’d been an astronaut, or a bit taller, but not both. We’re all still waiting to see what he grows up to be.

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Resolution

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N. Barry Carver

(Winner…Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest #28.  Published November, 2011)

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…..It’s a shame that, in the 21st century, there are still men of my age who do not know who fathered them.

…..Setting aside the moral issues, I need to know about my family medical history and bloodlines. What if, trough twisted fate, my one true love was revealed to be my half sister? Or to find out, while facing an ill-informed press, that I am the progeny of some great hero, or desperate criminal, and under the presumption of similar habits. At forty-eight, I still don’t know if I should be honoring the birth of a savior, celebrating the miracle of lights, or dancing naked in the woods on the dark of the moon.

…..But morality has its part too. I never married. I have been very careful not to father a child… for, after all, what kind of man am I? In my cells and down in my secret soul, what am I destined to become? I have held the “nature versus nurture” debate my whole life and, I believe, I have been a good man. I am not deformed or handicapped. My brain functions at the level of my peers and my demeanor is such that I dare not speculate aloud that it is actually slightly superior. My development has been uneventful. I never had a stitch or broke a bone until I fell on my wrist two years ago.

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In This Issue

This issue features an interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration…Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; two new podcasts from Bob Hecht; a new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently release jazz recordings, and lots more…

Poetry

"The Thing of it Is" -- a poem by Alan Yount

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous winners reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have unfolded since.

Poetry

Twelve poets contribute 15 poems to the February collection

Interviews

In Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration, Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers – author of two essential studies of Louis Armstrong – tells a fascinating account of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated groups. He joins us in an interview to discuss his book, described by the Wall Street Journal as “a historically masterly and musically literate unraveling of some of the most-admired credits in 20th-century popular music.”

The Joys of Jazz

In this podcast, Bob Hecht tells the story of the song now synonymous with Feb. 14

Poetry

Steve Dalachinsky's poem of John Coltrane is dedicated to Amiri Baraka

Black History Month Profile

The life of Rosa Parks is discussed with biographer Douglas Brinkley

On the Turntable

Recommended listening…20 recently released jazz tunes by, among others, Brad Mehldau, Matt Penman, Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner, Ben Wendel, Julian Lage, and Don Byron

Great Encounters #54

In this edition, Joe Hagan, author of STICKY FINGERS: .The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, writes about how co-founders Wenner and legendary San Francisco music critic Ralph Gleason came upon the name for their revolutionary publication, Rolling Stone magazine.

“What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940s?”

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about the album art of the 1950's classical label Westminster Records

Coming Soon

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell is interviewed about the great American artist; Maxine Gordon discusses her biography of Dexter Gordon, her late husband... . . .

In the previous issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion among religious scholars Tracy Fessenden, Wallace Best and M. Cooper Harriss, who talk about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison; also a new collection of poetry; previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning stories; three podcasts from Bob Hecht; recommended jazz listening; and lots more

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