This year, we have added a bonus prize of $250 for the best short story received by a US writer. We are honoured (or should I spell that honored?!) to have Bonnie West judging this prize. (As usual, the judging will be blind - so she won't see the writers' names). Bonnie won the very first InkTears short story award, was born and raised in America, and is the author of the acclaimed short story collection Boyfriends. Bonnie West's stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The Minetta Review, The Talking Stick, Women's Day, Redbook Magazine, The Austin Chronicle, and the anthologies, Still Going Strong and The Ultimate Dog Lover. She has four mini-mysteries for children published by Carol Rhoda Press and a bilingual Japanese/English book, Hideki and Kenji Save the Day published in collaboration with Diane Carter. She lives with her husband in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Bonnie what do you look for in a short story?
A remarkable first sentence/paragraph. Because of the limited time to tell the story it has to draw me in from the very beginning. Give me believable authentic characters. I like characters (human or otherwise) who seem real and not so eccentric that I have to stop and think, “Oh please, no one acts like that.” I'm especially captured by that most evasive but absolute essential thing, called “voice”. And I appreciate it when the writer’s style is one that I don’t feel a need to notice, but is rather a style so subtle and well executed it allows me to become lost in the tale. I love a story that makes me wish it were a novel but still feels compete and self-contained and won't leave me hanging.
Do you think there is a difference in writing styles between America and European writers?
I think that anything I say, someone could, and would, point to a writer from the other side and say, 'yes but this is just what so-and-so does!' So I have to say that I don’t know of specific differences between European and American styles in the present day short story. Color/colour, or mom/mum, and so on, but those are mere spelling differences. Of course, the lack of the wonderful English expression gob-smacked. If I read gob-smacked in an American story I would think it ridiculous and affected.