32 days - another month come and gone! Oh, but it's good to be back. :)
I missed you all while I was on break! How are things? I tried to keep up with some of you, but I wasn't as active among my fellow bloggers' blogs as I would have liked to be. I had hoped to get a lot more done over this break - but I did make some progress, and I certainly came up with a ton of new potential story and poem ideas.
Along with my return to the blogosphere, today also marks the end of my Campfire Tales writing contest that began on July 26th. Although I didn't get overloaded with entries, the turnout was better than any of my competitions in the past, and several of you wrote and submitted some truly wonderful writes. Below, you'll find the results - the victors (one per category), the winning works, and "brief" (my explanations are never brief) notes on why each of them were chosen.
Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to everyone who sent me their entry! I loved reading your legendary tales!
First up is the poetry category. The main criteria that each poem and poet had to meet included the following:
- Acrostic form
- Centered around the theme "Urban Legend."
Judgement Focus Areas can be found here.
The winning poet is...
Kanra, who also goes by Catalina Blue over at The Lunar Descent, brings us a chilling little piece that fits perfectly within the realm of Urban Legend. Check out her winning poem below, and see if you can't find the acrostic message that hides among her lines!
Campfire Tales Contest Entry
By Kanra Khan
Whispering at night,
even though there seems to be
no one outside.
Darkness veils everything and
I am afraid to
get up and go, 'cause the
owls are hooting mournfully,
Stay away, child, stay away!
It's dark tonight and there is
no moon to light your way.
Peeping through the window there is
a pair of eyes, we must lure it
kindly, make soft mewls, ask for help.
It is easy to be what we are not.
Softly stalking, 'cause it doesn't matter if
they don't come. They are alone
and we are a pack, we
need to feed
- Wendigos In Pakistan
(Submitted via Blog Post - View the original here)
Why it was picked:
Kanra makes fantastic use of sensory details in this poem. Her word choices, even the structure of her sentences, provoke vivid mental images, sights, and sounds. Often, writings that cut off and jump to the next line mid-sentence like this are just that - jumpy, jerky, and jarring. But the minor jerkiness that this piece does have actually adds to the atmosphere of danger, and gives it a comfortable, slower pace. She not only managed her cut-offs well, but they also fulfilled a purpose - spelling out her acrostic. Were you able to catch her hidden message?
The phrase "Wendigos In Pakistan" is wonderfully spelled out using the initial letter of each line. What I loved about how Kanra did this was that she didn't capitalize every letter of the phrase - you wouldn't even know that there was anything there unless you took a close look at it. And when discovered, you'd realize that it revealed the creatures of the poem, and even a location. Using the initial letter is the most common form of acrostic, but she utilized it excellently.
Kanra's poem is one that I could read over and over. It grabs my attention, and holds it. Sensory details are a highlight of this piece, and lines such as "...'cause the / owls are hooting mournfully" give it a strong, eerie mood befitting an urban legend.
Category: Short Story
Next we have the short story category. The main criteria that each story and storyteller had to meet included the following:
- Craft an urban legend, and incorporate the following prompt:
|Trust can take years to build, and only seconds to shatter.|
- Meet the length requirements of between 500 (min.) and 1300 (max.) words.
Judgement Focus Areas can be found here.
The winning storyteller is...
You might recognize this writer's name from my last contest. She's a fantastic writer, especially when it comes to fairy tales and legends.
PoiSonPaiNter, who you can find blogging at Random PoiSon, fashioned a superb and unique tale involving - er, well, why don't you take a look at it below and find out for yourself?
Campfire Tales Contest Entry
Word Count: 1300
The group sat around a blazing camp fire and filled the forest with laughter.
“Do you remember when he –“, started one of the guys, barely able to talk, his arms’ motion telling the rest of the sentence.
“Yeah, and then he –“, continued another in a similar fashion.
Their tales continued like this for a few more moments before they eventually settled down. The cracking of the fire and the leaves rustling in the wind were now the most prominent noises.
Grins and smiles still spread on everyone’s faces, the men each took a wooden stick from small piles lying beside them. The sharp cuts of the metal knifes on the wood soon became another background sound.
“I’m getting my blanket it’s getting chilly”, one of the women exclaimed, standing up from the toppled log she sat on.
“You’re sitting beside a huge fire and you’re cold. That’s so typically female!” One of the guys jested.
“Oh, shut up, Brian!” The offended woman retorted, glaring over her shoulder as she walked away to one of the small wooden houses.
“You know, it’s scientifically proven that the heat distribution in a female body –“, another guy chimed in from across the fire.
“Dude, spare me the lecture. It was a joke”, Brian interrupted him.
The other lifted his hands in defeat, not bothering to continue.
Finally finished with the sticks Brian ripped open a pack of marshmallows and put a few of them on the sharpened tip. Across from him his friends searched for something.
“I think they’re still in the car”, another woman declared and got up, patting her pockets.
“Roy, do you still have the keys?” She asked the man sitting beside Brian.
“Oh, yeah, sorry”, Roy replied, pulled them out of his pocket and threw them over the fire.
The woman easily caught them and went off to the parking lot. She rummaged through one of the cars for a moment, but returned empty handed.
“They’re not in there”, she announced when she got back.
“What’s not where?” The other woman, now sitting with a blanket around her shoulders asked.
“The sausages”, the other merely stated.
“Oh, I took them out when the guys lit the fire and put them by the sticks behind Ian”, the former informed her, waving towards their friend.
“Are you sure, Beverly? We just looked there”, Ian replied looking again.
“Yes. I’m certain”, Beverly assured.
“Maybe you just put them somewhere entirely different, wouldn’t be the first time you misplaced something”, Brian mocked her again.
“Very funny”, she just replied with a huff.
“I’m sorry Susan, I was sure I put them there, maybe I really put them somewhere else because I was distracted”, she apologized.
“It’s okay sweetheart, I’m sure we’ll find them when we break camp tomorrow”, her friend assured her.
“Yeah, but that leaves us with only marshmallows today”, Brian complained.
“Oh, suck it up, you had a good dinner back in town”, Roy silenced him this time.
“Yeah, but nothings better than a camp fire with marshmallows and sausages”, he still continued.
The others just shook their heads at their friend.
“It’s not unusual that things go missing in these woods”, a fourth man suddenly noted.
“How so?” Beverly wondered.
“There are said to be creatures that take whatever they desire from travellers. Food, trinkets, things like that.” He explained in a relatively bored tone.
“What, like Goblins or Kobolds?” Beverly now wanted to know.
“Oh come on, you can’t really believe such nonsense. You probably put them in your sleeping bag or something!” Brian exclaimed unconvinced.
“I could not tell. No one ever saw them and Brian is right, they’re just stories”, the other acknowledged looking away.
“I like stories like that. Please tell us, Julian. You’re from around here, so you have to know some of them. Maybe even some scary ones”, Beverly urged putting her hand on his.
“I don’t know. They’re really silly”, Julian declined.
“Come on, dude, camp fire without scary tales, that’s stupid”, Brian complained.
“And I’m sure the little Miss can handle it, if you hold her hand throughout it”, he added mockingly.
“You’re such a jerk”, Beverly complained, removing her hand from Julian’s and wrapping the blanket closer around herself.
“I’d like to hear a scary tale”, she assured Julian after a moment, a smile on her face.
Julian looked at the others and each in turn nodded their agreement.
“All right”, Julian gave in with a sigh and sat upright.
“This part of the forest used to belong to the Mayans and as they worshipped different jaguar deities it was not uncommon that packs of such animals would live nearby –“, he started.
“Aren’t jaguars solitary creatures?” Roy wondered out loud.
“Shush, Roy!” Beverly scolded him.
“No, he’s right. Jaguars usually live by themselves and the packs I mentioned aren’t really packs as such. They do not live together, but there are times when they get together to hunt.” Julian admitted.
“Really? I never heard something like that”, Ian now chimed in.
“Would you guys let him tell the story, maybe it’ll become clear why they’re so different?” Beverly scolded.
The two men looked down and she motioned for Julian to continue.
“Thank you. The packs that lived with the Mayans were indeed special. Some say they were trained and raised by the Mayans to protect their homes. Others say they were Mayans walking in the skin of a Jaguar, defending their people from threats –“
“You mean like werewolves?” Brian interrupted again.
“BRIAN!” Beverly yelled and he just lifted his arms.
“A bit, maybe” Julian merely accepted and continued “It is said that in the old days, when the Mayans were still at the height of their powers, no one in their right mind would dare to attack them. Especially not when the moon was full, like tonight.”
Julian paused to see if he had everyone’s attention and carried on in a hushed voice, as if he didn’t want anyone else to overhear their conversation: “In those nights, when the enemy was close they would not get an easy rest. The night around them would be silent, no night bird would sing, no animal stir. The wind would only bring them the rustling of the leaves, but they would feel that something was watching their every move. And then when midnight approached they would hear the growls –“
“Fuck!” exclaimed Brian as he hastily pulled the stick out of the fire, the smell of burned marshmallow rising from it.
A small grin could be seen on Julian’s face for a brief moment, the other’s sat in silence, not daring to disturb the quietness that was only broken by Brian’s low grumblings. When he was finished removing the marshmallow and putting on new ones, Julian went on.
“When midnight approached they would hear the growls, deep and menacing. Soon after the cries of their comrades would echo through the night until they found themselves screaming for their lives until the very last one of them was slain.” He paused again, letting this sink before adding: “Nowadays, without Mayans and real threats, it is said that the jaguar have to make do with what they get.”
The friends sat in silence once more, everyone looking across their shoulders into the bushes surrounding them. Brian was just about to comment something when a low growl came from the forest.
“It’s just a story, right, Julian?” Beverly asked, frightened.
She turned to him only to find two glowing, amber eyes looking back at her.
“Of course it is”, he assured her in a mocking tone, a sharp toothed grin on his face.
The screams of the friends could be heard from miles away, echoing through the forest until the early morning broke.
(Submitted via Blog Post - View the original here)
Why it was picked:
I loved the interactions between the characters. If you're someone who isn't much into uneventful character development, it can feel a bit slow to start, but an introduction like this is necessary to give weight to the events that take place later on in the story. The characters' actions and dialogue are realistic, and just what you would expect from a group of friends - relaxed, with friendly jabbing and the sharing of silly stories. The setting is a familiar one to most people (even if you've never been camping, you likely know what its like from others or from television, etc.), and PoiSon included just the right kind of description to evoke the sights, sounds, and smells of the campfire, burned marshmallows, and the surrounding environment.
The transition from regular camping trip to deadly Mayan legend was handled perfectly as well. As you near the end of the story, you're pretty much expecting that nothing is really going to happen - that you're simply sitting in on the telling of this spooky campfire tale. Listening to the friends have some fun. Things turn very real, very quickly, however, and you realize, ah, that's definitely not the case. So great use of plot twist right there.
PoiSon crafted an original legend that made excellent use of the given prompt (and that also hit the word count requirements spot on), and although it might feel like it starts out a little slow, once it picks up momentum it's almost an "blink and you'll miss it" sort of thing. The Mayan/Jaguar myth was a great touch that I found quite interesting, and the ending is as true to an urban legend as screaming is to horror.
Thank you to everyone for participating! I hope those of you who sent me your pieces had fun with this. Because writing is unique to every person, each entry had something special going for it. Please keep up the great writing, all of you.
Winners, collect your buttons here!
Kanra Khan (Poetry)
PoiSonPaiNter (Short Story)