COVER- Get caught: Let our prize winners captivate you!

If Alicia Keys and First Lady Laura Bush get together this month, they just might get "caught" reading. After all, May is "Get Caught Reading" month, and you might wanna get caught, too.

You can start right here, as we present, for your reading pleasure, two winning short stories:

"Small Bodies of Water" by Lincoln Michel, and

"My Visions" by Mark Lindensmith

The two stories were runners-up in this year's Hook Fiction Contest. (The grand prize-winner ran in late March.)

Before you read these stories, though, read about the talented individuals behind the words:

Mark Lindensmith

Long-time Earlysville resident Mark Lindensmith is no stranger to literary accolades. Back in the '90s, the now 52-year-old lawyer and father of six won a Virginia Arts grant for his novel Failing to Close, and just last year he won the 10th annual Chicago Literary Award– and a $1,000 cash prize– for his short story "Mark Twain."

In addition, Southern Methodist University Press published his short story collection, Short-Term Losses, in 1996.

"I always had a vague notion I wanted to be a writer," says Lindensmith, who started writing in the mid-'80s. After a stint as a newspaper reporter, he chose the more lucrative career path of a lawyer, but he couldn't shake the "writing bug." Indeed, that bug is responsible for dozens of short stories and two novels over the years, including a new one in the planning stages.

Lindensmith says his prize-winning story, "My Visions," which tells the painful story of a marriage shattered by the death of a child, was written in a hurry for a reading he gave near Sweet Briar College.

"I don't have too many stories that are that short," says Lindensmith, who ended up patching pieces of a stalled novel together to create the tale in less than two days.

Not that the judges could tell.

"Lindensmith chose to take on a huge subject– a novel's worth of subject, in fact– and was able to cook it down into less than 3,000 words. That's an enormous feat," says judge Don Webster.

"There's a scene in this story that I may never forget," says judge Janis Jaquith. "Just thinking about it now, I have to take a deep breath to get rid of the painful twinge in my heart. When you read the story, you'll know which scene I'm talking about."

A year ago, Lindensmith's brother died in a car accident, and much of the pathos in "My Vision" comes from trying to put himself in his parents' shoes.

"That's what you try to do in fiction," he says.

"You try to empathize with people. You try to make sense of difficult things. You put pressure on your characters and see what they do."

Mark Lindensmith


Lincoln Michel

I guess you could say Im a cutter, or townie, as I was born and have lived in Charlottesville my whole life, says 23-year-old Lincoln Michel, whose story Small Bodies of Water took second place. Barring four years at George Washington University, of course.

Besides writing fiction, brash Michel says he likes bourbon, skinny dipping, and loud music. Not all three at once, we hope!

This is a story with the flavor of the movie Stand By Me young guys coming of age, with a macabre incident as the catalyst, says judge Janis Jaquith. As I read it, I kept thinking of all the people I know who would enjoy reading it, too.

Judge Don Webster was equally impressed with the young storyteller. Original. Thoughtful. With a classic short-story bottom-line message, says Webster.

Presently, Michel is trying to get a little real world experience before he heads off to grad school in the fall. He recently was accepted to Columbia Universitys writing program and is waiting to hear from others schools before making a decision.

I decided to come back to Charlottesville for a while, he says. I know so many people here, and it's such a great town.

The genesis of Michel's story was a five-minute writing assignment.

Our teacher gave us five minutes to come up with a plot outline for a story about driving past a man with a dog waving to you from the side of the road, he says. I came up with this story, but I didnt actually write it until after the semester ended.

Michel says he likes to let a story burrow in his brain for a while before ejecting it during a late-night writing session. Then, of course, comes the work of polishing the language.

If Small Bodies is any indication, this literary youngster already knows a thing or two about the real world, about how unfair and comical it can sometimes be, and about how things dont always turn out the way you expect them to.