Fiction contest: The Winners
Jealous? You should be.
Deborah Prum has made her living as a writer, which is hard if you don't you live in New York City, which Prum never has.
Prum says she paid her way through a masters degree in Health and Human Services at Dartmouth by plying her writing and cartooning skills and it paid off. She's penned several young adult historical books and a soon-to-be-published young adult novel, and her stories have been published in Ladies Home Journal and the Virginia Quarterly Review.
"I love fiction," Prum explains. "It's my passion, which I support through nonfiction."
The Charlottesville-based Core Knowledge Foundation published her Rats, Bulls and Flying Machines: A History of the Renaissance and Reformation. A brief history of that important period, it has been lauded by the American Library Association's Booklist as "a lively text that hits the high points of history and pauses for enough detail to make them memorable."
"Triage," her winning short story, is about tension between a doctor and his wife who is busy raising their two children, a teenage son and a young daughter. Prum's life seemingly mirrors this arrangement: She has three sons ages 18, 16, and 9, and a husband who works in medicine.
So, is "Triage" autobiographical? "It is," says Prum, "in the sense that I've observed many families in medicine throughout the years."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Runner Up: David Abrams' "My Father's Heart"
Word of fiction contests certainly does get around.
Runner-up David Abrams, a self-described "humble Army sergeant" stationed in Fort Richardson, Alaska, says he heard about The Hook's contest on the website readerville.com. He decided to enter a story he had written five or six years ago that had, he says, "fermented until the time was right."
Abrams rises at 5am, "trying to find small slices of time" to work on his craft before setting off for his "day job" as a public affairs supervisor in the U.S. Army.
"By day, I'm merely a humble Army sergeant. In the evening and on weekends, I do a lot of writing. Fiction is my first love," he says.
To that end, Abrams is currently looking to publish an already finished novel and hopes to retire in five years.
As for whether there's anything autobiographical in his story of a controlling father, he notes that at the time he wrote it, his father, like his character's, had just suffered a heart attack. "There was something there that I had to draw on," he admits, although he's quick to add that it is indeed a work of fiction.
Abrams' plans post-retirement? "There are other books still burning inside me that I need to get out," he says.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Runner Up: Eliezer Sobel with "Schneiderman"
Batesville resident Eliezer Sobel is a man of many words. Written words, that is.
At the age of 50, Sobel has, he says, published 40,000 copies of a self-help book entitled Manual of Good Luck, through a mail-order ad in the National Enquirer in the '70s– as well as the nonfiction book Wild Heart Dancing with Simon & Schuster in '94.
"I've been kind of a free-lance artsy person my whole life," Sobel reveals about his career choices. He settled in Batesville 12 years ago where he has been publishing the Wild Heart Journal since 1998. Sobel's magazine "about art, creativity, and spiritual life"– might be inspiration for the spiritual undertones present in his story about a Jewish man, his wife, and their odd new therapist "Schneiderman."
Currently Sobel is seeking a publisher for two other works: a nonfiction "spiritual autobiographical memoir," The 99th Monkey: On Personally Preventing the Paradigm Shift, and a novel he describes as a "cross of Seinfeld and Philip Roth," entitled Minyan: 10 Jewish Men in a World that is Heartbroken.
Local shrinks, consider yourselves warned.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Runner Up: Chad Harbach with "Kayley's Constellations"
"I wrote it accidentally," Chad Harbach says of Kayley's Constellations.
"I was working on my novel and getting really frustrated, and I needed to take a break from it. I wrote this story in one sitting, took a look at it four months later, and said, 'Well, this isn't the worst thing I've ever written.'"
The judges liked it. And UVA would probably concur that Harbach is something special, as he is currently finishing their highly selective MFA program. He'll graduate this May and hopes to complete that novel this summer.
If this story is any sign of things to come from Harbach, Charlottesville is again to be blessed by another prodigy. Though born in Wisconsin, the 27-year-old moved here two years ago to enroll at UVA.
His story traces the thoughts of a young college-aged character overhearing a discussion of blow jobs– something the protagonist has never experienced.
As for the inevitable autobiographical question, Harbach dodges that bullet. "The concept of the story is entirely fictional." Well put.