The Worst Writing Awards

Gabe Habash -- July 26th, 2011

The 2011 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which asks entrants to create the worst possible opening sentence for a theoretical novel, have been announced, with Sue Fondrie of Oshkosh, WI taking top prize with this gem:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Fondrie’s 26-word sentence is the shortest winner in the contest’s history, which was started back in 1982 at San Jose State University to celebrate the worst writing the human brain could create. The name of the contest is a nod to the novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose “It was a dark and stormy night” begins with the following:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Other 2011 lowlights:

Jack Barry, Adventure Winner:

From the limbs of ancient live oaks moccasins hung like fat black sausages — which are sometimes called boudin noir, black pudding or blood pudding, though why anyone would refer to a sausage as pudding is hard to understand and it is even more difficult to divine why a person would knowingly eat something made from dried blood in the first place — but be that as it may, our tale is of voodoo and foul murder, not disgusting food.

Joe Wyatt, Vile Puns Winner:

Detective Kodiak plucked a single hair from the bearskin rug and at once understood the grisly nature of the crime: it had been a ferocious act, a real honey, the sort of thing that could polarize a community, so he padded quietly out the back to avoid a cub reporter waiting in the den.

Mike Pedersen, Purple Prose Winner:

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.

John Doble, Historical Fiction Winner:

Napoleon’s ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub.

Ali Kawashima, Romance Winner:

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand—who would take her away from all this—and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

James Hearn, Dishonorable Mention:

She held my hand as if she were having a swollen barrel of fun which was off considering that my teeth were sitting on my bathroom cabinet (eight miles away, no less) and my elbow was peeling like a soggy coconut, the fine hairs of which were standing on edge in fear, as if the coconut had been reading “Dracula.”

11 thoughts on “The Worst Writing Awards

  1. Rosie

    The ‘winner’ is a beautifully crafted piece of garbage. It reads SOOO beautifully but says SOOOO little. Great teaching moment here.

    Congrats to all losers!

    1. Sue Fondrie

      That’s pretty much my typical style, Rosie. My writing looks good technically but ultimately says little of any importance.

  2. Chrissy

    The entries left me amused, bemused, and alas confused as to why they were considered in “The Worst Writing Awards, as I found them all brilliant.

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