Vita.mn's first-ever writing contest drew just over 100 entries. We asked for stories -- fact or fiction -- about a wild, humorous or unusual "last night." We got them. There were explosive monster truck rallies featuring the Grave Digger and Uptown arm-wrestling matches, hand-to-hand with giant Polynesians. There were quiet bedroom breakup stories followed by blowout, binge-drunk, bare-assed-in-Dinkytown stories. There was suburban malaise in a pop-up camper, Northwoods terror in an isolated cabin, female bar fights across the north metro and quiet star-watching in Bloomington. Craig Finn could write several Hold Steady albums based on this content.
Many of the authors made a point of saying their tales were true. A couple even sent in pictures documenting the evidence. Many of the stories were obvious fictions: Adam writing to God to forgive him and Eve for last night, spaceships landing on Crocus Hill. And, there was well described erotica, which, if true, would destroy our Minnesota reputation for sexual repression.
Kelli Billstein's "Sky Pesher," the $1,000-winning entry, caught our attention because it does so much so well. As a reader, you aren't sure of the world you're entering. It opens with thick descriptive language, then moves to what could be a simple pickup story, then drops in dry, but important, biographical fact, which launches into disorientation and an uncertain ending. Billstein's use of Uptown hip and art at the Walker isn't window dressing. They are necessary elements to this story of being young, unsure and lonely in a new city. "Sky Pesher" deserves repeated readings. It is a shifting story that puts the reader squarely into a wild, potentially humorous, but ultimately remarkable last night.
- Summer Story Contest coordinator Geoff Herbach is author of the novel "The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg" (Three Rivers Press) and a creator of the Electric Arc Radio Show. Summer Story Contest judging committee: Margaret Andrews, Simon Peter Groebner, Tim Ikeman, Will Martin, Alexis McKinnis, Leslie Plesser and Christian-Philippe Quilici.