“The Albatross”, a chapter from my novel-in-progress, has won the Elizabeth Simpson Smith Award for a Short Story from the Charlotte Writers’ Club. The award ceremony, where I’ll be reading my story and accepting a check for $500 that I’ve already spent, will be held on Sept. 18 at 7 PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 4345 Barclay Downs Drive, Southpark Mall, Charlotte, NC 28209. Come one, come all.
Contest judge Meredith Hall, author of the memoir Without a Map, had these comments on “The Albatross”:
“The voice in this story is knockout wonderful. A child’s voice is always very difficult to pull off. Often a child’s voice is very sentimental, rosy, sweet, and we quickly become suspicious. More than that, the reader expects and needs greater wisdom and insight than a child possesses, but the writer must take care not to insert that adult sensibility into the child’s perceptions. Here, Prue is so smart and so direct and so hungry to understand her world, we are led along by her, and feel compelled by her interpretations of the human experience. She is funny, bold, irreverent, and absolutely heartbreaking.
“The writer has a strong sense of pacing, of the architecture of the story, and of the tension of the story. That she is willing to tangle with issues of faith as the child struggles to feel loved is a measure of the writer’s confidence. The handling of Christian dogma and its comforting promises, Ada’s atheism, and the girl’s willingness to try anything that will ease her loneliness and sense of loss is brave and convincing. I loved the writer’s audacity in allowing Jesus to speak, and so colloquially (“I’m the son of God, for Pete’s sake”).
“I noted many lines that surprised and delighted me: — ‘Would Ada die for me? I couldn’t picture it.’ — ‘An ocean stretched between my mother and me, icy and deep, and hell was on both sides.’ — ‘We weren’t a family. We were two mountaineers harnessed together over the abyss.’
“We understand immediately what is and is not the relationship. When Ada reaches across the car and comforts her daughter with more lessons on the patriarchy, we want to undo what she has said, to provide the mother’s talk the girl so longs for.
“Prue is a memorable character. Her coming of age in the absence of parental love is beautifully written. This is a terrific short story, and deserves a wide readership.”