Write Night and Wretched Writing Contest

Written words in all their flowery excess are the inspiration behind the Dothan Houston County Library System’s Wretched Writing Contest.

Based on the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University in California, the Dothan library system’s Wretched Writing Contest invites people to have a little fun being bad writers and to do it in one sentence.

“It’s more just to have fun with it, to encourage people to try something even if they’re bad at it,” said Ashley Bynum Wills, the programming specialist with the library system’s main branch in downtown Dothan. “Everyone is always saying, ‘I’m not poet. I’m not an artist. I can’t do that.’ Well, anyone can write bad.”

For those unfamiliar with his work, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton was a Victorian-era writer whose novel “Paul Clifford” opens with the words “It was a dark and stormy night …” – an opening phrase used today as an example of a literary cliché.

Entries for the Wretched Writing Contest are due Tuesday, Sept. 3, and should be emailed to contests@dhcls.org along with the name and phone number of the writer. Members of the system’s Friends of the Library will judge the contest and winners will be announced on Sept. 30.

To enter, you simply write an opening sentence to a hypothetical novel. The sentence can be any length, but it’s suggested you keep it to about 50 words. Entries must be original word and previously unpublished.

The Wretched Writing Contest is just one of the ways the library system has offered creative writing outlets. It started with a poetry contest held in April that was such a hit with participants, Wills said she decided to do another writing contest. A co-worker happened to be a fan of the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

And in November, the library system will host activities for NaNoWriMo – or, National Novel Writing Month. Wills said people have asked for writing activities where local authors can get a little editing help or constructive criticism – similar to the Write Night hosted by the Wiregrass Museum of Art once a quarter on the third Thursday.

The museum’s event is like an open mic night for writers, and people come to read their poems, short stories or even fragments of novels for whatever audience has gathered, said Lara Kosolapoff-Wright, the museum’s communications manager.

The museum’s next Write Night will be held Nov. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Writers are given five minutes for their reading, Kosolapoff-Wright said. Response to the Write Night events has been positive and participants have done commentary, plays and original songs. They’ve even done collaborative haikus and limericks.

“Whether you’re someone who’s never done this before or whether you’re used to getting up and reading in public and sharing your work like this, I would say this is a great place to do it because we always have a super-supportive crowd,” Kosolapoff-Wright said.

The Wiregrass Museum of Art also has a website for those who want to share local stories. The website, storiesofthewiregrass.com, will continue to collect stories until the end of the year at which time the stories will be archived.

“I think we know that there are a lot of creative people in the Wiregrass,” Kosolapoff-Wright said. “Whether they’re making visual art or singing or doing community theater productions or writing. We know these people are there but whether they want to come and share their work is another matter.”

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