Mar 152010


Submissions March 15-31, 2010

Submit by commenting on this post

Submissions must be no more than 150 words in length

Do not enter a submission unless you have figured out what an aphorism is first

Wit and arrogance appreciated

Contest open to everyone including employees of Numéro Cinq, their significant others, children, and small pets

First Prize — Instant Worldwide (e)Publication w/ commentary

Plus honours & laurels

  144 Responses to “First Ever Numéro Cinq Literary Contest”

  1. Talk is cheap — because supply exceeds demand.

  2. I can submit to my own contest, right?

    The difference between fiction and nonfiction resides in whether or not the author minds being known as a liar.


    • Alternatively:

      All fiction is a lie. The difference between fiction and nonfiction resides in whether the author can live with being known as a liar or would prefer to conceal the fact.


  3. This is from a story I wrote last semester…

    The are three kinds of people when it comes to this
    war: those who think we can do nothing right, those who think we can do nothing wrong, and those who have actually experienced combat and no longer believe in concepts like right and wrong.

  4. Eunuchs are sad for obvious reasons.

  5. From one of my stories:

    Essays are fictions, in which writers efface themselves, pretending they are not there, perhaps even believing it. Ideas are an essay’s themes, used to produce the illusion of substance; facts are the details the story teller selects to give the impression of reality. Its plot is the progression of its argument, which, as in fiction, moves to the consummation of some desire, or the destruction of another.

  6. Beware the aphorism: a leading cause of spontaneous aneurysm.

  7. Sorry Jonah, we seem to be pillaging your young mind…

    Beware the shredder: a leading cause of spontaneous aphorisms.

  8. Wow…read the reply, Rich…Sorry Jake! Those J names all sound the same. 🙂

  9. Typo, darn it. I think this dooms my entry. Here is the correction:

    Aph or isms – take your pick.

  10. Women soften men’s souls, without true love music would be about violence and brutality and a bunch of idiots whacking each other with clubs.

    Madeleine (age 11)

    • Madeleine, Thank you for your entry. It’s lovely to see you taking a chance, especially when the blog, so far, is such a men’s club (darn, I didn’t mean to use that word again). You and Julie (above) are the only women who have entered the contest. And, of course, you are generally correct about men, a bitter, slovenly, brutish lot. I should know.


  11. Steve, this seems to be a natural form for you. Send more.


  12. Hi Madeleine (and Douglas),

    Joining the men’s club, too.

    From my upcoming book:

    For all the things we say to our children for their own good, very little good ever comes of it.


  13. An aphorism is a neatly phrased declarative sentence that we could have done without.

    • Everyone, this is David Helwig, author of a list of books as long as your arm, poet, essayist, story writer, and novelist. When I edited Best Canadian Stories, he was always one of the best.


  14. Dear Sirs,

    Kindly accept my submission of “For Bard: An Aphorism” to your prestigious contest.

    I realize that perhaps it falls a little outside your stringent guidelines in terms of actually being an aphorism, but I trust that you will be impressed enough with the fine use of alliteration, rhyme, and meter to slip it through onto the short list.

    I anxiously await your response.

    “For Bard: An Aphorism”

    Forsake not my love for suspect art
    For ’tis less vain by far,
    To leave the flames of fame unfanned
    Than be left alone with self in hand.

  15. Words are the tools by which writers erase the line between themselves and the world.

    • Does everyone know Cheryl? She just graduated in the winter from VCFA with an MFA in poetry. Her residency lecture inspired my reading of the Robert Wrigley poems mentioned in earlier posts.


  16. My work is a circus show of the illiterate.

  17. While a competitive runner, I developed the theory that long distance running is comparable to life in that both are roughly 95% boredom and pain punctuated by moments of transcendence. As I became a wiser person and a better runner I refined this theory with the following postulates:

    • The more moments of transcendence one accumulates, the less trying the painful parts are.

    • The more one runs (or lives) the more the transcendence fuses with the boredom, so that repetitive acts – the endless repetition of one foot in front of the other, both literal and figurative – become transcendent acts in themselves.

    • This theory applies to most other disciplines, including but not limited to writing, meditation, child-rearing, and sex.

  18. A fiction writer must observe like a scientist and lie like a baptist.

  19. Swimming is like writing. To swim is to dream, to dream is to make love — or write.

  20. I meant these to be all new productions, but since many of you have decided to change the rules all on your own I no longer feel bound by them either. Be it on your heads.

    Here is an aphorism I wrote to a student in a packet letter a couple of years ago:

    Obliquity in Style leads straight to the Purgatory of Vagueness.


  21. A loss of face requires more than plastic surgery to fix.

    • Everyone, This is Natasha Sarkissian, a former student of mine who graduated from VCFA last residency. She lives in Italy. We have submissions from three countries now.


  22. This contest is going viral.

  23. Sometimes silence is the best thing I’ve heard all day.

  24. I’d like to see Jonah’s aphorism in Latin.

  25. “Every cloud has a silver lining” — yeah, it’s called rain.

  26. When you wish upon a star, nothing happens — at least, so far.

  27. In America we have the perfect combination of economic systems: capitalism for the poor, and state socialism for the rich.

  28. The flattery of a fool — as meaningless as the nutrition facts on a candy bar wrapper

  29. When writers can think of nothing to say, they type “What is truth?” and leave the room without waiting for an answer and head for the bar to spend the afternoon pontificating on truth and writing.

  30. Dream girls don’t go to the bathroom.

  31. From my novel-in-progress:

    Memory is a strange servant of the imagination.

    • Everyone, This is Vanessa Blakeslee, a former student, graduate of VCFA. See links on the Former Students page. She graduated at the Slovenia residency in 2008.


  32. an aphorism is for ae, na?

    -Scottish proverb (often attributed to Bobby Burn’s dyslexic grandmother)

  33. Zoloft does more than Nietzsche could
    to make you feel neither bad nor good.

  34. Once pockets did jingle, but now empty houses ring and phones bleat like suddenly seized mice.

  35. That’s right, Gary.

    I don’t pretend this crap I blog
    tastes near as sharp as aged grog.

  36. Here’s something from someone who should have been publishing a lot more in her lifetime–Mary Parker of Bethel, Vermont. She and her husband started writing a daily journal in 1876, and when he died in 1901, she kept writing till she died herself twenty years later.

    This particular gem she penned on January 31, 1884.

    If the theory of the “survival of the fittest” is true, what must they have been who died!

    • Everyone, This is Hilary, an old friend, VCFA fiction grad, Bethel, VT, business woman, sometime preacher, and a parttime writing teacher.


  37. I had an awesome rib dinner with my mom at a blues bar on St. Patrick’s night and thought of this aphorism (if it is an aphorism).

    Happiness is getting drunk on clean living.

  38. Wag your tail, something might happen. Usually it does. — Picadou, pug

    • Everyone, This is Catherine Mayo (C. M. Mayo), a friend and former student from my days teaching at the New York State Summer Writers Institute. She won the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize for her book Sky over El Nido, lives in Mexico and Washington, runs a big writing and lit center, and blogs as Madam Mayo.


  39. Cats are Dog’s idea of free entertainment. If I were a person, I would like to watch Roller Derby.
    — Picadou, pug

  40. Aphorism, schmaphorism. Bring on the chopped liver.
    — Picadou’s New York cuz

  41. a true palindrome, from Tolstoy’s editor, Shrederovsky:

    an aphorism, sir, of Anna?

  42. Obviously, (but perhaps worth mentioning), it was in response to the question submitted above that Tolstoy came up with the famous opening to Anna Karenina.

    Without Shrederovsky…. it’s difficult to think about this!

    • Julie’s comment will no doubt set off a firestorm in the claustrophobic world of Tolstoy criticism. At Numero Cinq we are so cutting edge…


  43. If you’re Caesar, you don’t worry about tweezing your nose hairs.

  44. You can tell a lot about a marriage by the hair growing in the husband’s ears.

  45. Procrastination is coming up with aphorisms involving nose hair for someone else’s blog.

  46. In the egg of procrastination, there is the yolk of fun.

  47. The yolk of fun can be fried, which is good if you’re hungry, but bad if you’re a chicken embryo. Not that I give a wuf about chicken embryos. Bring on the chopped liver!!
    –Picadou’s New York cuz’s girlfriend

  48. An aphorism is a blue dog tripping through the snow.

  49. See Spot tripping in snow; black and blue all over.

    • Okay, okay. Attention to detail is everything. The dog is not “tripping;” it is running. Why it is blue I don’t know.


      • YOUR dog is running; MY dog is tripping.

        • Trip (vb, intransitive):

          1 a : to dance, skip, or caper with light quick steps

          Much better.

          • And I like the menacing undertone suggested by the transitive meaning of the verb “trip,” supplied by the reader.

          • ok, I accept your redefinition. Perhaps I am the paranoid oaf my students make me out to be. Originally, I thought you were casting aspersions on my dog’s grace. I read what you wrote as, Doug’s dog is stumbling awkwardly which, yes, I took as an allegorical attack on my own shambling sideways gait through life.


          • (for below — not enough nests)

            Doug, never! I would never accuse you or your dog or an aphorism of stumbling! Besides, wouldn’t that be “tripping IN the snow”?

            And maybe it’s the dog doing the tripping, if we overlay the transitive sense, knocking over snow drifts along the way.

            Or maybe the snow tries to trip him (he, right? — my dog’s a he), but still he skips and capers with light, quick steps! Just like an aphorism!


            OK, I haven’t met your dog.

  50. May I enter for a dead man? Edgar Degas said (I paraphrase): Anyone can have talent at twenty-five; the trick is to have it at fifty.

  51. May I enter for a dead man? Edgar Degas said (I paraphrase): Anyone can have talent at the age of twenty-five; the trick is to have it at fifty.

    • Man, this is tough! The subtle and nuanced distinction between the two previous aphorisms will keep the judges pondering until June.

      Or is this some strained PoMo entry; the two together are one aphorism and the wit is in the uncanny (in the Freudian sense) doubling?

      Or dare we ask: is Robin the same person in both entries? Is this like the Borges story of Pierre Menard? Do we have a case in which two people named Robin independently entered exactly the same identical text? In which case, I doubt not but this is a SINGULARITY in the scientific sense, a miracle in the religious sense.


      • I think it is anti-chiasmusatic, Doug (or maybe anti-palindromatic?) It reads the same way in the same direction each time. Post-modern and dizzying.

        • So you think there is only one Robin? That it’s a brilliant new form?

          I still think it’s two different people named Robin, one of them living exactly the same life only one minute later. Evidence of an alternate universe??????


          • Okay, let’s be real. It’s the same Robin and she rewrote the aphorism and sent us the rewritten version shortly after the first draft. In fact, I think the second version is slack and wordy compared with her initial inspiration. It is also morally inferior.

            Can we all at least agree on this?


  52. It might be the same Robin, and she has committed herself to writing three words a minute, a la NaNo, but for the month of March. At 3WPM x 60MPH (minutes per hour) x24HPD (hours per day) x 30DPM (days per month)and factoring in -11HPD (sleeping, eating, trips to the P.O., etc.) that could produce 70,200 words. Well above NaNo’s required 50,000.

    One more theory: It could be a subtle promo for her book, which is titled DO-OVER.

    [Just kidding, Robin…Having passed the Age-50 mark Degas sets up, I am posting as an untalented writer but talented procrastinator.)

    • Julie, I am still trying to do the math.

      If your larger point is that the author is writing too quickly, I would agree. It would take me 6 months to rewrite that first draft.

      I also (see above) think the second draft is agist.


    • That, Julie, would be the fifth Robin, Robin Hemley, whose great book Do-Over explores his fifty-year old self looking back on his youth and the ways he has changed.

      • Robin, I’m so sorry for having re-gendered you (thank god, only on paper.) Those of you in the MFA-W program remain exotic and unknown to those of us in the MFA-WC program – I’m working on changing that but great glaring errors like this one rise to the surface. Maybe having created a fifth Robin is compensation?

  53. Umh, it was an oops with the posting. I was trying to remember exactly what Degas said, and while trying to edit, hit the wrong button. Where is the erase button on this thing?

  54. I need some wine. Said the fourth, clearly alcoholic Robin.

  55. We’ve lost control of this contest. It must be shut down immediately. I want my little, quiet blog back. “Numero cinq. Numero cinq.”

  56. Quoting other people’s aphorisms is like wearing a death mask to eat bagels.

  57. Golyadkin cried, “Bagels for my friend.” Did he mean Robin? Or Robin?

  58. Like certain bagels, death masks can be unexpectedly appealing. Mostly, though, they’re tough to chew.

  59. If you’re so smart, why are you rich?

    Why do the righteous rage?

    Why live as if you’re already dead? Plenty of time for that is coming right up.

    “What’s love got to do with it?” Always a rhetorical question.

  60. Everyone in journalism has written thirty pages of a novel. Except for the ones who have only written fifteen.

  61. No matter where, how, or why someone is born, each individual arrives to this planet with an inherent value as a human being. That value, if it were necessary to put a number on it, is worth one for everyone, for as long as they live. It is people’s opinion turned into judgments what gives the illusion that some are worth more or less than others.

  62. Drowning men don’t complain about smog.

  63. There is nothing quite so arrogant as the humility of a priest.

  64. God smiles on you, like a coyote smiles at a house-cat.

  65. The perfect compromise leaves all parties equally unhappy.

  66. Three inviolable facts of human nature: everyone wants a car and driver; everyone loves Italian food; and everyone thinks they can write song lyrics.

  67. Caught by the easy social graces and the toxic charisma of the most dangerous people among us, we skitter like insects on the surface tension of their charm, ignoring the dark fathoms of calculation, the Lake Bikal of mendacity, below.

  68. Donne was wrong: every man is an island, and without that saving strand of water between us we would all go mad.

  69. People who live in glass houses understand the greenhouse effect.

  70. Never tell an aspiring screenwriter to to get his hopes up: it’s one of the few cheap thrills you can get in Hollywood.

  71. Humility is sanity.

  72. The mind makes cloudy what the heart makes very clear.

    ~ Don Henley

    (oh and by the way, dg was very kind to put it as he did, but I’m not really a businesswoman. In the warmer months, I clean windows independently, trying in fits and starts to keep up the business end of things…)

  73. “A mapped world is always small.”

  74. Writing, like sex, seems to make sense when you’re drunk, but it always gets complicated the next day if it’s any good.

  75. Just because you like to dance doesn’t mean you’re good at it.

  76. Fuck the ineffable.

  77. Ultimatums: a woman’s favorite form of gambling.

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