Feb 182011

Here’s a lovely, southern “What it’s like living here” piece from poet and Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate Cheryl Wilder (who graduated, got married and moved, all in the same year). Cheryl and dg both have an affection for tobacco, though they speak two different languages—what she calls “tobacco barns,” in the North Carolinian manner, dg calls “kilns” (dg grew up on a tobacco farm in Canada; Cheryl used to work for a wonderful North Carolina architect and visionary who published an amazing book of photos of, yes, tobacco barns).


What It’s Like Living Here

by Cheryl Wilder in Raleigh, North Carolina



A New Home

You relocated last summer and for the first time in seventeen years you feel at home.

Let’s clarify.

Your son was born thirteen years ago and you never felt more at home than when you went to see him after his birth. He was born at 4:56 a.m. and you’d been awake for twenty hours. After a nap you walked down the hospital hall with three bands cuffing your wrist, a nightgown brushing your calves, and a thin blue sweater around your shoulders. A nurse wheeled your son away from the other newborns and matched one of your bands with his. In the dimly lit nursery you caressed his arm and cheek, watched his chest rise and fall, felt as if you knew him well. The quiet hush of machines lulled you as the rest of the world dripped away. The nurse asked if he was your second child.


No, your first.

“You’re a natural then,” she said.

The best compliment you’d ever received.

Read the rest of this post

Sep 232010

The judges, as usual, fell for all the entries and had a terrible time deciding amongst them, all from friends, former students and fellow inmates. (This makes judging NC contests an extremely debilitating sport.) It’s a sad thing to force distinctions when everyone has entered the fray with such zeal and enthusiasm. All entries did what they were meant to do: tell a story in terse, stern prose. They all had élan. Many played with the idea of being in or outside a box (or a bottle, or a literal box). Jonah wrote his as an acrostic, an ancient form much used in the Bible, a different sort of box. There was a huge battle over Anna Maria’s actual box entry. But it was decided to include it here as a sixth finalist simply because making art out of the conventions (rules) of art is a legitimate artistic form. It wouldn’t be fair just to give her the prize for best Off The Page entry (though the judges are doing that, too).

The judges admired Vivian Dorsel’s entry for its use of literary allusion (the fairy tale) and for putting the heroine in the box. They admired Rich Farrell’s entry for its loopy adventure and romance, for the word “cavitate” and for that ending (the whole thing reminded the judges of their favourite movie Joe vs. the Volcano). Julie and Christopher put their novel in a bottle with, well, Noel Coward and wrote a pseudo-Edwardian romp with redemption at the end. Shelagh put her character in a metaphorical box and made him think of poetry. And Jonah wrote the acrostic. All this is wonderful.

Of those left behind, the judges want to mention Court Merrigan, who entered twice and wrote a lovely little thing about plague and love, and Cheryl Wilder for the old man in the closet asking for the toilet paper and her surprise ending.

But the competition was exceedingly fierce and the judges love you all.

See the finalists here!

Aug 242010

Jacob, the contrarian, during the EPE (Photo by Jonah Glover)




[Augusto] Monterroso is perhaps most famous for his short story “The Dinosaur,” which is said to be literature’s shortest story. It reads in full:

When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

In an 1996 interview with Ilan Stavans for the Massachusetts Review, Monterroso recalled some early reviews of “The Dinosaur”: “I still have the very first reviews of the book: critics hated it. Since that point on I began hearing complaints to the effect that it isn’t a short-story. My answer is: true, it isn’t a short story, it’s actually a novel.”

Brevity was, to say the least, an important concept for Monterroso. His essay “Fecundity” is included in The Oxford Book of Latin American Essays. It reads in full:

Today I feel well, like a Balzac; I am finishing this line.

—from Tom McCartan’s Crib notes on “What Bolaño Read”

The Contest

Okay, the long-awaited next Numéro Cinq literary contest, The First Annual Numéro Cinq Novel-in-a-Box/Memoir-in-a-Box Contest. The rules are pretty simple this time. You have to write an entire (don’t cut corners) novel or a memoir (personal narrative) consisting of 9 (a mystic number) chapters and each chapter can be no more than 5 lines long. (By lines, I mean the number of lines that appear on the comment box on the blog.) Fewer lines if you can. Try to remember what a novel is like: at least a couple of characters or more (usually), a conflict, development through a series of dramatic actions, etc. Alternatively, try to remember what a memoir looks like: a first person narrator (and a couple of other people or more), a thematically continuous narrative line often based on a conflict and or theme, development through a series of dramatic moments or incidents, etc. Indicate on your entry whether it is fiction or non-fiction (there will be separate prizes). (Note that in the Monterroso story quoted above there ARE two characters, the guy and the dinosaur.)

The contest is open to any living, sentient being in the universe. It is not limited to people who are already on the blog or VCFA students or former students. Everyone is welcome, and also welcome to join in other conversations or suggest topics.

Entries will be accepted between September 1 and September 15, 2010 (midnight), and should be written in English (Gary) and attached as comments to this post (the usual practice at NC).

Remember the values we hold dear here at Numéro Cinq: WIT & ARROGANCE. Remember Gordon Lish’s phrase ATTACK SENTENCES!

P.S. Anyone who mentions the insidious phrase “flash fiction” will have his or her comment deleted from the blog. I mean this! Delete it from your minds. This is not a flash fiction contest.


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