Every year it gets harder to pick the winners of th magazine's Summer Short Fiction Contest because the entries get better and better. This year, in fact, the judges couldn't come to any final agreement on which should be our third-place winner, so we're printing four winning stories, not three.
The judges included Helen Jones, assistant editor of the magazine; A. M. Chaplin (who's working on her own novel when she isn't writing for us); Patrick McGuire, who teaches a course on writing fiction at Goucher College as well as working full time ++ for the magazine; Gil Watson, assistant managing editor for features and a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and me. I thought up the contest in the first place, and I'm the only one who reads all the entries, so my vote counts a little more than the others -- if only because I make the first cut.
This year's short story contest had its ups and downs. The ups included almost 600 entries, most of them following all our rules and well-written besides. The downs included what seemed like another hundred stories that had to be thrown away unopened because they came in after the deadline. Saddest of all was a wonderful story that was picked as one of the winners -- but then we had it keyboarded into our computer system and found it was almost 1,800 words long. The limit, you may remember, was 1500. So out it went.
There was one other almost-glitch in the contest. We never heard back from Michael DiMauro, our second-place winner. (When he got the message that The Sun had called, he figured we were just trying to sell him a subscription.) Luckily Helen tried again, and this time got hold of him and not his answering machine -- we were working on a tight deadline.
One of the judges, Patrick McGuire, was inspired to write an essay on writing fiction. It will tell you the three cosmic secrets of producing the Great American Short Story and other useful information for you aspiring writers. You'll find it on Page 9. Our four winning entries and list of honorable mentions follow.
But the magazine this week isn't just the fiction contest. We also have a story on Ray Ueberroth, president of the American Coaster Enthusiasts. ACE members are people who passionately love to ride roller coasters and, improbable as it may seem, are over the age of 10. (Mr. Ueberroth is 54.)
You may wonder why writer Sue Campbell spent the day with Mr. Ueberroth at Kings Dominion, while photographer Patrick Sandor took his pictures at Hersheypark. The reason is simple: ++ The Kings Dominion people refused to let Patrick mount his camera on the coaster and take his photos during the ride. If the camera came loose in mid-ride, they pointed out, it would be like a bomb dropping on whatever unfortunate people happened to be below.
The public relations folks at Hersheypark came up with a good solution, though. Patrick and Ray Ueberroth rode the coaster before the park officially opened for the day, and Patrick got the ++ photos you see on Pages 23-25.