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More Northlanders find fame in 2002 Lake Superior Writers contest

The list of winners for Lake Superior Writers' 2001 contest has to have the Northland literary set smiling. For starters, there are more winners. Last year's contest was geared to produce a heirarchy of six winners with some honorable mentions, u...

The list of winners for Lake Superior Writers' 2001 contest has to have the Northland literary set smiling.
For starters, there are more winners. Last year's contest was geared to produce a heirarchy of six winners with some honorable mentions, ultimately culled from 160 entries. This year, Lake Superior Writers (LSW) decided to change the format, choosing 10 winners in each of two categories without picking a first place-second place heirarchy. Twenty winners were chosen from 105 entries.
Best of all, while the Twin Cities, Michigan's U.P. and even California are represented among the winners, more than half came from the Twin Ports area.
"I'm so pleased that more Duluthians and northern Minnesotans were chosen as winners," said Jim Perlman, founder of Duluth's venerable Holy Cow! Press, who worked on the contest and will help publish the contest anthology.
Perlman said the decline in entries was due to changes in the contest. For one thing, LSW scaled back its marketing, opting not to appeal to writers outside the Midwest. Last year, LSW ran notices even in national publications like Poets & Writers magazine.
"This year, we wanted to be more local, I think," Perlman said.
That change coincided with a push for Lake Superior Writers memberships -- the contest netted nearly 70 new members for the organization -- and a change in the categories. Last year, the contest had categories for poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction; this year, fiction and creative nonfiction were combined to make a "creative prose" category to go with poetry.
Along with broader categories, the contest used a broad theme -- "The Love of Nature, the Nature of Love" -- to open things up.
The preliminary poetry judge, Duluth poet Connie Wanek, approved. She culled the 42 poetry entries to about 20, which were considered by Robert Hedin, the final judge.
The theme "really brought out a lot of people who were not professional poets," she said, and their exuberance showed in the "funny, poignant and heartfelt things" they wrote.
"They had that spirit and a kind of joy in them," she said.
Wanek served as a panelist for New Rivers Press, and she said acting as a judge in this contest was more fun.
"This particular subject served to bring out a lot of passion in people," she said.
The poems ran the gamut, with the theme interpreted many different ways. Some took it literally and wrote love poems. Some wrote about sex or experiences in nature. But others put unique twists on it, writing about romantic camping trips or even parenthood.
Wanek also praised the decision not to rank the winners. She said poetry is less about competition than about quality, meaning there is usually a selection of good poems that all could contend for the title of "best." Among those good poems, taste, rather than objective quality, is often used to rank winners.
"I really don't like it when there's a heirarchy that seems artificial to me," she said.
Renowned writing teacher Carol Bly, who was the final judge in the creative prose category (Lake Superior Magazine's Konnie LeMay was the preliminary judge), said the range of material was also large in the prose category, which drew 63 entries.
Of the finalists she read, about a third were fiction and the remaining two-thirds were personal anecdotes, and she said she saw many flashes of good writing -- "some marvelous images and some good plot and some wonderful scope."
She has mixed feelings about contests. The disadvantages, she said, are that the rules promote short work, which she said can stunt writers. And contests offer little opportunity for teaching.
On the other hand, she said, noting that she wrote something on every entry she got, the contest does put writers in contact with other authors, and having a deadline to work for can be motivating.
Bly was unconvinced by the topic, which she said ruled out the sort of issues-conscious writing she advocates. "Nobody in this group showed the slightest anxiety about the United States at all," she said, saying everyone is anxious right now about America and the world situation.
But Bly liked the contest overall and was impressed by the quality of the entries.
Perlman said this year's contest was a success and noted substantial sponsorships as evidence of community support. Among them was a $4,000 Arrowhead Regional Arts Council grant.
Each winner got a $100 honorarium and will have his or her writing published in an upcoming anthology, due out this spring and tentatively priced at around $10.
Three or four readings will be scheduled throughout the year, the first probably in Duluth.
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Contest winners
Poetry: Jan Chronister (Maple, Wis.), Eric Gadzinski (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.), Patricia Kirkpatrick (Saint Paul), Kate Kysar (Saint Paul), Diane Lutovich (Greenbrae, Calif.), Mark Maire (Duluth), Lisa McKhann (Duluth), Mary Kay Rummel (Duluth), Jason Splichal (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Amy Jo Swing (Duluth).
Creative prose: Arlene Atwater (Duluth), Anthony Bukoski (Superior, Wis.), Karin Jacobson (Duluth), Lynn Maria Laitala (Duluth), Margi Preus (Duluth), Yvonne Rutford (Duluth), Caitlin Taylor (Duluth), Colin Keith Thomsen (Minneapolis), Susan Niemela Vollmer (Rice Lake, Wis.) and Lou Killian Zywicki (Carlton).
For more information about Lake Superior Writers, write to P.O. Box 3025, Duluth, Minn. 55803 or call 724-1653.

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