Martha Stewart Is a Good Thing for Bad Writing Prize
Inspired by the goddess of cheesecloth and hand-painted Adirondack chairs, a California man won a contest celebrating bad writing by likening the end of a love affair to “Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp’s tail.”
Metaphor-mangling, simile-slaying writers from around the world also won “dishonorable mentions” Monday in San Jose State University’s annual Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The contest -- which asks writers to submit the first sentence of an imaginary novel -- pays mocking homage to the Victorian author whose 1830 novel, “Paul Clifford,” coined the phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Dave Zobel, 42, of Manhattan Beach won $250 for his submission about a Latin lover:
“She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight ... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp’s tail ... though the term ‘love affair’ now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism ... not unlike ‘sand vein,’ which is after all an intestine, not a vein ... and that tarry substance inside certainly isn’t sand ... and that brought her back to Ramon.”
Zobel, a software development director, has penned losing Bulwer-Lytton entries since 1997. He is the author of “Dave Zobel’s Bent Book of Boatspeak: How to Sound Like a Sailor and Know Just Enough to Be Dangerous” and is working on a book about children’s soccer and obsessive parents.
“I never won and wasn’t expecting to this year, but to be honest I’m a little jealous of people who won dishonorable mentions because that title would look better on the resume,” he said.
“If I could be assured that my boss weren’t reading this, I would dump my day job in a heartbeat to write humor full time.”
Many of the thousands of entries touched on pop culture -- including TV talk-show diva Oprah Winfrey and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Sandra Millar of Wishaw, Scotland, parodied the works of England’s J.R.R. Tolkien to win the “fantasy fiction” category:
“Gringran Roojner had only gone to see the Great Warlock of Loowith to get his horoscope and he couldn’t believe he’d been sent on a quest for the legendary Scromer of Nothleen to ask him for the answer to the Riddle of Shimmererer so that he could give it to the Guardians of Vooroniank, thereby gaining access to the Cave of Zothlianath where he would find the seldom seen Cowering of Groojanc, whose spittle was an absolute necessity in the making of the Warlock’s famous pound cake, the kind with raisins.”
San Jose State English professor Scott Rice, who started the contest in 1982, said this year’s entries were unusually witty.
“Sometimes the entrants are more clever than the judges,” Rice said. “Those people generally lose. But that’s a risk that intellectual people have to bear.”