It’s time to announce the winners of last month’s contest! We once again had the privilege of partnering with our friends from Endless Beautiful, whose podcasts and workshops have inspired writers, artists, and creatives of all kinds by using sounds recorded from everyday life.
Last month, we put together a contest based on their session titled Arcade. We asked contestants to create a story, essay, or poem as they listened to the recorded sounds. We received a number of amazing entries, making it hard to choose our top three. But choose we must and our winning entries are listed below!
We’d like to thank everyone who entered. We hope you had fun and felt inspired. Happy writing everyone!
Listen to the Sound Prompt:
Read our interview with Endless Beautiful!
First Place Winner
My Rebel Brother Adam
By Sarah Hodges
My rebel brother Adam,
scrolls from job to job,
and smokes pot
The only one
in four generations to live
outside of our county.
Beyond our state.
Hand him the sunglasses now.
His present is bright.
With one phone call, a ringing in
Four words transform him.
Aunt Alice has passed.
There will be two memorials,
Mom reports from 1600 miles away.
One, traditional, for Alice’s old patients,
friends, and family.
It will include pictures and Psalms.
One, strange, according to her codicil.
It will include a talking stick,
a poem, or two,
singing, and cake.
Although the second is more his style,
Finances force Adam to choose the first.
He endures endless plane rides over
with cheerless crowds.
He seeks public places on the journey.
Silence gives him too much space to think.
When he lands, he brings the
I forget, he reports,
about rain in the Tidewater.
It suits my mood, I say.
Snow suits mine, he says back.
It falls in fat, freezing drops,
overwhelming our rain barrel,
drowning the swamp.
Wetting the umbrellas of the
good Christian folk
who have come to remember
my aunt and her
In April, I tell him,
we’ll spread her ashes
in Sherando Lake.
Illegal, he replies.
Yes, I know.
Her therapist is doing
the dirty work.
I watch the rain,
feeding the mood
of the memorial,
and preparing Sherando Lake
for the one to come.
After the memorial, we go to
It’s the opposite of the
and a good place for my
brother and sons
Plus, they sell pizza.
Did you ever read
Ready Player One? he asks me.
Depressing, I say.
I hope I’m dead and gone
before the world turns
I’m embarrassed to
joking about death
when it’s a current guest,
saves the moment.
I hear you, he says.
He places dead last in retro Pac-Man.
I researched the author, I say.
Aren’t we all, Adam says,
Adam is in Colorado.
I drive to Sherando.
My sons and I float flowers
on the lake.
Her therapist spreads the ashes.
My mother, father,
and friends from therapy
light the ceremonial fire.
We drink, pass the talking stick,
Sometimes we speak,
sometimes we’re silent.
A year later.
Adam and I come back
to the arcade.
I’ve been stingy with the coins,
so my sons are ready to leave.
Adam plays pinball this time.
He avoids my eyes.
Sorry I missed Sherando, he says.
His apology is drowned out by the
funk from a dancing game.
The hip-hop mismatches
his empty eyes and sudden
Or maybe it
duplicates his anger.
Time to go back to Colorado,
and I hope that he
reverts to the
The Adam that
before my mother rang.
Second Place Winner
By Sarah Anderson
From the café, November waves. The sea.
I am waving, but you squint into the morning.
I must look like a blurred passenger, a figure
stepping off a bus and turning into the day.
“I’m waiting here for you,” but you never said that.
We hear what we want to hear. I trust you’ll find the teal
in this silence, the way the sight of me must narrow
in the light. A street accordion, basketball on asphalt,
you looked at me just then, didn’t you? You have no idea
what you are doing to me. Could it have been
a screen porch in late summer? Tonight, the rain floods
all of this the way I learned not to remember you.
I do still see the field lush and flooding, your father
still rowing a boat into that night, across the field. Twenty years
and I wake up, laughter erupting from a stranger’s window,
a car’s headlights pulling shadows across the far wall,
distorting all I’ve ever known. I lie here thinking of when
you told me of the forest, what you learned about yourself
that summer. It was just a year after the flood.
“Put your things here,” I always wanted to say, pointing
to a wooden table top. Pre-dusk light would catch a tendril
of your hair falling past your temple. This is too familiar.
I turn the vinyl over and over, but you don’t know me
or this place. I spin a mason jar with my index and ring finger,
step into another room. “I’m always going to be here
with your coffee, you know. I’ll always have what you need.”
Stay. Keep your eye on the red breasted grosbeak
or this moment will break. The headache of a siren
splashes across the night. Something will break.
But you don’t stop or stay. Instead, you dance. “I don’t have a choice,”
you say. “But when you hear this rhythm, think of me
as an owl, a child, the pull of a street dance that goes and goes
until its string of light bulbs burn out.
My process was to write without stopping for the duration of the piece of music provided. I had two characters in my mind when writing but I didn’t know what would happen between them or how the story would unfold until it did. I love the challenge of being asked to listen to that sound piece, with all of the various layers of sound — some close, some in the distance, and some melodious, some discordant. I like the juxtaposition of the chatter of voices in what is likely a bar or a cafe with part of a song, with a street scene. I didn’t read over what I was writing until the end. I just kept writing.
Sarah Anderson holds an MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. She has 14 years of high school teaching experience. With her husband, she owns and operates The Word Barn in Exeter, NH, a gathering space for literary and musical events, where she runs a reading series (The Silo Series) as well as writing workshops. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in various journals, including Hamilton Stone Review, The Oakland Review, Off the Coast, The Café Review, and December Magazine, and she was a recently a finalist in contests run by The Pinch Journal and Black Lawrence Press.
Third Place Winner
By Cherie Butler
Rattled. Percussive. Cracked and shattered. Wind whipped and screeching. Navigating the concrete jungle with the entourage of vibrations breaching. Electric static. Panic. Frantic. Homeless creativity. Paris sings while the waves crash. Subjective merriment. Blissful retreat. A constant beat with a plethora of sand swept waves distorting human sound. Loud. No clouds, clarity. Peace and prosperity. Relaxed. Diving deep into meditative thought. Eyes wrought by daylight. No limelight, but solitude. Mute. Crystallized by paradise. Enchanted by the ever flowing highs and lows of H20. Constant. Distant. Drifter in this instant. Sunset.
Game On! Friends assemble for date night. The price was right, Groupon. But where is the companion? Abandoned. Alone again. Friday night, 10 pens. Knocked down but not out. Observed from the corner. I win. Play again? Sure, add a quarter. Are you the owner’s daughter? Back off. No distractions at this attraction. Trying to beat the high score. Yearning for more. Addicted. Conflicted.
Nature rises. Bright sunlight peaking through the rustling green. In a cottage, serene. Smelling bacon and eggs cooking, but I need to hike first. Burst onto the scene of this evergreen. Inhale the fresh air, I stare dramatically in the distance. Birds chirping, enjoying their existence. Searching to find what’s behind this rusty barn door. I search for more. Excuse me. Tactfully removed from the privacy. One mug of black coffee. Where is the spoon? Planning out the day before noon. A full moon is on the horizon tonight. My plight? Insomnia. Hot and ready, pouring steady. Trying not to spill. Taking a pill for the shaking…Day breaking. Anticipating where the tourists are. Reminiscing about last night. Were my instincts right? She’s here again. Is this seat taken? No, my friend. Play along. Not the same song, something different. Full moon…not tonight. Turn it up!!! Lyft me. Outdoor party, rooftop, terrace. Irie mon!!!! Whining, grinding, rum please? The heat is on. Sweat running down my back. Pull him over. Riddim, style, looking over.
Creatively, I consider myself a poet with inspiration to publish a book in the near future. I am inspired by the environment around me, so I felt this piece would be perfect for me to draw from. I was born and raised in Washington DC, but spent my summers in North Carolina. When I heard some of the dynamics of this piece, it made me think back to those days growing up. I am also an avid traveler, so it took me on a journey throughout places I’ve visited and people that I’ve interacted with along the way. I am a Professional Organizer, so logically working through my writing is a fun way that I piece my thoughts together and translate them into feelings on paper. I loved being a part of this process, and will definitely look for other opportunities to showcase my ideas with you all!