Bad-writing contest won for Stewart reference

Monday, July 26, 2004

Bad-writing contest won for Stewart reference

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A California man claimed top honors at the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest celebrating bad writing, likening the end of a love affair to "Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail." Dave Zobel, 42, a Manhattan Beach software development director and author of "Dave Zobel's Bent Book of Boatspeak: How to Sound Like a Sailor and Know Just Enough to Be Dangerous," bested thousands of metaphor-mangling, simile-slaying writers from Hong Kong to Bolivia with this submission: "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."

The competition pays mocking homage to the Victorian author whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" opened with this all-too-familiar phrase: "It was a dark and stormy night."

"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," the father of two told The Associated Press. He won $250.

Runner-up was Pamela Patchet Hamilton, of Beaconsfield, Quebec, who described her style as "Dave Barry with a feminist twist." Patchet, who has written humor essays for The (Montreal) Gazette and other newspapers, impressed judges with this putrid passage:

"The notion that they would no longer be a couple dashed Helen's hopes and scrambled her thoughts not unlike the time her sleeve caught the edge of the open egg carton and the contents hit the floor like fragile things hitting cold tiles, more pitiable because they were the expensive organic brown eggs from free-range chickens, and one of them clearly had double yolks entwined in one sac just the way Helen and Richard used to be," she wrote.

Scott Rice, the San Jose State University professor who started the contest in 1982, said this year's entries were unusually witty. "Sometimes the entrants are more clever than the judges," he said. "Those people generally lose."

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