Monday, May 21, 2012

Charlotte, Vt. Writer Wows 'em at NPR

Big congratulations go out to one Carrie MacKillop of Charlotte, here in Vermont, for winning an NPR contest called Three Minute Fiction.

Carrie MacKillop. Photo by King Milne
for NPR
Contestants wrote a short story, that if read aloud would last no more than three minutes. The story had to start with the sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on a table, and finally decided to walk through the door."
Novelist Luis Albert Urrea picked MacKillop's story from about 6,000 entries. (He didn't read them all. Staffers went through them, and forwarded the best ones to him.)

Urrea said of MacKillop's story: "Sometimes you read a piece of literature that you realize you will never forget."

Before we go on, read MacKillop's story on this link. It's so well worth it, but be warned, it packs an emotional whallop:

As you might have read, just now, the story concerns a five year old, terminally ill boy. He'll never experience life's journey: School, college, career, marriage.

So his mother walks him through the life he'll never have, the one she'll never see. In the story, his mother describes the son's wedding, on a very rainy day during the wettest spring ever.

What's brilliant about MacKillop's story, at least in my view, is the layers she packs into her simple, straightforward prose. In other words, she performs miracles with no bells and whistles.

The rain in the wedding could be the tears she'll shed. The rain in the story telegraphs how the mother knows she will have to make adjustments to go on living after her son dies. The son worries about the rain as he's being told the story. Is that a worry about what he'll miss?

You can't read the story without wanting to cry. I about lost it when the the boy interrupts his mother as she's describing the wedding to remark about his bride.: '"She's awesome, isn't she," he said gleefully. "I'm really lucky, aren't I, mom,?"' MacKillop writes.

Again, those layers. He's lucky to be able to imagine his wedding. Lucky to have a mother like his. Lucky to be able to imagine a life, even if he can't live it. Ironic in that he's so unlucky.

We're all lucky to have writers like MacKillop. As Urrea says, keep writing, Carrie!

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