Wednesday, July 11, 2001
San Jose, Calif. Sera Kirk was strolling through the countryside, enjoying the sunshine, when a furry little dog ï¿½ a Pomeranian ï¿½ barged out of a hedge and began yipping at her feet.
She quieted the animal and resumed her walk, but inspiration had struck. The tiny dog formed the basis of her winning entry Monday in the 20th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest ï¿½ given to the writer who can come up with the worst beginning to an imaginary novel.
Kirk, a 44-year-old legal secretary in Vancouver, British Columbia, took the honor with the following sentence:
"A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea."
The award was created by the English department at San Jose State University to promote word play. It is named for the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" began with the instant cliche, "It was a dark and stormy night ..."
This year's contest drew thousands of entries from around the world, according to San Jose State Professor Scott Rice. Winners and runners-up were named in several categories, but only Kirk takes home the cash prize ï¿½ $250.
"In keeping with the character and dignity of the contest, we prefer to describe it as: the winner receives a pittance," Rice said.
The second-place entry, by Julie Stangeland of Seal Beach, Calif., also employed an animal theme:
"The lone monarch butterfly flew flutteringly through the cemetery, dancing on and glancing against headstone after headstone before alighting atop Willie Mitchell's already lowered casket, causing gasps of awe to fly from the open mouths of five or six lingering mourners, until a big shovelful of dirt landed on it and it died."