Last Tuesday, January 8, I had the opportunity to attend The Saturday Evening Post’s event at Michael’s restaurant in New York City. The purpose of the event, which was co-hosted by Publishing Executive, was twofold: to toast the winner and finalists of the Post’s first annual Great American Fiction Contest while also celebrating the recent redesign of the magazine.
Michael’s Garden Room was packed with people when I arrived a little after 6 p.m., a palpable sense of excitement already hovering in the air. Writers, editors, agents, and reporters were crowding around the oversized reproduction of the Post’s Jan/Feb cover, complimenting the vibrant painting of Shirley MacLaine and—inspired by one of the magazine’s cover lines—debating the U.S. prison system. Servers were navigating the crowd, delivering plate after plate of hors d’oeuvres while the lines for both bars snaked around the room.
Ignoring the tempting food (and alcohol), I decided to wade into the fray to talk to some of the short story writers in attendance. As a graduate of an MFA creative writing program myself, I was anxious to talk to some other “storytellers.”
The first writer I talked to was a fellow named Jonathan Blackwood. (Good name for a writer.) He had written a short story called “Kin,” which was selected as one of the contest finalists and is also being published in the print collection. We talked about the craft of writing for quite a while. For such a young writer (he’s a recent college graduate) he certainly seemed to have a lot of the basics figured out. He also told me that “Kin” is his first published story. Starting out in a collection from The Saturday Evening Post is a pretty good place to begin a writing career!
Of course, I also spent some time talking with the amazing Lucy Jane Bledsoe, the author of the winning short story, “Wolf.” I particularly enjoyed her comments on the state of contemporary short fiction and literary journals. She made an interesting observation about happy endings, and how she feels that it’s easier (from a writer’s standpoint) to have everything go to crap at the end of the story because it’s inherently more dramatic to indulge in tragedy. In her view, crafting a positive or even neutral ending that doesn’t smack of sentimentality is a much tougher achievement.
The night ended with comments from Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher of the Post, as well as from Ms. Bledsoe.
All in all, the evening as a tremendous success, setting the stage for the Post’s future and launching the magazine’s 2014 Great American Fiction Contest, which is already accepting submissions now.
Photos from the event: