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Seattle mom honored as a really bad writer

A West Seattle woman won the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest — the foremost national contest dedicated to bad writing.

By Maureen O'Hagan
Seattle Times staff reporter

Without the gerbil, she'd be nothing.

Well, not nothing exactly. But Molly Ringle would likely not have won the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest — the foremost national contest dedicated to bad writing. And not just any old bad writing. The contest requires a single sentence, so bad it's ... well, really, really bad.

Her winning entry, written in her West Seattle home:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.

See? The gerbil is the key.

"Some liked her outlandishly inappropriate comparison," said contest judge San Jose State University professor Scott Rice. "It is a sendup of writers who try too hard to be original, and it is a sendup of those revolting couples whose public displays of affection make them poster children for celibacy."

"The wonderfully poor choice of metaphor is what makes the sentence especially funny," said another judge, Sharon Brown.

Ringle learned of her success Saturday. She celebrated with a feast.

"I probably continued making macaroni and cheese or something," she recalled.

Droll, yes. Thrilled, too.

A 34-year-old mother of two, she owes the idea to her infant son, whom she was nursing when she came up with it.

"Something about his attitude and posture ... It reminded me of those guinea pigs we used to have as kids," she recalled.

But dash something off she would not. She pondered and she mused and she reached for the stars, until, by the end of the day, she had pounded out something so perfectly bad, it was gold.

Well, not gold, exactly.

"The contest rules say I get a pittance," she explained. "I'm not sure yet what that is.

"I'm not expecting much but the glory."

The contest, founded by Rice in 1982, is named for the 19th-century writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the notorious line: "It was a dark and stormy night."

Ringle is no novice writer. She is the author of a published novel in the hot-selling "paranormal romance" category.

"The Ghost Downstairs," however, has not sold quite as briskly as "True Blood." She has two more novels that are set to be published, as well, one a romance, the other young-adult fiction.

Which can't help but lead to a question: Is winning a bad-writing contest the best move for an aspiring author?

Ringle sighed.

"I've asked myself, probably belatedly, is that what I want to be famous for?" she said. "But hopefully people in the publishing world know it's all in the name of comedy."

Besides, she said, "You kind of have to have a certain amount of skill to write a sentence so bad it would win. You have to work at it."

* * *

But really, it wasn't that much work. It was fun. And all the entries are at least as good as mine, so go read 'em: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com

I also liked Seattle Weekly's post about it, since they used my silly Aplets and Cotlets remark. (You'll have to read it and see.)

And yep, I've seen the AP release version too--that seems to be the default article.

I feel quite ridiculous. But there are definitely worse ways to get 15 minutes of fame. Now I'm off to get 15 minutes of eating a snack and reading a book before going to bed. Night!

Edit: Due to a lot of spam comments on this entry, I'm locking out anonymous comments, or trying to. Please email me if you want to say "Yay for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest!" See my page for the address. Thanks!


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Jun. 30th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
That sentence brought TEARS to my eyes. I read it to my sister and her face turned all red from laughing. Congratulations on your truly well-deserved WIN! :) You are my hero.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
Thank you! More laughter in the world = the real win.
Jun. 30th, 2010 06:04 am (UTC)
Congratulations! I think. :)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
Sure, I'll take it. :) Thanks!
Jun. 30th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
OMG, congratulations!

I feel all verklempft reading the winning paragraph.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
Thank you. And are you sure that isn't a dry heave coming on? :)
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)
That is a truly awful sentence. Congratulations!
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
It is, isn't it? Cheers!
(no subject) - travels_in_time - Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! My buzz list is in awe.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
Thanks! You can say you knew me before I was famous. And will still know me next week, when I'm no longer famous.
Jun. 30th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! That is really a terrible sentence, such purple prose and inappropriate metaphors!
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
"Inappropriate" is definitely the word. Thanks!
Jun. 30th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
You deserve this Giles quote :-)!!!!

Yay! Maybe?
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
I bet Giles could write an awesome Bulwer-Lyttonism. :) Thanks!
Jul. 1st, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
Congratulations! That was simply stunning and astounding, and I hope it sells many books for you. :)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
Heck, just a handful would be fine. Thanks! :)
rcade [typekey.com]
Jul. 1st, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
That's a brilliantly bad sentence. You should be proud.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Re: Congratulations
Thanks! I'll try to be proud, rather than just feeling silly. :)
Jul. 1st, 2010 04:12 am (UTC)
Mazel tov!
And you can always just say you won a well-known writing competition, which is 100% true.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Re: Mazel tov!
Hah, true! I like to think some agent would actually be impressed that it's the Bulwer-Lytton contest...but we'll see. Thanks!
Jul. 1st, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Molly, excellent gerbil usage! Congratulations on writing winning wretchedness. I hope you don't mind that I hypothetically (but not patheticallly) extended your work into a 1,000+page novel on my blog: http://www.tombentley.com/wordpress/

Thanks for the inspiration, Tom Bentley
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:20 am (UTC)
Excellent, thanks! Darn, for a second I thought it said you wrote a 1,000-word mini-novel based on the sentence (it's that skimming problem). That would've been fun to see. Then again, maybe this novel is best left unwritten. :)

Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
It made me laugh out loud. My thanks aren't much, but you got em. :-D
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks
It means a great deal to have made people laugh. Happy to hear it!
Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
Ooh. Congratulations!
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I'm so very proud of you!
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's a fun if silly prize.
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