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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!

Comments

( 45 comments )
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naill_renfro
Jul. 2nd, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
Make sure your publishers put that on the covers from now on!

And now that you've won gold, don't rest... there are new worlds to conquer: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/nov/18/bad-sex-awards-roth.
mollyringle
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
I am indeed hoping publishers realize I wrote that line to be intentionally bad...

Haha! The Bad Sex Award--yeah, maybe under a pseudonym. ;)
(Anonymous)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
That's some serious brilliance right there.
That sentence is awesome in its awfulness, truly. I would be very proud if I were you.

Congratulations! :)

Karen Walrond
Chookooloonks.com
mollyringle
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Re: That's some serious brilliance right there.
Thank you! I'll try to be proud. And I apologize to all gerbils in the world for any offense taken.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 3rd, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
You really suck at writing! AHAHAHAH
mollyringle
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
Sure, but in an intentional way...this time... :)
otterevil
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
mollyringle
Jul. 3rd, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Hee hee! That is a rather cute picture. And HUGE WIN for "The Drinker by Rodint." Hahah!
jess_faraday
Jul. 4th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
Hi--

Congratulations on your awesome win!
I'm a writer, too, as well as a linguist-type. Hope you don't mind my adding your LJ to my list. Feel free to "friend" back, or not =)

Cheers

Jess
mollyringle
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks Jess! Happy to return the friending--you look like you have excellent taste in the world at large. :)

Enjoy your holiday!
Molly
thomas_a_kempis
Jul. 5th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
Truth Be Told....
'Way more awards than I will ever get for my writing...I am definitely in your literary shadow, Madam. My humble regards.

+
mollyringle
Jul. 6th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Truth Be Told....
Thanks! Clearly humor is properly revered in your family. I am glad to hear it.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
Congratulations!
Your humour took off, accelerated and slammed into us like an Indie 500 driver off his meds! My husband and I read all the winning entries and we enjoyed them all, but yours had us on the floor. We would put you right up there with Trey Parker for impact and irreverence. Congrats! Yours humbly, MBrown Vancouver, BC
mollyringle
Feb. 17th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Congratulations!
Many thanks to you and hubby! (Great analogy, with the Indy 500 driver, too.) It's always good to hear from someone who understands the point of the contest, rather than yet another person who thinks that line actually *was* the clueless opening line of one of my novels.
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( 45 comments )