Arrete! C’est Ici l’Empire de la Mort.

Judge not, least ye be judged.  Let he without literary sin cast the first critical stone.  Never three on a match.  Wipe your shoes before entering.  When pizza’s on a bagel, one can have pizza at any time.

Sorry.  I was caught in a loop of popular pronouncements.

I’ve just finished my first round of judging for the 2016 Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  This year I was delegated 11th-12th grade poetry and 11th-12th grade short stories.

They seem to keep giving me poetry despite it being somewhat outside my usual range.  Still I think my judgments were fair and well reasoned.

The poems were about what you’d expect of late-term teenagers: lots of angst, first time discovery of old tropes, accidental vernacular, and a bit of nervousness.  I will say, though, that there weren’t any that were terrible.  I was spared the most wrist-cutter-y of the lot and really only had one that was so weighed down by angst as to invalidate one’s taking it seriously.  There was even one that managed to seem fresh, to make good use of old tropes, that had a strong possession of its language, and which ended as well as it started.  I was happy to have read it.

Up next I’ve got about thirty short stories to read.  I expect to make short work of them (haha, accidental pun zing).  I am attempting to go in without prejudie and will hold off any judgements until I’ve read all of them, but it’s been my (I’ll grant, somewhat limited) experience that most short stories let you know within the first few paragraphs how good they are.  There are always exceptions to a rule and I’m completely open to good stories with bad beginnings (or, more sadly, bad stories with great openings) so please don’t think I’m so lax in my adjudication as to get through by skimming.  I take fiction seriously, so rest assured, if you happen to have a teenage child whose work is in my lot it’ll be read thoroughly, and at least twice.  Probably more, as my memory is shit (hence all the notes {hence my computer freezing from so many open windows}).

I think I said this last year at about this time, as about the same thing happened, but after a too long period of inactivity I’m inundated with to-do-ery.  I’ve got a writing sample to submit by tomorrow evening along with an edited article as part of a freelance job opportunity.  Wish me luck (or don’t, I’m at leas as ambivalent about it as you).  I’ve got grad-school preparatory studying to do, three short story deadlines, editing, and plant things galore.

At least I’ve got a firm supply of coffee and a forgivingly empty social life.

Off I go, back into the literary ether.  The Ivory Tower key has got to be around here somewhere beneath all this mist.