Ninth Letter Literary Awards – The Long Shadows


Some (actual) news, and good news too. My story “The Long Shadows” was picked as the winner of the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction.

I’ve struggled more often in the last 2 years with leaving things unfinished, and this was one of those things. I can’t really blame the pandemic and last year’s election chaos because I know it’s mostly just me, but those things didn’t help. Anyway this was from a note in my Idea File in the spring of 2018:

One of those late-night ideas that seems more vivid at two in the morning, maybe.  But… Ghosts are scattered around a wooded area, someplace that seems just generally haunted.  The ghosts are perhaps repulsed by the fleshy living.  The ghosts themselves are fragments only.  Dislodged soulstuff that didn’t make it any farther.  The remainders.  Each is very singular in its attributes – a lothario, a worrier, a runner/athlete, etc.  They take very non-human forms – the narrator describes himself as seahorse like.  The farther they are from life, the less human they look.  Ectoblobs.  (The seahorse is not irrelevant.)

Some of that even made it into the story, like the seahorse. Otherwise it’s completely different from the note that inspired it, which makes me wonder — is it actually better to write a story all at once when you have the inspiration, and write quickly? Or do stories become what they’re supposed to be in their own time, and there’s no way I would have written this particular story without the three years that passed from start to finish? (Or am I just looking to justify taking three years to wrap up a story, even a long one, that I could’ve just finished? Maybe a little of everything there.)

Anyway, happy that I apparently didn’t deplete the story of all its energy by mulling over it for so long.

Two things here. First, sometime I’ll have to write more about my Idea File, which is about 200,000 words of chaos sprinkled with maybe 500 words worth of goodness. Also I just learned that on the Mac, you can press Option + (the letter t) to create a dagger symbol. In case you need a dagger. Also, Option + (upper case T) creates an inverted caret, which seems less useful to me, but okay.

About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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