The Society of Southwestern Authors Writing Contest

NOTE: the order originally published here and in the Write Word
was not correct--this has been corrected.
Please read our full apology HERE.


1st - "GMO" William Adams

   Just before sunset, I surveyed my little estate, a half-acre on a gentle knob above Dad's cornfields. I imagined I could see through the dark blanket of earth to the seeds, evenly spaced babies in a nursery. I felt maternal tenderness, though I'm only eighteen and don't really know what that is.
   The distant whine of a struggling engine tore the dusky silence. It wasn't the drone of a passing car or truck, but the moaning of an engine submitting to the striving hand of a human. It was too late for farm work. The sound was wrong.

2nd - "Fearing Time" Lisa Hicks

   I smelled him first. Sweat. Leather.
   Naakaii. Mexican.
   I grabbed for my sister in the dark and pulled her away from the river's edge. She did not cry out. We moved fast, evaporating like smoke, silent as an owl.
   But still he came. I heard him panting, gaining, gray dawn erasing the night. I pushed my sister down, behind the chamisa, and crawled on top of her. I didn't breathe.
   A low whistle… "Bonita muchachita." Pretty little girl.
   His shadow loomed over me, then, searing pain across my shoulders.
   I tried to hold on to my sister, but my hands were empty.

3rd - "Betrayed" Duke Southhard

   Twice in his racing career Mike Conant had witnessed fellow drivers being fried after they had survived the initial crash. His instant of elation at being alive clashed with the repulsive realization that he likely was about to burn to death. The profound irony wrenched his stomach.
   "Wonder how long it takes," he whispered.
   Mike hung upside down, his life-saving seatbelt now crushing his chest and slicing into his legs. The hissing sound of the volatile, high-octane aircraft fuel splattering onto the white-hot header on the right side of the car sizzled in his ear.


1st - "Query letter to Sam" Eileen Erickson
Erik Bens
121 Jane St.
Tucson, Arizona 85714
  Sam Kumag, Editor
  Snow Stories
  315 March Street
  Nome ,Alaska 99762
  September 12,2012

  Dear Mr. Kumag: Sammy

   Hey, man, do you remember our meeting at the NNB Bar in Nome Alaska in March 2011? That night was such a relief for me to tell you about my manuscript, Poodles Can Do, a Tale of the Iditarod. I think you and I were the only two people who were not overcome by consumption of many pitchers of the local Nome Numb Beer (NNB). Gosh, I hope you remember.
   Peanut Bens, my miniature poodle, DID complete the 2011 Iditarod. He survived a 1049-mile journey, and 15 days of temps to freeze any dog's kerbangers, much less a poodle. He led his 10-dog pack through 40 mph winds, two sled flips, and one mush driver breakdown. In this latter event Peanut 'rescued' the off the wall musher by licking his face until he calmed down. (Just between us guys, I was the poor sucker who freaked on day 13).
   Poodles Can Do is the story of Peanut's journey, from poodle couch toy to Iditarod Idol. In 9 chapters he morphs from wimpy to wonderful. He overcomes neighborhood disapproval. Who wants to see a dog sled racing through an Arizona gated community? (They did not appreciate his training on their finely manicured common grounds). He deals diplomatically with bureaucratic idiocy. See Chapter 3, How to Tell the Iditarod Application Committee that a Poodle IS a Viable Dog Breed for Leadership. He leads his team to triumph over the weather and harness the earth's beauty. And the center section of color photos will take your breath away!
   I have been chronicling Peanut's exploits for the past five years. His Travels to Patagonia received the Traveling Dogs award in 2009. Our run in Kenya Kan't Kill Ya went viral on You Tube in 2007. Peanut and I think Poodles Can Do will be a winner for your publication, Snow Stories.
   No SASE is attached here. Who the heck wants to send out extra paper stuff? E/M me for the manuscript. The outline is attached.

  Thanks, man!
  Erik Bens (and Peanut, of course)

2nd - "Trite but True Query Letter" Cynthia Sabelhause

Ms. Ellen Geiger
Frances Goldin Literary Agency
57 E. 11th Street, Suite 5B
New York, NY 10003

   Dear Ms. Geiger:
   I'm looking for an agent for Trite but True, my cozy mystery of 88,000 words set in Tucson, AZ. I thought you would be an excellent fit given your past work with authors I admire such as Donna Andrews and Earlene Fowler.
   Mary Margaret Malone, Em to her friends, is smart, runny, at the top of her career, and financially and emotionally secure when a corporate buyout forces her into retirement. A widow for the past fifteen years, Em's children have grown up and moved away. She has no real friends and barely knows her neighbors. Em devoted her life to her job. Now she must redefine herself.
   On her first Monday morning as a retiree, Em's elderly neighbor, Sophie Adams, is smothered in her bed and her house set on fire to hide the crime. Em's attempt to save Sophie's dog, Elliot, places her in the ridiculous position of being jammed in the doggy door when the fire department arrives. It also places her at the top of the suspect list. When the police discover that Em is the sole beneficiary of Sophie's estate, they think they've discovered her motive for the murder.
   Em meets neighbors, attends community functions, and begins to make friends, but she is never quite able to shake the suspicion that one of them could be a murderer. She develops a sparring relationship with Chief Detective Mickey McBride who vacillates between wanting to protect her and believing she murdered Sophie. When Em's house is broken into and Elliot is attacked, Em launches her own investigation.
   Pieces of the puzzle begin falling into place when Em finds evidence that Sophie was investigating a series of deaths of elderly women. However, it's only after a car chase that ends in a rough ride down the side of a mountain that Em convinces McBride to take Sophie's evidence seriously.
   Em will resonate with readers of any age and may be of particular interest to the large influx of baby boomer retirees. Readers will find the same sort of quirky humor in Trite but True that defines Andrews' work as well as the family and community connections central to the works of both Andrews and Fowler.
   The first three chapters of this novel resulted in my selection for the 2012 William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grants for Unpublished Writers. I am also the editor and publisher of Calliope—A Writers' Workshop by Mail ( Most of my writing credits are for nonfiction, but I have received several prizes for short fiction.
   May I send you a partial or complete manuscript of Trite but True? This is an exclusive submission.
   Very Best Regards,

3rd - "Query Letter for The Swastika Tattoo" Geraldine Birch

   Rudolf Meier is an intolerant bastard; his adherence to Nazi ideology is as visible as his swastika tattoo.
   But Rudolf's belief system begins to crumble in the sweltering heat of the Arizona desert where he picks cotton as a prisoner of war. Years spent in the Hitler Youth have taught Rudolf to believe Jews are swarthy, hook-nosed merchants. They are not cotton farmers who treat him with kindness, invite him for Thanksgiving dinner, and give him books by Hemingway. Now he finds himself in a wrenching moral dilemma as he begins to understand American democracy and individualism amidst the tyrannical hold of the Nazi officers who control the POW camp.
   My novel takes the reader back to Germany where Rudolf is raised by his grandparents after his parents have been murdered by Hitler's Brown Shirts. Unaware of this secret, as Rudolf joins the Hitler Youth and begins to spout racist views, he is conflicted when he realizes his grandmother despises Hitler and tries to warn him that Jews are no different than anyone else. His grandfather, a supervisor at the largest U-boat shipyard in Bremen, Germany, believes there is food on the table because of the Nazis, and that Rudolf must be a part of the new Germany.
   As Rudolf grows into a man and becomes a member of the feared U-boat arm of the German navy, his racist views travel with him aboard the U-boat and to America as a captured POW. That viewpoint begins to change as he becomes friends with the Jewish family. It is then that he comes face to face with the repercussions of intolerance when his German officers threaten his life and the lives of his grandparents in Germany because of that friendship
   As America s seeks solace in new anti-immigrant policies and hate crimes escalate—like the shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona—I was inspired to write my novel The Swastika Tattoo, a story about intolerance passed like a virus from generation to generation.
   My novel, while fictitious, is based on Camp Papago Park, the real German prisoner of war camp that was located on the outskirts of Phoenix from 1943 to 1946.
   I have worked for many years as a professional newspaper reporter and editor. Because of my desire to get the facts right, I spent one month in Germany doing research at the U-Boat Archive in Cuxhaven, Germany. I also traveled to Kiel, Germany where I spent a week interviewing a former U-boat officer who was a member of the Hitler Youth and a prisoner of war. The Swastika Tattoo is complete at approximately 92,000 words.
   I look forward to hearing from you.


1st - "Old Arizona" Archie Hoagland   

Up country the sky is no bluer,
Then down in the valley below,
I'm telling you friend,
I've come to the end,
And now I have nowhere to go.

I don't care to live by the ocean,
No islands are calling to me,
Because I for one,
Enjoy the sun,
And here is where I want to be.

For old Arizona is giddy,
With deserts and mountains galore,
And strange as it sounds,
To silent sun-downs,
My heartstrings are tied evermore.

Just give me perfume of the desert,
And wide open spaces to roam,
'Cause brother you see,
Like heaven to me,
Is old Arizona—my home.

2nd - "Arizona's Apache Angel" Margaret Boone Rappaport   

Like a heartbeat or the flutter of my lids,
A tremble of the earth when air is still.
A whispering of the wind against my cars.
Winged rider black and silver maned appears.

Not a gremlin or an Anglo Saxon troll.
A leprechaun from the days of Irish old.
Eastern wood sprite from a forest wet with rain.
But a horseman from a dry and dusty plain.

Comes he closer and encircles with his steed
And confuses with his galloping speed
All my senses 'til he puts his mount in check
And he pulls up near the naping of my neck.

Apache Angel! At last a guardian true!
Ghostly warrior from a West that too few knew.
My forefathers and your ancestors, too.
Were sworn enemies. Now I keep peace with you.

3rd - "Arizona Monsoon" D.R. Wise   

Lightning launched through cobalt skies
Shot streams of brightness 'fore my eyes.
Zigzag jags of piercing light
Cracked through the spacious cloak of night.
The desert flora's dervish dance
Teased the cacti's stalwart stance
And mountains faded from my view
As whipping winds around me blew.
My ears were hammered with a slap,
Transmitted by a thunderclap
That rumbled in a baritone,
A monstrous shout then fading moan.
I weathered many times the show,
The echoes and the afterglow,
Till one, then two, the drops began.
Perhaps I should have gulped and ran.
Instead I let them leap and jump,
Releasing rain with each wet bump.
Then three, then four - they multiplied.
The heavens' vessel opened wide
And poured its liquid girth on me
While drenching all that I could see.
I stood amongst the sheets of rain
Until their strength began to wane
And morphed to thick and humid air
With moonlit puddles everywhere.
The sandy earth sucked in the swill
Till racing streams portrayed its fill.
I drew deep breaths that bathed my brain
In poignant wafts of after-rain,
Then smiled inside with head and heart
That I bore witness to the Art.

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