About the fiction contest

If fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, then it would also hold true that fiction is sometimes truer than fact. While a commentary or an article might have all the facts correct, it's fiction that reminds us what life is, what the human condition is all about, and how it feels to live inside someone else's reality. Sherman Alexie, the judge for the fifth annual Inlander Short Fiction Contest, once told us that he didn't work out as a reporter because he couldn't resist "making the stories more interesting."

One of the reasons The Inlander is such a big supporter of the arts in general and the keeper of the fiction contest specifically is that the creative arts, particularly poetry and literature, feed the part of us that longs for a damn good story. This year, we're pleased to announce that the winner of this year's contest, Karen Seashore, has penned just that.

About the winner...

Karen Seashore, the winner of this year's fiction contest, came by her craft via a slightly circuitous route. Like many writers, Seashore wrote as a child but was propelled into a more useful career path -- in this case teaching.

"I was a teacher until well into my 40s," says Seashore, who lives in Sandpoint. "I was teaching kindergarten when I had the realization that I enjoyed telling stories more than, well," she pauses for a laugh, "working."

Initially, Seashore thought about becoming a children's author, but it was in writing for adults that she found herself having the most fun. While the author of 25 or so short stories has taken classes in the MFA/Creative Writing program at EWU and has attended the Centrum Writer's Conference in Port Townsend several times, she has been largely self-taught. She does belong to a writers' group, which has been invaluable for both feedback and the generating of ideas.

"I was with my writers' group, and I had this 'Big Chief' tablet," says Seashore. "It had this picture of a chief on the cover and I was running out of pages. I held it up and said to the group 'OK, we have to write about Big Chief.' So we all wrote about Big Chief, and I kept writing and writing this story, which became 'Separation Suites.' "

When she's not writing, Seashore can be found kayaking on Lake Pend Oreille, having coffee with her husband Tom or hanging out with other like-minded writing friends.

"I have three friends who also write, and we e mail one another quite a bit. I call us the cyber sisters," says Seashore. "We all got together earlier this winter during this incredible snowstorm and while we were snowed in, one of them asked me, 'Aren't you going to enter The Inlander Short Fiction contest?' I hadn't really thought about it, but when I got back I sent the story in and forgot about it until you called."

Seashore has been diligently submitting her work to a number of literary magazines -- The Arkansas Review, for instance -- and has collected what she calls "a big pile of rejection slips." Still, she is heartened by winning The Inlander's fiction contest and by being part of a growing group of successful writers who hail from Idaho.

"There's a writer's conference they have every year in Idaho called 'Rendezvous,' which showcases Idaho writers," she says. "They've had some truly incredible authors there -- Mary Clearman Blew, Robert Wrigley, Dennis Held, Claire Davis -- who are also very accessible. There's never a sense of 'Oh, you're just a beginner.' So for me, it's a good thing to be part of this tradition of Idaho writing."

About the judge...

While Sherman Alexie is one of the busiest people we know -- when we catch up with him periodically over the course of a year he's either reading from his latest book at Auntie's, working on a new film project or honing his craft for the next poetry slam -- he still found time to judge The Inlander Short Fiction Contest 2000. This year saw the publication of not one but two books by Alexie, the wonderful novel The Toughest Indian in the World and a collection of poetry, One Stick Song. This year he was involved in a number of literary projects, including as a juror for the 2000 PEN/Amazon.com Short Story Award and as a member of the indie film industry's 2000 Independent Spirit Awards Nominating Committee. Most recently, Alexie was the guest editor for the Winter 2000 edition of Ploughshares magazine. He currently resides in Seattle with his wife and son.

Of this year's winner, Alexie had this to say: "Karen Seashore's 'Separation Suites' was an interesting examination of the multiculturalism (however secret) of the West. Her characters spend a lot of time deceiving each other, and this reveals a lot more about the nature of white and Indian identities than is to be expected. I think the story needs work (so do most), but I found it to be the most compelling fiction I read for this contest."

About the artist...

Mike Cressy is an Issaquah-based illustrator whose whimsical-yet-hip style is almost instantly recognizable. He has worked with The Inlander on a number of covers -- most notably our rootin'tootin' cowboy cover for our "Best of the Inland Northwest" 1999 issue, and he did the cat santa riding a dog reindeer for our Gift Guide, also in 1999. -- & & Sheri Boggs & &

& & & lt;i & You can read the entries from our two runners up, also, on our Web site. "The Bridge" by Joel M. Fulton and "Baby Girl" by Lorenzo Herman can be read or printed out at www.inlander.com. The first-, second- and third place winners will also read from their stories at Auntie's Bookstore, the

co-sponor or our fiction contest, on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 pm. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

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