Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Apologies in advance for this week's column, which I admit has less practical use than my previous entries. But I couldn't help myself; the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest were announced yesterday!


The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has been hosted by the English Department at San Jose State University since 1982. The tongue-in-cheek literary competition challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the the infamous Paul Clifford, whose opening phrase is the oft-mocked "It was a dark and stormy night."

This year's winner is Jim Guigli of Carmichael, CA. His winning prose: "Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean." Apparently this fellow submitted 60 entries!

After perusing these deliberate "travesties of literary ineptitude," you may want to check out the Sticks And Stones page, where readers have been encouraged to analyze examples of published bad writing. Some overly catty comments here, yes, but also some enlightening ones as well.

Alphabet Soup

Reader Comments (1)

I like the way he describes the woman in the doorway. You could use one word to describe each attribute he describes (skinny body, angelic face, and beguiling eyes), or you could use the most vivid word picture imaginable, as he did. Love it! Absolutely LOVE it!

December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

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