A few weeks back, a colleague looked a me with the sort of look I’m sure I offered a thousand times during my time as a journalist: that look when you’ve just seen something awful and you’re trying act as though everything is normal while asking a compassionate question or two. The compassionate question was this: when was the last time you slept? The question, I had to admit, wasn’t easily answerable. I was in the middle of a grading spree across four very disparate courses, trying to tie up some gangly loose ends connected with a campus series of visiting writers, and I’d taken on the seemingly monumental task of chopping off almost five thousand words from a story that’s been stuck for a few years between a novella and a full-blown novel.
When the Ohio Writers’ Association, populated with some tremendous writers and editors—several of whom I’ve worked with (and had fantastic experiences in doing so) in connection with the Best of Ohio Short Stories series—put out a call for a Great Novella Contest, I wedged some trimming (in order to meet the competition word limit) into an already rail-thin mid-semester schedule.
This time, the trimming paid off. I was deeply pleased to learn late last week that my novella The Busker won the competition and its prize—an offer of publication with the group’s independent literary imprint, Ragged Crow Press. I’m deeply looking forward to working with the team at OWA and Ragged Crow to polish this story further. It’s one I’ve been in love with for quite some time: this short book is a love letter to lots of folks: to the musicians I’ve known, played alongside, and watched struggle in the face of public indifference to their craft. To traveling. To the city of Liverpool where the story is set, and where I’ve made dear friends. To the ideas of determination and (yes, I’m going to say it) getting by with a little help from your friends. And thus, it’s an ode to the sort of community folks like Emily Hitchcock and Brad Pauquette have fostered through OWA up in my home state.
The Busker follows Aiden Carlisle, a struggling street musician, in his quest to find a proper stage and an audience that maybe cares more broadly and the song or a coin at a time. He’s got nemeses out on the street, but he’s got some allies, too—if unlikely ones. I’m thrilled for this book to find a proper home it what I think is its best form, a short, quick moving novella that follows its protagonist through one primary quest. Thanks to OWA and Ragged Crow for supporting the novella, and for the readers and editors who gave this book a nod amongst what was, by all accounts, a stacked field of submissions.