River Stories | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

River Stories

City Paper's Fourth Annual Short Fiction Contest

Falling Water
Heart Is Home

Concrete and Water

People in Pittsburgh know their rivers. Judging by the submissions we received, all dealing with the theme of rivers, the writers were well in tune with the legendary three rivers that strap our city down like some sort of aquatic seatbelt.

There were stories that spoke of childhood memories: getting chased by bullies along river banks or losing one's sexual innocence within purifying waters. There were memoirs of lazy afternoon beer-chugging or pot-smoking sessions by the river, and stories casting the river as a source of escape for characters suffering abuse or persecution on dry land.

For CP's fourth annual short-fiction contest, three stories were selected by our panel of judges, none of which places the river in the mainstream of the plots. And that's all right. Two of the stories use the river as a grim figure, brought in to consume some lives while preserving others. The third mentions a river only sparingly, and then as the proverbial well of love that has run dry.

The confluence of the three is that each story has a soul that runs deep yet with no obvious physical connection to the characters and conflicts. Instead, the bodies of flowing water in these stories sit still and casually observe until called to take action, leading their main characters and, in a way, the readers, to a baptism that refreshes our perspective on the roles those muddy waters play in our lives.

The Judges

Vanessa German is a multidisciplinary artist: poet, actress, playwright, sculptor and photographer. She was recently seen in August Wilson's Seven Guitars at Penn State University's August Wilson Festival. Her play, "Pieces," won best play at Pittsburgh's 2004 Theater Festival in Black and White. German is the national Slam Bush and Ink Tank Slam Champion. She is currently completing her first evening-length work, which will be produced as part of the "inspired" series at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Jennifer Meccariello is a contributing editor to Pittsburgh Magazine, where she writes the monthly "Books & Words" section. She is also a co-founder and outgoing editorial director of The New Yinzer, a local writing organization. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yinzer's Pittsburgh Love Stories, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Lawrenceville with her fiancé, a pug, three cats, and two hermit crabs named Sheldon and Pierre.

Jane McCafferty is the author of Director of the World & Other Stories, which won the Drue Heinz prize in 1992; One Heart, a novel published by HarperCollins in 2001; and Thank You For the Music, a book of stories also by HarperCollins in 2004. She is an associate professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University, where she teaches fiction, nonfiction and literature courses.

Honorable Mentions

"Flood Plain," by Chris Carson

"Watching The Grass Grow," by Christopher London

Comments (0)

Add a comment