Every month, R2 runs a writing and art contest based on a prompt we decide earlier in the month. October's month was "Our Monsters," and we had to choose between some incredible pieces on a variety of topics. The winner of the contest was "A specimen of Bulimia nervosa, observed in captivity" by Sonia Hamer, and can be found in the Thresher this month, along with the winning art submission, "Can't Let Go" by Justin Bishop.
However, we'd also like to shed some light on two pieces we designated as runners-up. In no particular order, here are our two honorable mentions from this month: "Mawyer" and "Counting Sheep."
Your roommate beats his mother.
When you told me, I couldn’t picture
this polite, loving, red-cheeked
boy calling her a pussy-faced bitch and
punching her when he thought you weren’t
looking. You drank beer and
watermelon vodka, and sunburned on
Rehoboth beach; you ate his grandmother’s
bad cooking, bet on the World Cup;
you flirted with Scottish and Slovakian girls, all with him,
and you tell me all this over the phone as I lie in my
yellow dorm bed picking strands of dried grass from
the sheets. I hear your deep voice travel though
the air and radiate from cell towers
and I can hear you say that I too am a stupid bitch
for not knowing the definition of imbroglio.
You have turned into vinegar while I was gone.
I miss you baby, you soften. And I’ll kill him if
he touches you. Well, okay, I say. Well, okay.
It used to take my parents a good night kiss and a wind up music box to tuck me in. Now I've got it down to a game of make-believe in my bed or sometimes yours. I wish I could count sheep but instead I'm counting the ways you could be touching me and you're not.
The glow in the dark stars on my ceiling don't last all night. They fall asleep before I make it home, and the heavens don’t wait up for me anymore. So I leave the curtains open. Maybe some passerby will take pity and stand guard at my window until the war is won. It hardly matters one way or another. I'm here until morning, embracing a corpse and a tongue-scaled dragon all tangled up in my blankets. They come by the darkness like clockwork in my blood. That's why I sunrise in a sweat, raw-throated and panting against the wall.
I wish I could count sheep but instead I'm counting the years between us. It's a bullshit classification but then again, so are we and maybe that's what I fell in love with anyway. It's nice seeing you, I mean. It's been lonely with nothing but a quiver of splintering arrows and the basilisk in the mirror. The couch has padding enough for one last rally so I think I'll sleep here tonight. By sleep I mean it's four o'clock and I'd do it again, again.
What I'm saying is I wish I could just count sheep but instead I'm counting the footsteps of the demons that you loaned me and you know I guess it's what I donned the armor for but cardboard isn't enough against a lifetime of hellhounds and broken words and I think I could use another cup of coffee or maybe just a bedtime story.
This was a submission submitted to the September Monthly Contest that we think deserves some special mention! Please enjoy this piece about the future of Rice, entitled "The True Plan for the Second Century."
"So, how did you survive?" I asked the stranger as I poked the fire with a stick. In our desperation after the disaster, as we ran out of notes to burn, we'd turned to using our textbooks for fuel.
"Sid 80s, partied a little too hard," he responded from within the mess of rags he wore. Though faded, they bore the unmistakable markings of free RPC shirts. "Just stayed home instead of going to the... event." He shuddered at the mention and shifted the fire with his own stick. A Gen Chem textbook released a flight of sparks.
"Lucky you. Any attendees survive?"
"Physics major told me the shockwave moved at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. Killed 'em faster than their brains could process what happened."
"So that's a no."
"I wouldn't say it's impossible. Little chance, but if he made it out, maybe someone else did."
The stranger looked at me like I was a freshman asking if Rice was a dry campus.
"Leebron did." The rags shifted as he looked into the darkened sky. The stars were just becoming visible through the perpetual smoke that rose from the ruins of campus. "Even if I had the proof, though, I don't think I could stop him now."
"Stop him from doing what?"
Another incredulous stare. "Didn't you see it?"
"I was in my room cramming for midterms. Humor me."
"Herzstein Hall was secretly a giant robot. All the low-tech appearances were just to disguise the inner workings. Right after the event, Leebron ran to the secret control room, activated it, and set off in the direction of the White House."
"You can't be serious."
"All of this is just the prelude to his true plan for world domination, of course. Mecha-Herzstein is only the beginning of his dark designs."
"I just can't believe it," I mused as I poked the fire again. Combustion equations wafted into the sickly sky. "Why would Leebron do something like that? Doesn't Rice administration always have the students' interests in mind?"
"Believe me or don't," the stranger said, rising, "it's all out of our hands now. Except you might want to check the first letter of every sentence I just said."
Editor’s Note: The phrase “taking a secret to your grave” has become colloquial to the point where we don’t really stop to think about the deeper implications of such a notion. While many of the pieces we received had outstandingly creative takes on that colloquial meaning, this story really stood out to us in its raw and real interpretation of what it means to take a secret to your grave - how sometimes, it is the secret itself which takes you to your grave.
-Bailey Tulloch, R2 Monthly Contest Committee Head
By Tina Nazerian
I went to Iraq to tell a story. Two years ago, I had sat in the Big Boss’s office in New York, where he told me that if I reported on the war for a while and gave him a stellar story, he’d give me what people in the business would kill for – the nightly news anchor chair. How long I’d be there, he didn’t know, but he assured me that the soldiers would keep my crew and me safe.
The first month, seven American troops and 102 civilians died when a suicide bomber blew up a food market in the city’s center. The Big Boss loved the emotional touches in my story. The third month, the soldiers discovered two members of a suicide bomber network. The Big Boss applauded how my story showed America’s war progress. The fifth month, I overheard some troops at my base talk about how they raped the women when they burst into civilian homes. My story never ran. Eventually, I got a letter in the mail, a warning from the Big Boss to not push the line.
I saw them on the outskirts of Baghdad, during the eight month. I’d been following two of the troops on a mission to kill a trainee suicide bomber, and we stopped on the road so one of them could pee. Less than half a mile away, we saw a father carrying his infant son. He was sunburned across his face, and was swaying as he walked, wheezing. After the soldier zipped up his pants, he pulled out his machine gun, firing twice. First at the father – to spare him the pain of watching his son die, he told me later that day – and next at the child.
“It’s always good to eliminate any potential problems,” he explained.
Those words kept cycling through my head that evening back at the base. They still do. Every time I finish reading the nightly news, I go back to my Manhattan apartment, wash off the powder, and sleep, only to have the words and the father and son creep into my dreams. Sometimes I play the tape of the story I reported that night – two American troops ended the life of a suicide bomber before he ended anyone else’s – and I press my fingernails hard against my skull, hoping for it to break.
November Prompt: “Coming Home”
We welcome everyone to submit a piece!
Email a short story or poem up to 600 words in length to email@example.com.
Winners receive a $25 Coffeehouse gift card!
Click here for more guidelines.
Editor's Note: Choosing a winning piece for this month’s contest was a challenge, as we received so many unique interpretations of the theme “unlikely encounters.” The notion of an unlikely encounter tends to have a magical, somewhat fate-driven quality about it, and what stood out about this piece is the way it perfectly captures that feeling. There’s something remarkably poignant yet hopeful about the idea that, in the midst of fear and doubt, one unlikely encounter can change everything. Hope you enjoy this piece as much as we did!
By Molly Garrison
If you want to say that you met God, say you met him on an airplane. Say that, as the flight attendants gave you your complimentary beverage, United music jingling in your ears, you realized the stranger next to you was all too calm through the turbulence. Say that your Pepsi spilled across your hands and he offered napkins to wipe it up, nodded when you thanked him nervously. Say that you glanced at your side through the hours only to see his eyes firmly fixed on the tray table in its locked position, his hands gently resting on the armrests.
If you want to say that you met God, don’t say it was in passing. Don’t say that, when you disembarked, you clambered from your sticky seatbelt and glanced tentatively in his direction before you were glared at by the struggling father behind you. Don’t say you slipped out of the terminal gates and saw him staring out the window on the other side of the moving walkway, newspaper in hand, overcoat slung over his forearm. Don’t say you watched him disappear out of view on the shuttle, suitcase neatly under his chair.
For if you want to say that you met God, swear that you are still in the turbulence, clutching your tray table and wondering if it would be weird to use his name while he was present. Swear you are still waiting for the plane to land, debating whether you should open your mouth and ask if he has the time, even if your watch is visible on your wrist. Swear you didn’t watch him disappear between the flight attendant’s watchful grins, between the father and his three whining toddlers. Swear you worked up the courage to stutter out a question – any question – as though asking would affirm his existence, as though the time of day would give you more than just a set of numbers.
If the little foil-wrapped pretzels will give you solace, eat them and wonder if he judges you based on the crumbs on your thighs – but swear that if you met God, it was in a metal container, ten thousand feet in the air, as you felt the floor drop beneath you for the first time, as the fasten your seatbelts sign flashed red above you and you reached for your sides and prayed it would snap shut.
October Monthly Contest
The Prompt: Secrets you're taking to your grave
We welcome everyone to submit a piece. Email a short story or poem up to 400 words in length to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE GUIDELINES.
Winners receive a $25 Coffeehouse gift card and have their piece published both on our blog and in the Rice Thresher's Arts & Entertainment section.
The Prompt: Unlikely Encounters
-400 words or less
-Prose or Poetry
-Due at 11:59 September 30th
HOW TO SUBMIT:
--Email Word Documents to r2ricereview@gmail
Each month we will publish a writing prompt to inspire any and all Rice students to send us prose or poetry within the guidelines set out per month! The R2 Staff will select the winner each month to be published on the R2 blog.
The winner will also receive a $25 Coffeehouse Gift Card!
Hello all! I'm proud to announce the WINNER of our November monthly contest! If you recall, the theme was WARMTH, as a little shout out to the upcoming holiday season.
Our winner is Alison Liu with her poem, The Warmest Things! Congrats, Alison!
Also, a quick reminder that we are now accepting SUBMISSIONS for the magazine to be published next spring! If you have something to submit or are interested, please check out the SUBMISSIONS tab above. We look forward to seeing and reading everyone's submissions! (:
And now, here is the winning piece:
The Warmest Things:
When we draped lights across the snow for the neighborhood boys to step on and shatter reds and greens deep into the palms of winter, white skin torn with shards of holiday—and the ice encased the trees like glass, and we poured hot chocolate on them even though we knew they would shed like snakes in the spring
As some-people are never completely free, as some-one is held together with rubber bands stretched too thin, keeping the heart unburst and blood from flowing red dirt lust—and laughs in a jar to save for rainy days, (and when is a storm enough) growing more and more overcast… we snapped them back with scissors with laughter with blood-free ouch
How we thought they were eyes, and the bumper a smile, and how we pressed up against my mother’s car when our breaths were smoke in the cold escaping (similar to—but not the kind that—escaped from your throat when you hid your uncle’s cigarettes on the roof when you found out he was dying, and smoked the whole stinking pack after the funeral, just one after the other until…) like a deer in
Because we used to read Ray Bradbury stories to each other by the creek frozen over and by July, we had written a recipe for Dandelion Wine and grew them like summer, coloring in the callouses in our feet with asphalt black to ash, fermentation warm burning on our tongues
That do not serve a story, but strung together like popcorn generalizations in order to evoke certain emotions: wishes burning rolled into a campfire, lost glasses and blurry stars on trampoline, sunburnt stone wall tightropes, warm bruises from skin friction: we grew up,
At last, we have the winner of the October monthly writing contest! Congratulations to Natalie Danckers and her flash fiction piece, "This is How it Happened." As a reminder, the prompt for October was to write your own urban legend. Also, some glowing reviews for the winning piece:
"This was superbly written and had a creative and relatable premise." --The Not New York Times
"It does speak to a real human experience, which I appreciate." --The Not Wall Street Journal
"It’s so meta, I love it!" --The Not Thresher
So settle in, 'cause you're in for a treat! With that, here is the winning story!!
This is How it Happened
This is how it happened: It was two months after he had gone and she was lying listlessly on the couch, her face rigid under a fine layer of salt. In of the corner of her mind, she heard the TV: “Conjoined twins said to have combined IQ over 300.” By the time this had registered, it was too late and she was hooked, her vaguely sarcastic thoughts – “honestly I would have thought it would be much higher” – an inadequate defense.
She noticed it a few weeks later when she had summoned the courage to venture out to the nearby grocery store. While waiting in line at the checkout, she felt drawn to a trashily dishonest magazine slouching shamelessly in the metal rack. “UFO spotted over Waco, Texas”. Not really all that surprising. “Businessman attacks coworker with fork”. Was it plastic or metal? That could make all the difference. “Kris Jenner instigates bar fight in Seattle”. I mean, if I had a family like that – “Ma’am? Are you ready?” She looked blankly at the cashier, more irritated than apologetic, and scooped a head of lettuce onto the sticky conveyer belt.
Back on the couch, she landed on an obscure cable channel that seemed to be conducting a legitimate debate in regard to the existence of Sasquatch. One scientist was wildly gesturing at a fuzzy video while the other shook his head, managing to look both incredulous and depressed. Looking at the former, she felt that she had never cared about anything that much in her life. The thought relieved her.
She was in her cubicle, having braved the deluge of sympathetic looks at the front desk. She sought refuge in the headlines she had read that morning: “Abandoned Rice a Roni Factory Occupied by Goat-People”. “Moscow’s Tap Water Actually 20% Vodka”… After arriving home from the grocery store a month ago, she had subscribed to the magazine and received weekly mailings. She lived for this: the unreal, the extraordinary, the scandalous. Because if she let herself think about him, even for a minute, she would find herself drowning, sinking into an abyss; sooner or later she would become the “Mummified Woman found in Suburban House 15 Years After Death.” She would become the reality of what she escaped reality with. And nothing, not even “Cannibal on Death Row Requests Human Child as Last Meal”, could be worse than that.
Apologies for not posting the prompt here sooner! But at least, here's a quick reminder as Thanksgiving break rolls around the corner. Perhaps you'll snag a few minutes to write something to submit! :D
This month, the prompt is a single word, and that is
The same guidelines as last month apply:
Please email submissions as a Word document to email@example.com by 11:59 on November 31st!
Lastly, for your Facebook needs, HERE is the link to the Facebook event page.
Two very exciting announcements tonight!
R2's Open Mic Night has returned!!
When: Friday, October 17
Where: Willy's Pub
If you're an aspiring writer or poet with a written piece you'd like to showcase, or an artist with a song (or perhaps even a rap) you'd like to perform, or if you're a budding stand-up comedian with a routine you'd like to try on the crowd, then we want YOU to perform on our stage! Or, if you're just an individual who enjoys seeing their peers showcase their talents, then JOIN US for a night sure to be full of creativity and good entertainment! Of course, there will also be plenty of free food and soda, as well as alcohol for those of age.
The monthly writing contest is now LIVE!
This month, the theme is
For example, you could write an urban legend explaining why Sewall Hall is so. freaking. creepy. Because let's face it, Sewall Hall is hella weird, and we need to know why it gives everyone the creeps. So get creative and submit, submit, submit! We will be accepting submissions from now through 11:59PM on October 31st. For more details regarding submissions, please look to our Facebook event page!
And that's all for tonight! Happy Wednesday!
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.