All the Ghastly details

Melissa Stagnaro

Since we first unveiled the details of this year’s Ghastly Ghost Story competition, my anticipation has been building. I’m absolutely jubilant by the time the first submissions start rolling in. I know that sounds silly, but what can I say? Our annual Halloween fiction contest is one of the highlights of my year.

Until, that is, it comes to the actual judging.

Oh, I start off with plenty of enthusiasm. But somewhere around the 50th or 60th story, I begin to weep openly.

This year the number of entries exceeded 140. But I know I’ve got it easy, at least all I have to do is read them all. Before I took over running the ghastly  little show, most of the submissions were mailed in and some poor schmuck  (usually the lovely Jessica Lewis) had to type them all in. The first thing I did was insist stories be submitted via email. It’s saved a lot of hassle, and as you can tell, hasn’t hurt the quantity of entries in the least.

I’m thrilled so many kids (and a meager handful of adults) take the time to pen stories for the contest. But let me tell you, it’s a daunting task to sit down knowing you’ve got that many to wade through.

The stories are all over the place, from just a couple of paragraphs to the maximum allowed 1500 words. Ax murders, vampires, zombies, werewolves, ghosts and every other type of deranged ghoul imaginable is represented at some point.

It’s a mixed bag of writing talent, but that doesn’t matter – every one gets credit for trying in my opinion. And happily the good usually outweigh the bad and the ugly by a health margin.

There were a few things I noticed in reading this year’s stories that I don’t remember from last year. One, was the prevalence of bullying as a theme. There were some other disturbing trends as well, which I think might be an indication that far too many kids are watching gruesome horror movies these days.

As a whole, however, this year’s crop of entries showed the remarkable creativity of our local young people. In fact, the images they evoked with their work made for a few restless nights for me this week. Now, I just hope they use all that raw talent for good, rather than just to keep relics like me up at night.

Congratulations to our winners, whose stories were published today in The Pumpkin Vine. Kudos, too, to all of those who submitted Halloween tales for this year’s contest. They’ll be posted to the ES website tomorrow, so you’ll have a chance to read every last one of them.

If you dare…

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.