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About the Fiction Contest

Courtesy Ann Newton Holmes

GOA FAN: Holmes

It took several tries—she thinks about seven—but Ann Newton Holmes has won the 13th annual Stanford Fiction Contest. A finalist in several years and an honorable mention winner in 2005, Holmes, '62, is the author of "The Man Who Dropped Clocks." Her story was selected by author Marly Swick, a professor in creative writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Two honorable-mention stories are published online at "Dingbang You're Dead" was written by J. Elvis Herman, '98, MA '98, and "In Search of Madame Tang's" was written by Rae Meadows, '92.

From 54 stories entered, Stanford editors chose 11 to send to judge Swick, '71. A past winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, Swick is the author of two novels, Paper Wings and Evening News, and two story collections.

Swick called "The Man Who Dropped Clocks" "a lyrical, heartfelt and haunting story" that "captures in a very moving microcosmic and delicate manner the shift in a developing country from a rural agrarian to an urban high-tech way of life."

The story grew out of Holmes's travels. After she and her husband, Fred, retired from education jobs, they spent two months of each year in India. Their research and photography on Hindu architecture and mythology in the deserts of Rajasthan has been published in India. Fred Holmes died last year. Ann, who continues to return to India, says "The Man Who Dropped Clocks," is the second of four stories inspired by changes taking place in Goa.

Jeremy Herman's story, "Dingbang You're Dead," offers "a strikingly original plot that is both futuristic and chillingly believable," Swick says. In this story about a young man stymied by bureaucracy, "what is truly impressive is the way the story conveys such sociocultural concepts through a very human and affecting story of one powerless Chinese man's thwarted desire to marry the woman he loves."

The story was born two summers ago, Herman says, in a railway ticket office in Xi'an, China. He witnessed "a bizarre display of group submission to a government official with a whistle and an attitude" and began to "muse over potential triggers for sociopolitical change in China," including the gender disparity caused by China's one-child policy and its ingrained cultural preference for male offspring.

Herman, a philosophy major, has finished one unpublished novel about a Peace Corps volunteer in a May-December relationship and is working on "a mythical underdog tale starring a pair of dicephalic conjoined twins."

"In Search of Madame Tang's," by Rae Meadows, takes readers to 20th-century Brooklyn, Swick notes, "with all its teeming ethnic divisions and economic stratifications. Through the eyes of a young, virtually orphaned streetwise girl, we experience the sights, sounds and smells of this world where it is a struggle simply to survive." Meadows, an art major, says she fell in love with literature at Stanford, even though she didn't write her first story until five years after graduation. She earned an MFA from the University of Utah and has since published two novels, Calling Out and No One Tells Everything.

She was researching the Orphan Train Movement (1854-1929), which sent orphaned, poor and delinquent children from cities to new homes in rural America, when she wrote "In Search of Madame Tang's." Violet, the girl from the story, is one of three protagonists for a novel she's writing, Mercy Train.

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