Tuset said her experience with COVID-19 has been jarring, and she suspects other college students feel similarly.
“We're used to being away from home most of the time and working away from home most of the time,” she said. “So I think what's really important about this contest is it's a chance to reflect on the process, but also a chance to escape, to dream, imagine and create your own world.”
Moira Marquis, a graduate teaching fellow at UNC and Arts Everywhere fellow, said the contest’s title, One Month of Solitude, is a play off of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
While the 250-500 word writing submissions do not have to be explicitly related to COVID-19 and isolation, Marquis said they do encourage participants to use this contest as an opportunity for constructive reflection. While the length requirement is necessary to comply with the print formatting requirements of the short story dispensers, Marquis also said it helps motivate people to submit.
“Short is honest and short is now,” Marquis said. “We wanted to encourage people to not get too into this and to just submit something that is really a reflection of how they're feeling right now.”
Daniel Wallace, director of UNC’s creative writing program and author of the novel “Big Fish,” had been working with Arts Everywhere on the contest before COVID-19.
After classes were moved to online, the contest was too.
“It’s important to keep people writing,” Wallace said.
Wallace said submissions to the competition can be from anyone, including students, professors and alumni.
“Literature is the way that people express themselves," Wallace said. "Even during non-pandemic times, it's how we understand ourselves by understanding other people. It's for everybody because you're not writing in a vacuum. You’re putting yourself out there in the world — outside of the place where you're socially distancing.”