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Thursday June 1st

'Short is now': Arts Everywhere writing contest encourages reflection on COVID-19

<p>There are eight short stories dispensers across campus like this one in the Student Union. The short story dispensers feature the work of UNC students and local authors.</p>
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There are eight short stories dispensers across campus like this one in the Student Union. The short story dispensers feature the work of UNC students and local authors.

Arts Everywhere’s writing competition, One Month of Solitude, is accepting short stories and poems to provide the UNC community with a constructive outlet during COVID-19.

Poems, fiction, and non-fiction stories ranging in length of 250-500 words can be submitted until April 30 at midnight.

Winners’ short writing pieces will be published online and will be available in print through the short story dispensers when students return to campus.  

Leticia Tuset is a fiction editor at Arts Everywhere and a sophomore at UNC. She said that since many of Arts Everywhere’s plans involved on-campus interaction with students, COVID-19 has required them to come up with more plans for online engagement.

“Isolation is a great time for writing,” Tuset said. "We thought it'd be a good idea to allow people to express themselves and also connect with other people by sharing stories.” 

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.”


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