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Fiction writer on Whidbey wins WIWA's Spirit grand prize | KUDOS

Chris Spencer talks about writing short stories at Useless Bay Coffee Company in Langley. - Patricia Duff / The Record
Chris Spencer talks about writing short stories at Useless Bay Coffee Company in Langley.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

He heard the words “Bubble-Up” and the story had to be written.

Langley resident Chris Spencer is this year’s Spirit of Writing grand prize winner and, recently, the short story writer sat down at Useless Bay Coffee Company to talk about writing.

Spencer won first place in the fiction category for his short story, “Bubble-Up in Del’s Diner,” a story about one man’s struggle in a rapidly changing world and its effects on his daily routine at a small-town diner.

“They usually just pop up from a single line,” Spencer said of the stories he writes.

He currently has more than 90 stories in various stages of the editing process in his desk drawer.

The retired portrait photographer said he loves the editing process and began writing fiction about five years ago when he joined a writing critique group in Langley called the Vicious Circle.

“This time it was ‘bubble up’ and I write a lot about diners … and aging,” he said.

Bubble-Up refers to a brand of soda pop that the main character, Dwayne, sees on the revised menu of Del’s Diner, the silver-sided lunch wagon where he has eaten lunch for the past 45 years. Spencer writes:

Then he sees the exotic #6 free-range chicken-fried steak, no trans fat hush puppy and diet Bubble-Up Combo Plate calling to take him part way to Shangri-la.

Spencer is happy to have his red pen swinging critique group and the contests that compel him to send the work out.

The Spirit of Writing Contest is sponsored by the Whidbey Island Writers Association in partnership with the Sno-Isle Libraries and welcomes adult entrants in the categories of poetry, fiction, nonfiction essay, memoir and children’s and young adult literature.

Spencer will receive a scholarship to the 2012 Whidbey Island Writers Conference on March 3 and 4 and “Bubble-Up in Del’s Diner,” will be published in the 2012 spring issue of Soundings Review, a nationally distributed literary journal published by the association’s Whidbey Writers Workshop in conjunction with the association’s master of fine arts in creative writing program.

Spencer, who was a contest winner last year as well, is the host of the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts  series “Short Story Smash” in which writers submit a story of 100 words or less, and then have them read onstage by Spencer and other performers.

“We’ll be on the main stage next time on March 14,” Spencer said of the WICA event. (The deadline for submissions is March 7.)

Of the 90 or so stories he has in process, Spencer said the subjects are varied.

“It’s all over the map. It’s mainly humor, but I experiment and there’s some very dark stuff,” he said.

“The trouble with humor is nobody takes you seriously,” he added with somewhat of a twinkle in his eye.

Read “Bubble-Up in Del’s Diner” in the magazine, “In the Spirit of Writing 2011,” an anthology of the work of all the Spirit winners available at any Sno-Isle library on Whidbey Island.

In addition to Spencer, the 2011 Spirit of Writing winners are:

Poetry, first place, “Yonder Mountain” by Russ Massengale, Oak Harbor; second place, “Garden Requiem” by Clairann Haney, Oak Harbor; third place,“Shuttle Soundings” by Martha McCartney, Coupeville.

Memoir, first place, “We Don’t…” by Penelope Stuart Bourk, Clinton; second place, “Heaven Doesn’t Look Like Colorado” by Alan Carpenter, Freeland; third place, “Mama’s Baby” by Martha Martin, Langley.

Essay, first place, “Crossing Hecate” by Penelope Stuart Bourke, Clinton; second place, “Making Great Time” by Karen Stevens, Coulee City; third place, “Late in Life Love” by Carolyn Tamler, Greenbank.

Children’s Literature — first place, “The Dragon Rose” by Chris Korrow, Langley; second place, “The Trouble with John” by Catherine Spane, Camano Island; third place, “The Whooparee” by Stan Thomas, Oak Harbor.

Fiction, first place, “Bubble-Up in Del’s Diner” by Spencer; second place, “A Heart-colored Crevasse” by Rebecca Olson, Oak Harbor.

The winners will read from their works in January at the Sno-Isle Libraries.

The schedule is 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12 at Langley Library; 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14 at Clinton Community Hall; 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 at Oak Harbor Library; 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 at Coupeville Library; and 7 p.m. Tuesday,  Jan. 31 at Freeland Library.

The Spirit of Writing Contest is open to both full- and part-time Whidbey Island residents and to all WIWA members. More information on the contest is at www.//



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