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Glitter Is Theme of Katharine Brush Flash Fiction Contest

The theme of the seventh annual Katharine Brush Flash Fiction contest is “glitter,” which seemingly is everywhere.

A google search of “glitter items” reveals 40,000 results. And as we’ll find out later, glitter could help solve a crime and can help track an animal. So many uses. Who knew?

Brush’s debut novel, which she started to write in 1924, was called Glitter, and now, 100 years later, students entering the contest can use that glitzy word to unleash their imaginations.

The announcement of the contest from Writing Initiatives says that Brush gave the novel that title “to evoke the spirit of the 1920s and the human tendency to fall for dazzling appearances. The enduring presence of glitter in contemporary life attests to its timeless appeal, as material, as verb, and as metaphor — an art supply thrown by fistfuls at parades, a description of light on the surface of a gemstone, or a figure of speech for the hollow promises of show business.”

LC student writers are asked “to center their own fiction on the concept, theme, or material substance of glitter.”

Maybe the glitter that falls out of the card or the glitter watch band left behind is a clue to a mystery. Maybe the glitterati — a mashup referring to celebrities — factors into a story. So many possibilities.

In 2018 The New York Times visited the headquarters of Glitterex in New Jersey, which bills itself as a leading manufacturer of precision-cut glitter for more than 50 years. An excerpt from that story:

“It’s impossible to recreate the light-catching effect of glitter without using tiny particles of something, which means that if an object looks glittery upon close inspection (a credit card design; an NFL helmet; a jet ski paint job), there are good odds that it contains glitter. Researchers and zookeepers sometimes mix glitter with animal feed to track animals (polar bears; elephants; domestic cats) via sparkly feces. Plywood manufacturers insert hidden layers of colored glitter in their products to prevent counterfeiting. Because glitter is difficult to remove completely from an area into which it has been introduced, and because individual varieties can be distinguished under a microscope, it can serve as useful crime scene evidence; years ago the F.B.I. contacted Glitterex to catalog samples of its products. The average American, said [CEO and President] Mr. Shetty, sees glitter every day.”

Nicole Seymour, an associate professor of English at Cal State Fullerton and a friend of Director of Writing Initiatives John Morrell, has written a book called Glitter and will be on the Island on Thursday, January 18, in Gilchrist Auditorium for a conversation co-sponsored by Writing Initiatives and the Alvord Center for Global and Environmental Studies.

A description on says Ms. Seymour’s book “reveals the complexity of an object often dismissed as frivolous. Nicole Seymour describes how glitter's consumption and status have shifted across centuries — from ancient cosmetic to queer activist tool, environmental pollutant to biodegradable accessory — along with its composition, which has variously included insects, glass, rocks, salt, sugar, plastic, and cellulose. Through a variety of examples, from glitter-bombing to glitter beer, Seymour shows how this substance reflects the entanglements of consumerism, emotion, environmentalism, and gender/sexual identity.”

So let your story be brilliant, shimmering, gleaming, glowing, scintillating, shining. And we send good thoughts and a glitter emoji — of course there’s an emoji for glitter — your way. Yet, if anyone gets stuck — stories must be 1,000 words or fewer and must be submitted by February 7 — they might want to take advice from the writer herself from a 1942 interview in The New York Times titled: “An Interview With Miss Katharine Brush. Who Discusses Her Own Experience With Problems That Confront Many Writers.”

The story opens with Brush saying: “When you get thinking you are smarter than your subconscious, you are licked. The only good writing you do is almost automatic, you make a connection with a voice that seems to come from outside your head but doesn’t, of course. It is the subconscious, and it is only useful when you are really rolling, that is the only time it can come through. When you can make that connection you do all right, but if you try to contrive, do it all with your conscious mind, then you write crippled stuff. Of course, that is hard to believe. Naturally, you don’t trust the happy accidents, the writing that doesn’t call for sweat, because that is too easy. But it is crazy not to.”

More details on the Brush Flash Fiction contest can be found here.





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