During the 2022 Kickass Writers Festival, we invited attendees to write a short piece reflecting on an event, moment, or emotion observed during the two-day festival. We called it a “Quick Write” since they had only two days to get their piece written, edited, and submitted.

Here are some of the favorite pieces we received, including the winner, Catherine Dorian’s “The Typo”.

Dorian said of the Quick Write Competition: “So often, I think that we walk away from conferences buzzing with ideas, but it isn’t until we sit down to write them that anything comes to fruition. I almost have to deliberately carve out time to reflect after each conference, to find a theme in everything that I learned. Your Quick Write Competition is an incentive for writers to walk away with something memorable. I hope you do the competition in future years, and I hope that other writing conferences follow suit with a competition of their own.”

Balloon Girls by Adele Douglas

You guided us through a day of learning, exploration and fun.

With your smiles, open faces and sweet demeanor I was always  happy to see you.

Your balloons joyful little symbols of a kick ass event.

The Typo by Catherine Dorian
WINNER of the 2022 Kickass Writers Festival Quick Write Competition

When Jerry McGovern said he remembered my work of flash fiction, I confessed to the mistake that I was sure he must have noticed.

“Oh, that’s the one with the typo in it.” 

“Really?” Jerry squinted. 

Jerry checked his clipboard and summoned the next writer to his 2:45. A woman with a pixie cut sat next to me on the couch, and we chatted about antiques and family heirlooms. In the garden, I spotted two ripe tomatoes.  

Jerry came back out to the porch. He introduced me to his wife, also his personal editor.   

“Catherine wrote a piece about a winter storm,” he explained. 

“A piece with a typo in it.

Jerry shrugged.

“I noticed it after I’d submitted it to the website.” Actually, my mom had noticed before I did.  “Now, every time I look at it, that’s all I see.” 

“No. It worked well,” Jerry said.  

How could Jerry compliment the piece, so tainted by my hideous, clumsy mistake? How had he even remembered the story, given its inexcusable, immutable error?

I wish I were important enough to say that I have imposter syndrome. But I really don’t know where I get off. Once, in an open letter, I used the word “ancestor” when I probably meant “descendent”; a reader commented that I “really should have had someone proofread [my] piece before publishing it,” and that I really lost a lot of credibility as a high school English teacher. 

Later, in the public library, I googled my name and found the story on page two of my search results. “A Land’s Relent,” by Catherine Dorian, posted under “featured writing” in August 2020. One person commented that I’m a “gifted writer,” and also “a painter” with an ability to garnish the paralysis of driving through a storm. “Bravo.”   

Good writers learn from their mistakes. But the typo’s still there. And the typo is still all that I see.  

Saranac Lake: 1975 by Susannah Q. Pratt

We are standing on Main Street when the portal opens. It’s my uncle who knows the password. So easy, really: “Want me to show you around the town?” and suddenly, woosh, there we are in 1975.

As I describe the scene, you’re going to think this is a bit of gonzo journalism, all hyperbole and drug-fueled madness gone amok. You wouldn’t be wrong. Every healing porch is a party house, each one more legendary than the next.  No one has a last name, or, for that matter, even a real first one. Each person we meet is called something like Fee or Grossie or Space Plumber (Space, to his friends).  My personal favorite is a guy named A.T., short for After Ten, because after ten minutes he forgets what he was talking about and starts the whole thing over again.

Here is the entire float from the Waterhole getting arrested for drunk and disorderly at the Winter Carnival. The entire float. Here is Frances, recently released from Sunmount and living independently, waiting each day outside his door for the mailman. Here is my uncle, telling him its Sunday and the mailman isn’t coming today.

Up there is an apartment that rents for $110 a month, utilities included. There is City Hall with its door to the jail ‘round back in the alley. Also in the alley?  Stanley and the Boys, three WWII vets living in a car until the cold sets in. When this happens, they break a window at Finnegan’s, get caught, and get themselves sent up to Franklin for 90 days to wait out the cold.  Here is my uncle’s friend’s car, a mustard yellow Mustang with permanently reclined passengers’ seat. There is my uncle shoving the spare tire behind the broken seat to prop it up, riding out to the airport to save his dog Digger who has mistakenly been put on a plane.

Here is a fifth of gin. There is a bottle of vodka. Here is a pound of weed. This kind of living needs fuel. Unfortunately this particular fuel burns bright and hard. There is the staircase my uncle fell down, injuring his head. There is the river with no safety rail, and here is a drunk jumping in while the pike are spawning, emerging bitten and bloody, attacked by the manic fish. Here is the list of people who died in their 40s. The list is long.

No time to dwell on that. Here are the cat and mouse games played between the cops and the stoners. Cops ordering everyone out of a building due to a chimney fire in a building where the chimneys don’t work. Stoners goading the cops into an arrest, only to empty their pockets to reveal fistfuls of fireworks instead of the expected joints. Everyone’s on a friendly, first/nickname basis, and every overnight in jail is a gentle concession. Keep it off the streets and out of the high school, and you can continue to party. The cat and mouse just makes it more interesting.  Keeps everyone busy.

There is the Dew Drop Inn with its outdoor deck flooded by the river. Here is a waiter in a life jacket, working for tips and playing for laughs. There are the rest of the waitstaff after their shift ends, stoned and hungry at 3.a.m., gorging themselves on three dollars worth of fries and gravy.  

Now we round the corner and make our way up the hill to the Hot Sara; apparently even the hotel has a nickname.  We enter the lobby and something changes. My uncle looks around, disconcerted, quickly checks his phone. Something about this behavior indicates that we need to head back. This, of course, requires another password: “It didn’t use to look like this” he says.  And there we are, dropped feet first out of the chute and into the Campfire Grill and Bar — the last hour, a fever dream.

Usually by Jill Vickers

I was sharing a motel room across from Lake Flower for the Kickass Writers Festival with a friend. On my early morning walk, I noticed the locally-owned Fusion Market a few businesses away from our motel. Back in the room, my friend was suffering from vertigo, but eager for breakfast. After calling The Fusion with our order, I walked over. 

My friend had asked for a coffee with a quarter teaspoon of cream. I was laughing to myself about this measure in contrast to the way I pour in an unspecified amount into my coffee. Two minutes later at the register where one man was running the whole show, no wallet. 

“I’ll be right back.” I fast-walked back to our motel, dodging that Saturday morning marathon of runners.

In the room, I searched under covers, into bags, and then went through my car. Fighting a panicky feeling, I took my car money back to the Market, knowing those breakfast sandwiches were getting cold. As I approached the handsome building, I felt something. Oh, this is where I left my wallet.

Sure enough. on the dark coffee counter, my dark brown wallet lay in front of the coffee thermoses. How many morning coffee customers had leaned over it, dispensing their choice of blends into a paper cup? 

Back at the register, I told the friendly cashier/cook that actually I’d left the wallet in the store and now, 25 minutes later, it was still there. His response: “That’s what usually happens.”

Usually? Really? This speaks to the tone of the ACW Kickass Writers Festival. We take care of one another. This is a community and, for the Festival, you are a vital part of it. I can’t wait to go back.

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