Publication date: Friday, January 12, 2001

New winner in short story contest

The second and third place prize winners in the Palo Alto Weekly’s recent Short Story Contest have become the first and second place winners after the previously announced winning entry was determined to have exceeded the maximum word count by more than 50 percent.

Entries in the contest are limited by the rules to 2000 words and each author must state the word count on the entry form. First place winner Jane Moorman’s entry form gave a word count of 1,500, while the story actually ran to just over 3,000 words, a fact discovered only after the awards were announced.

Moorman, who doesn't own a computer and typed her story at Kinko’s, said her word count was based on a friend's opinion of the average number of words on a typical double-spaced page which she believed to be accurate enough.

As a result, in spite of the judges deeming Moorman’s story the best of those entered, out of fairness to other authors who kept their stories to within the allowed length the Weekly has decided to award Moorman an honorable mention, allow her to retain the $500 prize money and move up the other two winners.

The new first place winner is Jamie Beckett of Palo Alto, for her fictional story about a Vietnamese family. Second place now goes to Deanna McCusker of Palo Alto, for a story about a gardener falsely accused of dealing drugs. The stories can be viewed online on PaloAltoOnline.com.

Both Beckett and McCusker have received supplemental prize checks.

"This was a very unfortunate and difficult decision for us," said Weekly publisher Bill Johnson, "in part because we bear responsibility for not catching this problem earlier in the judging process."

"But we felt the fairest way to resolve the problem was to acknowledge the quality of Ms. Moorman’s story by awarding her a special recognition, and to move up the second and third place winners. We apologize for our role in making these changes necessary."

The Weekly has always relied on the word count provided by the writers. In the future, all stories will be screened before being passed to the judges and stories exceeding the limit will be rejected.