By Cat Chang
Image Credit, Jenny Liu Zhang
The Honest Storytelling Challenge is an opportunity for storytellers to explore their concepts of relationships with honesty. In this iteration of the challenge, we received dozens of stories that made us laugh, surprised us, and made us think of honesty in novel and inspiring ways.
We awarded a prize for the best story for “Surprise”. Beyond plot twists and unexpected story structures on the surface of a “Surprise”-ing story, we considered how much the author says without being said; how much the author invites us to imagine and empathize with their characters beyond what is written.
We congratulate Alyssa Brocker on her story titled This Journal Belongs to Andrew Adler – winner of the Surprise category!
This Journal Belongs to Andrew Adler is a fictional personal narrative told through journal entries about realizing the stories we tell ourselves aren’t always honest – something I think we can all relate to, whether we’ve done it ourselves or witnessed it in our loved ones. For me, this story epitomizes “saying more without being said”; the diary entries are written simply, in plain English, while communicating deeply personal feelings of rejection, loneliness, and grief.
Furthermore, I thought the journal entry structure of this story allowed me to connect to the story and see myself in the protagonist in a way I rarely feel in fictional writing. Although I have not shared the experience that was “said without being said”, I have shared many of the experiences written in the entries - from thoughts keeping me up til the wee hours of the morning to disagreeing with a friend who just wants the best for you. There’s something you can relate to in this story, no matter who you are.
Here’s a look at some of the judges’ comments about its winning qualities:
“This was a quick and engaging read. It was really interesting to follow the progression of an abusive relationship.The honesty at the end was really beautiful. I like how much was contained in so little.”
“You can see the level of care the author's taken to be faithful to the experience in the little escalating cues of abuse - the interrupted sentence, the repurposing of an existing object, the emotional damage the author suffers as they're torn. The insight it displays isn't always verbal, which is why I think it's such a genius piece. I [think this should] win Grand Prize.”
“We learned so much about the author's way of thinking and processing their honest story; in other words, how their truth emerged. I thought that telling the story through diary entries was a creative, concise, and extremely clear way of articulating the insight the author gained into their relationship; furthermore, understanding their own behaviour used to deny and justify their partner's behaviour for a seemingly long time. I could follow the author's thought pattern and deeply empathise with them even when they denied what their friends and family already saw in the author's relationship. I was deeply moved and could relate to the denial with hindsight 20/20.”
“Surprise and in a way that fits the actual reality as opposed to just a narrative idea - it's interesting [compared with] other [nominated] surprise pieces I've seen so far.”
“Real & relatable. We all tend to be on one side of that journal, writing, or sharing those notes with others. Those conversations matter and help others to see their own way.”
“Raw, moving, transportive. Really enjoyed the pace!’
The author Alyssa’s response:
“Although This Journal Belongs to Andrew Adler is a fictional piece, it is the most honest story I’ve written. At the end my main character speaks about how difficult it is to be truthful with himself, something I struggle with. When I’m faced with a problem my first instinct is to ignore it, essentially lying to myself. It’s important to remember that the only way to solve a problem is to first acknowledge it's there. If you can’t be candid with yourself, how will you be with anyone else?”
Here’s a teaser from This Journal Belongs to Andrew Adler:
“This is a new journal. My therapist Linda, recommended that I keep writing. The old one is destroyed, which I’m thankful for. In those pages, I wasn’t honest with myself.
Here I will be. I will admit the truth to myself, even when it’s painful. Even if the truth sometimes feels like being kicked in the stomach seven times.”
Read the whole collection of submissions! Tell us which story is the winner for you in our Forum.
Readers of The Honest Storytelling Challenge collection have an opportunity to understand how others experience honesty and truth in their lives, to consider similarities and differences, and to appreciate how truth is rarely pure and never simple.