P6292084Last Sunday was a day of contrasts.  As you already know from Cathy’s post, it ended with a trip to the ER that resulted in early-morning surgery is a nearly deserted hospital.  Definitely not the day we had planned.

The day had started on a considerably brighter note.

Cathy was at St. Rose, registering students for the upcoming (and first ever for our parish) VBS.  I was at home, puttering about on the computer.  The phone rang, signaling a call from Ian.  After we’d exchanged “good mornings” he said, “I was awakened by a very strange call.”


“Apparently I’m the honorable mention in the Iron Pen contest.”

The Wasatch Iron Pen Literary Marathon is sponsored by the Community Writing Center in Salt Lake.  It is timed to coincide with the Utah Arts Festival.  The contest rules are fairly straightforward.  Prospective contestants register in advance.  On Friday night at 6:00 p.m., the contestants assemble at the Community Writing Center office and they are given a prompt for their writing.  They have twenty-four hours to conceive, execute and submit some piece of literature which relates to the prompt.  The categories include fiction, non-fiction and poetry and there are youth and adult divisions.  The completed texts are submitted on Saturday and judged by a panel of Ph.D. candidates recruited from the writing program at the University of Utah.

Ian is a talented writer who has done well in NaNoWriMo and is developing a good voice.  He’s entered the Iron Pen before, but never been able to find his place among the winners.  Nonetheless, he persists and entered again this year.

Friday night, just after getting the prompt, he called for a quick brainstorming session.

“What’s the prompt?” I asked.

A woodcut of Monument Valley by Everett Ruess,” he said.

Everett Ruess is a somewhat romantic figure who travelled the southwest writing and creating art until he vanished into the canyons.  Ian had already dug up a bit of information about Ruess on the web and we kicked around a few ideas about how Monument Valley has become the visual icon of the west for many people and what Ruess might have made of that; what the people and land were like in that part of the country, and what really might have happened to Ruess.  I went off with my wife and mother to see Jersey Boys and Ian set to work.

When we talked on Saturday he outlined what he had written and seemed satisfied with it, so he whipped up the mandatory cover page and turned it in.

All of which brings us back to Sunday morning when he called.  Not only was he the runner up in the fiction category, there was to be a reading of all of the winning entries (by the winners) that afternoon at two.  For entering he got a ticket to get into the Arts Festival that afternoon and he had two guest tickets.

I called Cathy, she arranged for someone to cover registration at the last Mass of the day and we made out way down to meet Ian, take in some of the festival, and see his reading.

As parents, we are very proud.

From a literary point of view, Ian’s story is a lovely piece of character work that gives a strong sense of who Ruess was as a person.

After the reading, we all went out to dinner to celebrate.  Which was when my stomach ache really started to get bad and you know the rest.  If the day had to end in the hospital, I’m grateful for the interlude with family before then.  I love watching Ian develop his writing and it’s nice to see him get some affirmation.  (And the bag of swag he got was pretty cool too!)

The winning entries will be posted on the web at some future point.  When that happens, I’ll provide a link.

— Dad


One thought on “The Iron Pen

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