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Libraries Staff Member Wins Writing Contest

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 17th, 2014

Here’s a story with a happy ending: A WVU Libraries staff member has won first prize in a literary magazine’s writing contest.

Douglas Campbell, a Library Technical Assistant II, caught the judges’ attention in Ardor Literary Magazine’s Flash Fiction Contest with his short story “Home to Laughter.”

Douglas Campbell

“It’s a wonderful affirmation,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of good writers out there, so the competition is tough. When I win a contest, I’m greatly honored.”

Campbell’s winning story appears in the current issue of the online Ardor Literary Magazine, which is available at

Flash fiction is a form of compressed storytelling, generally containing fewer than one thousand words. Campbell enjoys writing flash fiction because the word restriction challenges him to tell stories without waste or fluff.

“You have to get right to the emotional heart of your story and bring it to life in language that’s as economical and precise as possible,” Campbell said.

Campbell uses the first draft to air his thoughts and generate the raw material of his stories. After that initial step, the word limit enters the process. Campbell scrutinizes every line to eliminate unnecessary words and needless repetitions. Every word counts, literally.

“I’ve learned to not be so wordy and discovered that cutting your prose almost always improves it,” Campbell said.

Campbell likened a writer’s life to riding on a Ferris wheel. When everything is going right, when he or she is having stories published and winning awards, a writer feels on top of the world. A day later, when a story gets rejected and someone makes an unkind remark about his or her work, a writer can bottom out.

For now, he’s enjoying his moment on top of the Ferris wheel.

“I’m glad my story, ‘Home to Laughter,’ will be out there in the world for people to read and enjoy,” Campbell said. “That’s why I write them.”

This story has a happy epilogue too: Campbell is wrapping up work on a chapbook (a term for a 40-page booklet of poetry and/or prose) titled Sunflowers, Rivers and Other Stories, coming out this spring. It contains a mix of his flash fiction and some longer stories.

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