Writing contest offers outlet for Temple creative voices

University libraries held a short fiction contest to celebrate the construction of the new Charles Library.

Klein College academic advisor Catherine Averill reads her winning piece “Something to Save” during the unveiling of Temple's new short story dispenser. | SAMEET MANN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

To celebrate the new Charles Library, university libraries unveiled a new type of vending machine: a dispenser that prints free, receipt-sized short stories that students can carry in their pockets.

The dispenser, which was unveiled at the Student Center on April 16, prompted university libraries to hold a creative writing contest through community publishing platform Short Edition.

Open to Temple students and staff, the winning entries were featured in the dispenser alongside local and international stories varying from one-to-five minutes in length.

“It was a way to drum up excitement for the new library, and also show that the library can be anywhere on campus,” said Rebecca Dashiell, an editor and writer for the library community and outreach team who helped judge the contest.

Dashiell and fellow judges from the library and writing departments selected one juried winner, and an additional public winner was selected through an online poll. Juried winner Catherine Averill and public winner Sean Mac Donald, were announced on April 10.

In honor of the new library, which is undergoing construction, each submission had to surround the theme of transformation.

Averill, a Klein College academic advisor and adjunct professor of the College of Liberal Arts writing program, said her entry, “Something to Save” tells the story miscommunication and how difficult it can be to accurately display our emotions through words.

“It was more really kind of theoretical thinking about how the conversations that we have and the ways that we try to understand each other sometimes fail,” Averill said.

Following the theme, Averill said she focused her story on the idea of creating a future.

“There should be some change in a story,” she said. “I think that that’s a really broad and great theme that can be approached from a variety of different topics.”

Mac Donald said his poem, “There Is Change,” was inspired by the song “Love It If We Made It” by The 1975. He said he has been writing since middle school, but had yet to enter a contest until he came across Temple Library’s.

“I write personal poetry and short stories, so when I came across it and saw there was a cash prize and that students were able to submit something, it was cool,” he said. “I have never entered into a writing contest before so I figured I’d give it a shot.”

As the public winner, he said he relied on views from members of the community to win the contest, spreading across a number of Facebook posts to gain the most views.

“I shared it with a lot of people,” Mac Donald said. “It spread a lot quicker than I thought it would.”

Dashiell said she hopes the stories and the dispenser will offer students a chance to slow down amid their hectic schedules. In addition to the winning stories, the dispenser will offer both local and international stories varying from one to five minutes in length

“On a college campus where everyone is so busy and stressed it’s a really nice reminder that you can take an opportunity to take a breath and dive into another world,” said Dashiell. “Even if it’s just for five minutes to get out of your own head.”

Editor’s note: Sean Mac Donald is a freelance writer for The Temple News. He had no role in the reporting or editing of this story.

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