Dispatches | March 18, 2011

On Saturday, as I drove over yet another pothole at the intersection of Broadway and Stadium in Columbia, Missouri, I cringed, hoping Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize winners John Hales and Anna Solomon didn’t notice. Lucky for me, the lack of any consistent road maintenance in Columbia didn’t seem to bother them.

It isn’t every day a college undergrad intern is responsible for driving accomplished, (presently) living, authors back to their hotel after dinner. But despite my nervousness toward the chauffer task at hand, Anna and John were nothing but gracious and encouraging, characteristics that helped make this a wonderful weekend.

Saturday’s event was hosted at the Cherry Hill Event Center, the ideal blend of elegance and intimacy for our reception. Guests enjoyed the open bar and variety of hor’dourves before the readings, during which they also had the chance to speak with the authors, TMR board members, and TMR staff. Although the center staff had to pull chairs from a back room to seat the attendants, the event went smoothly. John Hales started us off, reading the entirety of his haunting essay, Helpline. George Looney followed, providing a commanding reading from a selection of four of his introspective poems. Anna Solomon concluded our night with her short story, The Long Net. Despite the omission of an entire thread of her story due to time constraints, Anna’s skill with language spoke volumes throughout the narrative. It was an honor to be able to speak with the authors about their work following the readings.

Two days later and no worse for wear, our three winners John Hales, Anna Solomon, and George Looney returned to their respective lives and left TMR with fabulous photos and memories.  Now, almost a week later, the staff of TMR has fallen back into our daily routine with the satisfying knowledge that the 20th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize Contest weekend was a success. Who can forget John Hales’ suggestion to serve marijuana in accordance with his winning story, Helpline? Maybe he has found the secret ingredient to the perfect reception of a reading. Or Anna Solomon’s confession that really, she really doesn’t know who Justin Bieber is. Or George Looney’s numerous but equally entertaining stories of the accidental misspellings of his name with the additional letter “C.”

From the Shakespeare’s meet and greet Friday, lunch at Boone’s Tavern, to the reading and reception at the Cherry Hill Event Center, the staff at TMR greatly enjoyed this opportunity to share the company of our winners and supporters. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible, and all of you who attended Saturday’s reception. A big thanks to Kris Somerville, TMR Marketing Director, coordinated the weekend and reception.  Be sure to check out more event pictures at our Facebook page.

Alison Jones is an intern at The Missouri Review.