‘Tale’ writing winners ready for lunch with ‘Call’ author

Friday, March 16, 2012
By Ben Beagle bbeagle@batavianews.com

David Stevens said the journal format used by Yannick Murphy in “The Call” made the book easier to read. He thinks it might also have made it easier to write.

“There wasn’t a need to set the stage: what the clouds looked like, or what direction the wind is blowing. I thought it worked very well,” said Stevens, who will get a chance to ask the author directly about her writing style during a lunch next week for winners of the annual “A Tale for Three Counties” writing contest.

Stevens was among six winners of the writing contest. Other winners are Meghan Hauser and Eleanor Jacobs of Perry, Mary Ellen Casey and Sue Briggs of Stafford and Marcia Riley of Batavia.

“I’m so excited to meet a published author, and one who has written such an interesting story and peopled it with such quirky characters,” said Jacobs, who has already read Murphy’s earlier novel, “Signed, Mata Hari.”

The winners will gather March 23 at the D and R Depot, Le Roy, for a lunch and discussion with Murphy.

“I loved it,” said Casey, who was previously a contest winner in 2006 when Jennifer Donnelly and her novel “A Northern Light” were featured.

“I only go to the effort of writing an entry if I’m really excited about the book,” Casey said. “I thought this book could be read on so many levels. My two boys who live in Vermont could identify with its location, but there also is a deeper level to the book. It’s really spiritually grounded in faith. It went so much deeper into the nature of living and what it means to be human.”

“The Call,” is presented in the style of a journal for its main character, Dave Appleton, a large-animal veterinarian. He relates individual work calls, but also muses on what is happening to his family as it struggles to cope in the aftermath of a hunting accident that seriously injures their oldest son. Along the way, Dave encounters a man who keeps cows in his basement, a woman who adores her sheep as if they were her children, and an unexpected visitor that changes everything.

The contest, sponsored by The Daily News, is in its ninth year. It started as a review contest, but for the past three years readers have been asked to consider specific questions about the book.

This year, readers answered “How did the journal format affect your response to the story?” or “What is the meaning of the spacecraft in the novel?”

Briggs acknowledged that she found bizarre the inclusion of the spaceship — an unidentified flying object that the main character sees often and ponders what it is — but she also “loves the fact that she had that element.”

The spaceship, as much a character as the quirky community members, was open to several different interpretations.

In her essay, Briggs wrote that the spacecraft “serves as a symbol of hope, not evidence of insanity. Its lights guide him through troubled times and as he muses in his truck on the way home from a call, if you can believe in a spaceship you can believe in anything.”

Hauser, writing in her essay, said she saw the spacecraft as “something that began as a family joke, but then becomes David’s focus.”

“Appleton begins to believe that if he can contact the craft, he can uncover the shooter and use this knowledge to somehow save Sam,” Hauser wrote. Eventually, the craft “blasts away David’s frustration and impotence. The resulting peace of mind lets David appreciate the life he has and allows him to resotre balance to the Appleton family universe.”

Riley wrote that she found the daily log format disorienting at first, but once she realized the book would maintain that style “I fell into it quickly and with a satisfying sense of being the observer. I couldn’t long remain detached as a reader.”

A dozen entries were submitted for this year’s contest, though only nine were received by the deadline for judging.

The change from a book review to essay contest was made to encourage writers to focus on their opinions or emotional responses to the book, rather than summarize whether the book was good or bad.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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