For the last seven years, the Student Committee for the Arts at UCLA has hosted the David Sedaris Humor Writing Competition. Contestants submit a funny and original short story for the chance to win tickets to see Sedaris, receive an autographed copy of his latest book, and have their work featured in the acclaimed Daily Bruin.
Humorist David Sedaris was first publicly recognized in 1992, when he read an essay titled “SantaLand Diaries” on NPR–an allegedly true story about working as an elf at Macy’s during Christmastime in New York. Sedaris has gone on to write several best-selling books, such as Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Critics and readers celebrate him as the master of satire, a form through which he crafts a commentary on social, political, and cultural issues.
Many of Sedaris’ stories come from his journals, which he has been keeping since 1977.
“That’s how I start the day — by writing about the day before,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross, “but every now and then I read out loud from my diary. … I wouldn’t open it up and just read, but every now and then something happens and I think, ‘Oh, this might work in front of an audience, so I’m always hoping that something interesting will happen … but I don’t try to force it.”
Although Sedaris makes a clear distinction between his public and priviate personas, his work illustrates how even the most (seemingly) mundane moments of our lives can be rich in stories. It’s all about perspective–how you interpret and portray the moment and all of the connections that you can make to it. Perhaps that’s what makes journaling such a useful writing tool: in our personal journals, we have a clear and distinct sense of point of view, shaped by our own biases and backgrounds.
It’s always interesting to see what moments, what pockets of lives, that contestants choose to delve into. This year, the three winners of the competition were Vera Burrows, Nick Lane, and Alison Wolff, whose stories you can read on SCA’s blog. From a court hearing between parents and their child to a story about almost choking on a mini hotdog, these talented writers found the complexities–and humor!–in unexpected places.
Congrats to the winners! For those funny writers out there, keep a look out for the competition next year!