Centenary students Lillian Breaux, Hannah Jordan, and Anna Jane Storms were named as finalists in an international flash fiction contest sponsored by the College’s sister university in France, Université Catholique de Lille. Storms won third place in the contest for her French-language story, “Attendre en hiver chaud (Waiting in the Warm Winter).”
The flash fiction contest was open to any students enrolled at Lille or one of its partner institutions. Participants were asked to submit a short story or poem on the theme “Tomorrow’s World” in a language other than their native language. Languages eligible for the competition included English, French, German, and Spanish. Contest winners were announced in a hybrid ceremony (in-person for those in Lille and via Zoom for remote participants) on June 7. The winning stories will be published in a collection to appear in October 2022.
“The fact that Centenary placed three students among the finalists in an international fiction contest in French speaks to the quality of a Centenary education,” said Dr. Dana Kress, professor of French at the College. “Anna Jane’s prize is even more impressive when one considers that L’Université Catholique de Lille opened this competition to all its exchange partners across the world, including 546 of the best universities on the planet! Certainly, the fact that Anna Jane has been awarded an international publication as an undergraduate will open countless doors for her.”
The Centenary students submitted contest entries as part of their coursework in French 300, a culture and history class that requires students to not only study the French-speaking world, but also participate in it. Storms, an arts management major who is also minoring in French, had completed some previous creative writing in French in high school but nothing as involved and complex as her submission for the international contest.
“This definitely stretched my French muscles differently, even making me approach fiction writing differently,” said Storms. “Writing your own stories helps you read other people’s stories better. The entirety of the French 300 course is writing-focused, so you’re applying all the vocabulary and grammar that you usually learn for conversation purposes in a new way. It also helps as a confidence boost to pursue more French texts and not be too intimidated when approaching a new skill.”
Storms’s response to the contest’s prompt to write about “the world of tomorrow” produced a story about an unnamed woman who wakes up due to uncomfortable heat and spends the last hours of the night waiting for several things: the dawn, her husband’s return, their eventual evacuation to a safer, more hospitable climate, and–most importantly–their baby’s imminent arrival.
“For this story, I was really inspired by The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and a miniseries adaptation of The Stand by Stephen King,” explained Storms. “Both of those stories ask questions such as, ‘How do you raise a new generation when the world is crumbling around you? Is it even responsible to bring a child into this society?’ I really wanted my story to focus on this character’s restful moment where she’s wrestling with this idea of growth and a future with her family in the middle of a decaying environment.”
Storms plans to pursue a career in arts administration after graduating from Centenary and hopes to continue to incorporate French language into her professional work. Following a great experience during Centenary’s May Module in Paris earlier this month, Storms is also interested in completing either all or part of her graduate studies abroad.
Storms’s short story is available online at https://www.flsh.fr/flash-fiction-les-laureats-de-ledition-2021-2022/.