The Missouri Review is pleased to announce that Rose Whitmore’s short story The Queen of Pacific Tides is the winner of this year’s William Peden Prize. The prize is our annual $1000 reward for the best short story published in a previous volume of The Missouri Review. Whitmore, a native of San Francisco, earned her MFA in fiction at the University of New Hampshire and is now a Freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in Mason’s Road, Fourth Genre and the 2013 California Prose Directory, an anthology about the state of California. She has work forthcoming in the Mid-American Review and The Sun. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Queen of Pacific Tides was written “as an unconscious anthem for my home, my place of being, when I was very far away from it,” says Whitmore.
Whitmore’s Fiction story was published in The Missouri Review’s Summer 2012 ‘Reinvention’ Issue (35.2.) When writing the award-winning story, Whitmore explains that the story found her “through it’s own book of words” after a circus had travelled through a town near her. “I was on a deadline for workshop and all I could hear was the elephants,” Whitmore says. “All I could see was that special moment when the acrobats leave their swings and hover in the air, extended, reaching for each other. That moment became the cornerstone around which all other relationships in the story developed,”
Whitmore’s childhood was brimming with fishing, backpacking, and trips to Baja. As a child, Whitmore and her family used to follow the runs of smelt along the northern coast of California. Whitmore remembers a time when she use to stand with her “bucket of fish and sell it to a cannery filled with men in yellow rubber suits, men with toothpicks in their mouths and fish beneath their fingernails.”
The Peden Prize is given in memory of Dr. William Hardwood Peden, who was a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia from 1948 to 1979. Most importantly, Peden was one of the co-founders of The Missouri Review. Unlike most awards and contests, there is no separate application process for the Peden Prize. In order to win this award, one must simply have been previously published in our recent volumes. Additionally, The Missouri Review hires an outside judge whom selects each winner of the Peden Prize.
“There are many stories about young girls on the precipice of adolescence, digging in their heels against change, but The Queen of Pacific Tides manages to surprise on every level,” says contest judge Tina May Hall, author of The Physics of Imaginary Objects. “After the delightful first few pages, which are layered with chewy words such as ‘purse seiners,’ ‘mung’ and ‘grunion,’ I thought the story couldn’t get much better,”.
An excerpt from The Queen of Pacific Tides:
Ten years ago today my father went overboard in a stern trawler fifty miles offshore, and I’m headed down to the breakers for an omen. It’s early morning, and the clouds are cutting strips of the Pacific clean silver when I slip down the bluffs to the beach. It’s a steep path, lined with ferns and trillium that bloom purple and white. The shore is dotted with the last of the night smelters hauling their loads into rust-checkered pickups. The waves are out with the tide, leaving traces of foam on the shore like a comb over wet hair. The Eureka Fish Company lurks on the horizon, jutting out on barnacled pilings into the Pacific like an old ship on stilts, the aluminum roof reflecting patches of early light. Here, the stink and rot of the cannery fades into tufts of sea-spray. I can see our fleet of purse seiners, trollers and old-time squid jiggers in the docks, idle and giant. From this distance, most people would mistake the cannery for the flotsam of development hanging over the ocean, an eyesore of industry, but to me it’s more than just fish scales and mung. It’s got a berth that holds vats of cod and the pulse of Eureka in its floors. Made of dusty redwood planks that creak in the tides, it’s home: our airless, two-bedroom apartment saddles the scaling room. It’s where Mama keeps the books and where, above a shipment of herring and sea bass, I was born.
Whitmore will receive her check and will read her magical story, The Queen of Pacific Tides at the annual Peden Prize party located at Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr Street on Monday, September 30th, at 6:30 p.m. The Missouri Review would like to welcome the public to come honor this author and to enjoy music, champagne and strawberries. You can RSVP by joining the Facebook event here.
“Ruby, (the story’s protagonist) was out there in Imagination Land, sticking a marble in her mouth for a long time before I realized she belonged above the creaking pillars of the Eureka Fish Company, saturated with its smells and sounds and fluttering fish scales,” Whitmore says. Whitmore explains that the “language of smelting, of the sand and guts and wind, shaped the characters for me, even though I wrote around their stories for a very long time.”
Whitmore would like to give credit to the Granite State and her MFA program in New Hampshire that gave her the freedom to see her version of the West Coast. Additionally, Whitmore acknowledged winter, “that dark night sky, that lovely pulse beneath the snow” which drove her to reminisce of her sunny California paradise.
The Queen of Pacific Tides is “a gorgeous story all around and is one of those that will stay with you, will sneak into your dreams and perfume them in strange and wonderful ways” says Hall.
For more information about the Peden Prize, visit: The Missouri Review’s website at www.missourireview.com.