Tara Tamburello, of Langhorne, has always been the creative type. As a student at Tawanka Elementary School, Tamburello could usually be found attempting to pen poems and song lyrics in her free time.
Still, writing was always a hobby. Tamburello never dreamed that someday, years later, she’d not only win money for her work, but have the opportunity to read it aloud in front of a captivated audience.
But that’s just what happened on Dec. 7 on the Newtown Campus of Bucks County Community College, where Tamburello wowed family, friends and community members with a recitation of Country Crypt – the winning entry of BCCC’s third annual Short-Fiction Contest.
Tamburello, who works as a web designer, entered the competition for the first time in 2018, and came out victorious this year. The contest is open to all adults who are residents of Bucks County, with a similar contest for local high school students held in the spring.
According to Tamburello, Country Crypt has been a work-in-progress since her days as an English major at Eastern University, where she wrote the first several drafts during a short fiction class. Inspiration was drawn from a number of sources, including a distinct memory from her childhood.
“I usually describe it as a horror story about an old widower who tries to clean his house, and his house tries to consume him. The house is dirty,” she explained. “The main character writes a message in dust in the story. I had gotten that idea because my dad had written a message in dust before when I was living at home in high school. So that was where that part came from. It just came from a lot of places, I guess, and I mashed them together into a story.”
Short-Fiction Contest submissions were judged by Philadelphia novelist Kelly Simmons, the author of several mysteries, including the recently published Where She Went.
Simmons called Country Crypt “a gorgeously vibrant portrait of grief and dread [that] offers the reader abundant tension and story questions throughout… [The] terrific opening paragraph features a vivid description of the room and its dusty wonders, utilizing wonderful metaphors – like the desk drawer’s underbite – to make the home come quite literally alive.”
As the winner, Tamburello took home a $200 honorarium, and read portions of Country Crypt during the free, on-campus reception, which featured appearances by Simmons and the other finalists.
Second-place winner Emily Weber-Wood, of Doylestown, took home $100 for her story The Swift Completion of Appointed Rounds, while Jennifer Giacolone, also of Doylestown, captured third place and $50 for Les Masques.
The judge said Weber-Wood’s story “takes a clever idea and prompts a host of thought-provoking ideas in the reader’s mind – how does the mail system work in a near-future without electricity? When the state no longer pays anyone to do so, does anyone step up?”
As for Les Masques, Simmons praised it as “a fascinating choice of subject matter that opens a whole new door to the perils of war,” and added that it “features plenty of satisfying tension between characters.”
For Tamburello, her writing achievements continue to come. Several days after learning about her Short-Fiction Contest win, she was informed another of her short stories will appear in the magazine Menacing Hedge in January 2020. Other published pieces include an essay in The Blue Route, and a flash fiction retelling of Jane Eyre.
The Short-Fiction Contest is funded by Bucks County Community College and receives support from the Department of Language and Literature. For more information, contact Professor Elizabeth Luciano, the contest administrator, at Elizabeth.Luciano@bucks.edu or 215-968-8167. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org