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Chelsea Hicks Bryan

Chelsea Hicks Bryan is a literary non-fiction and short story writer who's written for Gadfly Online, Glass Comma Garden at the University of Virginia, newspapers, regional magazines and sports magazines. While at the University of Virginia studying English Language and Literature, she held the Double Hoo Grant for research in poetry/creative writing as an exploration of sounds from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. She is an Osage Indian and enjoys film acting, film photography and taking feverish attempts at capturing the transcendental moments that crash into our mundane lives.

Story: The Languid Wilhelm


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What is the best writing advice you've ever heard?
"Keep writing." When I'm feeling anxious about being published, needing to submit to literary magazines--I remember such things should come second. The first priority for any writer is just to write.
When you start a new story do you prepare an outline in advance or do you just jump right in?
For me stories start with an image, a feeling, an impulse. After I'm done with that I do as Frank O'Connor advises, I make a basic plot outline in the barest and sparest of forms: A meets B on beach and they decide to meet for coffee later.
How do you deal with writing criticism, apart from just ignoring it?
If readers don't get the story, I try to add illuminative details so the story works better. But I know not everyone will ever love my work--look at Woolf, Hemingway. I don't mean to compare myself to them, but if nobody hates it, it's not art.
America's Next Author has been running for almost 8 weeks. If you could re-submit now, would you change anything about your story?
If I'd been asked this question two weeks ago, I would've said I regretted choosing a non-traditional narrative. Now, I'm glad I did it. It's encouraging to see how many people have responded positively to my work.



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I give the Author a big T for her effort. Her story kind of jumped around and there definitely was an over use of words. If she had lighter descriptions, I know that I would have enjoyed this story more.


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Beautiful and obsessively edited indeed. The author wants not to be confined to traditional rules of grammar, but rather transcend the futile devices of the english language to capture the small moments that transcend our own understanding. Perfect, consuming, unreal.

Noell Reed Jr

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Overall, not a bad story. A bit heavy-handed at times with the descriptions perhaps, it deftly captures the sexual tension and character development with the ease if a more seasoned writer. A very enjoyable piece, highly recommended!


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Very promising author! Stay focused on your work, keep an open mind and welcome literary advice from other authors and individuals you hold in high esteem.


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I really enjoyed the story and look forward to seeing more of your work in the future. I have no doubt you will find success if this story is anything to judge by.

Lisa Rose

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I enjoyed reading your story. I really liked the dynamic between the characters. Lisa was comteplating having an affair with Wilhelm until he began thinking the same thing and then she backtracked and changed her mind. She decided that she wanted to be in love with her husband again. Sometimes people don't recognize that they already have what they want until it is threatened. The part I liked the best? 'In class Lisa smiled curtly at Wilhelm when he came in. She looked down then at the list of names she used to take attendance - which she of few of her colleagues, still used - and blushed.' If you have the time please read my story 'Drift Away' and leave a review to let me know if you liked it.

Normally the Skeptic

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This was an amazing piece and I was so engrossed in the story that when it ended I was sad. Not only was the story interesting but it was well written and captivating.I hope to read a lot more by this author in the future!


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Good job Chelsea! Tho I am not a writer or English person (commas, periods, grammer type) I enjoyed the read. It was different than what I have read before, will read more of her works in the future.


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Subtle, smart, and sexy. Love the interpersonal drama between the two characters.

Ed Gotta

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I really liked this...Chelsea you are wonderful.


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I have thought about this story everyday since reading it. To me that is the sign of a great writer. It is a moral tale but comes close to being a cautionary tale. The characters are well defined. It shows an understanding of life that few ever achieve. In my opinion it is too loaded with descriptive verbiage and at times the extreme lack of punctuation caused me to retrace my steps. However, experimentation requires taking risks. I look forward to reading more from this young, talented writer.


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Good writing, there's a flowery use of language, but in some cases I felt the story too wordy in its descriptions. Like when Lisa smiled and it was described as "She split her glossy lips into two full, stretched smiling arcs, horizontal parentheses framing neat enamel." Another was "unmade beige coverleted bed this morning"- I didn't quite see the need for the description in the middle of Wilhem's conversation with Lisa. Although I struggled to follow, I could however, grasp the inner struggle and the attraction between the two and you brought that out quite well.

Festive and Prickly

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I enjoyed reading this story. I was drawn in by the inner thoughts and struggles of the characters.The story courted my intrigue with the reality of Wilhelm's feelings and the professor's inner struggles. The author has a definite talent for writing and I look forward to reading more of Chelsea's works.


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An intensely literary piece with a structure learnt from reading a broad range of classic and contemporary works. This is an educated and erudite piece that is an intense pleasure to read.

Stephen Conley

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This story is kind of a mess but i liked it. I didn't really notice any grammatical errors but there was definitely a run-on sentence or two that could have been split up into a few sentences. The story was a little hard to follow but then again, there's not much of a plot here, it was more about the dynamic between all of the characters. There's some excellent writing here and the author has great potential if she just fine-tuned her prose a little bit. It was an authentic story, honest and raw. I found the characters believable, even Wilhelm, who wasn't really touch upon very much. It's good but i think it could be great.

writer with pennies

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I see no misuse of grammar here, but rather an obsessively edited, carefully crafted use of grammar as art. And the sometimes prose-poem like segments build and gain momentum to a crescendo! Well done in the tradition of literary forefathers/mothers. Don't listen to naysayers whose definition of commas is too narrow. Grammar is after all there to provide meaning. This story does so in exploding proportions.

enyaj nednil

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Great job! Very well written!


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Very flowery language but extremely disjointed and there's no real point to the story. I think this has potential but right now, between the story itself and the atrocious grammatical errors, it is an extremely rough draft.


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I continue to be surprised by stories in this competition in that they clearly lack attention to proofreading and editing. Personally, I think that is part of what we should consider in voting for a story. Yes, editors take care of things like that before publication, but for the purposes of this contest these stories ARE published, and I for one would think that all writers respect themselves and their readership enough to make sure their submissions are as polished as possible. In this piece, for example, there are not only glaring grammatical errors, but many run-on sentences in such desperate need of punctuation that one feels the threat of suffocation while reading them. To her credit, the author is clearly a great lover of language, and quite skilled at crafting a beautiful phrase. The trouble is that, rather than being a lilting narrative that ribbons throughout the story, the descriptive language is over-wrought and strangles the story. In fact, it almost replaces it. There are entire passages in which the plot is largely cast off and merely hovers as an excuse to write prose. I received this admonishment time and time again in school, as I was very given to flowery over-writing. In early education we are all taught and encouraged to use descriptive language, but this is an exercise to foster the ability to create imagery with words. There comes a point at which one who desires to be a writer must make concessions, realizing that prose do not always serve a purpose beyond themselves. This piece is full of pretty words, but like even the finest cut flowers, they whither and do not give any lasting life to the piece. Finally, I keep calling it a "piece" because it less a story than a series of vignettes. This would be fine if there was some consistency in construction, but there is almost none. One passage is straightforward dialogue, then suddenly the next is all sentence fragments and prose, then a conversation with two characters and no paragraphs or quotes. It is tedious and halting, and prohibits the flow of storytelling. I am not saying the story is without merit, but I do not think it serves anyone to artificially inflate egos. People need constructive criticism in order to get any better. Writing is not an "A for effort" pursuit. It's a brutal field, and while this author appears to have had some success in it (in which case I am very surprised by the quality of this entry), I think we need to use our opportunities to review these stories more productively. I for one do not want anyone who reads my work to overlook glaring flaws and make me feel my writing is more deserving than it is. I would have no impetus to improve if that were the case. This piece is promising, but it needs improvement. That's the simple truth, and it isn't meant to offend. Criticism is valuable, not inherently offensive.

Geronimo Jones

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What a juicy and ironic piece of wordsmithing, which is both literary and accessible. Gotta give it five stars.

Mary Walz

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This is incredibly well-written. The author weaves a beautiful, subtle story here, one that resolves nicely and features characters that are realistic and three-dimensional. Well done.

Eyes Open

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A bubble of sexual tension, slowly rises to the surface of consciousness in a lush splendor of words and prose.


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Although the setting was dreamlike--a campus that seemed almost to be inhabited by only two people--the story had a very real current. The contrast between exciting flirtation and comfortable, stable love feels authentic. Nicely done.


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Love this story. It's so visual and seductive and mysterious.

Turning her essence into a question

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This piece has some subtle and artful interpersonal drama--something that's so often lacking in contemporary fiction. I want to see more from this writer.

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Not a great read
December 18th, 2012
The winner of America's Next Author 2012 has been announced! [...]
December 7th, 2012
Questions and answers about the Battle Round. [...]
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