KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
News: Spring 2019

Results of The DavenTree Ekphrastic Writing Challenge

Our founding editor and publisher, Clare MacQueen, became entranced last summer with the drawing of an unusual and striking tree she found on Facebook. Its creator: Steve Davenport, author of two poetry books and widely published writer of fiction, CNF, and essays; editor, scholar, and professor; songwriter; and occasional visual artist. Steve agreed to allow Clare to publish his untitled drawing in KYSO Flash.

She kept returning to that tree, contemplating its lines and swirls, appreciating its music, and soon realized she needed a name to address what almost seemed a living creature. Right away, “The DavenTree” came to mind. And because she’s so fond of ekphrasis, it was a short leap to the idea of asking folks to write in response to the visual prompt of Steve’s remarkable tree. With Steve’s blessing, she and her KYSO Flash co-editor, Jack Cooper, organized an ekphrastic writing contest, which opened on the second of December 2018.

For a chance to win $100 (USD) and publication, writers were asked to submit up to three previously unpublished ekphrastic works, for a single entry fee of $3 (USD). Four Finalists would also receive $50 (USD) each, plus publication. (More details...)

Clare offered entrants this tip: “We humans are hard-wired to look for and recognize shapes and patterns, especially human forms. Pull up a chair, contemplate The DavenTree, and see what you discover....”

Almost three months later, her co-editor Jack (an environmental activist and award-winning poet and author) has this to say:

There’s an old adage that goes, “If you don’t ask, the answer is No.” When my colleague Clare MacQueen came up with the idea for an ekphrastic contest built around responses to Steve Davenport’s curious tree image, I had no idea what to expect. I figured it could go anywhere, and it did. She asked, and the answers were anything and everything but No. It was great fun watching material for our review roll in as memories, feelings, dreams, and ideas that, like a tree in winter, must have lain dormant inside these emboldened writers until given the opportunity to emerge as poems and stories for the contest.
The old words of wisdom apparently work just as well for writing as they do for selling Girl Scout Cookies. Clare and I had the enviable position of putting out the call, and sitting back and reading the universe’s response. Several people saw a paisley motif from the Sixties, and a few identified the tree as female. One writer saw “bee glue,” another saw “stained glass,” and yet another, an “acorn of truth.” Being a lover of trees and good writing, I’m delighted that Clare’s idea received such creative responses, and grateful to have been part of the editorial team privileged to harvest the fruit we now present to you.


From a total of 50 works entered in this challenge, Jack Cooper and Clare MacQueen selected the following ten as semi-finalists. From that pool, Steve Davenport selected the winner, and Jack and Clare, the Finalists.

Semi-Finalists, unranked (alpha order by author’s last name):

Note: All ten works will also be reprinted in the sixth annual KYSO Flash anthology (soft-cover), scheduled for release in December.

* “Another cup of Mad Hatter, please”: Judging The DavenTree Challenge

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