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updated 6/30/2009 10:16:00 AM ET 2009-06-30T14:16:00

A shambling sentence about screaming seafarers on the sturdy whaler Ellie May stood shoulders above the rest in an annual bad writing contest.

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David McKenzie, 55, of Federal Way, Washington state, won the grand prize in San Jose State University's annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with this:

“Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the ‘Ellie May,’ a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.”

The contest, a parody of prose, invites entrants to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. It is named after Victorian writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who opened his 1830 novel “Paul Clifford,” with the much-quoted, “It was a dark and stormy night ... ”

Contest categories include purple prose and vile puns. Among other winners announced Monday were:

  • “How best to pluck the exquisite Toothpick of Ramses from between a pair of acrimonious vipers before the demonic Guards of Nicobar returned should have held Indy's full attention, but in the back of his mind he still wondered why all the others who had agreed to take part in his wife's holiday scavenger hunt had been assigned to find stuff like a Phillips screwdriver or blue masking tape,” from Joe Wyatt of Amarillo, Texas, winner in the adventure category.

  • “She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida the pink ones, not the white ones except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't,” from Eric Rice of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, winner in the detective category.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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