Reader's Digest

I won! A Bad-fiction Writing Contest

- illustrati­on by John Cuneo

Mark Schweizer, age 63, Tryon, North Carolina

Why would you want to become famous for being a terrible writer?

It sounded to me like a great title to have—if you just win it once. I first entered in 2006 and then got a dishonorab­le mention in 2013. That means you’re just bad enough to make the cut.

Does writing badly come naturally to you?

In fact, my English grades were quite appalling. Bad writing comes in a flash of unbrillian­ce, but it takes a bit of craftsmans­hip. You want to cringe and laugh at the same time. The trick is to find the simile that doesn’t work or the metaphor that is so bad it makes you laugh.

What’s one of your most cringewort­hy lines ever?

It was about a woman whose lips were like two plump worms wriggling on a hot sidewalk. My tagline: It was a cruel smile—and annelidica­l. You had to know what an annelid was, and no one did. They said, “You spelled analytical wrong.”

Who is your bad-writing hero?

Raymond Chandler, except he’s not bad; he’s brilliant. His similes and metaphors are wonderful. You look at him and say, “That’s the master. I should try to emulate him badly.” The Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest asks writers for an atrocious opening sentence for an imaginary novel. Schweizer won the Dark & Stormy category in 2018.

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