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Presenting the 30th Annual Short Story Contest winners

From different angles, winning stories reveal what's beneath the surface

Fiction writers often have an uncanny capacity for going beyond the superficial, offering readers insight into the origins, backstory and inner workings of their subject matter. That's often what makes literature so engrossing.

The first-place stories of the 30th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest all succeed on that score. Handprints in paint transform from borderline vandalism to traces of past existences. The sordid details of a celebrity's downward spiral become critical news updates for heartbroken parents. A grief-stricken young woman's thoughts come to life in the form of a smitten couple.

The stories and biographies of all nine first- through third-place winners, and audio recordings of the writers reading their stories, can be found at PaloAltoOnline.com/short_story.

The Palo Alto Weekly would like to thank the more than 100 writers who submitted work to this year's contest; the readers, Danielle Truppi and Sharon Levin, who selected the top entries in each category for the judges to consider; the judges for the adult categories, Mike Nagler, Nancy Packer and Tom Parker; and the Teen category judges, Nancy Etchemendy, Caryn Huberman Yacowitz and Marjorie Sayer. The Weekly would also like to thank the contest co-sponsors, Bell's Books of Palo Alto, Kepler's Books of Menlo Park and Linden Tree Books of Los Altos.

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