Logo, MacQueen's Quinterly
Listed at Duotrope
MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 3: May 2020
Nonfiction: 581 words
By Clare MacQueen

Background and Results:
The Magician Ekphrastic Writing Challenge


Magician (2001), side view, ceramic figure by Aggie Zed

Magician (2001), front view, ceramic figure by Aggie Zed

Click for larger views

Magician [2001], ceramic sculpture (porcelain, iron oxides)
Copyright © 2001 by Aggie Zed. All rights reserved.
Reproduced here with artist’s permission.

Aggie Zed’s sculpture ranges from intimately-scaled ceramic figures of people and human-animal hybrids, to copper wire and ceramic horses, to ceramic and mixed-metals contrivances she calls “scrap floats.” Her drawings and paintings, in dry pastel and various inks with water on paper, are informed by a lifelong celebration of the beauty and strangeness of dreams posed against the absurdity and poignancy of supposedly rational human activity.

More about Aggie Zed


When working full-time as a single parent thirty years ago, I usually spent any spare cash on my pre-pubescent daughter. But on 22 July 1992, as per the original sales receipt here in my hand, I splurged and bought a present for myself: a small ceramic figure I discovered after wandering into the Folk Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

That wonderful sculpture resonated instantly for me all those years ago, and has ever since—it seems the perfect embodiment of my puzzlement at being human. Although I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, sometimes I still feel as if I’m flying by the seat of my proverbial pants, with a rug thrown over my head.

A few weeks ago in early April, while ruminating on the passage of time and my long-term attachment to my little ceramic friend, I decided to reach out to the artist, Aggie Zed. In my email to her, I shared the backstory above and asked permission to reproduce her sculpture in Issue 3 of MacQueen’s Quinterly (aka MacQ-3).

To my delight, she was warm and personable in return, offering to send photographs of other artworks as well, which of course I was happy to receive. Feeling an immediate kinship with Aggie and her art, I asked to make her Featured Artist for MacQ-3 and was thrilled when she gave me the green light.

And then, given my fondness for ekphrasis, it seemed only natural to suggest an ekphrastic writing contest!

With Aggie Zed’s blessing, I created the Magician Ekphrastic Writing Challenge, which invited folks to enter a previously unpublished piece, whether poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, written in response to the Magician sculpture above. (And yes, it’s a more recent and slightly different version than the one I bought in 1992.) The best four entries from the ekphrastic challenge would receive small cash prizes in addition to publication in MacQ online.

For complete details, see Contest Guidelines.


Submissions were open for only two weeks, but the entries soon began arriving steadily. A world of thanks to everyone who accepted the challenge, especially on such short notice! (Not to mention during a pandemic.)

From a total of 77 entries, I was pleased to select these ten magical stories and poems for publication here in MacQ-3:

Winner ($100 USD)

So that we remember [haibun story] by Stella Pierides

Three Finalists ($50 USD each), unranked

After the Circus [lineated poem] by Nancer Ballard

Mysterium Magnum [flash fiction] by Paul Negri

Face of the Deep [prose poem] by Daryl Scroggins

Semi-finalists, unranked

What Darwin failed to mention is [flash fiction] by Guy Biederman

Minotaur [lineated poem] by Michael Estabrook

Illusions [micro-fiction] by Ann Fisher

Gunnysack [cherita sequence] by Cindy Bousquet Harris

Joe Tuesday [flash fiction] by Madeleine Lascelle

Now You Don’t See Me [prose poem] by Sarah Tinsley

Copyright © 2019-2024 by MacQueen’s Quinterly and by those whose works appear here.
Logo and website designed and built by Clare MacQueen; copyrighted © 2019-2024.
⚡   Please report broken links to: MacQuinterly [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡

At MacQ, we take your privacy seriously. We do not collect, sell, rent, or exchange your name and email address, or any other information about you, to third parties for marketing purposes. When you contact us, we will use your name and email address only in order to respond to your questions, comments, etc.