They arrive one by one, some bearing postmarks from as far away as Australia or Pakistan -- each containing the blood, sweat and vision of an aspiring writer, bound up in 3,000 words or less.
They are the entries in the 2008 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, and they're welcomed daily at the contest's headquarters in Key West, Florida.
Founder and co-director Lorian Hemingway, a respected author and journalist, is the granddaughter of legendary writer Ernest Hemingway. She is best known for her compelling memoir "Walk on Water," and has also penned two other critically acclaimed books.
Like Ernest, who lived and wrote in Key West throughout the 1930s, Lorian is passionate about the island city. She's currently working on an in-depth book on the place and its heritage to be titled "Key West: The Pirate Heart."
Lorian is also passionate about recognizing and nurturing the talents of emerging writers. Every spring since 1981, she has assembled a judging panel of writers, editors, and lovers of literature to read and evaluate the contest's 750 to 1,000 entries.
"With these works of fiction I have been offered glimpses into the workings of the human psyche, the human condition, and the human heart," Lorian says. "I have been touched, inspired, saddened, had the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and once even laughed so hard I nearly choked to death on a conch fritter."
Each July, Lorian announces the winners of the contest's $2,000 annual awards at a literary reception. The reception is held at Casa Antigua, Ernest Hemingway's first residence in Key West -- where, serendipitously delayed on his way from Cuba to the mainland, he wrote, relaxed and began his decade-long love affair with the island.
Casa Antigua is now home to Key West publisher Tom Oosterhoudt and his mother, Mary Ann Worth, who generously share it each July for the awards reception. Meticulously renovated since Hemingway's day, the property is notable for its soaring atrium garden and breathtaking interior architecture.
Just as remarkable as Casa Antigua is the talent of the contest winners whose names are announced there.
"People's talent just astounds and amazes me," Lorian says. "There's nothing more exciting than finding something of brilliance, a shining thing, among the entries."
Lovers of good writing are invited to share her discoveries at the 2008 awards reception. Details of the time and date will be posted shortly on the news section of this website.