"The problem with writing novels is that you may spend a year or more on it, and you don’t know if it will turn out well because you haven’t learned to write yet. The first thing to do is practice by writing a short story a week. At the end of a year, you’ll have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones."
The prize you’ll be competing for is See Through, a collection of short stories by Nelly Reifler.
To enter, send your best story under 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stories are due by sunrise on Saturday, October 1. Don’t forget to include your name and mailing address.
The winning entry will be posted here, and will receive a copy of “See Through” in the U.S. Mail (assuming the USPS lasts that long).
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Publisher’s Weekly review of “See Through”
With unflinching precision, Reifler’s debut collection of 14 short stories examines young protagonists negotiating adult-governed worlds, often prematurely forced into brutal self-awareness. In “Teeny” a child is burdened with the adult responsibility of feeding the neighbor’s pets before she’s mature enough for the job. “Rascal,” an edgier story, explores what happens when a teen too accustomed to “roughhousing” makes more than mischief with his hunting knife. Reifler’s flair for portraying children processing the actions of adults is also on display in “Upstream,” which depicts a boy coming to terms with his parent’s divorce. When asked by his counselor why he likes monsters, the boy, still reeling from witnessing his father’s infidelity, says, “People have to do what [monsters] want or the people get killed…monsters don’t have to explain themselves.” Reifler also poignantly explores the fractured family in “The Splinter,” about a father and daughter separated from the girl’s mother, who come to a visceral understanding of their loss when the girl falls on a thorn on a Greek beach, and her father is unable to extract it. Other stand-outs: “Baby,” a surreal fantasy about a mother coping with a sickly, preternaturally articulate infant; “Auditor,” a dark comedy about a ruthless and misanthropic tax auditor; and the title story, about a stripper who can’t make her work life mesh with her everyday life. A few stories are weaker, but most suggest that the perceptive Reifler is a writer to watch. (Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The requirements are thus: For Round 7 of our short-story contest, we’re asking you to send us original works of fiction where one character comes to town and one character leaves it. It must be 600 words or less. One entry per person. Your deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Sept. 25.
My entry might be afoul of the broadly-defined concept of ‘town,’ and it’s way over the word count. May you fare better.
In fact, in lieu of workshopping a piece, you can just go through what you’ve written and see where it goes astray of these rules. Think long and hard about whether it really needs to violate the rules.
In the end, if you feel it needs to stay the way it is, go ahead and keep it. (But you’re probably wrong.)
"The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we’re the Happiness Boys, the Dixie Duo, you and I and the others. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dike. Hold steady. Don’t let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world. We depend on you. I don’t think you realize how important you are, to our happy world as it stands now."
Here’s a powerful and evocative short story called What Was Born by Michelle Soucy.
As it’s a 600-word piece, I’m not going to say any more about it, but simply suggest that you go read it for yourself. It won’t take long.
Michelle has published work in The Florida Review, The Bryant Literary Review, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of a first place national award from the AWP, and received her MFA in July 2010 from the Stonecoast MFA program.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also admit that she is one of the members of my extremely talented writing group.
“Thanks to the hurricane and the hours of darkness it imposed on me, I and many others had a kind of high school reunion with boredom. It brought about a sudden and unmistakable realization that we are only puppets jerked this way and that way by whatever device we think we are operating. With its strings loosened for the time being, there was nothing for us to do but slump idly in some chair with our heads dangling and our smiles fixed crooked, while Irene ran around the yard beating up trees like the riot police and in the process telling us what little regard she has for us personally and everything we’ve done over the years to make our home more attractive.”—Charles Simic, A Reunion with Boredom (via nybooks)