Short-shorts is back — with a shorter-short contest

Marge Barrett

Our first short-short contest was 800 words (100 words for each letter of MinnPost). We halved that number for our last contest in spring of 2010, requesting a maximum of 400 words. For both contests, we had great selections to choose from, and the winning pieces — which you can find in the archives — show a diversity of style and substance.

Our new contest will again divide the words in half: 200 words. We challenge you to put your creative energies into writing a very short story.

Submission deadline: November 22, 2010.

First, second and third place winners will be announced December 6. Again, the prize will be a surprise short-short something.

Contest guidelines: Only Minnesota writers can submit. Only one short-short by an individual will be accepted. Your short-short must be under 200 words. Please put your last name and short-short contest in the subject line of the email. Include your name, address, telephone number, email address, word count and a brief biography (up to 150 words). Send your entry — in the body of the email, or as an attachment — to mbarrett [at] minnpost [dot] com. The file must be saved in Word.

For those of you who are new to short-shorts (also called flash, sudden, micro, skinny, mini): they are pieces of fiction, nonfiction and prose poetry with word counts under the number for short stories (usually 2,000 to 10,000); the exact number of words is set by writer and editor.

Short-shorts have been around forever in the form of jokes, folk tales, parables, and fables. In the last decade or so, the form, with its compressed, challenging structure, has gained a new popularity.

Although brief, short-shorts are difficult to write, requiring precise plot, language and imagery to move and provoke. Voicepacing, and twists become essential elements, while tone and situation must prove compelling.

Short-shorts demonstrate how every word in a story matters. In this fall’s “We Like Short-Shorts!” class at the Loft Literary Center, we began writing with very few words, using, along with other models, Ernest Hemingway’s classic six-word story: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Then we moved on to 55-word stories — the number of words in many online and hard copy contests of short-shorts.

While we’re waiting for your stories to come in, we’d like to share some of our pieces with you. We hope you’ll find reading and writing short-shorts as enjoyable and rewarding as we do.  

Marge Barrett has published prose and poetry in numerous print and online journals and in The Best of the Web 2009 and The State We’re In. She received an MFA from the University of Minnesota, creative work awards from St. Catherine University and grants to writing programs in Prague and St. Petersburg. Currently she teaches The Art of Creative Nonfiction, We Like Short-Shorts! and Let’s Go Formal (Poetry) at the Loft Literary Center and Creative Writing at the Jewish Community Center in St. Paul.                                    

4 Words:

Wendy Henry
Obsessive? Me? Me? Me?
Don’t look back tomorrow.

6 Words:

Doug Denham
Jake drew to his discarded queen.
DWM seeks DWF for makeup sex.

Alberta Lee Orcutt
In 2010, finished 1998 spring cleaning.
Divorcée. Freedom flag: new red dress.

Karon Sherarts
For sale. Bento Box. No rice.
Strewn about. Stuff causes. Fatal gasp.  

Janice Strootman
Fragile flower, reaching sunlight, careless boot.
Crucial speech, approaching lectern, trailing toiletpaper.

55 Words:                                                                                        

Alberta Lee Orcutt, “By Comparison”
The object surpassed objectionable. I shuddered. Small, pale. So limp that, on entry, it collapsed. Certainly not in a class with the others. Aah yes, how fondly I remember the others: Firm. Irresistible. Beckoning me with their rough skin, their healthy color. But this, this is a disgrace to all other State Fair pickle entries.

Han Pham,“All About Love”
Cynthia asked her client about what burdened him, what made him sad. She had thought that maybe it was because he didn’t have a clear goal in mind to be working toward. But he corrected her right away, he had a goal: all he was looking for was love. And so, she closed his file.

Al Rieper,“Strangling Chico
The damn thing wouldn’t stop barking! I wouldn’ta actually strangled it. Maybe its owner — her yipping’s worse. Could they even prosecute me at fifteen? Shit, lots of animals die on a farm. But okay, I dropped him and he staggered off coughin’, so Chico’s alive. She won’t know nothin’. Everything…everyone’s fine here, okay? 

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