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Short-Shorts is back — with a shorter-short contest — 100 words!

We challenge you to put your creative energies into writing a very short story.

Short-Shorts by Marge Barrett

Our first short-short contest in 2009 was 800 words (one hundred words for each letter of MinnPost). We halved that number for our contest in spring of 2010, requesting a maximum of 400 words. And then we halved that number again — 200 words — in the fall of 2010. 

For all the contests, we had great selections to choose from, and the winning pieces — which can be found in the MinnPost archives — show a diversity of style and substance. 

Our new contest will again divide the words in half: 100 words. We challenge you to put your creative energies into writing a very short story.

Submission deadline: April 4, 2012. 

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First, second and third place winners will be announced April 11, 2012. Once 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 100 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 might be 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. Voice, pacing, and twists become essential elements, while tone and situation must prove compelling. 

Short-shorts demonstrate how every word in a story matters. In this winter/spring class of We Like Short-Shorts! at The Loft Literary Center, we began writing with the shortest of 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, each week we’ll share short-shorts of the past contest winners and current and former students of the class. 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. Her chapbook of poetry, My Memoir Dress, was published in 2011. 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 various writing workshops and at The Loft Literary Center.