Death in Nostalgia City

By Mark S. Bacon

How popular is flash fiction                     part 2: Writing contests

Frequently used as an exercise in English classes, flash fiction is also the subject for hundreds of writing contests around the English-speaking world.  Just pop “flash fiction contest” into a search engine and you’ll instantly have thousands of results.  Colleges, magazines, libraries, writers clubs and other organizations sponsor contests that take many forms.

A common device for a flash fiction contest (and assignments in English comp classes as well) is a photo prompt.  Writers are asked to create a story around a picture.  Sometimes the prompt is simply a setting, a character or a random series of words.  Other contests limit entries to a particular subject matter or form and certainly all contests have word limits.  But of course, since few can really agree on what length constitutes a flash fiction story, contest word limits are all over the place.

Here’s a quick sample of recent contests:

New York City literary agent Janet Reid sponsored a contest of 100 words.  The agent, who specializes in crime fiction, required writers to include the words, double, trouble, bubble, twin, and spin in their stories.

The website of Figment.com, an online writers community, advertised a contest co-sponsored by a coffee roasting company.   The five-day contest featured prompts related to coffee, such as a story about a character who gets the jitters from too much caffeine.

The Chicago Public Library sponsored a 750-word-or-less contest for stories set in Chicago and inspired by Chicago.  The Frisco (Texas) Public Library, held a contest open only to patrons of the Dallas suburb library.  Winners were honored at an awards reception and top entries were published on the library’s website.

Fish Publishing Co. of Ireland sponsored a flash fiction contest it says, “is an opportunity to attempt what is one of the most difficult and rewarding tasks – to create, in a tiny fragment, a completely resolved and compelling story….”

A combo contest is sponsored by Biscuit Publishing in the U.K.  Contestants are asked to submit a flash fiction story and a short story (to 5,000 words).   Cash and publishing opportunities are offered as prizes.

The Writers Union of Canada recently sponsored a “postcard story contest.”  (Postcard fiction is another term for flash fiction.)  Some 788 stories (under 250 words) were received and the winner earned $750.

Contest are also popular with colleges and universities.  Here’s a sample of colleges that sponsor flash fiction contests:  Moorpark College, Moorpark, Calif.; Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.;  University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire; University of Salford, Manchester, U.K;  DePaul University, Chicago; West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V.; University of Arkansas – Little Rock; and Minnesota State University – Mankato.

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  1. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    I actually won that contest over at Janet Reid’s blog! I was blown away by her comments and all the kind words left in the post. I enjoy the challenge of flash fiction, of digging deep and finding the kernel of the story.

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