Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: writing prompt

Mystery flash fiction contest;               Only two days to enter – Get busy!

Vanessa Shields, blogging from Ontario, Canada, is sponsoring a mystery flash fiction contest that starts now!

Do you have an idea for a short-short mystery?  Maybe you’ve written a few already.  Send one in!  This contest features literary prizes–including a Raymond Chandler book–but you only have two days to enter.  The contest closes, appropriately: Friday, 13th of September.

Stories are limited to 200 words or less.  Shields and I will be the judges and winners will be announced two weeks after the contest closes.  There’s no fee to enter.

For all contest rules and to enter, go to: Vanessa Shield’s blog

Vanessa contest


Lawrence Block

Hit Man, a collection of crime short stories by Lawrence Block, will be reviewed next time.

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, 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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