When Dad was in the last years of Alzheimer’s, remember how I used to search for very short writing contests that would help us “keep the pen moving” during that hard time? I remember finding a flash fiction contest—a story or poem of no more than 200 words—and since I was coming to visit you several weeks later, when I told you about it over the phone, we agreed to each have an entry ready for the contest when I arrived.
I wrote an odd dream-like story—it was 199 words, counting the title–and you wrote several Haiku poems on one topic and called it a narrative Haiku; your word total was something like 87 words. Neither of us entered the contest, but we had great fun reading our writing attempts to each other. At your suggestion, we even “illustrated” our stories with colored pencils and crayons, which was really a hoot.
Sometimes that’s what writing is: accepting a challenge or pursuing an idea, doing the writing and rewriting, meeting a deadline, and then celebrating the process alone or with a fellow writer. You and I celebrated by going to the White Grill and laughing over coconut cream pie…and we also brought back pieces for Dad and his caregiver, even though they hadn’t written anything. We were feeling generous.
Even though you like to have me read to you, Mom, you’re not interested in writing any more. But I still perk up every time I find a short-word-count writing contest with no entry fee and a great prize for the winner. And guess what I found last week? A 10-word writing contest! Really! How hard can it be, writing ten words? (Not easy, actually. They have to be the right words, but come on, step up to the plate, batters!)
I love the premise. Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story of fewer than ten words. His was only six words: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
When I taught my Writing To Publish classes for high school seniors, I assigned them to write their own six-to-ten word short stories. Some really loved the challenge. Others hated it.
Love it or hate it, it’s a creative mind-boggling, teeth gritting, writing activity. It’s a challenge.
Gotham Writers is again offering its 10-word short story contest. Last year’s winner was Ingrid Bohnenkamp of Springfield, MO.: The city burned. Alice lit up, watched. She’d quit later. One of the finalists I really enjoyed was by Dan Moreau of Chicago: The inmate always called, wrote back, easily her best boyfriend.
The entries are submitted online by May 5, 2014, so you don’t even have to pay postage. There’s also no entry fee. Only one entry per person. For full details and prize:
What do you think, Mom, will any of our friends enter the contest? I hope so. It’s not like they have anything to lose, and there is a lot to gain. If they do the work and meet their deadline, they can go out and treat themselves—and maybe their friends who also entered—to coconut cream pie!