In the last two weeks of April 2009, Robert hosted a Hint Fiction Contest at his blog. Writers could submit two stories each. They could be either original or reprints. Over 200 entries were received, all of which were read blindly. Robert and author Gay Degani narrowed those 200 entries to just 20. Those were sent to best-selling author Stewart O’Nan, who had kindly agreed to act as the final judge. Below are his picks for the three winners and three honorable mentions, as well as the rest of the finalists who appeared in the eventual anthology published by W. W. Norton & Company.
First place winner:
HOUSE HUNTING by Gary A. Braunbeck
The fence is tall. Good. The mother is typical white-trash, too loud. But the kids … they seem frightened and quiet. Good. Easier that way.
Second place winner:
DEPARTURE by Donora Hillard
The terminal is unkind. You watch me go through security. In six months, you’ll say “Tell me about the nightmare,” and I promise I will.
Third place winner:
PROGRESS by Joe Schreiber
After seventeen days she finally broke down and called him “daddy.”
PEANUT BUTTER by Camille Esses
He was allergic. She pretended not to know.
THE MALL by Robley Wilson
What he liked best about the affair was not the shopping, but parting the tissue wrap to remove the clothing that had first enticed her.
A SNAP DECISION by Jamie Felton
Her finger tapped against her teeth. “I don’t think it’s going to work.” He sank slowly underneath the surface. She could still see his eyelashes.
And the other 14 finalists:
PHILIP by Jason Rice
WAITING by Brendan O’Brien
THE MAN OF TOMORROW OR MAYBE YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE, BUT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD IT LIKE THIS by Will Panzo
UNTITLED by Samuel J. Baldwin
A DIGNIFIED PURPOSE by Ty Miller
MY MOTHER’S KISSES by Lewis Manalo
A CORPOREAL SUNRISE by Bill Graffius
ASSIMILATION by Frank Byrns
TALKING OF MICHELANGELO by Frank Byrns
THE EMPTY NEST by Madeline Mora-Summonte
PLAYING WITH MATCHES by Kathleen Ryan
THE PASSWORD by David Miller
BIGGER THAN IT LOOKS by Samuel J. Baldwin
PREGNANCY TEST by Jennifer Haddock