New Hint Fiction Contest

It's been almost five years since my essay "Hint Fiction: When Flash Fiction Becomes Just Too Flashy" was first published at Flash Fiction Chronicles. Since then Hint Fiction has really taken on a life of its own. Besides the anthology published by W. W. Norton four years ago, there's been an art show, a film contest, and even recently an anthology of Sri Lankan Hint Fiction. There have been three contests in the past -- judged by Stewart O'Nan, James Frey, and Joyce Carol Oates -- and this year I thought it was time to host another contest. What is Hint Fiction? It's a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story. Think of Hemingway's apocryphal six-word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." It doesn't have a title, but those six words convey a punch. Not only that, they stand on their own. They're not the first line of a story, or a random sentence plucked from a longer story.

The reason I didn't host a contest the past two years is because the stories submitted in 2011 seemed rather ... formulaic. After all, there is only so much that can be done with a 25 word limit. Having said that, I have a faith that more can be done with the genre, that writers can think outside the box, so that's why I'm doing another contest.

This year's judge is the one and only Benjamin Percy. He is the author of two novels, Red Moon and The Wilding, as well as two books of stories, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His honors include an NEA fellowship, the Whiting Writers' Award, the Plimpton Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics. His story "Impact" appeared in the Hint Fiction anthology.

The submission period will be from April 1 to April 30 at this website. You can submit up to two Hint Fiction stories (subscribers to my newsletter can submit up to three, those lucky sons of guns). After April 30th, a top 20 will be chosen and will be published online, where readers can vote for their favorites à la American Idol. Then from there a top 10 will be narrowed down, which will be sent to Benjamin Percy (please note that I hold veto power, so if a story I feel strongly about in the top 20 doesn't make the top 10, I may include it anyway).

The prizes are as follows:

  • 1st place $100, 2nd place $50, 3rd place $25.
  • All winners and runners up will receive signed copies of the Hint Fiction anthology, as well as signed copies of my very short fiction collection Phantom Energy.
  • Perera-Hussein Publishing House has generously donated copies of their Sri Lankan Hint Fiction anthology Short & Sweet to the winners and runners up as well.
  • Finally, the 1st place winner will also have his or her Hint Fiction story animated by Dustin Grella, who has animated a few Hint Fiction stories in the past (here and here and here).

There is no entry fee.

Still not sure what Hint Fiction is? It's strongly recommended you check out the anthology, which is still available in paperback. Also, Norton has kindly lowered the price of the ebook for a limited time, so you can purchase it for just $2.99 on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes.

So check back here April 1st. In the meantime, have fun!

EDIT: The contest is currently open.