Outrageous, inexplicable situation prompts WNIJ fiction contest

By Dan Klefstad 
Northern Public Radio WNIJ

Today you awoke with a crippling headache and writer’s block because the stingray you insulted dragged its poisonous tail from your neighbor’s pool to your open window and squirted its nauseating, creativity-numbing toxin into your whiskey glass.

That opening sentence is, of course, fictional; but it is in keeping with the prompt for a very real writing competition, which we’re calling our Flash Fiction Contest. We have more information about our prompt below. First, however, we need to define Flash Fiction, also called Micro Fiction or Sudden Fiction.

“Flash fiction is short fiction,” says our judge, Molly McNett. “So, for this contest, we’ll say short fiction means 500 words or less,” McNett says. That number of words takes about three minutes to read on the radio, which is how winners will get to share their stories.

McNett is a Pushcart Prize-winning author and English faculty member at Northern Illinois University. Her story, “La Pulchra Nota,” was included in the 2014 edition ofThe Best American Short Stories along with fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, T.C. Boyle and others.

Winning stories will be in keeping with McNett’s prompt, which requires the opening sentence to contain “an outrageous, inexplicable situation.” McNett says writers must then deal with that situation realistically for the rest of the story. You don’t need to explain the situation, and you probably won’t have time in a 500-word story. McNett gives a famous example in the video below.

Winners will follow the other contest rules as well – which include submitting original, unpublished stories by the deadline. Authors submitting stories also must fill out a registration form and include it with their entries.

After the Sept. 12 deadline passes, McNett will select the best stories, and WNIJ will invite those authors to read and record their stories at our DeKalb studios. We will air those recordings in the coming weeks.

Here’s hoping your neighbor’s stingray keeps its tail away from your glassware. And best of luck with your writing!

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