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Fiction 101

Short and Sweet (Or Not)

Write short. Write completely. Write well.

Lots of people might tell you, "Pick two."

In the BW Fiction 101 contest, we ask for all three. Most of the time, that's what we get. Which makes picking winners a royal bother.

So, we called for help. This year, our judging panel was loaded with thoughtful people who took their packets full of entries and stewed over them with a dedication that ought to please writers. Nothing feels as good as winning, of course, but people should know this: We read the heck out of those stories. Which is why we took more than twice the allotted time to pick our winners.

It's as simple as this, rule-wise: Write 101 words, no more or no less, title excluded. We'll let Microsoft Word count the words for us, and we'll go from there.

That word count was a problem for some writers who ran into what we began to call "The 94-Word Problem." Your story is complete. Done. But your word count is short by just seven words. So you shoehorn in some transition, or some extra thought, or an ending that wasn't necessary, and call it good. And those seven extra words were often what we fought over. We also referred to this as "The Last Line Problem." It was often that last line that killed a story for judges. Predictability, built into many stories, wasn't as big a hurdle as the Last Line Problem.

We received 114 entries this year. Out of those we picked a unanimous Grand Prize winner, and then a First, Second and Third place. One person nabbed the top two spots: Luke Felt of Boise. Because we read these without authors' names attached or indicated in any way, I can confidently say no conspiracies were afoot. Felt, it should be noted, was an "honorable mention" in last year's contest.

Our judges were: Thomas Peele from Boise State's department of English, Paul Shaffer, executive director of The Cabin literary center, Russ Stoddard from Oliver Russell, BW's Arts and Entertainment editor and myself. We owe our guest judges a big thanks for their thoughtful deliberation, a discussion that refrained from any violent acts.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who took the time, trouble and expense to enter.

—Shea Andersen

The Winners:

GRAND PRIZE: "Billows" by Luke Felt

FIRST PLACE: "The Cats" by Luke Felt

SECOND PLACE: "The Bakery" by John Wheeler

THIRD PLACE: "Egg Beaters" by JR Walsh

See also: Our Judges' Picks