Get shorty

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

In April, I will have been on staff here at the RN&R for a decade. I was a regular contributor for a few years before that, and a regular reader before that. There are a lot of annual RN&R events for which I’m glad to bear a torch—our Best of Northern Nevada readers’ poll, for example, or the Rollin’ on the River concert series every summer. But the 95-word fiction contest might be my very favorite annual RN&R tradition.

I love the weird specificity of it—exactly 95 words. Longer than a tweet or a haiku but shorter than just about everything else. But it’s a length with a lot of possibilities. There’s enough space for a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s the perfect length for a good joke. And this year, we had a lot of funny stories. The winning entry, an untitled piece by Jason Martin, was one of several stories that made me laugh out loud.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest! We received about 200 entries this year. When we editors read the stories, the authors’ names have been stripped from them, so we don’t know whose writing we’re reading. (Big thanks to office manager Lisa Ryan for taking care of the tedious task of compiling all the stories, removing the names, and printing off copies for us to read.) And it’s fun to just get lost in the stories. It’s like a good mixtape—that’s like an old-fashioned playlist, kids—full of very short songs. If you don’t like one, it’s over almost immediately, but the good ones can be savored for years.

Just for the record, the best one I’ve ever read was “A Simple, Too-Familiar Gesture,” the first place winner from 2010, by former perennial winner Laura Boren Newman. It’s sad, poignant, dramatic, and full of vivid sensory details. You can read it here: