Story time

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

I hope y’all are finding some warmth and comfort. Winter might not officially begin for a week or so, but judging by the cold, the frost, and the 4:30 p.m. sunsets, it’s here.

Find some warmth. Preferably by a fire, but take what you can get. It’s a great time to get caught up on your reading, and, if you’re feeling ambitious, your writing. (I’ve got about 40 writing projects I hope to work on this winter. We’ll see how that goes.)

A great warmup exercise for any writer, whether aspiring, inspired or dispirited, is to write something with a specific set of limitations, like a haiku, or, even better, write a 95-word short story.

And then, once you’ve written your perfect story, send it to us at with the subject line “Fiction 2020” before Jan. 15. All the incomparable glory of seeing your name in print in a local newspaper could be yours.

We’ve been hosting this microfiction contest for years, and it’s our second-most popular annual tradition. (Best of Northern Nevada, of course, is number-one.) Here’s the most important rule: the story must be exactly 95 words long. For other rules and guidelines, check out the promo on page 12 of this issue.

We like stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. We also like stories with proper spelling and grammar. And, personally, I like stories with a little humor. Here’s a sample story I wrote after an uncomfortable nap over the weekend:

Lisa Lautner loved bananas. As a child, she loved bananas so much that her father called her “little monkey” and made silly monkey sounds.

As an adult, Lisa once dropped a peel on a hiking trail.

“Lisa, don’t litter!” her friend said. “Besides, isn’t tha t a safety hazard?”

“Ridiculous. Nobody slips on bananas. That only happens in cartoons.”

Lisa said this in front of her toddler, and later, when she inevitably slipped on a peel at the top of the stairs, as she tumbled, she could hear her father’s gentle mocking: “ooh, ooh, ah, ah!”