Write me a story

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

By the time most of you read this, I’ll be in Guatemala. I … can’t … wait. In typical Briburger fashion, I’ve done about half of my research. Sure, I’ve read one of the guidebooks, but I don’t feel like I’ve got any real understanding of what Guatemala will really be like. Not even my girlfriend’s e-mails have given me a real flavor for the country. (Kathleen has been down at an intensive Spanish-language school for a month.) I guess we’ll see what four semesters of college Spanish will get me. Probably arrested.

But the whole adventure has gotten my imagination fired up. Which leads me to the real topic of this note: Our annual short-fiction contest has started. Do you know the contest? You write a story for us that contains 95 words or less (excluding title), we read all the stories and then select our favorites for publication. The rules are pretty simple, but you’ve only got another couple of weeks to get your stories in. Check out the advertisement titled “Write your fingers off” on page 17, if you need a bit more information.

It’s a really fun contest. About the only time I can think of not totally enjoying it was one year when a couple teachers got wind of it and had their entire classes submit entries—not a bad idea in and of itself, but man, use that word-count button. I hate to break some poor kid’s heart because they had 96 words.

So, how do you tell a story in 95 words? Well, in years past, editors have preferred stories with a beginning, middle and an end, a bit of character development. I’ve also noted that we like surprising or funny endings. Pretty hard to guess what the topics might be: Love, death, murder, sex, more sex, flowers, Eucharist. Just about anything you or anyone else can imagine. Good luck, I’m looking forward to reading the results when I get back from Central America.