The end of Round 8 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest has finally arrived. With help from our readers at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, New York University, the University of Oregon and the University of Texas, at Austin, we've read through more than 6,000 stories.
Submissions had to be original works of short fiction ? no more than 600 words. They also had to begin with this sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
Our judge for this round is the novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America. He helped sift through some of the submissions before picking his favorite.
"I was amazed at how many of the stories ended up dealing with loss," Urrea tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
The winner for Round 8 was no exception to this trend. Urrea chose Rainy Wedding, written by Carrie MacKillop of Charlotte, Vt. The story is about a mother who is caring for her deathly ill, 5-year-old son.
"Sometimes you read a piece of literature that you realize you will never forget," Urrea says of MacKillop's submission.
MacKillop says once she heard the rules for the round, the ideas started coming.
"For me, when I heard the prompt, it was so easy for me to picture the most difficult thing on the other side of the door, which would be a sick child," she tells Raz, "and I think the story just flowed from there."
The flow worked, Urrea says.
"If you write like that all the time, you are America's next famous author ? because it's just devastating," he tells MacKillop. "There were a lot of layers of story. The way the story was told, I really loved it that there was no 'Bam! Here's a snappy ending for you.' It felt almost novelistic in its heft."
MacKillop has no formal background in creative writing. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Los Angeles, but was never accepted into their creative writing program.
"Do not stop writing," Urrea tells her. "Send me your work. ... We'll be pen pals."
More Of Judge Urrea's Favorites
Read more submissions.
Weekends on All Things Considered is launching Round 8 of its Three-Minute Fiction contest. This time, the story has to start with this sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
Ready for some creative competition? Weekends on All Things Considered is launching Round 8 of its Three-Minute Fiction contest. Here's what we look for: original, short fiction that can be read in less than three minutes ? that's no more than 600 words.
Each round, we have a judge who gives us a writing challenge. For Round 8, our judge is Luis Alberto Urrea, the award-winning author of 13 books, including The Devil's Highway, The Hummingbird's Daughter and his most recent release, Queen of America.
For Round 8, Urrea wants you to start your story with this sentence:
"She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
"The key being, of course, that 'finally,'" Urrea tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "There can be an infinity in what's going on with that 'finally.'"
"I'm a book person, and honestly, I wanted the sense of life change that comes from a good reading experience," he says. "I can't wait to see where people go with it."
Urrea says his editors at Little, Brown and Co. inspired his challenge. "My editor is often telling me, 'You know what? Stop clearing your throat. Stop clearing your throat, don't hesitate ? get in the story,'" he says.
"Though this is a challenge, I intended it as a bit of a gift," he adds. "To tell somebody, 'Look, you're in the middle of a story and you cannot stop. All stories happen when the old way of life doesn't work any longer, so let's jump right in and write to the moment of change."
For your story, you must use that full sentence exactly as it is. Those 17 words are included in the 600-word limit, too, but all the other words are up to you. Each and every story will be read, and once again, we're lucky enough to still have creative writing graduate students from New York University and the Iowa Writer's workshop on board as our first readers.
The deadline for submissions is Sunday, March 25, at 11:59 p.m. ET. After that date, we'll post some of our favorites on the website and read highlights during weekends on All Things Considered. Meanwhile, you can keep up with the latest posts on our Three-Minute Fiction Facebook page.
The winning story will be read on air, and the winning author will receive a signed copy of Urrea's book, Queen of America, as well as join us on the show.
Before you get started, though, Urrea has a last tip for writers:
"Be bold, baby. Just jump in there and let us have it."