The unbearable heat of August reminds me that it’s time to announce the FOURTH ANNUAL WEIRD CHRISTMAS FLASH FICTION CONTEST!
I want your stories to help keep Christmas weird! We’re in our fourth year of the contest. Last year’s results are here. The thing keeps growing every year, and each year we ramp up the weird and the creepy and the funny by at least three exponential elves. I expect the bottled up anxiety and rage of a covid year should make this contest’s stories even more upsetting. Perfect for Christmas cheer!
New for this year!!! I’m making three “Prompt Categories.” This is just to shake things up, so I’m giving you three ways to enter this year. This is probably overly complicated, but what the hell. You’ve got three ways to submit a story and four ways to win a prize:
- “Stocking Stuffer” – In this category, just write whatever the hell you want. Anything goes as long as it fits the rules and general guidelines down below.
- “There was a man dwelt by a churchyard” – The king of Christmas ghost stories, M.R. James, wrote a story with that as a title because in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, someone starts a ghost story with that line but never gets further. I’m sure you guys can do better than M.R. James, a master storyteller who set the standards for all ghost stories to come. It’s a low bar. You can do it! Just write a story with that as the first line, and fame and fortune will be yours. (And, yes, those 8 words count for your total.) Thanks to Benito Cereno (@benito_cereno on Twitter) for this idea.
- “Weird Cards” – If you’re absolutely stuck for a story idea, head to Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook and find an old card I’ve posted. Write a story inspired by it. Be sure to link the card when you submit your story.
I’ll have one overall winner (1st prize, $75) which can come from any category and then a $50 “prompt prize” for each of these three categories. Yes, that means that one prompt prize will kinda be “second place” for that category, but… look, don’t overthink it. I’m offering more money this year, which is what matters.
Otherwise, the rules are mostly the same as last time:
- Deadline November 15, 2021. Winners will be announced on the podcast/site as soon after Thanksgiving as I can get the podcast out.
- 350 word max limit (title not included). No exceptions.
- $75 first prize, $50 for each “prompt” prize. $5 for every “honorable mention” (10-12). [I use Paypal but can make exceptions.]
- Winners will be read on my podcast (preferably by you, but I can find others) and published on my site.
- Submissions must be EMAILED to firstname.lastname@example.org. Either paste it into the body or attach a file. Please include your name, but writer bios are unnecessary (until we get to the winners).
- You can submit multiple stories, even multiple stories for each prompt. I will accept poetry, but it must be narrative.
And then I’ve got some general guidelines to answer ye olde frequently asked questions:
First, What should the story be about? Make it weird, strange or odd. It can be “Haha!” weird or “Oh, Jesus, no!” weird. It can be genre (sf, fantasy, horror/weird, bizarro, etc.) or it can just be off-kilter. Sentimental is fine, but it better be sentimental in a way that leaves me feeling…uncomfortable. As long as it’s something about the holidays we aren’t expecting, it fits.
Second, Does it have to be specifically about Christmas? It must be related to any winter holiday (Christmas, Hannukha, Kwanza, solstice celebrations, “Yule,” etc.). You can include other holidays like Halloween or Easter, but it still needs a strong connection to the winter season’s celebrations.
Third, How do I know what you like? A few people asked which well known authors I like for comparison. I don’t advise trying to copy their styles, but a few names that you can check out anyway: Connie Willis, Michael Cisco, Steve Aylett, Gene Wolfe, Angela Carter, Kate Bernheimer just to name a few who sort of circle around what seems right for this. The best thing to do is to see what I picked from the previous contests here, here, and here.
Fourth, A tease: I’d love to collect and publish all of these after another round or two, and I started looking into it. So keep in mind that it might be more than just a random online contest somewhere down the line…And that leads me to…
Fifth, Do you keep the rights to the story? I’m asking for first rights to publish your story here and on the podcast. Beyond that, feel free to submit it somewhere else simultaneously, as long as the other venue doesn’t ask for exclusivity while the contest is ongoing. I’ll also contact everyone individually before publishing them, so if you’re only interested in winning and don’t want to be added as an “honorable mention,” say, you’ll have that option. Note that if I publish it, and you do want to take it somewhere else after the contest, it will technically count as a reprint. Keep that in mind if you’re hoping to get this published somewhere that pays more than I can, and, truth is, reprints won’t be as attractive to most markets. I’ll talk to each winner individually before publishing anything. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m exploiting your hard work for “exposure”… but if I’m publishing a story as an “honorable mention” and paying at the bottom of the rates, that’s essentially what that works out to. Just want to be totally clear about that.
Finally, What if I’m trying to make a career as a writer? Is this thing legit? I’m working toward being a “pro/semi-pro” market. Every piece that ends up on the site/show will be paid this year. Thank you Patreon supporters! All four of the winning pieces (the overall and the 3 prompt prizes) will count as “pro sales” according to almost all writing organizations. For the “honorable mentions,” it’s still modest ($5, or 1.5 cents per word), but at least if you get accepted, you can mark it as a semi-pro sale on your resume/CV according to many writers’ associations definition of “semi-pro.” My goal is to meet the Science Fiction Writers of America’s definition of “pro” as at least 5 cents/word, or $17.50/story, but I’m not quite there yet.
If you have any other questions, please contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.