I’m sweating, and my shorts are damp, which means it must be time to announce the FIFTH ANNUAL WEIRD CHRISTMAS FLASH FICTION CONTEST!
This is year number FIVE! Last year’s results are here. I’m sticking with the Prompt Categories this time which lets me give out four top prizes rather than just one or two. It’s still an experiment to see if this gets more or better submissions, and I figured one more year will give me a good sense whether to keep doing it this way.
But first, if you’re new to this, then “What,” you may ask, “the hell!?” I want your stories to help keep Christmas weird! This is a contest for flash fiction of no more than 350 words that’s somehow about Christmas and somehow about slapping a big ole scoop of oozy weird right in the middle of your Christmas pudding. What does that mean in particular? I don’t know! You’re the writer! Surprise me! Just make Christmas (or any other winter holiday) seem new and unsettling with a bit of that grinning like you’re not sure if it’s funny or creepy, and you’re on you way to fame and fortune as the winner of this little contest.
There are three “Prompt Categories.” You have three ways to enter this year, and four ways to win a top prize. There will be one overall winner and then three winners in each of three separate categories:
- “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.
- “Christmas Cryptids“ – Seems like odd monsters and critters are in vogue, everything from kaiju to surreal bestiaries. And what with Krampus and Mari Lwyd and Christmas werewolves becoming all the rage, why don’t we make our own animals which “may exist somewhere in the wild, but are not believed to exist by mainstream science”? You can make up your own new weird creature or make an old standard feel fresh and freaky again. (Thanks to @Phabtacular for the suggestion.)
- “Weird Cards” – If you’re absolutely stuck for a story idea, head to Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or Instagram 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. You’ve got four ways to win.
Otherwise, the rules are the same as previous years:
- Deadline November 2, 2022. 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.
- Identify somewhere in the subject line or title if you’re entering it as a “Cryptid” or “Weird Card” category entry. Otherwise, I’ll assume it’s for the general “Stocking Stuff” prompt.
And then I’ve got some general guidelines to answer the perennial 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, 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! And thank you to Ko-FI.com 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.