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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."