This election season, Three-Minute Fiction is getting political. Weekends on All Things Considered has a new judge, a new challenge and a new prize for Round 9. For this contest, submit original, short fiction that can be read in about three minutes, which means no more than 600 words.
The judge for this round is writer Brad Meltzer. He's the author of seven novels, including the best-seller The Inner Circle. His newest thriller, The Fifth Assassin, will be out in January.
Here's the challenge he's laid out for contestants: Story entries must revolve around a U.S. president, who can be real or fictional.
"It's the president that you make up in your head, that's the best president of all," he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
Meltzer has written books that revolve around presidents and national security, so he's met all kinds of people who work in that arena, including Secret Service agents and first ladies.
"But there is nothing like meeting the president of the United States," he says.
Meltzer says someone once told him that "anytime you even see the president, you have a story to tell for the rest of your life."
"You have every detail, all of time slows down, and so the stories take on a brand-new importance. And that's why I love them," Meltzer says. "The hardest part of writing them is that when you write about the president ... the cliches come easy."
The key, he says, is "finding the real person inside." Put simply, Meltzer says, he's looking for a good story.
"To me, stories aren't what did happen, they're what could happen," he says. "They take us to places and they imagine worlds."
Submissions will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 23. As we go through entries, we'll post some of our favorites online and read highlights during weekends on All Things Considered. You can also keep up with the latest posts on our Three-Minute Fiction Facebook page.
The winning story will be read on the air in its entirety, and the winner will receive signed copies of some of Meltzer's books.
Starting this round, the winning story will also be published in the December issue of The Paris Review, one of the most acclaimed literary magazines in the world.
All of the stories will be read with help from students at the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, Cornell and the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
"Write what you love. Even in the diabolical box that we've put you in, don't write for us," Meltzer advises. "Don't write for me. Write for you. Write what you love, and I promise you it will show on the page."
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.