Round 7 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest attracted more than 3,000 story submissions. Tasked with writing an original short story that can be read in about three minutes, contestants had to include one character arriving to town and one character leaving town.
The judge for this round, writer Danielle Evans, has picked her favorite.
Evans is the author of the short story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. She read the submissions with the help of students at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the faculty and students from NYU's creative writing graduate program.
Evans tells host of weekends on All Things Considered Guy Raz that something about this round's challenge brought out "a tremendous sense of nostalgia."
"There were kind of an astonishing number of child narrators," she says, "maybe people remember that idea of coming and going more clearly in childhood."
Evans agonized over a few entries before picking a winner. One in particular that came close was Sleep Lessons, by Chad Woody from Springfield, Mo.
"I thought that there was a way in which it kind of captures that idea of a child's sense of the world," Evans says. "There are all these ... strong images, very sharp sentences that really, you kind of see what's going on with the mother in a way that the child can't name."
The piece that did win came from Chris Westberg of Williamsburg, Va. Her story is called Little Hossein. The setting is not explicitly mentioned in the story, but Westberg says it takes place in 1963 in a village outside of Tehran, Iran. She says all of the characters were real people in her childhood. The event, however, is fictional.
Evans said the story stuck in her mind after reading it.
"I got the sense that there was this whole world here," she says. "[Westberg] took that feeling and those memories and made them something kind of heightened and compressed and really interesting."
Westberg teaches acting at the College of William and Mary.
"I think my directing and acting experience is really feeding my work," she tells Raz.
Westberg says the parameters for this round were not challenging. In fact, they helped her frame the story.
"[Evans] gave me a great, great gift, because I wasn't even thinking about the story, and when she said it's about somebody arriving and somebody leaving — Whoa! It all came together," she says.
The next Three-Minute Fiction challenge and a new judge will be announced after the New Year.