A Very Short Story Contest—2015

It may be apocryphal, but the story goes that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story that ran fewer than ten words. One version of the story places the bet at the famed Algonquin round table. Whether true or not, there is an actual bet-winning short story attributed to Hemingway:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

You have to admit it's pretty good. It builds, and there's a whole world of background and emotion lurking beneath those words.

We made a similar bet with our audience. Write a great short story in ten words or fewer. (You may use a title or not, but the title goes into the word count.) Winner gets a free Gotham class.

Here we present the winner and nine finalists:


Underwear—check. Fake passport—check. House key—left behind.

Megan Evans
Denver, Colorado


He came home in an envelope. Name, rank, serial number.

Nancee Beal
East Troy, Wisconsin

School bus. Plenty of seats. No place to sit.

Will Chessor
Nashville, Tennessee

The ultrasound technician hesitated, frowning. “Let me get the doctor.”

Leah Bailey
Pulaski, Tennessee

Potatoes in his exhaust pipe. Beware of those you betray.

Sheree Pracy
Neutral Bay, Australia

Her hijab. Her cross. They became one. An unexpected couple.

Antigoni Gaitana
New York, New York

She picked up her dull scissors and wrote.

Christina Haack
Naugatuck, Connecticut

Rain came. The children scattered. And again God was alone.

Vincent Dill
Olney, Illinois

Young, they sang together.
Old, she sang, so he’d remember.

Kyrie McCauley
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Mom, we smell pot.”

Cough. “Out in a sec.”

Laura McConnell
Columbia, South Carolina