Literary Taxidermy’s Short Story Competition is open to any writing form and genre, including: satire, tragedy, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, detective, romance, hyper realism, magical realism, plain old realism, speculative fiction, flash fiction, meta-fiction, meta-meta-fiction, screenplay, poetry, etc.
“This year’s competition is actually three contests in one. The first contest draws its opening and closing lines from The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett; the second contest draws its opening and closing lines from Through the Looking-Glassby Lewis Carroll; and the third contest draws its opening and closing lines from “A Telephone Call” by Dorothy Parker. You may enter one, two, or all three contests. Each contest will be judged independently.”
Literary Taxidermy is a project of Regulus Press, “located in the Pacific Northwest, is dedicated to publishing difficult, disturbing, and occasionally defenestratable fiction and poetry.”
I love a great contest with great prompts and this one is certainly something I’m interested in. Note, if you can afford to support this project, please consider paying the voluntary $10 entry fee rather than submitting free. Per their submission guidelines, “Once you’ve sent us your story, please consider paying the voluntary entry fee. If you have a significant financial hardship that makes paying the entry fee too burdensome, or even if there's some other reason that would make the fee unreasonable, you don't have to pay it. All we ask is that if you end up skipping the entry fee, please consider contributing in some other way: for example, by spreading the word on social media, or directly to those writers you think may like to participate.”
I wanted to know how and why this project came to be, so I asked Sarah Waits and she kindly replied. See my interview with Waits and submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about Literary Taxidermy.
WAITS: Literary taxidermy is an experimental fiction-writing process. It involves taking the first and last lines of a piece of writing (often a novel, but sometimes a short story or poem) and then using those lines as the beginning and ending of a new, original work. The process is not just to slap someone else’s words onto the start and finish of your work, but to take full ownership of the borrowed lines, interpreting (or re-interpreting) them in order to find your own narrative and voice within their boundaries.
Sponsored by Regulus Press, the 2018 Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition invites writers to stitch together their own stories or poems based on the opening and closing lines of one of three well-known works: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett; Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll; and “A Telephone Call” by Dorothy Parker.
There is no required entry fee, $1500 in prizes for the three winning works, and $50 for each runner-up story or poem published in the competition's anthology.
HOPKINSON: How/why was Literary Taxidermy originally started?
WAITS: The idea originated in a book of short stories called The Gymnasium by Mark Malamud. He writes that he thought of the process as little more than a prompted-writing exercise at first, but soon discovered that this particular constraint -- being given a start and a finish -- required a novel way of thinking about narrative and structure. Suddenly, it wasn't just the story that was important, but the path the story took. And after writing his first few stories this way, and comparing his work to the original source material for each, he realized it would be fascinating to see all the different paths that different writers might take within the same opening/closing constraint. And thus the idea of the competition was born.
HOPKINSON: Who is your target reader audience?
WAITS: Anyone interested in a good story, good writing, and a clever solution to an interesting puzzle. Really, we think there are literary taxidermy stories for everyone.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
WAITS: Everything’s fair game: satire, tragedy, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, detective, romance, hyper realism, magical realism, plain old realism, speculative fiction, flash fiction, meta-fiction, meta-meta-fiction, poetry, et cetera. If you’re able to take one of our opening and closing lines and turn it into a Spenserian sonnet with 3 quatrains and a couplet, go for it!
We've pulled together an eclectic group of judges to support these eclectic expectations, and they include a variety of professional writers, poets, and playwrights, including Catherine Barnett (The Game of Boxes), Kelley Eskridge (Solitaire), Stephen Graham Jones (Mongrels), Holly Kowitt (The Principal's Underwear Is Missing), Brian Parks ("Americana Absurdum"), Michael Pronko (The Last Train), Becky Selengut (Good Fish), and Nisi Shawl (Everfair).
HOPKINSON: What do you wish you’d see submitted, but rarely comes in?
WAITS: We really want people to be creative. We love writers who demonstrate that they've taken command of the opening and closing lines we've given them -- especially in a way that surprises us. We love to see writers push boundaries and expectations. We love poetry. We don't get enough poetry.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
WAITS: Wow, good question. We read everything. We like the somewhat-obscure (Aesthetica, 3:am Magazine, The Sun) to the mainstream (New Yorker, Granta, 4Column, Interzone).
HOPKINSON: Where can folks send submissions?
WAITS: The best thing to do is to check out the Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition website at 2018 Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition. All the rules are there, as well as detailed instructions on how to submit your work.
WAITS: We love questions! Email email@example.com and we'll get back to you ASAP. There's less than one month left in the competition, so it's time to get writing!
DEADLINE: June 4, 2018
ENTRY FEE: NONE -OR- Voluntary $10 entry fee
- The author of the winning story in each LTSSC contest (HAMMETT, CARROLL, and PARKER) will receive a USD $500 cash prize.
- The author of a runner-up story will receive a USD $50 cash prize.
- All winning and runner-up stories will be published in the 2018 Literary Taxidermy Anthology.
- The authors of winning and runner-up stories will receive a free copy of the 2018 Literary Taxidermy Anthology.
- Those authors whose story received honorable mention will be listed in the 2018 Literary Taxidermy Anthology.
FORMS: Everything’s fair game: satire, tragedy, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, detective, romance, hyper realism, magical realism, plain old realism, speculative fiction, flash fiction, meta-fiction, meta-meta-fiction, poetry, etc.