Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nina Boutsikaris on Sonora Review's Tiny CNF contest (May 15 deadline)

Petite and potent. That’s what Sonora Review’s flash nonfiction contest is all about. Thanks to my longtime obsession with succinct, tightly powerful writing (maybe to a fault), I’m drawn to almost anything that looks short on the page, but am just as quick to put it down if it doesn’t offer up those juicy shocks to the heart that work quickly and quietly—that only skillful brevity can accomplish. In a recent post on the Berkeley Fiction Review blog, editor Ben Rowen discusses the tricky power of Hemingway’s classic six-word short story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Rowen writes, “Brevity is important, but only insofar as it is evocative and not on the nose. Hemingway’s story is clear enough to convey meaning and is still suggestive.” Imagine, he adds, anyone else telling Hemingway’s same short story in six lame words: “She miscarried, needs her money back.” Deflated, to say the least. If we can agree that the truth cannot be told head on, how then will you evoke the truth in less than 800 words? How much history can you squeeze into one seemingly small scene? How far can you send a simple exchange rippling?

We’re super proud to have Amy Leach judge this year’s contest. There is something seriously whimsical about Leach, and by that I mean both very much whimsical and, perhaps not so surprisingly, heartily potent—like Lewis Carroll, as she has often been compared. I was drawn to her first book of essays, Things that Are, due to the apparent brevity of each piece in the collection—Leach’s meditations on wayward moths, nervous caterpillars, chocolate mint-filled comforters, talking stars and trees that dream of being trees come at the reader in short bursts of both childlike wonder. But they also hum with tongue in cheek wisdom: kind of spiky, kind of sweet, and more evocative then a first glance allows.

So. You’ve only got a week left before submissions close on May 15th. Beat us up with your tiny moments. We love it.


Nina is a nonfiction MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, where she is a writing instructor and the nonfiction editor of Sonora Review. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Puerto del Sol, Hobart, Mid-American Review, Brevity, Booth, and elsewhere.

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