Wednesday, August 09, 2006

JC: Flash Fiction Contest

A few months ago the editor of Crossings informed me that they would be featuring my novel Storm in their summer catalog. She asked me to write a 250-word devotional piece on grace which they would print as a sidebar. Some non-fiction authors were also being asked to write sidebars so I wanted to do something other than the usual inspirational essay. Having recently written a blog about short-short fiction (March 2006, “Flash Fiction”), I decided to try my hand at it.

Here’s what appeared in the catalog:

The Puzzle
by Jack Cavanaugh

Weary of life and living, my world no longer made sense.
A friend noticed. He handed me a gray cardboard box.
I lifted the lid.
“There must be a thousand puzzle pieces in here!”
“Trust me, it’ll help.”
I shoved the box back at him.
“I don’t have time for games.”
“Life is no game. Call me when you’re ready.”
“You mean, when I’m finished.”
“I mean, when you’re ready.”

I dumped the pieces on the dining room table. A montage of images began to appear. Protestors thrusting guns at heaven. Trembling towers on fire. Swollen-bellied children, food for flies. A yellow-taped crime scene. An infant’s funeral.

Compared to these, my troubles paled. Was I to feel better for this?

I called my friend.
“This isn’t helping.”
“Do you see where grace fits in?”
“Grace? There’s no grace in this puzzle!”
“You’re not ready. Call me when you’re ready.”

Weeks passed. A dozen times I moved to clear the table. Something wouldn’t let me. The puzzle took shape, piece by disturbing piece.

And then, it made sense. I phoned my friend.
“I understand!”
“It’s complete?”
“There’s one piece missing.”
“I’ll be right over.”

Together we pondered the turmoil of the images.
In the center of the puzzle was a cross-shaped hole.

My friend said,
“It’s the only way to make sense of this world.”
“The missing piece…do you have it?”
With hand outstretched, he offered me the cross.


The idea of writing short-short fiction—stories that pack an emotional punch or provide a flash of illumination—continues to fascinate me. (So does writing 250,000 word epic novels, but that’ll have to be the subject of another blog.) With the way the Internet is redefining how we read, I can’t help but think that the time is right for short-short fiction to make a comeback.

I say comeback because while Flash Fiction might be the new name for it, short-short stories have been around a long time. I recently purchased a book of one hundred short-short detective stories that includes submissions by Charles Dickens, O. Henry, Jack London, and Abraham Lincoln. Yes, you read correctly. The tall guy with the beard. He wrote a story about three brothers who were accused of killing an acquaintance for his money.

So, let’s assume I’m right about Flash Fiction and the Internet. (Humor me. What’s it going to hurt?) There’s going to be a need for stories. That’s where you come in. And we’re here to help you get started.

Charis Connection invites you to write and submit a piece of Flash Fiction to us. Submit it according to the guidelines below and if it’s selected by our judges, you and your story will be featured on this blog with our congratulations.

(We wanted to offer a cash reward, but after passing the hat among our staff of bloggers were came up with twenty-three cents and a half-stick of gum. Knowing this group, we counted ourselves fortunate that the gum wasn’t already chewed. So instead of insulting you with cash and gum, we thought it in better taste to heap accolades on the authors who wrote the best stories.)

How about it? There’s only one way to become a writer and that’s to write and submit your work. Besides, you won’t find a friendlier or more supportive group of fellow writers. Take a chance. Send us your story.

Rules for submission:

Who may submit stories? Anyone who is not a Charis Connection blogger.
(If in doubt, check the column on the right. If you see your name listed, you’re ineligible. Get over it. Besides, don’t you have a blog to write?)

1. 250 words maximum.
2. Submissions must be received by August 19, 2006.
3. Email your submission to:
4. Include: Your submission, a bio paragraph, and an email address for us to contact you.

Jack Cavanaugh, together with Bill Bright, is the author of Storm and its sequel Fury, to be released in September.


At 9:55 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

The Puzzle?


At 8:45 AM, Blogger Lori Benton said...


My husband is very interested in reading the story by Lincoln. Can you please post the title of the short story collection here in the comments?


At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack says,

Lori, the title is --

100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories. Winberg, Dziemianowicz, and Greenberg editors. Published by Barnes and Noble Books, 1993.

Lincoln's story is, "The Trailor Murder Mystery."


At 1:29 PM, Blogger Lori Benton said...

Thanks! We just finished listening to Across Five Aprils, and are in a Lincoln-appreciating mood these days. Not that we didn't appreciate him before. Having grown up a mile from the Surratt house (home and business of Mary Surratt, who was implicated in Lincoln's assassination, and hanged), then moved to a place about a mile from where Boothe was finally captured, I could hardly escape being surrounded almost daily by that period's history.

We never knew until your post that Mr. Lincoln wrote any fiction. I wonder, was this his only published story?


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