Fernando A. Flores used to hate the Texas Observer Short Story Contest.
Year after year, he diligently entered his writing in the contest, and year after year, he lost — about five times, he recalls. “It was actually the bane of my existence for many years,” he says. Then, in 2016, he was named a finalist for “Lee Harvey in His Element,” a strange and funny tale that reimagined John F. Kennedy’s assassin as a guitarist in a little-known band called Sarcophagus.
Two years after that, Flores published his first book, Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas, followed by his second, Tears of the Trufflepig, this May. In one of many glowing reviews, BuzzFeed called it “an intricate, philosophical, trippy thriller.”
We are proud to announce that he’s come full circle: He’ll be the judge for our ninth annual short story contest.
Last year’s winner, Heath Dollar, hit close to home with “Ink Upon the Furrows,” a story about a struggling Central Texas newspaper — but let your imagination run wild. Texas settings and themes are welcome, but not required. Entries are judged anonymously, so experienced writers and novices are on equal footing. There are no restrictions on genre, either; we merely ask that you keep it under 2,500 words.
What qualities will Flores be searching for as he reads submissions?
“There isn’t any one thing I ever look for in a story,” he says, “but the ones that stay with me take some kind of risk, strive for something greater, unknown, undefined, and afterward leave you lost in the woods of what you read.”
So take risks, lead us into the woods and head over to the submission page for all the details. Entries are due August 26.
Nellie Downer’s story checks every box on the list of attributes guest judge Bryan Washington appreciates in short fiction: “stories with distinct voices, a keen sense of place, and a palpable intimacy.”