The Aspen Writers’ Foundation and Esquire Magazine Announce Finalists for 78-Word “Aspens,” the Short, Short Fiction Contest

October 12, 2011

Contact: Lisa Consiglio
Executive Director
Aspen Writers’ Foundation
970-­‐925-­‐3122, ext. 1# |

(October 20, 2011) – Aspen, CO – The Aspen Writers’ Foundation (AWF) and Esquire magazine announce the 10 finalists of the Short, Short Fiction contest, a new flash fiction competition in which contestants were challenged to craft an “Aspen,” a complete story told in exactly 78 words. The contest specs honor the long traditions of literary excellence held by these two organizations — Esquire‘s 78th year in publication and the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s 36th season of the Aspen Summer Words Writing Retreat & Literary Festival. The collaborative effort, which received a record-­‐breaking 4,500+ submissions before its October 7 closing date, is the first partnership between the nonprofit literary center and the men’s magazine which has a long literary history that stretches back to Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver, and more recently Stephen King and Daniel Woodrell.

“This has been an amazing collaboration. The sheer number of entries is proof that fiction in magazines – especially fiction for men – remains as vital as ever,” said Tyler Cabot, fiction editor at Esquire magazine.

“Our partnership with Esquire has had a tremendous impact on broadening our audience base,” said Lisa Consiglio, executive director of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation. “The overwhelming response to this contest is a sign of the power of stories, no matter their length.”

National Book Award-­‐winning novelist Colum McCann penned the Aspen, “Soldier’s Field,” as inspiration to contestants (see below), and later hand-­‐selected contest winners, who competed for 10 coveted spots in the finals. Finalists will gather in New York City to participate in a writing workshop taught by McCann, the bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin, and will compete in a “Fiction Throwdown” to be held November 1 at the Esquire Penthouse. Participants will have to outdo their fellow contestants by performing their short short fiction in front of a live audience of contest judges and literati including authors, celebrities, and publishing industry gurus.

Throwdown champ will walk away with a full ride to the 2012 Advanced Fiction Workshop at Aspen Summer Words, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s flagship writing retreat held each June in Aspen, Colorado.

The 10 finalists hail from across the United States and include writers of all ages, genres, and professions:

Adrienne Celt -­‐ Tempe, AZ -­‐ In Pursuit of Lost Time
Jacob Cutler -­‐ Sandy, UT -­‐ Hope Less
CJ Hauser -­‐ Brooklyn, NY -­‐ Letters in War Time
Rob Jacklosky -­‐ Bronx, NY -­‐ Baby Envy
Robin Meister -­‐ Buffalo, NY -­‐ How to Build a Shed
Emily Nemens -­‐ Baton Rouge, LA -­‐ The Only Thing I Have That Belongs in the Smithsonian
Nate Ochs -­‐ Custer, SD -­‐ How the Blood Moves in Winter
Dale Rappaneau -­‐ East Providence, RI -­‐ The Good Wife
Robert Redick -­‐ Florance, MA -­‐ Some Cars Drive Themselves
Shelia Redling -­‐ Huntington, WV -­‐ Simmering

Over 4,500 submissions from San Francisco to Sarasota were received during the month-­‐long contest, the most entries the men’s magazine has ever drawn for a fiction contest.

The Aspen Writers’ Foundation led the operational side of the contest and an anonymous jury of professional writers was responsible for the selection of the finalists. Criteria were originality, characterization, plot, and theme, as well as meeting the very stringent 78-­‐word requirement.

In 2007, Esquire made an effort to jumpstart the short, short storytelling form by launching The Napkin Fiction Project. Staffers mailed 250 cocktail napkins to writers across the country and asked them to craft a story on the piece of small ply; this contest was modeled after the Napkin Project.

Esquire Magazine, published by Hearst Magazines, is a general-­‐interest lifestyle magazine for men. Founded in 1933, Esquire offers pieces on diverse topics from politics and health to fashion and the arts. The magazine has always been a showcase for writers from F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos in its early days, to Norman Mailer and Gay Talese in the 60s, and Tom Junod and Chris Jones today. It has propelled the careers of Elizabeth Gilbert, Nathan Englander and Benjamin Percy while serving as a launch pad for aspiring writers. Esquire is the most-­‐honored monthly magazine in America with a total of 15 National Magazine Awards over the past 14 years, as well as a digital presence with its critically acclaimed Web site, iPad and iPhone apps. In addition to its U.S. flagship, Esquire publishes 22 editions around the world.

Founded in Aspen in 1976 as a cutting edge poetry conference and literary magazine, today the Aspen Writers’ Foundation is one of the nation’s leading literary centers and a stage for the world’s most prominent authors. AWF programs employ literature as a tool for provoking thought, broadening perspectives, fostering connections, inspiring creativity, and giving voice. Since 2009, the AWF has partnered with the Aspen Institute, underscoring the highest humanistic ideals of Aspen founder Walter Paepcke: to better understand human challenges by cultivating one’s inner life through the exchange of words, stories, and ideas. More information is available at


“Soldier’s Field” by Colum McCan

Sweeney was a dreamer. Sweeney was from Galway. Sweeney went to Chicago. Sweeney wanted a green card. Sweeney met a woman who made his vowels curl. Sweeney had a baby. Sweeney bought a swing set. Sweeney joined the army. Sweeney flew helicopters. Sweeney rose. Sweeney  could execute beautiful landings. Sweeney went on a second tour.

Sweeney was brought home. Sweeney asked everyone he met to kindly remove the sheet that had somehow been pulled up over his head.

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