It's Round 10 of Three-Minute Fiction, the short story contest from weekends on All Things Considered. Here's the premise: Write a piece of original fiction that can be read in about three minutes (no more than 600 words).
Our judge for this round is author Mona Simpson, whose most recent book is My Hollywood. She most recently won a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other prizes. Here's her twist for Round 10:
Write a story in the form of a voice-mail message.
"It doesn't have to be crazy, but it could be crazy. By nature, first person — basically, a soliloquy or a monologue," she tells Guy Raz, contest curator and host of NPR's TED Radio Hour.
"It could start out, 'Hey, it's me, I'm glad you didn't pick up,' or it could start out, 'You don't know me, but ..." It could be any number of dramatic scenarios which will unwind in the three minutes," she says.
Submissions will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 10. Throughout the contest, we'll post some of our favorites online, and read excerpts during weekends on All Things Considered. You can also keep up with the latest posts on our Three-Minute Fiction Facebook page.
Each and every story will be read by our staff with help from creative writing graduate students from across the country, including at Vanderbilt, New York University and the University of Houston.
Simpson will be the ultimate judge, and she has some advice for entrants.
"It's spoken, so it has the texture of voice, but ... it's essentially what 100 years ago a short story in the form of a letter would have been," she says, adding, "I think we're hoping for spontaneity and intensity and personality, freedom."
Here's another trick Simpson says might be fun: "Set a timer and just see what comes out a few times."
The winning story will be read on the air in its entirety and will be published in the summer issue of The Paris Review literary magazine. The winner will also receive signed copies of all five of Simpson's novels.