Columns > Published on June 30th, 2016

UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: Knockemstiff Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or prompt. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 20 words. It can be less, but not more. 
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before June 29th.  We will run the winner on June 30th.

This Month's Prize

One lucky winner gets a copy of Donald Ray Pollock's newest book, The Heavenly Table, coming out in July from Doubleday. 

From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.

It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?

In the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre's literary masters.

Your Inspiration

There are some crazy town names out there: Coxsackie, NY. Boring, Oregon. Truth and Consequences, NM. Imalone, WI. The author of our prize book was born in Knockemstiff, Ohio. For this month's contest, create a town with one of these awesome names (or you can use a real place, too,) and write a little description of what it's like to live in that town. 


And The Winner Is...Saul Aguilar

This was a fun one! It does amaze me how a place name can mean so much and have such an effect on its residents. This month's winning entry is from Saul Aguilar:

Nothing, AZ

The visitor says, "What'd I expect?" repeating the local's question. With eyes glazed over, he mumbles, "More."

About the author

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer for an engineering firm and volunteers on the planning committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education.

She holds a degree in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. In the English graduate program at Penn State, she taught college composition courses and hosted a poetry club for a group of high school writers.

While living in Seattle, Taylor started and taught a free writing class called Writer’s Cramp (see the website). She has also taught middle school Language Arts & Spanish, tutored college students, and mentored at several Seattle writing establishments such as Richard Hugo House. She’s presented on panels at Associated Writing Programs Conference and the Pennsylvania College English Conference and led writing groups in New York, Pennsylvania, and Colorado for writers of all ages & abilities. She loves to read, write, teach & debate the Oxford Comma with anyone who will stand still long enough.

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