George Dila Memorial Flash Fiction Contest


The first ever George Dila Contest concluded on September 1, 2017.  Our judge, Phillip Sterling selected three winners and three honorable mentions from over 90 entries.   And the winners are:

Cash Prizes and Publication in our contest issue:

First Prize - Jeanie Mortenson of Ludington, Michigan for "Lemon Ice for Dessert"

Second Prize - Jeff Burd of Gurnee, Illinois for "Thirteenth Birthday"

Third Prize - David DeGusta of Castro Valley California for "The Book of Unbelievable Things"

Honorable Mention and Publication in our contest issue:

"How We Are Changed" by Michael Antoinetti of Westfield, Massachusetts
"The Dunbar Overpass" by Joe Cappello of Glen Gardener, New Jersey
"Snapshot" by Rebecca O'Neill of Saranac Lake, New York



Judge’s Statement: George Dila Memorial Fiction Contest 2017



When asked, as I sometimes am, to delineate the difference between a work of flash fiction and a prose poem, I often beg the question. “Let someone else worry about that,” I might say. “Just concern yourself with the integrity of the individual work.”

I’m sure the response sounds dismissive—and perhaps I mean it to be—but not because I don’t have an answer to the trendy (and tedious) critical bantering among editors and academics to make the distinction. To me, the difference is obvious.


Flash fiction, like all good fiction, utilizes many of literary qualities often associated with poetry, such as the delight in language, the selectivity of diction, the reliance on sensory detail, and a certain conciseness (this latter being the quality that most often causes genre disputation). But fiction must have narrative qualities as well: characterization, situation (or setting), complication or conflict (whether explicit or implied), and resolution. In addition, the story must be complete in itself—that is, it must be unified in a satisfying way, often in a way that makes the reader want to go back and visit it again (yes, like a good poem). It should not leave us wanting, not read like excerpt from something else.


That’s what I mean by integrity. A short story that stands out, to me, is one in which its elements, whether poetic or narrative, work within the constraints and limitations of its form (primarily one of word count, in the case of “flash”)—or better, work to serve its unity, so that the manipulation of its conciseness, its play of language, its implications of character and plot all work together in a new and unique way.


That being said, the easy thing about judging the George Dila Memorial Fiction Contest was that I didn’t have to worry about distinguishing poetry from prose. The submitters did that for me, self-determining that what they entered was indeed “fiction.” The more difficult aspect of judging was separating from a large number of very well written stories the few that really stood out, the ones—I’d like to argue—with the most “integrity,” which, when it came down to it, were the ones I simply liked the best.


In my First Place pick, “Lemon Ice for Dessert,” we meet Marguerite, who, while riding the Green Line train on her way to her see her grandfather (whose eyebrows at times “knit together like a pair of wrestling caterpillars”), catalogs the details of her journey, both actual and imaginative, because “she couldn’t help herself.” While meant to be a routine trip, this particular journey becomes one of profound realization, when Marguerite’s observations turn inward and she must confront the inception of her emotional awareness.


Second Place I award to “Thirteenth Birthday” for its breadth of conciseness and understatement. In just over 100 words, the unnamed main character (“you”) captures a moment familiar to many of us who look back on adolescence with both awe and understanding, that combination of fear and pride we felt as we navigated our way into our teens with all the confidence of an arrow floating on the surface of (what I imagine is) a Great Lake.


The classic epistolary format is well-served by my Third Place choice, “The Book of Unbelievable Things.” Letters are especially suited to flash fiction, as they are similarly limited in size and often focused in intent (we write most letters purposefully, to make formal demands or requests). In a letter, character is revealed through the first-person point of view, by way of what we are told, and how. And the story becomes one of what we are not told, but must infer from the tone and syntax, which, in this case, is slightly foreign.


A number of other stories were also “In Contention,” but space limitations in this Prize Issue only allow room to print three. So as Honorable Mentions I offer “How We Are Changed,” for the anaphoric syntax and detail that brings to intense familiarity the pathos of a life lived fully; “Snapshot,” for the story behind the story, built from what the narrator knows (or imagines) out of his/her own photographic experience and conjecture (in a “catalog” frame suitable to the limits of the short form); and “The Dunbar Overpass,” the best of several “punch line” stories submitted to the George Dila Memorial Fiction Contest (in the tradition of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” a type of narrative George himself occasionally appropriated,). I can’t help but think that the small town characters and politics of “The Dunbar Overpass” would have made George smile and nod his head . . .


Other stories notable for their inventiveness in adapting narrative to purposes of a story told “Under 1000 words” are, in no particular order: “Here’s Your Stupid Essay,” “The Comma: Concerned About Punctacide,” “A Real Pull,” and “No Hidden Nightingale.” These—and no doubt others submitted to the contest—will surely find alternative ways into the literary world. I wish them well.



Phillip Sterling is the author of In Which Brief Stories Are Told (Wayne State U Press) and several collections of poetry. His flash story “kidnappingtax.blogspot.gov” won the 2015 Monstrosities of the Midway contest. His story “Registry” was selected for Best Small Fictions 2017, now available from Braddock Avenue Books and major retailers.








The editors of Third Wednesday wish to honor the memory of George Dila, friend of Third Wednesday and the editor who guided fiction at TW from infancy to adulthood. We are proud to have called him friend and colleague. To this end, we proudly announce the opening of The George Dila Memorial Flash Fiction Contest. Until August 31, 2017 we will accept entries of previously unpublished stories of under 1000 words in length (including title).


Our judge for this contest is Phillip Sterling, author of In Which Brief Stories Are Told (short fiction, Wayne State University Press 2011), and six collections of poetry. You can read his qualifications, awards and publication history here.


Formatting your story entry is easy. We want submissions in size 12 Times New Roman font, single spaced with one inch margins all around. You may enter as many stories as you like, but each must be in a separate submission. Save your document in .doc or .docx format and upload it where prompted by our Submittable account. You can name files whatever is convenient for you but the submission title must match the title of your story. Do not include any identifying information within files or file names. Our judge will read all submissions blindly.


Winners will be awarded a 1st prize of $150, 2nd prize of $75, and 3rd prize of $25 along with publication and a copy of the issue in which the contest winners appear. All submitted entries will also be considered for regular publication.


Entry fee for this contest is just $5.00 per story.


You can pay through our Submittable account with a credit card or Pay Pal

      OR

Mail a check or money order payable to Third Wednesday (you may combine payment for multiple entries) to:


Joe Ferrari
Third Wednesday
11316 Farley Street

Redford, MI 48239


Mail your entry fee within the same week you upload your entry. We will not read your story until the entry fee has been received.


Do not include a printed copy of your story but do include the title(s) of your story(s) with your payment so that we can credit your payment properly. Remember, no identifying information within the uploaded file.


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