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PO Box 1271

Los Altos, CA 94023


2019 Boulder Generative Workshop Short Short Contest

In the spirit of generating new work in the new year, Writing By Writers held our 6th annual Short Short Writing Contest in 2019 to win free tuition to the WxW Generative Workshop in Boulder. The rules were simple. The piece could be fiction, non fiction or memoir but it had to contain a weather event, your favorite food, a song by a group fronted by a woman, tulips, one of the following: an apple, an Apple, an Appaloosa, or Appalachia. (Since some of our winners are publishing these pieces elsewhere we have not included all winning shorts.)

Winners: Kanika Agrawal, John Mark Brown, Kristi Ericson, Jenn Hollmeyer, Amber Keyser and Lara Palmqvist
Finalists: Carrie Anderson, Thomas Aunins, Kathy Conde, Emily Cooke, Debbie Golos, Jen Parsons, Emily Polk, Vivian Wagner
, Kiani Yiu

Layer (excerpt) by Kanika Agrawal

     I don’t deny that I’ve lied about myself. Speaking only for myself, when I wear a lungi, I’m willing to be unwrapped. And when I say there’s a lozenge in it for you, I’ll mean it. It'll clear your throat.

​     Do you mean lain? says the youngest workshop participant.

     I could. I mean, these cyclonic forces are disinhabiting even on the individual level, right? One minute I’m scooping papdi chaat into my mouth. Onion, coriander, tamarind. Tulips on my tongue, variegating. Going viral. The next I don’t know where I am. Or whether. I’m devastated.

​     You’re not making sense, says a nonlocal participant.

    Exactly! But you go on pretending. I can’t guarantee this isn’t a lie. It might not be. There’s a wild apple in Shillong that contains the essence of coherence. Quarantines it, really, in its cyan seeds. You think you want to know, to put it together, but you’re not equipped. We’re not. The flesh is too sour. We’ve gone incremental. We need additional calculations.

     Using what math? says the second most corpulent participant. In my mind, I surround- sound her with birdy calls and responses.

Disco by Jenn Hollmeyer

     I was sick the day Tina said she’s moving out. Every time I sneezed, my sinuses shrieked like the first line of that Blondie song she digs. 

     Achooooonce I had a love and it was a gas.

     It was fitting, both because of our breakup and because she'd nicknamed me Disco. She said I was the fun one, since I bought tulips and birthday cake for no reason. And maybe that was our problem: I’d started to believe she was right. I was the gas.

     I’d bought the Groupon for those godforsaken horseback riding lessons out of desperation. But we missed the first one because of the ice storm, and after that I always got paired with the Appaloosa that wouldn’t move. Real fun. We should have stuck to date nights at Olive Garden. I don’t care what people say; their chicken Alfredo is good.  

     “Let’s order Olive Garden for dinner,” I said from the couch.

     Tina came downstairs and gave me a look like death. “I’ll be gone by then.” 

     I didn’t know she was leaving today. She held our MacBook against her chest.

     “Is that what you meant when you asked if you could take the apple?”

     She rolled her eyes.

     “No one calls those Apples.”

     She snatched the last Pink Lady from the table beside the tulips.

     Achooooonce I had a love and it was a gas. 

     “You’re just allergic to your own flowers,” she said.

     “I know,” I said, but she wasn’t there to hear.

First Daughter, Last Daughter by Amber Keyser

At shift change, the new nurse suits up for an amputation not a birth. Full face shield. Surgical booties that go to her knees. Arm-length gloves. This is how I know things will be different this time around.


The first birth was soft, over before it started. Georgia sun streamed through the window. My husband hunched in a rocking chair, picking notes on the guitar while I labored, a distraction, a prayer. Riding out the storm like a ship safe at anchor… I swayed in the creamy hand of a morphine drip, the smell of it apple sweet, a syrup rendering even death surreal.


This birth is sharp. This baby is made of angles and blades. She’s wedged in my pelvis. I’m on the verge of fracture. Portland is sheathed in ice, a spring storm that shutters stores and arrests traffic. The soundtrack is me, screaming fuck on repeat. The child and I are a nascent punk band. The nurse is prepped for me to explode.


But I don’t.


I push.


Then there are two daughters. One was soft and full of southern sun, her body weighty with death. Stillbirth is quiet. The other is sharp, all elbows and knees and shrieks. She’s icy hot in my arms, noisy.


After, my husband and I eat take out, crosslegged on the bed. #11 Spicy Mushrooms from the Ethiopian place. The chilis make our eyes water and our mouths burn. My mother brings flowers. Tulips in an ice storm. Imagine that.