The 2022 Competition

This year's competition is for both short stories and poetry. Each contest will be judged independently, and you may enter each as many times as you like. Both contests offer writers the same choice of opening and closing lines. All submissions must be received before 11 July 2022 at 12:00 PM PDT. The competition is open to professional and amateur writers from around the globe. Everything you need to know to submit your work to this year's competition can be found on this page. Please read it all!

To participate in this year's competition, you must write a short story or poem that starts and ends with the same sequence of opening and closing words as one of the following four works.

“Ms. Found in a Bottle” by Edgar Allan Poe

"Ms. Found in a Bottle" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in the October 19th issue of the Visiter in 1833. Edgar Poe was an American writer, poet, and literary critic, best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Here are the story's first and last lines:


             
Of my country and of my family
I have little to say.

...
Going down!

You may use these two lines as the first and last words of your story or a poem.

“Happiness” by A. A. Milne

“Happiness” is a poem by A. A. Milne, first published as a book in the collection When We Were Very Young in 1924. Alan Alexander Milne was an English author, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh. Here are the poem's first and last lines:


             
John had great big waterproof boots on.
...
And that (said John) ⁠is ⁠that.

You may use these two lines as the first and last words of your story or a poem.

“As I Grew Older” by Langston Hughes

“As I Grew Older” is a poem by Langston Hughes, first published The Weary Blues in 1926. James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet and social activist, and one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry. Here are the poem's first and last lines:


             
It was a long time ago.
...
Help me to shatter this darkness,
to smash this night,
to break this shadow
into a thousand lights of sun,
into a thousand whirling dreams of sun!

You may use these two lines as the first and last words of your story or a poem.

"The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor” by Agatha Christie

"The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor” is a short story by Agatha Christie, first published as a book in the collection Poirot Investigates, 1924. Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie was an English writer known for her detective novels and for the world's longest-running play, The Mousetrap. Here are the story's first and last lines:


             
I had been called away
from town for a few days, and on
my return found Poirot in the act
of strapping up his small valise.

...
And then—and then, Hastings—
she pulls it!

You may use these two lines as the first and last words of your story or a poem. (Just make sure your Poirot isn't a plump Belgian detective!)

BASIC REQUIREMENTS

Your story or poem must satisfy the following basic requirements: (1) it must start and end with the same sequence of words as the opening and closing lines, (2) it must be no longer than 2000 words, and (3) it must be formatted correctly.

Make sure you read the FAQ and all the Official Rules before you submit your work. Not following the rules will likely mean your entry is not considered, so please double-check everything. (You might want to use one of our Manuscript Templates to make sure you get the formatting correct.)

All submissions must be received before 11 July 2022 at 12:00 PM PDT.

JUDGING

Your work will be judged on how convincingly — and creatively — you have taken ownership of the opening and closing lines: they should be an integral part of your work, and the transition between these lines and your work should be seamless. We do not want to read a story or poem that feels as if the opening and closing lines were tacked on as an afterthought. Be creative! Be daring!

Also, remember that you are not trying to rewrite the literary work from which we've excised the first and last lines. In fact, in most cases, you should just leave the source material behind. Your goal is to write a new, wholly-original story or poem that just happens to share the same opening and closing of a classic work. You may write any kind of story or poem you'd like in any genre or style — it can be science fiction, fantasy, horror, meta-fiction, a limerick, a ballad, a sonnet, whatever! — so long as your new work fits snugly, seamlessly, between these first and last lines.

Your story or poem will be evaluated by Regulus Press and the competition's Judges, all of whom are writing professionals.

EXAMPLES

If you'd like to get a feel for what makes a successful literary taxidermy story, you might want to check out The Gymnasium, a collection by Mark Malamud that inspired the competition. You may also pick up one of the competition anthologies from previous years. They include both short stories and poetry.

AWARDS

The author of the winning story or poem will receive a USD $500 cash prize and a complimentary copy of the forthcoming 2022 Literary Taxidermy Anthology; runners-up will receive a USD $50 cash prize; and both the winner and runners-up will be published in the forthcoming 2022 Literary Taxidermy Anthology. Honorable-mention authors will receive personal feedback on their stories and poems, and will have their name included on a special page in the anthology.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR WORK


  1. First, make sure your submission satisfies all the content and formatting requirements as described in the Official Rules. You might want to use one of our Manuscript Templates to make sure you get the formatting correct. (The templates are more for stories than poems. You may format your poem in whatever way works best, so long as you use a reasonable font and font size.)
  2. Create an email message to contest@literarytaxidermy.com.
  3. Include the following five items in the body of your email:
           (1) Your full name.
           (2) Your nationality (or the country in which you are presently living).
           (3) The contest to which you are submitting (STORY or POEM).
           (4) The source of your first and last lines (CHRISTIE or HUGHES or MILNE or POE).
           (5) Your story as a document attachment.
    Do NOT include anything else. The subject line of your message can be anything. We suggest something simple, like "Submission."
  4. Your attachment must be a Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or plain text document. (Again, you might want to use one of our Manuscript Templates to make sure you get the formatting correct.)
  5. The filename of your document should derive from the title of your story or poem. (For example: great_story.doc.) Do NOT use your name as any part of the filename.
  6. Make sure to send your story or poem from an email address we can use to contact you if you're a winner or runner-up. (In other words, don't send it from an email account you never check.)
  7. For each story or poem you submit, you must pay the USD $10 competition entry fee. Your story or poem will not be read if you don't pay its entry fee. (If you have a significant financial hardship that makes paying the entry fee too burdensome, or if there’s some other reason that would make the fee unreasonable, you may contact us and we'll consider waiving the fee.)
  8. To pay the fee, just click one of the PayPal links below. Note: You don't need to have a PayPal account to complete this transaction.

  9. That's it! We will send you confirmation email when your submission has been received and your payment has been processed. We will also send email to the winners and runners-up upon conclusion of the competition. We look forward to reading your work.

JOIN THE MAILING LIST!

Oh, one last thing. Don't forget to subscribe to our mailing list for the most up-to-the-minute news about the Literary Taxidermy Writing Competition. (And NO SPAM — we promise!)