Competition 2018

The 2018 competition is actually three contests in one. The first contest draws its opening and closing lines from The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett; the second contest draws its opening and closing lines from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll; and the third contest draws its opening and closing lines from "A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker. You may enter one, two, or all three contests. Each contest will be judged independently.

The Three Contests

To participate in a contest, you must write a short story that starts and ends with the same opening and closing lines as one of these three classic works.


I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy
on 52nd street, waiting for Nora to finish
her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up
from the table where she had been sitting with
three other people and came over to me.
“That may be,“ Nora said, “but it’s all
pretty unsatisfactory.“


One thing was certain, that the white kitten
had had nothing to do with it: —
it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.
Which do you think it was?


Please, God, let him telephone me now.
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty,
twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five.


Your story must satisfy the following basic requirements: it should be well-written; it should include the opening and closing lines, as given; and it should be entertaining and/or thought-provoking. Your story must be fewer than 3000 words and formatted appropriately; and you may not submit more than one story to any of the contests. Make sure you read the FAQ and all the Official Rules before you Submit Your Story.

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

Also, remember that you are not trying to rewrite The Thin Man, Through the Looking-Glass, or "A Telephone Call." In fact, in most cases, you should just leave the source material behind. Your goal is to write a new, wholly-original story that just happens to share the same first and last lines from one of these stories. You may write any kind of story you'd like in any genre — so long as it fits snugly, seamlessly, between these first and last lines.

If you'd like to get a feel for the kinds of literary taxidermy stories we're expecting, you might want to check out The Gymnasium, a collection of stories by Mark Malamud that inspired this competition.


The author of the winning story in each contest will receive a USD $500 cash prize; runners-up will receive a USD $50 cash prize; and both winning and runner-up authors will receive a free copy of the forthcoming 2018 Literary Taxidermy Anthology in which they are published. Honorable-mention authors will have their name included on a special page in the anthology.


Unfortunately, the submission period has closed for the 2018 Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition. However, if the competition interests you — and why shouldn't it! — we suggest you subscribe to our mailing list. We'll send you news of future competitions, as well as competition updates and reminders (and NO SPAM).