kunc-header-1440x90.png
Our Story Happens Here
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Three-Minute Fiction: The Round 10 Winner Is ...

Did you leave a message after our prompt? For Round 10 of Three-Minute Fiction, we asked you to submit a short story in the form of a voice mail message. For this contest, the original fiction must be read in about three minutes, no more than 600 words.

After four weeks and more than 4,000 stories, we have a winner.

Graduate students at 14 different writing programs across the country helped read the Round 10 submissions. They passed the best of the best along to our judge this round, novelist Mona Simpson.

"There was a great variety, and it was surprising voice mail messages ... some were hilarious," Simpson tells Guy Raz, contest curator and host of NPR's TED Radio Hour.

Aside from the winning story, a couple of other entries stood out for Simpson. In Eric Bronner's "Everything's Under Control," a zookeeper has released an elephant for unknown reasons and uses his one phone call from jail to explain how to correct the situation. The voice mail left in Jacqui Higgins-Dailey's story, "After the Tone," is from a girlfriend to her boyfriend about their incompatibility, and she uses a dog pulling away from its owner as a metaphor.

But in the end, there is only one winner: Lisa Rubenson of Charlotte, N.C. She wrote "Sorry for Your Loss."

"It's funny at moments, and yet it's very strikingly yearning," Simpson says.

The story is a series of attempts at leaving a voice mail, which gives a rare perspective, Simpson says.

"I love the way she considers these various things she wants to say but erases them and what she finally comes to," she says. "Even though it's a vocal story, we get the privilege of hearing her thinking as well to herself."

Rubenson says she was excited by the prompt, and her idea came from the challenge of finding the right thing to say.

"There's always things that need to be said but aren't, or things that get said that shouldn't," she says. "And I struggle with that a lot, and I think it's kind of a universal thing."

Rubenson's story will be published in the next issue of The Paris Review. She will also receive a signed copy of Simpson's latest book, My Hollywood.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Related Content
  • Hey, Julia ......... it's me ....... Kind of glad you're not picking up — this'll be easier. Maybe. So. Here goes. I'm going to ask you to do something for me. It's not an ordinary best friend kind of favor — God, I wish it was. I wish I just needed you to pick up my dry cleaning or something ...
  • Dude, yeah. It's me. Look, what is the deal? Where are you? You haven't responded to a single email. Everyone is worried, man. We checked your Facebook and you haven't updated your status in a week. A freaking week. You haven't even liked anything. And you like everything. Like. Like. Like.
  • NPR's Bob Mondello and Tamara Keith read excerpts from Round 10 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest. The entries are "Voice Mail Is For Suckers" by Kristin Bonilla of Fulshear, Texas, and "Chubby Bunny" by Katie Camlin of Warrensburg, Mo.