An illustration of a man holding a book with lightning coming from the sky

Search the internet for “What is flash fiction?” and you will encounter several names for this genre—microfiction, short-shorts, dribble, drabble, mini-sagas, nanofiction—and a variety of word-length recommendations, running anywhere from the six words sometimes attributed to Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”) to 1,500 words. Like the novel or the short story, flash fiction has both plot and character development, but it is not merely a shorter version of the former two. As the name suggests, flash fiction has an aspect of lightning to it, ending in illumination and perhaps even revelation. The flash can explode in thunder, but it often fizzles out and leaves an unidentifiable, tingling smell in the air. Consider “Sticks” by George Saunders, Sejal Shah’s “Curriculum” or Megan Giddings’ “Lower Your Muzzle.”


Your Challenge

Write an original work of flash fiction, no more than 200 words long. All submissions must be in English and include a title.

Submit your work as an email attachment to magazine@amherst.edu with your name and the title in the subject line. Include your name in the body of the email but not in the attachment, as the stories will be read blind and judged purely on merit. The winner and two runners-up, as selected by Onjerika, will be published in the Winter 2021 Amherst magazine.

About the Judge

Onjerika won the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing and was shortlisted for the 2018 Bristol Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Granta, Johannesburg Review of Books, Fireside Magazine and Wasafiri Magazine, among others. She founded and teaches at the Nairobi Fiction Writing Workshop (NF2W) and recently edited and published its first anthology, Digital Bedbugs.


Illustration by James Yang