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GUY RAZ, HOST:
All right. We are now buried up to our necks in Three-Minute Fiction stories. We're right in the middle of Round 8 of our writing contest where we ask you to write an original short story that can be read in about three minutes. This round has been our largest to date. We've had over 6,000 original stories submitted. Our judge this round, the novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, is busy reading through your stories - so are we and so are our partners at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and New York University, the University of Oregon and the University of Texas at Austin. And Luis is with us right now for a check. And, Luis, are you there?
LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Bonjour, Guy Raz.
RAZ: All right.
URREA: How are you doing?
RAZ: I'm doing great. Remind everybody listening what the challenge is that you threw out for this round.
URREA: Well, the challenge is this prompt: She closed the book, placed it on the table and finally decided to walk through the door.
And as I mentioned, more than 6,000 of our listeners sent in stories with that as the first line, and you've been reading through tons of these stories. Sort of broadly speaking, what have they done with that line? Where are they going?
It's mindboggling what they've done. But, you know, I feel like it's like a fantasy story where a guy accidentally can hear America thinking. And I do want to cast out just one warning to the husbands of America: You all better shape up, because there's a whole lot of ladies killing husbands in these stories. There's a lot of dead husbands.
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RAZ: You have kindly brought three stories with you that you wanted to highlight. It's going to take, you know, several more weeks before we determine a winner because we've got to read through these thousands of stories. But I wanted you to talk about these stories. The first one that you brought is one called "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa." Can you tell you me about that story?
URREA: Yeah. It's a beautiful story about mortality and aging. And what I loved about this story is that it's lyrical and dense without being corny in any way, very emotional story.
RAZ: That story, "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa," Luis, was written by Dennis Blasko of Neptune Beach, Florida. You did not know that. You don't know the identity of the writers. But I do want to acknowledge it if Dennis is listening. Let's go to another story that caught your attention. This one is called "The Outliers."
URREA: Yeah. This is almost poetry, man. It has, as a central image, pressing flowers, and the flowers are also pressing memories. And what's fantastic about this story is that it makes the book not only a vector for memory and emotion but an actual tool that makes the metaphor work.
RAZ: And, Luis, that story, "The Outliers," was written by Jesse Rowell of Seattle. And then there's one more story that you want to bring to our attention. It's called "This Time Will Be Better." It's by Cody Drabble of Sacramento, California. What drew you to that one?
URREA: It's a really touching portrait of a couple with a long history, and it's played out in a home. And the details of the carpentry in the house are just stunning, beautifully wrought, and it makes you feel like you've read a really substantial novel in 600 words, so.
RAZ: Well, all those stories that you mentioned, Luis, are posted at our website, npr.org/threeminutefiction - that's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out, no spaces. You can read them right now as we speak. Luis, I'm going to let you go because you have - you've got a lot more reading to do, man. I mean, you've got, like, thousands of stories to do.
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URREA: Yeah, back to work. Back to work.
RAZ: And we'll speak to you in a couple of weeks. Thanks.
URREA: All right, Guy. Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK TICKING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.