The Hippo


Jul 17, 2019








Three Minute Fiction Slam

Contact:; Many more regional events are in the works, so check the site for updates on when an event happens near you.
Semi-final, Newmarket: The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket, Tues., Feb. 10, at 7 p.m.
Semi-final, Derry: Halligan Tavern, 32 W. Broadway, Derry, Wed., Feb. 18, at 7 p.m.
Semi-final, Nashua: Fody’s Tavern, 9 Clinton St., Nashua, Monday, March 2, at 7 p.m.
Finale: New Hampshire Institute of Art, Monday, March 23; times TBA.

American Idol for fiction
NHWP presents annual Three Minute Fiction Slam

By Kelly Sennott

Publicity, critique, support, fun — they’re all reasons why writers enter the New Hampshire Writers’ Project’s Three Minute Fiction Slam, the statewide tour that begins in February. 

Now’s the time for authors to practice and polish their best three-minute pieces, which, on average, might be 600 to 700 words.
The slam series is like American Idol for fiction writers. Semi-final events occur in about eight or nine venues across the state, and during each, 10 writers read their fiction to audiences and three local literary judges. Those judges critique and decide the winners, who attend the final showdown at the New Hampshire Institute of Art Monday, March 23.
People travel all over to compete, NHWP President John Herman said in a phone interview. He’s hosted semi-final events in Newmarket the past several years, where writers have traveled from as far as Boston.
So how do you get your writing ready for the competition?
“My advice is to practice reading out loud. Sometimes, because of the nature of the event, if a good piece of writing is not delivered well, it doesn’t get looked at well. I think the presentation is sometimes just as important as the writing itself. That’s the ‘slam’ aspect of the event,” said Herman, who won the very first event in 2008. (It was a single-day contest, at the time called “Literary Idol.”)
Work is diverse, and the slam has been known to draw both beginner and experienced writers.
“Some people coming up to the mike will say, ‘This is the first short story I’ve ever written.’ Others will come up and say, ‘By the way, my fourth novel comes out next Monday, hope everybody buys it!’” Herman said. “Judges will give you thoughtful advice on the spot, and that itself I think is a prize for a writer.”
Participating regional venues are still working out scheduling times — so far, Newmarket’s Stone Church holds one Tuesday, Feb. 10, Derry’s Halligan Tavern’s is Wednesday, Feb. 18, and Nashua’s Fody’s Tavern hosts on Monday, March 2 — but many more are in the works, so visit for updates on when and where to enter. Nearly every semi-final will end up with a wait list, but there will be drop-outs too. 
Some regional events are characterized by their rule structure; those who go over the three minutes will be shot with a water pistol. But other than that, the slam is very supportive.
“NHWP is a gentle organization, pro-writer — it’s a competition, yes, but there’s nothing aggressive about it in the least. Friends are standing up in front of friends, and judges give very valuable feedback about your work,” said Ursula Wong, who organizes the event at Fody’s Tavern, Nashua, this year. “And if you’re lucky [enough] to go on, there’s the visibility of being in the broader contest. Each regional winner will have work put in an anthology.”
Wong won the Nashua regional event last year and used descriptive imagery to pull in readers. Her story was about a flamenco dancer stuck between lovers.
“It’s a story about movement,” Wong said. “But the real thing for me was the visualization. It’s not a piece judges read, but it’s a piece judges hear. To me, it was about making the scenes vivid and resound, from the pounding of the feet on the boards, to the Flamenco twirl of a dress to the sound of coins being dropped to the ground by appreciative listeners.”
How you read, Wong said, is equally important.
“Mine was under 700 words, but I think 500 or 600 is really the optimal. For people who want to enter this, you can’t read quickly. You have to present the material so judges can hear it,” Wong said.
“You have to pull your listener in right away,” said Martha Stavrou, who organizes the Derry semi-final. “And there has to be an emotional reaction from the audience.There also needs to be a really good ending.”
Regional prizes may include complimentary NHWP membership and publication in the Three Minute Fiction Slam e-book. Past winners have performed for the Business in the Arts Awards ceremony, at the Currier Museum and on air with NHPR. The ultimate winner gets free entrance to Writers’ Day 2015.
Herman says it’s a fun event even for non-writers.
“It’s a cool, fast-paced arts event. Even if you don’t like someone’s work, they’re done after three minutes. And you get to see that there are really creative people around your community,” Herman said. 
As seen in the January 29, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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