The NPR Three-Minute Fiction That Will Never Be

Today is the final day to submit to NPR’s short story or three-minute fiction contest, which is a brilliant prompt and fun little challenge. This year’s contest is especially exciting with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie judging and ultimately reading the winning story. So I confidently began writing my piece keeping her sophisticated accent in mind. Because you know, I play to win. But then. I read the fine print and saw that none of my neighbors are eligible to enter the contest.

4. ELIGIBILITY. The Contest is open only to individual legal residents of the fifty United States who are age 18 and over.

That rather bummed me out. As some commenters on the NPR site bemoaned, it’s not cool that NPR is enjoyed all over the world, however, based solely on the intersection of latitude and longitude under which one’s mum was squatting (or hopefully not forced into a hospital bed) when one appeared on this planet determines whether one could or couldn’t enter the contest. Unfortunate to say the least. (I’m still writing for Adichie’s voice, you hear that right?) Adding insult to injury to my denied neighbors, as a US citizen who is privileged enough to have chosen to live abroad, I am still eligible for the contest even though I live here instead of there. Funny still, Adichie is an immigrant to the US, albeit a legal one. Decisions, decisions. The prompt was really irresistible for me, so I went forward with the writing but agitatedly blew off the other minor details knowing that I would not submit. Though I do adore neologisms. Le sigh. Here’s the text of my Three Minute Fiction and insha Allah I will make a podcast of it next week or so. I don’t sound anywhere near as great as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but might as well finish the project, eh.



During desperately stolen moments, at the end of her tether, Maryam weighed her options, considered her possibilities, hedged her losses and meticulously chose a road believing that she would be its sole traveler. Based on her amateur gauge, Maryam estimated that said path would surely facilitate an arrival at her manifest destiny. She dug out her relic of a basket, gathered her eggs, tied up her camel, cast her net, dotted her “I”s, crossed her “T”s, and then suddenly, but not surprisingly, her son or actually maybe it was her husband or her father or maybe even it was that treacherous woman at Stendahl’s, well, whoever it was, he said, in a long drawn-out whine, that really he was much too old to still be using, he cried “Nooooooo! I want a popsicle.” Or maybe it was a pony or a Porsche that he wanted. Either way, under the grievous weight of the voracious decibels, without any reluctance, she spontaneously buckled, martyring herself by omitting a sheepish, barely audible, “Okay.” And without further hesitation, she threw all her carefully calculated caution into the waste bin.


3 thoughts on “The NPR Three-Minute Fiction That Will Never Be

  1. sweety, you didn’t follow the rules anyway! it was supposed to include a character telling a joke at some point, and a character crying at some point. it was the writing a joke that kept me from even considering producing/submitting something.

    also, “legal resident” does mean that you have to be residing in the U.S., which you do not. NPR is being ridiculous. i bristle very much at the “legal” aspect as well and it being closed to the undocumented residents. there is really no reason for NPR to have any of these rules upon it. it’s not like they are PAYING for the story. all you get is to hear your story read by Adichie (yes, that itself is amazing), hear your name on the radio, and forever live with the self-satisfaction. but it’s not like they are actually giving anything tangible to the winner. you get a mere 3 minutes of fame… not even Warhol’s suggestion of 15!

    all that said, i absolutely adore your story. very very much.

    1. Shocked! Aaminah, did you know read this carefully? I disregarded the rules and did it Myyyyyyyy Waaaaay. I am still a legal resident, for like two weeks 😉

      And thanks, it means a lot.

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