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Contest inspires few words

In the spirit of Twitter, a micro-blogging service, contestants compose extra-short works of literature.

May 31, 2008|Jessica Guynn | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Courtesy of the Internet is the latest literary genre: TwitLit.

The micro-blogging service Twitter, which sends messages of 140 characters or fewer, inspired a contest of extra-short short stories in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway's famous six-word masterpiece: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

When the results of the TwitLit contest were announced Friday, a writer going by the name Ron Gould had won with the following work of micro-fiction: " 'Time travel works!' the note read. 'However you can only travel to the past and one-way.' I recognized my own handwriting and felt a chill."

Twitter allows users, called Twitterers, to stay constantly connected with friends and family by sending and receiving short messages called Tweets. Those who are interested in someone's random musings can subscribe to their Twitter feed.

The free service is part of the broader online social-networking trend sweeping the country. It has enjoyed such strong success in Silicon Valley that San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. recently raised $15 million in funding at a valuation of nearly $100 million.

So it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a literary challenge: Write a short story in the maximum length of a Tweet.

More than 300 brave souls took part in the exercise, showing off their ability to choose just the right words, sentence structure and punctuation to squeeze under the 140-character count.

Brian Clark, a former attorney turned entrepreneur who runs Copyblogger, an online writing blog, sponsored the contest. He said the five judges were so overwhelmed with good submissions that it was difficult to select the winners.

In second place was a piece submitted by Anthony Juliano: "Tony was a snitch, so I wasn't surprised when his torso turned up in the river. What did surprise me, though, was where they found his head."

A writer using the name Thelonius Monk came in third: "When Gibson hit that homerun in the fall of eighty-eight, my old man had never been so happy. He hugged me for the first time. I was eleven."

One honorable mention: "Happily sobbing she held the boy, her memory of his violent conception falling away. She had learned to love him, this would be her revenge."

A second honorable mention: "The priest at the funeral home asked if she had been a loving mother. The children all stared at each other. The silence spoke volumes."

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jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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