From an original field of 4,500+ writers around the world and after three rounds of intense challenges, we finally have a winner!  Congratulations to Gretchen Hopkins (San Rafael, CA, USA) for winning the 2019 competition with her final round story "A Good Death".  Gretchen and 89 other finalists were challenged to create a 1,500 word maximum story in just 24 hours based on the assignment below:


Genre: Open

Subject: Side effect(s)

Character: A gravedigger


The top stories of the final round are listed below.  Congratulations to everyone that participated for rising to the challenges and submitting so many amazing stories!


Top Stories of the Final Round:

HM = Honorable Mention


#1 - ''A Good Death'' by Gretchen Hopkins  SYNOPSIS - RIP Wizard, 2014-2019: The loss of a child's pet hits close to home for her terminally-ill mother.

#2 - ''57 Days'' by Angelina Strosahl  SYNOPSIS - Driving to an important meeting in a rainstorm, a recovering alcoholic and her daughter are unexpectedly delayed.

#3 - ''Charlie, Come In'' by Harper Barrow  SYNOPSIS - Fourteen year old Lainey cares for her sister, who has terminal cancer, and for the family dog, who’s not allowed in the house. When she overhears a crucial conversation, she knows things are about to change.

#4 - ''Let's Get To Tomorrow'' by Lorin Fries  SYNOPSIS - In a rural Ugandan village, a mother thrusts her seizing infant through Zoe’s passenger window. On the journey to the clinic, Zoe’s fear, grief and hope entwine with the fate of the child convulsing in her arms.

#5 - ''Outside Pluto'' by Sonya Bennett-Brandt  SYNOPSIS - An old man walks along a highway and buries all the animals who have died on the road. His life hasn’t gone according to plan, but today might.

#6 - ''Black Market'' by Myna Chang  SYNOPSIS - Two men: one laden with desperation, the other steeped in greed. This is the story of the consequences that followed in their unholy wake.

#7 - ''Adverse Events'' by Maxine Taylor  SYNOPSIS - When a couple’s beloved pet receives a terminal diagnosis, their reactions to the news pull them in opposite directions. Sometimes even the anticipation of grief has unintended and devastating consequences.

#8 - ''Shared Locations'' by Julianna Comstock  SYNOPSIS - After the unexpected death of his girlfriend, a young man finds out that she wasn’t the only thing that he lost.

#9 - ''Checkmate'' by Jeanine Skowronski  SYNOPSIS - Mother Death is quick and mean. So is love, I guess.

#10 - ''Swim'' by Nina Moldawsky  SYNOPSIS - A young child has owned a series of betta fish, and when they die, Dad buries them. However, when the moon comes out, the kid sees their fish swim again, and wonders how they gained this paranormal vision.

#11 - ''Throughway'' by Maria Maxham  SYNOPSIS - A mother struggles with her teen daughter’s mental illness.

#12 - ''The Caulbearer'' by Sarah Jensen  SYNOPSIS - Four friends go ghost hunting after school and get more than they bargained for.

#13 - ''Hope'' by Delia Moran  SYNOPSIS - For Jewel and Lainie, even hope has consequences.

#14 - ''Gravedigger'' by Wael Abdelgawad  SYNOPSIS - After washing out as an MMA fighter, Layla Aziz becomes a gravedigger. Two years later, when called to fight again, she discovers that the gravedigging has changed her in ways she did not expect.

#15 - ''Blanca the Beautiful'' by Thalia Halloran  SYNOPSIS - When the heartbroken Don Carmelo passes through a mountain village one night, he is not at all prepared for the women he finds. The consequences of one ill-made bargain follow him to the grave.

#16 - ''The Man with the Golden Shovel'' by Topher Daniel  SYNOPSIS - Fed up with a less-than-ideal situation at home, Mrs. Harper cannot resist the tempting offer of a mysterious salesman.

#17 - ''Mistakes'' by Barbara Diggs  SYNOPSIS - Synopsis: A woman appears to be experiencing certain side effects–but is it a good or a bad thing?

#18 - ''Digging My Own Grave'' by Shari Heinrich  SYNOPSIS - Between the “Eau de Formaldehyde” clinging to her hair and the stigma of living across from the cemetery, shy Evie Oller endures chronic mocking while evading her high school’s cliques. But when her dad speaks at career day, she’ll wish she could dive head-first into one of their fresh graves.

#19 - ''Seven Steps to Burying a Body'' by Regan Puckett  SYNOPSIS - This is how you say goodbye.

#20 - ''Low'' by Samantha Rouse  SYNOPSIS - Caroline always had the money to get George out of trouble. Now that she’s gone, he finds another way for her to pay off his debt.

#HM - ''The Death of the Gravedigger'' by Sarah Traynor  SYNOPSIS - Elaine takes a trip to Paris to make the most of her ravenous appetite – a side effect of her arthritis medication. When she finds herself unexpectedly enraptured by a piece of art, she is willing to do whatever it takes to have it for herself.

#HM - ''Call of the Void'' by Bridgette Portman  SYNOPSIS - A mysterious affliction is causing the colonists on Jupiter’s moon Europa to die by suicide. Commander Hennepin is certain he has everything under control, but a defiant young astronaut may force him to take drastic measures.

#HM - ''Life's Work'' by Melody Wingfield  SYNOPSIS - Things just haven’t been the same since the accident. On the first day of his new job, Al digs himself in too deep with his new boss, who may be more than he seems.

#HM - ''From Kay to Zed'' by Kelsey Wilson  SYNOPSIS - A young girl learns the ways of her grave-digging mother, and about life before the Sanctity Bill.

#HM - ''Good Boy Anyway'' by Briana McGuckin  SYNOPSIS - Sometimes grave-diggers dig people up as well as bury them. That’s supposed to be a trade secret, but a man can have no secrets from a bride gone up to Heaven.


Competition Links: 

1st Round: Kickoff Email | Assignments | Results

2nd Round: Kickoff Email | Assignments | Results

Rules: Official Rules & Participation Agreement



The 13th Annual Short Story Challenge is a creative writing competition open to writers around the world.  There are 3 rounds of competition.  In the 1st Round (January 18-26, 2019), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (April 4-7, 2019) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  Judges select finalists and the remaining writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 17-18, 2019) in the third and final round of the competition.  Feedback from the judges is provided for every submission and there are thousands in cash and prizes for the winners.  Sound like fun?  Join the competition below and get ready for January 18th!



Registration is now closed.  We will have many more competitions in 2019, so make sure to sign up for our mailing list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to know about our next competition.



While we send e-mails at the beginning of each round to all registered writers, many times e-mails go to junk mail folders, spam, or are blocked by servers for unknown reasons.  We recommend that everyone marks their calendars with the start dates of each round, especially the first challenge at 11:59PM EST on January 18, 2019 so that you know when to expect an e-mail!


  1st Round: January 18-26, 2019

2nd Round:

April 4-7, 2019

3rd Round:

May 17-18, 2019



Not only does every writer receive feedback from the judges for every story submitted, but a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition.  During the Short Story Challenge 2018, there were over 9,500 comments made on the 700+ stories submitted on the forum.  Click here to visit the forums.



Carrie S.
San Francisco, CA, USA
“Done! So excited....this is such an exhilarating exercise. :)”
Kim B.
Hixson, TN, USA
“And with less than 50 minutes to deadline, I have done this thing I thought I could never do and submitted a short story in a major contest/challenge. Whew, now to rest and wake up tomorrow beset with anxiety and fear while I wait.”
Dave M.
Katy, TX, USA
“That was exciting! Nothing like a tight deadline to get the creative juices flowing.”
Miguel R.

New Jersey, USA
“Done. It made my wife cry, I'm taking that as a good sign. Although it was comedy, so maybe not.”
Kai Love
Hazel Crest, IL, USA
“Submitted and feeling a great deal of relief. This was such a great learning experience for me. Good Luck to all!!!”
Janet P.
Newberg, OR, USA
“Wahooooooo.Done.Crazy fun.”
Rachel C.
Jumbunna, Australia
“Mine is in. Not a genre I was comfortable with but proud of what I submitted. Good luck to all!”
Cheryl B.
Greenville, SC, USA
“All done! Phew! That was down to the wire. I can't wait to what everyone else came up with on the forums!”
Dawn F.
Indianapolis, IN, USA
“First stab at political satire is saved, stored, backed up and submitted! So much fun!”
Ileana J.
Happy, TX, USA
“This was immense fun! Luck to all!”










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