World’s Best Short Short Story

In the first fiction-writing workshop I ever took, my instructor passed around a one-page photocopy of a very short story. At the top of the page, it said “World’s Best Short Short Story,” and I suppose I believed it. The story was less than 500 words, written in deceptively graceless dialect, and reading the last sentence felt a sucker punch. I was in love. When I first started writing flash fiction,  I was thinking of this story. I saved the photocopy, and four years later, I was passing it out to students in my own creative writing classes. The name of the story is “The Custodian,” by Brian Hinshaw, and it won the Southeast Review‘s World’s Best Short Short Story Contest in 1996. You can read it, in its two-paragraph entirety, on this webpage. 

Last week I discovered that a short-short story of mine (“Impossible Child”) was selected as a finalist in this contest, and will be published in issue 31.1. Needless to say, I wanted to win, but the honor of being named a finalist is doubly special to me, since my very first publication (a poem titled “Faye Does Bonnie”) appeared in the Southeast Review. It’s the little things that keep me going.


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