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The Not-So-Great Outdoors Contest

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It’s that season when people spend time in the great outdoors. Which is a perfect time to tell us a story about a not-so-great outdoor experience. It might be camping during a wild rainstorm or getting lost while out for a simple walk or just melting outside during a heat wave.  

Give us a story—fiction or nonfiction—in 49 words or fewer. We’ll pick the story we like best and give that writer a free Gotham class of their choosing. 

Some examples: 

I’m on the forest trail where we used to run—me always yelling for you to stay beside me–when I notice the tick on my thigh. Attached, wanting my body. It grows with blood lust every minute, waiting for decapitation. I’ll leave it for five more minutes.
                     —Maya Shore
“It’s like walking across hot coals,” she said. “We could become enlightened.” Stripped of heavy boots and socks, I followed her along the scalding desert earth. But I couldn’t endure the pain— couldn’t match her nirvana. Sometimes, an out-of-body experience is treading over an unsuspecting mound of fire ants.
                     —Emma Stephenson

Here's the winning entry from our 2023 contest: 

The grass was matchsticks. The crinkled canvas tent featured various veins like an elderly leaf. The sun embered on high amongst coughs of clouds lined with jellied bile. Jerry lacked the strength to relax out here much longer. His trip wasn't working. Everything reminded him of everything he required.
Richard Warner
Scarborough, UK

The contest is currently closed.

The Details: 

  • Entries must be submitted online by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Thursday, August 31, 2023.
  • Entry is free. Limit one entry per person.
  • Entry must consist of no more than 49 words. Longer entries will be disregarded. 
  • Entry must be original and unpublished.
  • Entries will be judged on originality, quality, spelling, and grammar.
  • Gotham will post the winning entry at
  • The winner will be notified by September 20, 2023.