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Short Story Contest

2018 Contest Winners

Photo of Aaron Garretson, short story contest winner
Aaron Garretson | 1st Place
Short Story: PDF icon Abbott's Pursuit
Aaron Garretson grew up in San Diego. He attended University City High School, received a bachelor’s in biochemistry from UCSD and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University in New York. His writing has appeared or is upcoming in Carrier Pigeon, SLAB, Opium, Night Train, The Village Voice, and Mexico City's Hermano Cerdo (in translation), among others. He has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Best American Nonrequired Reading. He currently works in an infectious diseases lab at UCSD.

Photo of Jean Seager, short story contest winner
Jean Seager | 2nd Place
Short Story: PDF icon The Award
Jean Seager, a native Californian, is writing a short story collection about Jewish immigrants to America in the early twentieth century. Her stories have been published in the online magazine Mikrokosmos, the print magazine The Long Story, and the San Diego Writers Ink anthology A Year in Ink. She is an active member of San Diego Writers Ink, taking classes and participating in read and critique workshops for the past five years.

Photo of Bruce Golden, short story contest winner
Bruce Golden | 3rd Place
Novelist, journalist, satirist, and native San Diegan Bruce Golden’s short stories have been published more than a hundred times across a score of countries and 30 anthologies. Asimov’s Science Fiction described his second novel, “If Mickey Spillane had collaborated with both Frederik Pohl and Philip K. Dick, he might have produced Bruce Golden’s Better Than Chocolate”--and about his novel Evergreen, "If you can imagine Ursula Le Guin channeling H. Rider Haggard, you'll have the barest conception of this stirring book, which centers around a mysterious artifact and the people in its thrall." His latest book, Monster Town, is a satirical send-up of old hard-boiled detective stories featuring movie monsters of the black & white era. It's currently in development for a possible TV series.

Photo of Eleanor Bluestein, short story contest honorable mention
Eleanor Bluestein | Honorable Mention
Eleanor Bluestein has worked as a public school science teacher, editor of science textbooks, and designer of multimedia educational materials. Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales, her book of short stories, won the Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Eleanor is thrilled to be honored by the San Diego Public Library. She and her husband are frequent and very appreciative users of the Pacific Beach Taylor Branch.

The Library through its Local Author Program shows robust support for local writing by sponsoring the annual Local Author Showcase, now its 52nd year.  The Short Story Contest is a continuation of that support, organized to shine a spotlight on local writers who write short stories.  Most short stories remain unpublished due to the competitiveness of the business and the few rare opportunities offered by prestigious literary publications such as the New Yorker or Camera Obscura. Stories by authors who are not well known or firmly plugged in the literary scenes in New York or San Francisco rarely see the light of day.

Photo of person typing on a typewriter

Rules & Guidelines

  • All entries will be submitted online during a previously prescribed schedule set by the San Diego Public Library. 
  • The contest is open to original, published or unpublished stories.
  • Stories that have won and/or placed in other writing contests are ineligible.
  • Stories previously accepted in this contest in previous years are not eligible.
  • Simultaneous submissions are allowed.
  • Stories should be suitable for a general audience.
  • Only (1) story per author.


  • 1st Place - Publication on the website of the San Diego Public Library for one (1) month - and $300.00 first place award
  • 2nd Place - Announcement on the library website – and $125.00 second place award
  • 3rd Prize - Announcement on the library website – and $75.00 third place award
  • Honorable Mention - Announcement on library website - a Gift Certificate from the Library Shop independent bookstore located at the Central Library
  • Public reading of the top 4 winning stories at a special program honoring the winners

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the SDPL Short Story Contest?

The Short Story Contest is a short fiction competition open to all writers residing in San Diego County. All genres of fiction are acceptable: literary, mystery and crime, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mixed-genre, and experimental.

What is the goal of the Short Story Contest?

The goal of the Short Story Contest is to nurture and foster local writing talent, and to provide a platform for the promotion and publication of short form fiction in the area.

Who’s eligible to enter the Short Story Contest?

All writers in San Diego County 16 and over are eligible to enter the Short Story Contest.  San Diego Public Library staff and members of affiliated organizations such as the San Diego Public Library Foundation, Friends of San Diego Public Library, and the Board of Library Commissioners are not allowed to participate in the contest.

How many short stories will be allowed to participate in the contest?

A maximum of 50 short stories will be accepted, based on a first come first served basis. Registration will automatically stop after the 50th author registers their manuscript.

Who will judge the Short Story Contest?

A Committee of Librarians with subject expertise in fiction, writing, publishing and literary studies will judge the contest. Judging will be anonymous. When you enter the contest your story will be assigned a number. Judges will identify your story by title and number only.

Does it cost to enter in the Short Story Contest?

There’s no fee to participate in the Short Story Contest. However the public library is always in need of support from the community that it serves. To support the library please visit the website of the Friends of San Diego Public Library and the San Diego Public Library Foundation.

What is the deadline to enter the Short Story Contest?

The Short Story Contest submission form will be available online on March 1 and must be completed and uploaded by Friday, March 31, 2018.

How long can a short story be and what other important rules are there?

The manuscript must be double spaced and not exceed 3000 words. Stories over 3000 words will be rejected without review. The manuscript must not have the author’s name anywhere in it. Pages must be numbered. The manuscript title must appear on every page. The manuscript must be saved as "Story Title-Author Name" (Ex: “Librarians in Love - Elsee Dewey”).  Standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Georgia in 12 point font size must be used.

For questions or further clarification regarding the rules and guidelines, please contact us at [email protected].

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