Three-Minute Fiction Update: Judge's Favorites

Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz checks-in with Three-Minute Fiction judge Luis Alberto Urrea to hear how the reading process is going and to hear some of his favorite stories thus far.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

So we're now about halfway through Round Eight of our Three-Minute Fiction contest, that is our writing contest where we ask you to write an original short story that can be read in about three minutes, so under 600 words. Our readers from across the country are now pouring through the more than 6,000 stories that came in this round. We are one step closer to finding a winner, and that is in no small part to the work of our judge Luis Alberto Urrea, the best-selling author most recently of "Queen of America."

He is at WBEZ in Chicago. Luis, great to have you back.

LUIS ALBERTO URREA: Thanks, Guy. Happy to be here.

RAZ: And you know this by memory because this was your challenge. Remind people what the challenge was for this round.

URREA: Oh, gosh.

RAZ: Each story had to begin with...

URREA: She closed the book, placed it on the table and finally decided to walk through the door.

RAZ: Are you getting sick of reading that line 6,000 times?

URREA: I am.

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URREA: Now I just skip that line.

RAZ: All right. You've brought us a couple of stories, standouts from recent weeks, including a story - this one is called "Last Night." Tell me about this one.

URREA: Wow. This was really an interesting piece. It had fantastic detail about community and neighborhood, but then it ends with this eerie twist, this sort of apocalyptic last line that really made it a rich reading experience for me.

RAZ: Luis, another story you want to talk about, a story you were blown away about how imaginative it is.

URREA: You mean "Thups?"

RAZ: "Thups." Yeah.

URREA: You know, every once in a while, you read a story that sticks in your brain, and perhaps it's the brilliance of coming up with a word like thup, right? It just - thup.

RAZ: Yeah.

URREA: But these thups are these little critters. And every time something goes on in our house now, my wife and I say thups. Oh, the thups are around. The thups did it. It's really funny. It's got a kind of a viral aspect to it in that it lodges in your brain and starts asserting itself no matter what you do.

RAZ: Thups are insects, essentially. Some kind of insects.

URREA: Well, yeah. Some kind of weird little critters that are around...

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URREA: ...causing mayhem.

RAZ: And that story's written by Nin Andrews of Poland, Ohio. Luis, your last pick this week comes to us from New Brighton, Minnesota. It is by Matthew Jay Nelson. It's called "Cover to Cover." Tell me about this one.

URREA: Oh, yeah. That's a very poetic and slightly strange, you know, folktale kind of way story that really has a lot of feeling, I think, for a story and the transformative effect of how a story and a book can be in one's life and sort of fits into the fabric of folklore of all of our lives. It was really moving.

RAZ: Well, Luis, we will continue to check in with you. And, obviously, we're going to be talking over email, and you're going to be reading that line thousands more times.

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URREA: Why did I write it? Why did I write it?

RAZ: That's our judge for this round of Three-Minute Fiction, the novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, with a few of his favorites from Round Eight so far. You can find the full versions of these three stories and others chosen by Luis at our website. That's npr.org/threeminutefiction. It's all spelled out with no spaces. Luis, thanks so much.

URREA: Thanks. See you next time, brother.

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