Send us a sentence. The first sentence of your book, or just a stand-alone, a string of words minding their own business. In fact, send up to five sentences. We’ll publish the ones we like best, and we’ll pay the winner $300. We want to celebrate the sentence as the veritable building block of our art form. Illustrate something beautiful, tell us a story, surprise us — better yet, do all three.

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—James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

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Instructions

Starting March 1, 2016, submit to our Great American Sentence Submittable portal, by midnight EST 31 March, 2016. Contest entries may contain 1-5 sentences. Paste all five sentences into the body of one document. You may enter up to 5 times (maximum 5 sentences per entry — 25 total sentences), but remember we are looking for your best sentence. You can play the numbers game, but perhaps you will be better served polishing your original five sentences instead.

Sentences must be your own work. Submit, then wait patiently while we read the entries. Dream of that trip to Dollywood.


submit

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—Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

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AQ! (Anticipated Questions)

Does the sentence have to be the first sentence of an actual book?

No, you can just make one up. Or it can be the start of your next novel. In fact, if you’re smart, you’ll make another one up, and another, and finish the book, and thank us in the acknowledgements.

What if I write a sentence that goes on and on?

Remember how much your high school creative writing teacher loved them? We feel about the same way. There are some writers who have mastered the art of the lengthy sentence and manage to do so with impressive skill that seems effortless. If you that is you, go for it. Your sentence is not limited by words, only by the amount of pain the editors are willing to endure.

What if my sentence is a poem?

We’re fans of trick writing, so if you can do it well, then do it. But remember this is a contest for sentences, not style. Function over form, please.

Do I get extra credit if my five sentences make a paragraph?

Again, if you can write five brilliant sentences, congratulations. But for our purposes, your sentences should each stand alone.

What are you looking for?

You can visit last year’s winners to see a broad range of examples we adored along with helpful explanations of why we loved what we loved.

We wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading some great sentences!

The Editors

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—J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Good Luck!