For the first time, the Center for Advancement is hosting Write Now: The Alumni and Friends Flash Writing Contest in hopes of giving Hawkeyes a taste of Iowa City from wherever they are in the world.
For 48 hours in February, all who wish can test their creative-writing abilities in a contest hosted by the UI Center for Advancement. Participants can choose one of two prompts containing a genre, object, and UI-specific setting to incorporate into their story of 1,000 words or fewer.
Kate Sojka, the director of educational programs for alumni engagement, was scrolling through Facebook when she saw an ad for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge, a 48-hour national short-story competition.
The contest piqued her interest, so Sojka thought of ways to use the inspiration to engage the Hawkeye community. Thus, Write Now: the Alumni and Friends Flash Writing Contest was born.
Since announcing the contest two weeks ago, more than 650 alumni and friends from all over the world have shown interest, Sojka said. They come from 40 states and 20 countries.
“We are very excited that 650 people have shown interest, and I would have never guessed we would have that many this early on,” she said.
Third-year UI student Casey Loftis-Boatwright is one of them. As an English and creative-writing major, he is eager to use his imagination outside the classroom.
“When I found out, I thought it sounded cool. Back in high school, I did improv acting and speech. Spontaneous events like this are my thing,” he said. “What I really like seeing is how two people can have similar prompts but completely different products come out of it.”
Three rounds of judging will take place after the submissions are completed. First, Sojka’s colleagues at the Center for Advancement will comb through stories checking that all three prompts are used and that the word count isn’t over, she said.
Next, a group of graduate students in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop will winnow entries down to 10, focusing on content and creativity. The finalists will be posted on the Center for Advancement’s website on March 4.
The winning story will be chosen by a group of local celebrity judges yet to be announced. The winner will have her or his story published in the summer 2019 issue of Iowa Magazine.
He or she will also receive a $150 gift card for the Hawk Shop, $100 for Prairie Lights, and a pen crafted from the wood of a former Pentacrest tree, Sojka said.
“We want people to feel connected to the UI community, and this is one way they can do it,” she said. “No matter where you are in the world, you can still feel you’re a part of the Hawkeye community and this is an easy, free way to do that.”
With the esteemed Writers’ Workshop right here, the UI places heavy emphasis on good writing skills, said Dana Larson, the Advancement Center executive director of communications. This is another way Hawkeyes can put those skills to use.
“It’s not only the emphasis on learning writing in the classroom, it is also the context of living in Iowa City and being in an atmosphere that values writing and culture,” Larson said. “This program is something that’s fun and a way to flex those muscles in a way that people haven’t in many years and reflect back on their time at the UI.”
If the contest is well-received among the community, the Center for Advancement hopes to make Write Now an annual event, Sojka said.
Registration is open now on the Center for Advancement’s website; it will close at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 6.