In the depths of a Wisconsin winter, 2022, Janna and I decided to join the New York City Midnight Short Story Challenge, a creative writing challenge that tests your skills, imagination, and endurance.

The competition consists of four rounds, each with a different genre, subject, and character assignment. You have a limited amount of time to write an original story that meets the criteria. And I mean limited. The word counts get tighter and the time limits shorter as you move up the brackets. If you’ve written anything at all, you know that shorter is actually harder, which makes this formula a parabolic curve of challenge.

We had to brainstorm ideas, write drafts, edit each other’s work, and submit our stories before the deadline. We worked in our pjs, we worked on our workouts connected by earbuds, we worked together on two separate continents, in the middle of the night, in airport hotels smelling of curry. We danced in the kitchen when our second round entry made it to number one in our cohort.

The Zoo follows the perilous adventures of two septuagenarians braving the wilds of virtual dating, and is told entirely with in-world chats. We laughed ourselves to tears writing it, and were thrilled when the judges liked it too!

Unfortunately, our third round story was a total disaster, and admittedly did not deserve to advance. Pretty sure I can still smell the stench of that one. But we learned so much from the experience, both as writers and as partners. We challenged ourselves, improved our skills, and had a rolicking good time, having had no idea we could work together this way!

Spring and All book cover - abstract of flowers

Spring and All

What’s more, The Zoo got picked up by The Red Wheelbarrow Writers for their anthology of short stories. The anthology is Spring and All, and will be released on May 9 by Sidekick Press, featuring stories from writers of different backgrounds, genres, and styles. It’s a great showcase of talent and diversity. And our story is in it!

We’re excited to share The Zoo with you. If you’re interested in getting a copy of the anthology, you can find it on Amazon here.

And why not give the next New York City Midnight Short Story competition a try? It’s a great opportunity to challenge yourself, improve your skills, and have fun. The next competition starts on June 9, and you can register online.