Nutshell Narratives - 2019-03 (Closed)

All the winning stories have now been selected and posted!

7/13:  It’s time for a new contest, with four wonderful new flower prompts!  Those of you who visit this page often can get a head start, before the formal announcement!

Nutshell Narrative 2019-04 – Summer

Countdown to entry deadline


While we're waiting ...

While we are all waiting for the third contest short lists and winners to be announced, we thought you might enjoy reading some staff favorites from previous contests! We’ll add a featured story every day or so while our judge reads all the latest stories and makes his decisions. 

Here is a story that made the Tulip short list in the second contest.  One of our staff members reports that she has been greatly inspired by this story, and re-reads it often for enjoyment and celebration.  We hope you enjoy reading it, or perhaps re-reading it!
A Promise – by Alexander Westview
Here is another of our staff favorites from the Orchid short list of the second contest.  We think this is beautifully written and unforgettable:
Forever Fresh – by Karin Sidaway
It’s always a delight to hear from our younger writers!  Here’s a wonderful story from our second contest, written by one of our Middle School contributors:
The Path Was Lined With Tulips – by Emilia Brewer

This contest is now closed.  Congratulations to all you wonderful writers who joined our club and sent in an entry!

The response to our third floral micro-fiction contest was overwhelming!  Even though we shortened the entry period, we still received 179 entries. 

You are a wonderful group of writers –  full of imagination, creativity, sensitivity and talent.  Like you, our staff looks forward to reading the judge’s selections and meeting a new group of winners.  We will post the short list and winners on this page, so stay tuned, and keep writing!

Our Nutshell Narratives contests have become very popular with writers from all over the world!  You can learn about the winners and read all the shortlisted stories here:

Nutshell Narratives – 2019-01 (66 entries)

Nutshell Narratives – 2019-02 (196 entries)

Now it’s time for our third set of flower prompts for you creative writers out there!

We invite  you to create a short short story – 350 words or less – that fits the “nutshell narrative” of any prompt on this page.  Use your imagination, and see what stories you see in these few words!

Deadline: Wednesday, June 26 , 2019  5 pm ET.  Please read the guidelines below before entering!

We are delighted to announce that our judge for this contest is Dr. David A. Ross, a brilliant scholar, superb teacher, and compassionate reader who was educated at Oxford and Yale.  Dr. Ross is now a Teaching Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  He was the judge for our first Nutshell Narrative contest, and gave the writers invaluable feedback and support.  Thank you, David!

Guidelines for entering:

  • Pick one of the four prompts, and write a short story about it in 350 words or less. 
  • All entries must be family-friendly.
  • You must be a Member to enter – Membership is free and easy!  Free Registration
  • Write your story, then fill out the entry form in the link below.
  • You may enter as many times as you like, but each entry requires a separate entry form.
  • Accepting entries until Wednesday June 26, 2019 5 pm ET
  • Check this page for contest updates.


Helpful Hints:

  • Title does not count toward total word count
  • Hyphenated words count as one word
  • Creative, unique titles help differentiate stories with the same flower prompt

Contest judges and prizes:

  • Each entry will be previewed by a ZenGarden reader. Entries will be disqualified if they a) are not related to the prompt; b) contain excessive spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors; c) if they contain any element that is not family-friendly or d) they contain more than 350 words. 
  • All reviewed entries that qualify will be sent to the contest judge, who will determine all winners.
  • There will be no identifying information sent to the judge – only the title, age group and story.
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will be chosen for each flower prompt.
  • A grand prize winner will be chosen from among the four 1st place winners.
  • Grand prize – $50.00 plus free life-time subscription to and permanent publication on the site
  • The other three first place winners – free life-time subscription to and permanent publication on the site
Here are the four prompts for our newest contest. Pick your favorite and start imagining!
The current number of entries is posted above each prompt.
“Rose“: 52

A colorful rose
With petals of any shade
To hide its true core.


“Baby’s breath“: 34

Love beyond borders,
Pure white against cold grey stone-
She gifts baby’s breath.

(“Baby’s breath”)

Prompt by Zantal Siah

“Dandelions“: 55

Weeds or gifts of gold?
A place where two worlds meet –
Dandelion field.



Prompt by ZenGarden Staff

“Wisteria“: 38


Wisteria drips from trees
Raining purple glory.


Prompt by Susan Giles

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