The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

The White Shoe First Paragraph Contest

The White Shoe Staff

[Important Note: Although this page is archived as it originally appeared, this contest is over. Please do not enter this contest. Thank you.]

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Perhaps you are a writer. Of course you are a writer. Every last one of us is a writer. Not that you're any good, of course. Or perhaps you're a good writer with a very short attention span. Or a complete lack of discipline. Or a debilitating case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Whatever your plague, we say, Fear not — we have just the contest for you.

All you have to do is write the first paragraph of a short story, novel, or essay. You don't have to develop the characters, worry about the plot, or craft a denouement. Just write the finest First Paragraph you can.

First person? Third person? We do not care. Exposition? Dialogue? We do not care. Murder mystery? Pastoral romance? We do not care. If you do indeed fancy yourself a writer, you may have several unfinished stories from which you could exract the first paragraph. Or perhaps you would prefer to write something entirely new. Again, we do not care. What we care about is reading a compelling First Paragraph.


• Entries should be 200 words or less, including the title. (Note: titles are optional and may help or hurt your chances. You decide.) If you are a seasoned White Shoe Reader, you will perhaps note that this word limit is 100 words more than our first contest, in which entrants were challenged to write an entire story using very few words. We noticed that, too. If you are new to The White Shoe Irregular, it would serve you well to peruse our previous contests.

• Subject matter is completely open. Please refer to our general guidelines for more details concerning White Shoe standards. Or don't.

• If you are submitting several entries at the same time (a practice that is both allowed and encouraged), please put them in a single email. Each First Paragraph will be judged on its own merits and will be neither more nor less likely to win than entries submitted individually.

• IMPORTANT: Please direct entries to submit [at] whiteshoe [dot] org. However fabulous it may be, do not use our online submission form for this contest. Also, please do not send attachments. Rather, place your entry in the body of your email.

• MORE IMPORTANT: Put the words "First Paragraph Contest" in the subject line.

• EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: Please include your name somewhere in the body of the message. If you wish to tell us wonderful stories about how you came up with a particular idea for this contest or even relate to us the humorous events of your workplace environment, that is fine, too, but we cannot stress enough the importance of stating your name.


The Judging Process

We will read your First Paragraph. If it is good (or even moderately good) we will read it again. If we read it a third time, it will be because we are formatting it for publication on this very website. This is good news that we will want to share with someone — possibly you. When you hear this good news from us, you should share it with someone else, too. This is the key to happiness you have been searching for.

The Awarding of Prizes

We have not decided what form the prizes will take. Last week, a concerned reader contacted us and suggested we use several of his personal possessions as prizes for our next contest. His offer intrigues us, and we may take him up on it. If anyone else reading this page would like to donate items to our stash of prizes, please let us know. We hope to have the prizes finalized before we begin announcing the winners, which will be sometime in May.

A Final Note from Your Mother

What? You're not going to enter? Listen, kiddo — there are starving children in Ethiopia who would give anything to enter this contest, you ungrateful little wretch. So just keep your mouth shut and put pen to paper until I say you can come out of your room.