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7th annual Six-Word Mystery Contest
challenges writers to pen a mystery in six words



Can you write a whodunnit in six words? That’s the challenge put forth by the Rocky Mountain Chapter, Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA) in its 7th annual Six-Word Mystery Contest.

Last year’s overall winning entry and police procedural-category winner was Rita A. Popp of Colorado with “Magician escapes gallows when witness vanishes.” A previous contestant, Kathleen O’Brien, said her entry landed her a literary agent.

RMMWA Chapter President Lori Lacefield said, “We’re excited to see what cryptic, enigmatic, plot twisting, or laugh-out-loud six-word mysteries are submitted this year.” Lacefield added, “Writers from 20 states as well as Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Singapore have entered previous contests. We hope you do, too.”

This year’s contest will be judged by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Editor Linda Landrigan; New York Times best-selling author Anne Hillerman; award-winning author, lawyer and activist Manuel Ramos; literary agent Terrie Wolf, owner of AKA Literary Management; and John Charles of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The contest opens September 1, 2023, and entries must be received by midnight MDT on October 7, 2023. Six-word “whodunits” can be entered in one or all five of the following categories: Hard Boiled or Noir; Cozy MysteryThriller Mystery; Police Procedural; and/or a mystery involving Romance or Lust. The Six-Word Mystery Contest is open to all adults 18 and over. No residency requirements.

The contest entry fee is $6 for one entry or $10 to enter six-word mysteries in all five categories. The grand prize winner will receive $100 in cold, hard cash. Winners in all other categories will receive $25, and all winners and finalists will be featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, on our RMMWA website, and in our popular monthly newsletter, Deadlines.

Participants will be invited to the chapter’s annual Mystery & Mistletoe Holiday Party in December which will be held live and on Zoom.

According to legend, the first six-word novel was born in the 1920s when Ernest Hemingway at New York’s Algonquin Hotel or Luchow’s restaurant (depending on whom you ask) won a $10 bet by writing a six-word story. His dark and dramatic submission was: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Urban legend or no, memorable, heart-breaking, and sublime six-word stories have been penned ever since.




If you’d like to see examples of prior finalists, visit our 6 Word Mystery Contest Archive.