Scarily literary: The Foundationalist’s Halloween flash fiction contest
November 4, 2022
On Halloween Monday, leaflets containing two “spooky stories” cropped up in campus spaces. The Foundationalist, a Bowdoin-founded intercollegiate literary journal, selected and distributed these zines as part of their first annual “Spooky Flash Fiction Contest.”
“We imagined it [as a] fun [opportunity], to write a story anonymously and then hear someone talking about that thing that you wrote on the other side of the Thorne Dining Hall table,” Foundationalist editorial board member Jack Wellschlagler ’23 said.
The grotesque and shocking stories lived up to the contest’s title. The contest’s leaders believed that allowing for anonymous submissions granted more creative freedom to the authors.
“[We allowed anonymity] to lower the stakes and make people feel like they could have more fun and be more creative in a time when we have so many things to do,” editorial board member Andrea Rodriguez ’24 said.
The Foundationalist’s editorial board was impressed with the submissions it received and hopes to run the contest again in the future. It was the first small contest the journal has run. Their biannual publication accepts a range of genres, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction and critical essays.
The Foundationalist’s reach extends far beyond Bowdoin’s campus. Since the journal’s founding at the College in 2018, it has expanded to include chapters at Yale University and the University of Iowa. While the other schools’ groups contribute to reading and vetting the submissions received, only the Bowdoin leadership team participates in the final compilation and publication. Submissions by Bowdoin students have historically been published, but they are always sent to either Yale or Iowa to ensure that no bias is involved.
Submissions come from undergraduate students across the world, with around 50 colleges and universities represented in all Foundationalist publications. Due to the high volume of submissions the magazine receives, their acceptance rate for pieces is only eight percent.
The publication’s Wednesday night reading sessions are an informal conversation about the submissions read in advance of or during the meeting. Anyone who is interested in literature is encouraged to come, no applications required.
Wellschlagler has found his perspective on writing changed by participating in the readings.
“A consequence of [the readings] is seeing that you can just kind of write stuff. A lot of what we get, we spend a lot of time thinking over and making into something more fun … which I feel like has made writing for me less of a constantly stultified process … and more of a creative and fun and lower stakes situation,” he said. “I feel like that actually is part of our philosophy in the meetings, as well as finding ‘oh my God, we need to accept this,’ stuff.”
The freedom given in the Spooky “Flash Fiction Contest” sought to mirror what the members of the leadership team have learned from their time on the journal.
“A contest that gets everyone to see writing the way we’re learning to see it aligns pretty well with what we do [as a publication],” Wellschlagler said.
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