Posted June 25, 2020

We interrupt this broadcast

The theme of Temple Libraries’ summer 2020 creative writing contest is Interruption.

Short Story Dispensor in Charles Library
Photography By: 
Brae Howard
Installed last spring in Charles Library, a Short Story Dispenser will print out a randomly generated story on eco-friendly paper at the press of a button.


Temple University Libraries recently announced its second creative writing contest in partnership with French publisher Short Édition.

Now through July 24, students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the public may submit a short story or poem speaking to the theme of this year’s contest: Interruption.

“Things are different on campus this summer with many of us at home due to the coronavirus, and we planned our contest with that in mind. But we launched it amid the nationwide movement against racial injustice and inequity and now the theme has taken on new meaning,” said Sara Wilson, assistant director of outreach and communications at Charles Library. “For both of these reasons, it's a great time to stay connected by having conversations, telling stories and listening to each other.”

“We’re excited about ways this contest can help us build community while we’re apart,” Wilson added.

And, she hopes the theme will serve as inspiration to would-be authors across the campus and beyond.

“Whether you want to write about a literal interruption or communicate something metaphorical, we are interested in reading your interpretation of this theme and seeing where your imagination can take us,” said Beckie Dashiell, editor on the outreach and communications team at Charles Library.

The theme of last year’s contest was Transformation. 

“The idea behind that was to reflect and expand on the transformational impact of the newly opened Charles Library on the Temple campus and community,” said Dashiell. 

That contest, which was open only to students, faculty and staff, received approximately 100 submissions. Winning entries from last year’s competition may be read on the 2019 contest website.

“This year we opened the contest up to include alumni and members of the public, so we are expecting to receive even more submissions,” said Dashiell.

Even if you’re not a writer, there is still a way to get involved. While one juried winner and two runners up will be selected by a jury of administrators, faculty members and librarians, a public winner of the contest will be selected by online voting.  

Elevating the role of stories in everyday life is the goal of Short Édition, which is known for their Short Story Dispensers. More than 300 of the dispensers—which are sort of like vending machines for literature—have been installed around the world in cities like San Francisco, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Paris, London and Philadelphia

“Our mission is to deliver fiction to the public while breathing new life into the art of storytelling,” said Loïc Giraut, business development manager at Short Édition. “The dispensers are connecting readers across countries and cultures by publishing contemporary short stories, free of charge."

One of the dispensers was installed in Charles Library’s third floor reading room last spring. “For now the machine is quiet,” said Dashiell. “But when we return to campus, it will be up and running again.”

At the press of a button, the machine prints out a randomly generated story on eco-friendly paper.

In January 2020, Short Édition selected Philadelphia as the location for their U.S. office because they already had solid partners here, including Temple University, The Free Library, Philadelphia International Airport, Knight Foundation and American Heritage Credit Union. 

“We knew Philadelphia was the perfect place to launch our community publishing concept, as innovation in arts seems to be well supported here,” said Giraut.  

“We are thrilled to launch a second contest with Temple University, and give an opportunity to writers to not only be published on campus but also in our locations around the world.”

Knowing that her work is reaching international readers has been exciting for Catherine Averill, CLA ’13, a senior academic advisor at Temple and the contest’s 2019 juried winner. 

“It still feels a bit surreal to know that something I wrote could potentially be read by people all over the world who see a machine and decide they want to pass a few minutes reading a free story that they likely have no expectations for,” she said.