Coming attractions

Spin a mystery in six words

Recommended activities for the coming weeks

Column by Clarke Reader
Posted 9/2/20

One of the most famous things Ernest Hemingway ever wrote is only six words long: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Packed into those few words is a whole story of life and heartbreak, and that …

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Coming attractions

Spin a mystery in six words

Recommended activities for the coming weeks


One of the most famous things Ernest Hemingway ever wrote is only six words long: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Packed into those few words is a whole story of life and heartbreak, and that story-behind-a-story is what entrants into the fourth annual Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America’s fourth annual Six-Word Mystery Contest should aim for.

The contest opens on Sept. 15 and runs through midnight on Oct. 31. Entries can be submitted in one or all five of the following categories: Hard Boiled or Noir, Cozy Mystery, Thriller Mystery, Police Procedural Mystery and/or a mystery with Romance or Lust. The contest is open to all adults 18 and over, and there are no residency requirements — entries come from all over the country and world.

“As a writer, I really appreciate the thought and cleverness that goes into each entry,” said ZJ Czupor, vice president of the chapter. “Anyone, no matter what your skill level as a writer, can enter and have fun doing so. Furthermore, it’s a little bit of a mind-bending exercise, like doing a crossword puzzle.”

This year’s judges include Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Editor Linda Landrigan, New York Times best-selling author Anne Hillerman, award-winning author, lawyer and activist Manuel Ramos, BookBar owner Nicole Sullivan and literary agent Terrie Wolf, owner of AKA Literary Management.

We spoke to Cuzpor about the contest and the power of just six words.

Interview edited for content and clarity.

-Tell me about the six-word contest?

The contest was the brainchild of Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood, our Wyoming board representative. He presented the idea as a fun way to generate camaraderie and playfulness among our members and the public, and to increase awareness of the craft and pleasure of mystery writing. We figured how hard would it be to write a mystery in six words? Well, turns out it takes a little more thought than one would initially imagine. But the entries we’ve received over the last three years have been very creative and sometimes chilling, but many are laugh-out-loud hilarious.


-What are judges looking for?

The judges are looking for how well the entrant wrote a story in six words. In other words, did those six words paint a picture for us of a story with a beginning, middle and end? The judges are also looking to determine if the six-words fit the conventions of the sub-genre of that entry; and finally, cleverness always earns a lot of points.


-What is your favorite thing about the contest?

As a board member of our chapter, I really like that we get noticed around the country and the world. People sometimes think that mystery writing comes from the coasts… but the Rocky Mountain region is a literary powerhouse in its own right—and the contest raises our profile.

For information about contest rules, entry costs, prizes and more, visit


Learn about false choices at FAC

Golden’s Foothills Art Center has unveiled False Choice, a new exhibit in its East Gallery, that features the works of three artists - Ambivalently Yours, Michael Dixon, and Katherine Payge - who explore issues of identity, race, and questioning our assumptions.

The exhibit runs at the center, 809 15th St., through Nov. 1, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday, noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, open to members only by appointment on Thursday and closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hard to imagine a better time to tackle these very topics, so visit for the pertinents.


Clarke’s Concert of the Week - Pearl Jam at Safeco Field

So much has happened in 2020 that you’d be forgiven for missing some smaller, less-damaging rare occurrences - like a new Pearl Jam album. “Gigaton,” did make it into the world, but the Seattle greats were supposed to go on a tour that was scraped out of safety concerns.


Those who were hoping to see Pearl Jam are in luck, however, because the group is livestreaming a performance from their 2018 stop at their home city beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4 through Sept. 7.

The performance features a massive 33-song setlist, which includes an appearance from Brandi Carlile, covers, rarities and more. Visit for information and to stream the show.


Streaming style - ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ convention coverage

If you missed the presidential conventions from the last couple weeks and want to know what happened, but don’t want to slog through them, check out The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

I’m certainly not going to pretend it’s the most objective coverage, but it’s easiest the funniest I’ve seen, and we could also use a little of that humor as we enter the final stretch of the election. Colbert speaks to people like Susan Rice, Trey Gowdy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Chris Christie. Plus, his Avengers Endgame parody is all kinds of dumb and delightful.

The episodes are available on-demand and


Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at

Clarke Reader, Coming Attractions, Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Six-Word Mystery Contest, writing, authors, ZJ Czupor, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Anne Hillerman, Manuel Ramos, BookBar, Nicole Sullivan, Denver, Golden, FAC, Foothills Art Center, False Choice, Ambivalently Yours, Michael Dixon, Katherine Payge, art, live music, concerts, livestreaming, Pearl Jam, Brandi Carlile, Election 2020, Late Show with Stephen Colbert, politics, elections


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