Literature vending machines inspire BYU student writers.
“He had all the sense of humor of a dead turtle.”
That prompt sparked electrical-engineering grad student Jesse A. Richmond (BS ’18) to write his short story titled Solomon’s Lines. The piece recently took second place in the short-fiction category of the intercollegiate Long Story Short competition, hosted by French company Short Édition.
Richmond wasn’t the only Cougar on the podium: BYU students swept every category (short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry), claiming the win and many of the runner-up positions.
It all started last October, when two sleek cylindrical “vending” machines that distribute flash literature made their way to BYU. The machines, created by Short Édition and sponsored by BYU’s College of Humanities, were an instant hit: more than 8,000 stories were printed in the first three months.
With writing from children’s literature to poetry, the dispensers are like boxes of chocolates, says Kristan Leroy, the international sales director at Short Édition.
“It gives me the same rush as getting a candy bar from the vending machine,” says Aliah L. Eberting (’21), whose stories won a public vote runner-up position in both the short-fiction and creative-nonfiction categories. “I love that I can walk up to a dispenser and get a story by someone across the world.”
College of Humanities associate dean Leslee Thorne-Murphy (BA ’90, MA ’93) says that introducing the dispensers mid-pandemic was a way to bring some fun to campus when so many events were canceled. “This is something we could do, and so we were delighted when the students responded the way they did.”
Advertised alongside the machines was the Long Story Short competition. More than 250 BYU students submitted, competing against students from schools such as Harvard and Carnegie Mellon. As the university with the most submissions—and most wins—BYU was awarded a third story dispenser.
Many of the winning stories—including Solomon’s Lines—will be published in Short Édition story dispensers found in more than 300 global locations. “Not everyone is William Shakespeare,” says Leroy. “But we want people to have the courage to strike up the pen and to try creative writing.”
Read the Winning Stories:
•“The Trees Have Eyes” by Lee Schwartz (’23), Short Fiction Juried Winner
•“Solomon’s Lines” by Jesse A. Richmond (BS ’18), Short Fiction Juried 1st Runner-up
•“Angel Blinks” by Aliah L. Eberting (’21), Short Fiction Public Vote 1st Runner-up
•“Attempt” by Lucas W. Zuehl ('25), Creative Non-Fiction Juried Winner
•“Ashes to Ashes” by Tyler A. Slade (’21), Creative Non-Fiction Juried 1st Runner-up
•“Castles in the Sky” by Aliah L. Eberting (’21), Creative Non-Fiction Public Vote 2nd Runner-up
•“Lost in the Interim” by Kassandra I. Schrieber (BA ’20), Poetry Juried Winner
•“Flying Fire” by Brennen J. Serre (’22), Poetry Public Vote 1st Runner-up