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Years ago, submissions were originally limited to 800-words maximum. Over the years, however, this number has been whittled down, and it's currently set at a slim-and-trim 100-word limit. The winning entries from four past contests will be read at this evening's Salon, in addition to this year's top piece.
When searching for the best submissions, Barrett keeps an eye out for pieces that "bring us into the world of the writer instantly. They hit a nerve, a universal theme; we love or hate, laugh or cry with them."