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Oct 06th
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Lucky Strike

AE_matchNew local publication is born by way of a matchbook
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” —Ernest Hemingway
Short, and not exactly sweet, those words are a ‘story’ that Hemingway wrote, and a tale that many, ironically, call one of his finest. The ‘story’ is six words long, 28 characters, deep, moving, and brilliant. This concept of ‘micro-fiction’ has been around for ages, and one local Santa Cruz writer has zeroed in on the allure of writing in a very small format. Editor Kyle Petersen has launched something called Matchbook Story, a quarterly publication that comes out in the form of a matchbook, with the inside flap telling a story in 300 characters or fewer. On Thursday, March 25, at 6 p.m. at local pub, Poet and the Patriot, Petersen will unveil his first edition of Matchbook Story, along with an author reading from the first story published in this new medium. Additionally, runners up will also be reading their 300-character stories at the event.

The concept is a fascinating one—to come up with a short and compelling story that can be told in 300 characters, and marketed by way of matchbooks distributed throughout California. Petersen who has a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing from UC Santa Cruz, and has worked for both the local Book Mobile and Bookshop Santa Cruz, came up with the idea late one night during a rough patch when he was out of a job and “sort of wondering what the hell was I going to do with my life,” Petersen says. He had a thought while lying awake in bed one night a year ago. “I was asking myself, ‘If you could have any job in the world right now, what would it be?’” Petersen says. The answer: be an editor of a lit magazine. Realizing that it would be enormous fun, but not terribly lucrative, Petersen played around with the idea, and wondered how he’d finance such a concept, and that’s when “this whole idea with matchbooks struck,” he says. Not only was it a novel idea, but it was also affordable.

AE_match2“I’ve collected typewriters for a long time, and you can run any kind of paper through them, a photograph, a postcard, a fortune cookie strip, a piece of sheet music, whatever,” Petersen says. “I was always thinking about print outside of the standard 8-inch by 11-inch page, or outside of books. … It led me to [the idea of] matchbooks.”

He got out of bed and stayed up until the morning light hit, sketching out the concept of Matchbook Story. The idea of publishing a story on a matchbook was also appealing because it might extend stories to those who don’t necessarily go to bookstores, such as, say, the after-hours bar crowd and others. The project was a year in the making, and is now ready to launch its first issue.

At, aspiring storytellers can submit their 300-character tale, and Petersen wades through the submissions. Each quarter, one story is chosen to be published on thousands of matchbooks, which Petersen distributes in local bookstores, and in San Francisco and Los Angeles bookstores. The matchbooks themselves are free. The other top 10 submissions are published online at “[A match- book] is the smallest billboard in the world,” Petersen says.

So what’s this innovative editor looking for in a story? What’s the secret of telling a tale in 300 characters, and making it compelling? “I think change arises out of conflict,” Petersen says. “Those two things really need to be in stories to fuel them. … A ‘story’ haunts you, sticks with you.” Petersen is looking for something that, after he reads it, he can’t forget about it. And, that can be a challenging feat in just 300 characters. But it’s clearly not impossible. The concept of ‘micro fiction’ has been around for quite some time. Hemingway did it—in only 28 characters.

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