What’s Your Story?

Enter Alta’s Noir Story Contest and write your own pulp fiction—using five elements supplied by us.

noir story writing contest

UPDATE: The contest winner and runners-up have been notified and we'll be publishing their stories here on February 13, 2021. Our judges reviewed nearly 100 entries from across the United States and a half-dozen foreign countries. Thank you to everyone who entered and made this contest a huge success.

In the early 1900s, a perfect storm began brewing for detective fiction. The widespread availability of steam-powered printing and cheap paper made it possible for magazines and paperbacks to be published for a mass market, which meant that Argosy, Black Mask, and a generation of other titles were hungry to find writers like Paul Cain, Raymond Chandler, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas to fill their pages with hard-boiled tales.

Now, as part of our Fall issue’s celebration of noir, we’re inviting members of the Alta community (that’s you) to carry on the pulp tradition. So dust off your typewriter, summon your inner Dashiell Hammett, and enter the Alta Noir Story Contest.



• Winner: Publication of your short story on altaonline.com and a leather-bound edition of “Arson Plus” by Dashiell Hammett, printed and published by Thornwillow Press ($2,000 value)—a one-of-a-kind copy.

• Runners-up (Two): Publication of your short story on altaonline.com and a numbered Patron’s edition of “Arson Plus” by Dashiell Hammett, printed and published by Thornwillow Press ($138 retail value)—one of only 75 copies.


• Deadline: The deadline to submit is December 15, 2020. One submission per person. All stories must be less than 1,500 words.

• Requirements: Each short story must be original and previously unpublished and contain the following five elements, in any order:

noir contest, typewriter key
A lost letter
noir contest, typewriter key
A nearby tiki bar
noir contest, typewriter key
“Don’t call the police!”
noir contest, typewriter key
A blue silk kimono
noir contest, typewriter key
“I thought you said you loved me.”

• Terms and conditions: Read Alta’s Noir Story Contest Terms and Conditions (below) before submitting your story. We look forward to your entry!



The Noir Story Contest (the “Contest”) is sponsored by San Simeon Films, doing business as the Journal of Alta California (“Alta”). By submitting a Submission (as defined below) for the Contest, you (and if you are under 18 years old, your parent or legal guardian) (“you”) thereby unconditionally accept(s) and agree(s) to the following Terms and Conditions (“Terms”), which incorporate by this reference Alta’s Privacy Policy available at https://www.altaonline.com/privacy-policy/ (“Privacy Policy”), and the decisions of Alta, which shall be final and binding.

  1. Start/End Dates. The Contest begins at 12:01 A.M. PST on September 15, 2020 and closes at 11:59 P.M. PST on December 15, 2020. Short story entries (“Submissions”) received outside this time period will not be considered.
  2. Eligibility. Anyone is eligible to participate, subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations. This Contest is void where prohibited or restricted by law.
  3. How to Enter. To enter the Contest, you must complete an online entry form and upload an electronic file of your Submission at altajournal.submittable.com. Only electronic Submissions uploaded through the online entry form will be considered. You must provide complete and accurate identification information in connection with your Submission; the use of a false name will disqualify you from receiving a Prize. All Submissions, once submitted, are final. No revisions are accepted. You may submit only one (1) Submission for the entire Contest. All Submissions must:
    a. Be original work written solely by you that has not been previously published (online or in print) and/or is not under consideration for publication elsewhere;
    b. Be no more than 1,500 words;
    c. Be written in English;
    d. Include the following five elements, in any order, in the short story: (1) a lost letter, (2) a nearby tiki bar, (3) “Don’t call the police!”, (4) a blue silk kimono, and (5) “I thought you said you loved me”; and
    e. Not contain offensive, libelous, sexually explicit, disparaging, defamatory, or other
    inappropriate content (to be determined in Alta’s sole discretion).
  4. Prizes. There will be three winners total: one (1) grand prize winner and two (2) runner-ups. The winners’ Submissions will be published on altaonline.com. Additionally, the grand prize winner will receive one (1) leather-bound edition of “Arson Plus” by Dashiell Hammett, printed and published by Thornwillow Press ($2,000 value) and the two (2) runner-ups will each receive one (1) numbered Patron’s edition of “Arson Plus” by Dashiell Hammett, printed and published by Thornwillow Press ($138 retail value) (each, a “Prize” and collectively, “Prizes”).
  5. Winner Determination. You understand that Alta, in its sole discretion, may disqualify the Submission for any reason, including if it determines, in its sole discretion, that the Submission fails to conform to these Terms in any way. Decisions will be determined at Alta’s sole discretion, and all decisions made by Alta are final and binding.
  6. Winner Notification. Winners will be announced on February 1, 2021. Each winner will be notified by email through the email address provided with the Submission. Notification is deemed to have occurred immediately upon the sending of an email. Alta may request winners to provide documentary proof of identity before awarding the Prizes. If a winner is considered a minor in his/her/their jurisdiction of residence, the Prize will be awarded to minor’s parent or legal guardian. If a winner cannot be contacted within fourteen (14) days of the first notification attempt or is not available, or has not claimed the Prize within fourteen (14) days of the announcement date, Alta reserves the right to select an alternate winner.
  7. Publication Rights. You retain all right, title, and interest in and to your Submission, including all copyrights and other intellectual property rights therein. If you are selected as a winner, you (and if you are under 18 years old, your parent or legal guardian) hereby grant(s) to Alta (a) for ninety (90) days from the date Alta first publishes the Submission, the exclusive and (b) automatically thereafter, the non-exclusive: worldwide, royalty-free, irrevocable, assignable right and license, with the right of sublicense, to copy, reproduce, distribute, publish, display or perform (publicly or otherwise), transmit, edit, modify, create derivative works, or otherwise make available the Submission, or any portion thereof, throughout the world on altaonline.com and in print editions of the Journal of Alta California.
  8. Publicity Release. Each winner hereby grants to Alta the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free right to use such winner’s name, image, likeness, and biographical and professional information (including information such winner provides to Alta) in connection with the Contest in any medium, including photographs, video recordings, digital images, audio recordings, as well as in publications, newsletters, news releases, other printed materials, and in materials made available on the Internet or in other media now known or hereafter developed, for publicity, advertising, marketing or promotional purposes without additional obligations, compensation or prior notice.
  9. Privacy Policy. Alta will collect your name, address, email address, telephone number, and other personal information you provide to us. Alta will process your personal information consistent with the terms of its Privacy Policy.
  10. Representations and Warranties. By entering this Contest, you (and if you are a minor, your parent or legal guardian) represent(s) and warrant(s) that: (a) you are the sole author of the Submission; (b) your Submission is original and does not infringe upon, violate or misappropriate any intellectual property rights of any third party; (c) you have the right to grant to Alta all rights granted under these Terms; (d) your Submission does not violate any applicable law or regulation; and (e) all information you provide to Alta in connection with the Contest is true, complete and accurate.
  11. Limitation of Liability. Alta is not responsible for: any lost, delayed, incomplete, inaccurate, stolen, misdirected, technically corrupted, or undelivered Submissions, email or mail; technical, hardware, software, telephone or other communications malfunctions errors or failures of any kind; lost or unavailable network connections, website, Internet or Internet Service Provider unavailability, traffic congestion; or any other errors or difficulties of any kind, whether human, mechanical, electronic, computer, network or otherwise relating to or in connection with the Contest, including without limitation, errors or difficulties which may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of Submissions or the announcement of the Prizes. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, IN NO EVENT SHALL ALTA BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES OR LOSSES OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES (EVEN IF ALTA WAS ADVISED OF, KNEW OF OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES) ARISING OUT OF THESE TERMS OR RELATING TO YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE CONTEST OR ACCEPTANCE OF THE PRIZE. SOME STATES DO NOT ALLOW THE LIMITATION OR EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY, SO SUCH DISCLAIMERS AND EXCLUSIONS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. IN SUCH JURISDICTIONS, THE SCOPE AND DURATION OF THESE DISCLAIMERS AND THE EXTENT OF THE LIABILITY HEREUNDER WILL BE THE MINIMUM PERMITTED UNDER SUCH APPLICABLE LAW.
  12. Force Majeure. If Alta is unable to perform any of its obligations under these Terms because of severe weather, natural disasters, acts of God, pandemics, quarantines, orders or actions of or by a government entity or body, wars, riots, civil disorders, rebellions or revolutions, failure of telecommunications carriers, or other events beyond Alta’s reasonable control, then Alta is relieved from its performance of such obligations to the extent, and for the duration, that such performance is prevented by such events.
  13. Governing Law. These Terms will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California, without regard to principles of conflicts of law. The jurisdiction and venue for any action arising out of or relating to these Terms will be exclusively in the federal or state courts located in San Francisco, California.


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