In just six words, can you spin a tale of mystery?

How about: “36D, 44 magnum, 20 to life.”

That was Jeffrey Lockwood’s overall winner last year in the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America contest that gives fans of the mystery genre — or really anyone who enjoys wordplay — the opportunity to match wits with published authors and others who enter for the fun of it. Or to win cash and gift cards.

This year, for the fourth annual event, The Colorado Sun is joining the fun by publishing all the finalists and having a little competition of our own. Once the RMMWA finalists are determined on Nov. 20, our readers will be encouraged to vote for a “reader’s choice” winner in each category. 

In addition, we’ll have our own informal competition. Readers can submit their own separate, free entry to The Sun, and we’ll judge the best of those to receive Sun swag.

Winners of both contests will be announced on Dec. 11. You can email Sun contest entries to us at Be sure to include a phone number so we can notify winners. We’ll use the same categories as the official RMMWA contest.

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The five categories are Thriller, Cozy, Romance and Lust, Police Procedural and Hardboiled/Noir. You can find detailed descriptions of each category’s characteristics here.

Winners of the RMMWA contest receive cash, gift cards and publication in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, The Colorado Sun and, of course, the RMMWA website and its newsletter, Deadlines. Finalists in each of five categories also earn an invitation to the chapter’s virtual Mystery & Mistletoe Holiday Party in December.

Entering the RMMWA contest is simple and open right now. Go to the online entry page here, and pay $6 for a single entry, $10 to enter all five categories. Then you’ll be redirected to the page where you submit your six-word mysteries. The grand prize winner will receive $100 cash. Winners in each category will receive $25 gift certificates.

Entries must be received by midnight on Oct. 31.

They will be judged by a panel that includes 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 Denver store owner Nicole Sullivan; and literary agent Terrie Wolf.

The judges will narrow the field to five finalists in each category, and then the RMMWA membership will determine the winners. Entrants must be 18 or older, but there is no residency requirement.

This contest draws from the legendary tale of Ernest Hemingway, who allegedly won a $10 bet in the 1920s by writing a six-word novel: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Need more inspiration? Here are some of the finalists and winners from last year’s contest.

“Smokey eye. Smoking gun. Ballistics matched.”

“Boyfriend suspected. Ballistics inspected. Murder detected.”

“Unlocked dad’s phone. Found mum’s killer.”  

“Give me the knife.” “Yes, Darling.”

This byline is used for articles and guides written collaboratively by The Colorado Sun reporters, editors and producers.