Early on, putting together an issue like this feels a little like assigning a college essay. You tell everyone what to do and when to do it by, and then you sit back and pray a few people take it seriously. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. When our deadline arrived, no one asked for an extension. And the work? Impressive across the board.

It’s true. Everyone who submitted to Washington City Paper’s third annual fiction issue could really write, which made reading their stories a blast and selecting a few for print an utter nightmare. Each shed new light on this peculiar city’s people and places, and each had a way of making all of us a little prouder to call D.C. home.

We hope the stories here will make you feel the same way. We’ve got a stylish piece about drone delivery gone wrong and a touching story about identity and an Orthodox Jewish woman’s move to D.C. We’ve got a fun story about a jailbreak at the National Zoo and an artfully framed polemic that confronts the notion of urban progress.

And, of course, we’re thrilled to have a piece from our featured contributor, the District’s own Elliott Holt, whose 2013 novel You Are One of Them was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle award. Here, she gives us “Backstage,” which exquisitely depicts the inner world of a D.C. native and college senior who’s about to play Helen of Troy in Euripedes’ The Trojan Women.

We hope you enjoy it and all of this year’s stories. You can also see the winners of our annual photography contest, as selected by staff photographer Darrow Montgomery. And we look forward to more of your fiction and photos next year. —John Wilwol

Backstage

And So The Sky Fell

Favorites

It Takes Two

There Ain’t No One Left To Say ‘There Ain’t No More’