With many thanks for your patience (a power-blasting snowstorm in MARCH in the DRAGON CAVES!? outrage!), please join me in thanking outgoing judge Whitney Healy & congratulating our newest batch of winners. PARTEH IN THE DRAGON CAVES!
Judge Whitney Healy says: The Ides of March are upon us, as is the imminent end to an intricate journey. This experience with judging has been fun: it allowed me to evaluate short fiction, entertained me, and motivated me at times to write myself. I am happy to be throwing the gauntlet to new blood: I highly recommend the experience. You will learn something about yourself, your writing, others, and others’ writing. I say I am happy to toss the challenge to another because I’m ready to start focusing on my own writing and (hopefully) compete again at this lovely competition. Eleven of the forty entries made my first cut this week, and the stories were widely diverse and (as always, delightfully entertaining. Applause to all!
Jacki Donnellan, “The Domestic Dancer.” I loved how we see the innocence of the janitor in this piece and how much he admires the young dancers. We grow to love the janitor and how he has supported this dance school for so long, and then we grow to hate the head mistress for removing him when he meant absolutely no harm. This was an entertaining tale of the sadness that often happens in our culture when someone is not accepted.
Craig Anderson, “Dancing Days.” In so few words, a dedication to dance is made. We cheer for the dancer, as she has wowed the fans to the point all artists wish to reach: tears. But then, by an astounding turn of both language and events (the first part of the story is detailed and descriptive, while the second part is fragmented dialogue), we see that it is her dance that is helping her deal with the traumatic shock attached to an accident. Definitely worth a read, for those of you who missed it.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Caitlin Status, “Your Little Ballerina.” I wanted more of this story: there’s a lot underneath the text. Why is the mother leaving her daughter? Who is Heather? What has the mother done that makes her so ashamed of herself? Or, is the mother ashamed of her daughter? Through the uncommon use of second-person point of view, the accusatory nature of the voice of this piece makes a reader feel as if she is the panicked mother who so wants what is best for her daughter (or so it seems). I appreciate the shifts between narration and dialogue as well.
FIRST RUNNER UP
AmyBeth Inverness, Untitled. I could read this story again and again and still laugh. There were many tales of jealousy and revenge this week, but most of those tales did not state such theme so subtly. In this piece, a young girl chooses what appears to be a modest type of dance (as her mother thought ballerinas’ dress was far too scandalous), but we find out otherwise. Instead, we see a young girl capable of manipulating and very in charge of her life–and how I would have loved to see Clementina’s face when the girls’ “grace” was displayed for all of the world to see. A hilarious tale of what, to me, is sweet, sweet victory.
And now: for his FIRST TIME EVER (’bout time!), it’s Flash! Friday
“The Our Lady of Thorns ‘Lil Sprigs’ Dancers”
I began my second reading of this tale by looking up the definition of the word “sprig”–and boy am I glad I did. I knew a “sprig” could refer to a small plant just breaking the surface of the soil, or perhaps the “sprig” of rosemary we add to something when cooking, but when I saw the other definitions, I realized a “sprig” is also a small branch or a could refer to offspring. Now pay attention to this story, folks. Thorns and sprigs in title: refer to nature. “Twist(ing) like a dogwood(‘s) branches”: refers again to trees. Collapse to the ground like kindling: kindling=wood. The last dancer’s name is Rosy, a play on the rose. Are you seeing a pattern? This writer knew exactly what he was doing with every phrase: every word on the page, every phrase, every rhetorical device, every image, wove an image of trees and the power of nature. In a dark and somewhat unnerving tale, this author uses his deliberate choices in language to manipulate both a reader and the audience watching the dance: a stylistic decision marked by a master of their craft. Not to mention the pacing was great and you could picture every “sapling” of detail he created. A well-deserved win: I’d like to see more of his writing!
Congratulations, Gordon! Your winner’s badge waits for you below. Here is your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
The Our Lady of Thorns “Lil Sprigs” Dancers
Hours later, the hurdy gurdy still grinds away and the girls still twist like dogwood branches in the spring breeze, trembling with the cold and exertion. The swollen red and white balloons are the only things holding some of them up.
A susurration of whispers stirs through the crowd.
“Will there be no volunteers?” Sister Agatha raps her birch cane against the stage. “None willing to donate? Not even an iron coin or a piece of beef?”
One by one, the balloons pop and the pale girls collapse to the ground like kindling.
“For God’s sake, stop it!” A man finally cries out and pushes forward, rolling up his shirt sleeves. “Just take it already.”
Sister Agatha plunges her needle into the crook of his elbow. The thick redness sluices up the surgical tube. She smiles and looks down at the lone girl still dancing, trembling like a daisy.
“This one is for you, Rosy. The greatest dancer of all.”