Welcome to results day! It’s always such a blast, isn’t it, waiting to see if your story’s chosen (oooohh the adrenaline! pickmepickmepickme!!), or if the judge’s picks match your own? (Better than the Oscars, as far as I’m concerned, since we don’t have to restrict our diets to celery the month prior.) And if that weren’t fun enough, with a troupe of clowns and a sick boy, the story paths were pretty much limitless — and didn’t you each give our valiant judge a workout!
We’re now just about eight weeks out from the end of Year Two, which means the shenanigans we’ve been cooking up are very close to being plated. Look for our first announcement this coming Friday!
But with the wind-down of Year Two also means (sniff!!!) saying goodbye and thanks to this panel of judges. Today we bid a fond adieu to Craig Anderson, who is himself a three-time Flash! Friday winner. He’s poured hours of his personal time and energy into Flash! Friday at no salary whatsoever, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you so much for your dedication, Craig. Let me be the first to welcome you back into the madness!
Judge Craig Anderson would like to open with closing words. He says: So here we are, the end of my stint as a judge here at FF. When Rebekah first approached me to join the judges’ ranks, my first thought was ‘RUN AWAY!’ And then when I remembered you can’t outrun a dragon, my second thought was ‘I’m just a guy that writes very short stories on the internet, what do I know about writing very short stories on the internet…?’ Turns out not a lot, but thankfully you were all very patient mentors!
What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was that stopping to think about why I loved a particular story made me think about flash at a whole different level. Flash is not ‘just’ a really short story, it’s not a longer story that’s been forced to go on a diet and it certainly doesn’t have to be quick and simple. You have all proven these points time and time again. Flash is a place to try new things, to experiment, to be creative and take risks. I have been privileged to read all of your fantastic stories and asked to assess what makes them so darn great. Judging has taught me a great deal and it’s something that I have no doubt will be a huge asset to my future writing, flash or otherwise. If you have ever toyed with the idea of judging here, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
While I have the podium one last time, it would be remiss of me to not thank our gracious host Rebekah for everything she does here. I can’t even imagine the behind the scenes work involved to keep a community like ours going, be it coming up with fun prompts, all her encouraging tweets or fixing all our tpyos (darn!). That she does all of these things week after week, month after month is quite frankly amazing! Please join me in raising your glass (or if it’s before noon your half-eaten chocolate bar) in her honour. Cheers!
Right, now that’s all sorted, we should get down to business. On to the winners!
Margaret Locke, “Great Balls of Fire.” This one was told from the dogs point of view, which gave it a really fun perspective. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little guy, and that last line is both cringe inducing and hilarious!
Image Ronin, “Clowning 1.01.” I really felt for poor Pennywise as he tried to teach his new clown students the tricks of the trade. I found myself chuckling all the way through this one, and the ending left me with a big smile on my face.
Brian S. Creek, “Send Out the Clowns.” This was a very touching story of a boy and his imaginary friends. We never find out why he sees them, only that his parents think it is best if he doesn’t any more. It was filled with lots of great lines, my favourite of which was “Despite the sadness of this moment they kept smiling, just like always.”
Charles W. Short, “The Heir Carries a Scalpel.” This one took the prompt in a different direction which really made it stand out. I enjoyed the fact that the clowns, the child and the surgery were all used as metaphors. This was a very imaginative use of the prompt.
Chris Milam, “Big Shoes.” Great title! It cleverly ties together the theme of clown shoes and following in his fathers footsteps, or in this case walking in the opposite direction.
Rasha Tayaket, “Damn Dog.” The thing that jumped out at me about this one was the clever use of alliteration. It gave the story a punchy rhythm which built up to a fun ending. Hooray for that damn dog!
THIRD RUNNER UP
Carin Marais, “Lullaby.” This story chose to use a unique perspective to great effect, being told from the point of view of a bogeyman. Instead of the typical big bad bogeyman, our narrator in this tale came across as genuine and caring, a figure who hides not to scare but to conceal his disfigured face. Little touches were used to great effect to convey the bond between him and the child, with the bogeyman singing Anton a lullaby and accompanying him into the surgery. There was a real sense that they were both going to lose something. It’s not often you get to feel sorry for the bogeyman!
SECOND RUNNER UP
Karl A. Russell, “Visiting Time.” This story doesn’t waste any time immediately setting the scene for us, letting us know that young Toby is dying. It’s followed up with a great line. “He looks washed out, like a faded photograph folded into a World’s Best Dad wallet and left in the laundry.” This confirms our suspicions that Toby isn’t going to have a happy ending. Our protagonist hints at a violent past, pulling his punch “for the first time in a lifetime.” Halfway through it is revealed that the narrator knows young Toby as he desperately tries to be recognized, but to no avail. This totally changes the story, from a clown trying to do his job to something far more personal. The absent father just wants to see his son one last time, to make him smile, but Toby will never know it was him. The ending is perfect too, with Toby’s Mum catching the father breaking his restraining order, but turning a blind eye to let him say goodbye to his son – touching stuff.
FIRST RUNNER UP
David Borrowdale, “Mendin’ the Clowns.” This one stood out with a fun role reversal, as the clowns were brought to the sick kids’ hospital as treatment for their overabundance of happiness. It cleverly tells the story from two points of view, everyone else and the clowns. The clowns are represented by rhyming verses, which gradually transform from clowning around to a more subdued tone as the clowns are slowly ‘cured’. These rhyming verses also contrast with the standard text, they are fun and playful in comparison to the more utilitarian verses representing the sick kids and the sterile hospital. It’s a great way to highlight the differences and make the reader question whether the clowns truly need to be cured. Finally, the title was perfect and a great little pun to wrap up this entry.
And now: in another clever back-to-back win, it’s Flash! Friday
“Aphla and Oemga”
This entry immediately caught my eye on the first round of judging and I found myself thinking about it long after I had shut my laptop. It is a fantastic example of the types of risks you can take when writing flash – you could never write a full length novel like this, but for a short piece such as this one it’s a powerful and effective style.
The words are scrambled just enough to make you stop and think, but not so much that it’s frustrating to read. This creates a momentary struggle for understanding; effort is required to decipher what is going on. It really is an effective way to vividly paint the picture of what the life of the protagonist must be like on a day to day basis.
The scrambled words are a great device, but the reason they work so effectively is because the underlying story is strong enough to keep the reader’s attention. It tells a very relatable struggle of a young boy who just wants to fit in, to ‘understand’ the world better. For example (translated for you) – “They said they wanted the best for me, the surgery would make me like everyone else. It would make things easier for me and my life would finally have meaning and I would be loved.”
I also enjoyed the conflicting views of the doctors and the clowns. The doctors saw only a problem to be fixed, while the clowns simply saw someone who viewed the world differently. We typically think of doctors as fonts of knowledge and clowns as whimsical folly, but this story makes us challenge our assumptions. I don’t know about you, but I’m with the clowns on this one. Perhaps we are all too quick to ‘fix’ these sorts of problems, when perhaps the true answer is to learn to embrace the differences.
I couldn’t write about this story and not mention the last line, which wraps up this story beautifully. I’m not going to quote it here as you should experience it for yourself below in the correct context, but it’s a great way to end both this story and my time as a judge. Thanks!
Congratulations again, Josh! Below is a second (but still stunning, I might add) gleaming winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are your freshly updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for your interview for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
Aphla and Oemga
Tehy trun tinghs uspdie-dwon and isidne-out. Smoe hvae siad eevn Jseus was one. Tehy cmae in all teihr crolos bfeore the oens in pailn wihte–the oens who bleeievd tehre was seomtinhg wonrg with me–wree cmonig to fix me. Tehy siad they wnaetd the bset for me—the sruregy wluod make me lkie erevynoe esle. It wulod mkae thngis esaeir for me and my lfie wulod fnlaily hvae mnieang and I wuold be lveod.
But the cownls tlod me derenffit. Tehy let me hnok tehir nseos and wehn tehy tlod me nitohng was wonrg wtih me—taht I was peferct as I was—I cierd.
The dcotros tehy siad, wnetad to “fix” me bcesuase I saw tignhs dferfinelty. Taht’s waht was “wonrg” wtih me. But the conwls tlod me diferneft—taht it wsna’t my fulat taht ploepe dnid’t unerdanstd me.
“Mnaineg, lfie, and lvoe aenr’t at the bgeinnnig and the end,” tehy siad, “teyh’re waht’s in bteewen.”