Welcome back! This is the biggest week of the year for Flash! Friday, with the Splickety judge crew’s results from the latest contest today and Flashversary THIS COMING FRIDAY!!!!!! More about that in the days ahead — please be sure to follow Flash! Friday on Twitter so as not to miss a thing.
But FIRST: oh, do I love the gang over at Splickety. Thank you, Lindsay, Andrew, Sarah, and Bonita for taking time out of your holiday weekend to serve as dragon captains for us, and for sharing your keen perspectives. BIG. FANS. of yours, and even bigger now. Thank you! -And to the FF family, a quick reminder that they are offering a subscription deal in honor of our community; this deal is good through Wednesday, Dec 3. (Note for the (rightfully) suspicious: Flash! Friday does not get a cut. This is all just for fun and as thanks to you!)
The judges from Splickety say: Wow! On behalf of all the Splicketeers, we’d like to thank Flash! Friday and its dragon mistress, Rebekah, for hosting a handful of us this weekend. Creativity abounds in this dragony corner of the flashiverse, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. We had a great time combing through your awesome submissions—reading them, ranking them, and squabbling over them. Rebekah gave us permission to use pillow fighting in our story-selection process, so we did. And by pillows, we mean swords.
In all seriousness, this was a tough assignment. There were too many good stories to choose from! With four different judges weighing in, you can imagine we had a fair amount of overlap but also some differences of opinion. Coming of Age is an emotionally charged, personal theme, so it’s unsurprising that different stories resonated with different individuals. But after some unscientific synthesizing of scores and opinions, a little discussion, and the aforementioned sword fighting, we’ve landed on our top picks for the week.
At Splickety, we have some flashy preferences. Strong characters, for one, both in the sense that the characters are well defined, but also in the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sense. We also love clever or gut-wrenching twists, humor, and tight writing. In case you’re wondering, we also like the serial comma. But we didn’t grade down for that.
Congratulations to all the winners — and, really, to everyone who entered. There were many enjoyable, well-written entries that aren’t mentioned below. But we feared the Internet would explode if we included every single one we liked. Thanks again for hosting us, Flash! Friday. Flash on, writers! And we hope to see some of your names land in our submissions inbox someday!
Time to Bolt,
Andrew, Lindsay, Sarah, and Bonita for Splickety Publishing Group
Creative Title: Margaret Locke, “Weathered Patterns.” We loved the meaningful twist on a familiar phrase (weather patterns).
Great First Line: Catherine Connolly, “Water Baby.” With a poetic lilt and creative use of alliteration, Water Baby has a solid first line. We couldn’t help but read the rest after an opening like that.
Best Hook: Michael Seese, “Red.” This was an emotionally wrenching story all the way around. We were yanked in, almost against our will, by the fabulous hook.
Best Use of Umbrella: James Marshall VI, “The Price of Growing Up.” Because there is no better use of an umbrella than a makeshift boat for a piskie. Ever.
Best Last Line: Anne Odom, “The Ceremony.” We squirmed our way through this story, then literally laughed out loud when we reached the brilliant last line.
Best Umbrella Line: Craig Anderson, “If Only I’d Known.” Many of the stories made creative use of the umbrella, but we particularly loved the symbolic use of the photo prompt in “If Only I’d Known.”
Most Awesome Use of Second Person: Tamara Shoemaker, “Goodbyes.” The deft use of second person in Goodbyes had several of our editors saying, “Hey, get out of my head!” In a good way.
Great Twist: MT Decker, “At the Edge.” The reading process for “At the Edge” went something like this: Nice. Good day at the beach. Sweet description. Nice sense of longing. Good coming of ag—ACK!!! We love reading experiences like that at Splickety.
Best Reason to Look Up Unfamiliar Mythology: David Shakes, “Seven Tears for a Selkie.” At least one of our Yankee editors had to look up the term “selkie.” After browsing through the basics of this cool bit of mythology, it was a delight to read “Seven Tears for a Selkie,” which makes beautiful use of the fable.
Chris Milam, “The Blinking Sand.” We love the use of descriptive language in “The Blinking Sand: (“seashells that littered the sand became startled eyes in her ailing mind,” “Unseen bodies protected by a granular blanket with orbs of various hues darting around for the visitor sheathed in a lustful cloak”). The sad, poetic words give the reader a sense of Jennifer’s “fractured” mind. We’re not told about the suffering Jennifer experienced. Instead, we’re shown the traumatic events, as if through a veil—just enough to understand what’s happening and why Jennifer seeks refuge among the “panicked eyes.” The story also ends on a hopeful note, as we learn of Jennifer’s new life, “aglow with the color of redemption.”
Nancy Chenier, “Out of the Shallows.” We tend to like stories told from a non-human point of view, and being in Maris’s head was no exception. The twist at the end (“her flimsy fins become wings”) was a compelling one. There was a solid sense of how Maris experienced her world through strong word choices (shatter, harden, gnash, leafy), giving rich texture to an immersive story.
Marie McKay, “Blue World.” Extra-terrestrial alien or disturbed youth? We’re not entirely sure. Either way, we enjoyed crawling into the young man’s head…and we wonder what that says about us. It’s an interesting contrast to show very normal teenage angst (“They say I’m weird,” “their words sting,” “I don’t talk much”), unhealthy but common ways of coping (“I cut little vents in my skin”), and then the outlandish explanation for this young adult’s troubles. Whether the character is an actual alien or not is irrelevant. Any teen who has been ostracized can relate to the need for inclusion in a world beyond our own. The author wisely employs a close first-person point of view that not only keeps us guessing but connects us to the character’s emotional state.
Sarah Cain, “An Ocean between Us.” The bittersweet emotion of “An Ocean between Us” really pulled our heartstrings, reuniting us with our memories of young adulthood and with the emotional rollercoaster that is parenthood. We were expecting a tale of lost romance when the main character is boarding a plane but “Melissa remains behind.” Instead, the author provided us with a twist—the main character is releasing his/her child into the world. “An Ocean between Us” was the only story that showed the coming-of-age process from an outsider’s point of view.
We loved the imagery (“She is a bright grace note in the melancholy symphony playing in my heart”) and the author’s clever use of mundane things (airplane “safety precautions,” the plane “[rumbling] down the runway”) to reflect the emotional tension inside the main character.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Steph Ellis, “The Key.” We felt “The Key” really unlocked the coming of age theme. Eva is transitioning from a world of childhood innocence where red had no place (“colour of blood, of danger”). We understand how sheltered she’s been (“never glimpsed what lay beyond [the wall]” “never seen the moon before”). But the moment she sees the moon, she “understands its call.” The color red takes on new meaning for her, illustrated by the sharp final line: “Red was the thirst to be slaked.” Whether this is the literal thirst of a vampire or werewolf (given the reference to the moon), or the metaphorical thirst of a young woman, we know we like it. Maybe a little too much.
SECOND RUNNER UP
KM Zafari, “Aftermath of Neptune.” “Aftermath of Neptune” is a piece of juxtapositions: happy beach versus nightmarish coastline, whimsical love versus nonsensical death, and the line “destroyed but free.” This line—and the story in general—paints a vivid picture of the cost of freedom. That cost is not only the broken bodies strewn across the beach, but also the main character’s innocence in her brutal, war-tainted coming of age.
We also like the clever reference to Neptune. In addition to being the Roman god of the sea, Neptune is known for his violent, tempestuous character, as well as his power-plays for Jupiter’s position as king of the gods. This is particularly fitting for a story that takes place on a beach but also comments on the ravages of war and tragic loss of innocence.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Sinead O’Hart, “Sunken Treasure.” We really liked this title and the way the author creatively alludes to “sunken treasure” several times throughout the story, both literally and metaphorically (her mother’s feelings, the tin can buried in the backyard, the sinking memory).
We liked the cadence of the story—the way the words rolled like the sea that isn’t actually there in this piece. The metaphorical uses of the umbrella and ocean were a fresh take on the photo prompt.
As in our winning piece, the main character of “Sunken Treasure” displays inner strength to which we’re drawn. We also loved the overtones of forgiveness. Though our main character is moving on and getting out of a bad situation, we still sense her love and empathy for her mother (“[her] eyes blazing with pain,” “I know she loves me,” “I feel her with me,” “my memory-Mama”). And despite her justified resentment of her mother, we get the sense that she would not allow bitterness to take root in her heart.
And now: for her THIRD WIN but first of Year Two (cutting it close!!), it’s Flash! Friday
From the very first line, we sense the main character’s oppression. It’s their sea, their ridiculous umbrella. Our curiosity is piqued and we’re interested to know why she feels so stifled. As we continue through the story, the main character grips us with her strength. While ratcheting up the tension in the previous lines (“it will come for you” “it will find you”), our main character takes her stand (“Good.”). At Splickety, we’re suckers for strong characters, and “Tyranny’s” young lady is no exception. We love the build of the last line—all the angst, frustration, and violence poured out on the main character’s oppressors. But then the story ends on a hopeful note with the word “freedom.”
We liked the clean style that managed to be poetic without dipping into overly flowery territory. The language throughout the story is simple but beautifully employed with the use of strong verbs (grasping, cursing, churning, scream) and vivid imagery (“the desire for change consistently castrated,” “obedient and crushed under the weight of your own humility,” “I shall ride it over their corpses and out of this dead place”).
Due to the skillful use of several different elements, “Tyranny” has emerged as our overall winner. And though it may sound weird to say, we love “Tyranny”! Well done.
Congratulations, Erin! Below is your VERY OWN Year Two winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated and modernized winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
Slowly, I walk into their sea, grasping their ridiculous red umbrella, all the while cursing them under my breath.
I stop, as instructed; a young girl left standing waist deep in the swell of the sea, mind consumed by contempt, stomach churning with impatience.
Here, the expression of outrage is outlawed, the desire for change consistently castrated.
They say this act, this rite of passage, must be passive.
They say if you aren’t contrite, obedient and crushed under the weight of your own humility, it will come for you.
They say if you aren’t sweet, subservient and unspeaking, it will find you.
Casting their umbrella into the sea I scream until my lungs ache and all of the old men have cleared the edge of the beach.
When it arrives I shall mount the terrible beast and with all my bravery, wit and hatred, I shall ride it over their corpses and out of this dead place, towards freedom.