Archive | April 2015

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 20: WINNERS

Can you believe April’s nearly finished?? I thought it was a nasty rumor (oops, sorry, Stella; rumour), but I’ve checked it out and APPARENTLY our very next round of FF will be May 1. Oh the humanity! 

Love, love, LOVE, by the way, the new judge apps that have roared their way in. What a phenomenal season this next one’s going to be! I’m dancing giddy! If you’re interested in joining the ranks of dragon captains this next round (starts in mid-June) but have questions/fears, please email me here, or DM me on Twitter, or message me on Facebook, and let’s chat about it! More details here.

Coming up TOMORROW: I’m so excited, somebody STOP ME — no, forget that. Everybody JOIN ME!!!! Our own four-time FF dragon champ Betsy Streeter has a REAL, OFFICIAL, AWESOME YA NOVEL OUT! It’s called Silverwood, and guess who got to interview her about it, huh?? And guess who’s giving away a SIGNED COPY to a commenter???? 

Lots of Ring of Fire badges to hand out too; look for those in the next day or two. But first up, RESULTS, PEOPLE!

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Dragon Captains Pratibha/Sinéad O’Hart say

Sinéad: This week’s tales conjured up visions of outer space and interplanetary travel, memories of war, deeply-buried secrets and betrayals, fractured marriages and unrequited love. What a feast! Just what I’d expect from the Flash! Friday crew. The choices this time around, as always, involved lots of thought and consideration, debate and compromise, but I hope they reward not only the best stories, but also showcase the breadth of imagination which went into their creation. Thanks, everyone!

Pratibha: Amazing work everyone! Finding a winning story from among so many well-crafted stories is an arduous task. I look forward to reading the stories, but picking a winner is something I dread. But rules call for a winner, and so it goes. I hope the winning stories reflect a good cross section of the diverse talent on display here. I can’t emphasize the importance of re-reading the stories over and over. Many stories come close, but in the end the judges have to do some fine hair-splitting to settle on the final results. I want to congratulate every one of you on your creativity and storytelling talent. Bravo!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Humour: Phil Coltrane, “Variable Resistor.” 

Sinéad: Tongue-in-cheek humour, an excellent set-up, a wonderfully described story, and a great idea, this one had me giggling for a long time after I read it. Fantastic work, and excellent use of the prompts.

Pratibha: I laughed out loud at the end. The naughty tone was obvious from the beginning, but still the ending delivers the strong punch. Well done!

For Setting(s): Nancy Chenier, In the Playground of Time.” 

Sinéad: I thought this tale was memorable for its SF tones and its imaginative take on the prompt. I loved all the places – and times – this tiny tale brings us to, and the father-daughter conflict which is at once so exotic, and so true.

Pratibha: I loved this creative take on the prompt, a father searching for his daughter through different ages and places. The language is crisp and moves the narrative smoothly without distractions.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Foy S. Iver, “The Ides of Márciusi.” 

Sinéad: I liked this one for its funny, punning title – and for its description of the sound of Hungarian! To me, it sounds like the distant galloping of horses, but mice drowning in champagne made me giggle. I also liked the Sheldon Cooper detail and the overall snarky tone of the story.

Pratibha: I loved the strong character descriptions. The conflict between an adolescent boy and a man as rivals vying for the attention of the young girl is interesting. I also loved the interesting way the prompt was weaved into the story.

Colin Smith, “Dinner Party.” 

Sinéad: I loved this story’s perspective, and its whole setup, and the cleverness of the author who can create a story out of prompts like these which involves aliens in human disguise and the imminent destruction of the human race. My hat is off to you!

Pratibha: They say fiction writers hold a mirror to the society. The writer of this story has accomplished this skillfully by showing the bitter truth about humanity in just a few words. The surprise at the end will shock you.

Elizabeth, Watercolour.” 

Sinéad: A story which skilfully reflects, in its title, the effects it creates through its words. Layered, delicate, gentle, beautiful – on the surface, at least – this story has depths of pain and betrayal which make wonderful use of the prompts. As accomplished as any watercolour painting.

Pratibha: I liked the way the conflict between the two men is portrayed using the metaphors of colored paintings, oil and watercolor. The relationship between the unfaithful wife and the husband is cleverly conveyed through the short bursts of phrases.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “A Brother’s Love.” 

Sinéad: Two types of heroism, held up in contrast to one another, make this a powerful piece. I was struck by the contrast between the six-year-old’s wide, innocent eyes and the older woman’s quiet suffering and the burden of her secret, as well as the painful recounting of the horrors of war. This story takes the simplest interpretation of the prompt image, but makes something exceptional out of it.

Pratibha: I loved this for its vivid portrayal of a compassionate human story. The ending delivers a gentle surprise, and it is believable. The story unfolds through crisp and clear dialogue. I loved the strong characterization and the straightforward way the complexity of human choices is presented.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Betsy Streeter, “The Verdict.”

Sinéad: There were lots of stories about thwarted love, and love rivals, this week, but I thought this one was different, touching, and very well written. I loved the use of dialogue and the mention of ‘first grade’, which was poignant, but I particularly loved the closing line – ‘Sam looks after her, then glances at Bobby, who looks down’ – which says everything in very few words.

Pratibha: The original take on the prompt intrigued me. I also loved how cleverly the dialogue moves the story forward. I simply loved clever and ever so subtle ending.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mimi, “Let Me Show You Lonely.”

Sinéad: Another story with an incredible perspective, we experience the shattering effect of a long-hidden pain on a marriage struggling to survive. I loved the fact that a story like this could take shape in the author’s mind from the prompts given, and I thought the details of the husband’s hands recalling the strangling hands of ‘the much younger man’ and the closing line about replacing the mask were particularly effective.

Pratibha: The author deals with a sensitive subject and creates an incredible portrait of the struggle of a woman who is scarred by a traumatic event from her younger days. The caring husband must face the ghost of ‘the much younger man.’ This was an interesting conflict. The portrayal of the strong and believable characters who deal with a complex issue put this story high up on my list.

And now: for her 3rd time, it’s the fabulously talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

“Keeping It All Together”

Sinéad: As well as being a moving story, this entry had a unique perspective on the picture prompt which struck both Pratibha and I as being memorable. The tale is well constructed and immersive, dropping the reader straight into the heart of the conflict at the story’s core – that between a son and his father – through using powerful, sensory images like the mouthwash-tinged breath of a drunkard, and the sugary taste of cereal for dinner. I loved the detail of the children’s mother’s ordered life being ‘cultivated like an orchid garden’, and of her tears ‘soddening’ the table cloth. The pain at the story’s end is clear, and the stage is set for further upheaval. A great piece of flash.

Pratibha: Instead of dwelling on the obvious, the writer honed on the small detail of the image, the embrace, and weaved a moving and compelling story. The jaded voice of a man, who was neglected and perhaps emotionally abused, comes through clearly. The story is told as a series of memories and with the convincing details. Strong characterization of all four characters weaves the narrative as a cohesive piece. I love this piece for its vivid portrayal of too common a story. 

Congratulations, Nancy! Here’s your uber-fancy dragon winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox with interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature, your THIRD! And now, here is your winning story:

Keeping It All Together

Of course I remember you. Like wind blasting my face. I death-gripped the handlebars, danger crawling up my knees into my stomach. Maddy’s shrieking laughter from the crossbar. Don’t fall! Don’t fall! The funny mouthwash smell that rolled off your panting breaths.

Of course I remember you. Like sugar dissolving in my mouth. The cereals you doled out for dinner. The kind Mother never let us eat. The cotton-candy carnival hours for Maddy and I while you disappeared into the raucous laughter of the pub. The delirious slyness of shared secrets—a relief from the order that mother cultivated like her orchid garden.

Of course Maddy forgives you, flings herself into your arms as if she’s still that ten-year-old you left behind. She thrust all the pain on Mother. I did too, until I stumbled upon Mother soddening the lace tablecloth with a sorrow she’d never let us see, a secret more terrifying than wobbling on a drunk’s handlebars. Five-year-old hands can’t salvage a wrecked heart.

So forgive me if I don’t fling myself into your arms. Who’s Maddy going to blame when it’s down to her and you? Even at fifty, I don’t think I can pick up after another of your wreckages.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 20

WELCOME BACK (or welcome for the first time, ya beautiful newbies)! It’s yet another week of yumminess here at the dragons’ lair. First announcement: look for our second Flash Dash contest on Saturday May 2 at 10am Washington, DC time. The Flash Dash contest is crazy quick: you’ll only have until 10:30am to post your story. Yep: just thirty minutes! Up for grabs: a Flash! Friday logo coffee mug and oh, let’s say $25 just cuz. I’ll try to remind y’all a LOT this next week. 

And just as exciting:

>>>JUDGE APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN!!!!<<<

I’m already amazed by the quality of applications so far. In the mood to go behind the scenes at the Flash! Friday party??  The application deadline is May 8; the newest judging party starts mid-June. Details here.

WALL OF FLAME: Have you participated at FF three times this month? Details regarding how to earn the rights to the very spiffy Ring of Fire badge, as well as the names of our current fabulous badge holders, can be found here.

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DC2Judging today is Dragon Team Four: Captains Sinéad O’Hart & Pratibha (and by the way, if you haven’t feasted your dragon eyes on Pratibha’s new venture The Literary Nest, please be sure to do so!). Speaking of feasting, you’ll be unsurprised to hear I caught them in the middle of a jumbo marshmallow war (again!); if I hadn’t intervened, who knows what state our world might be at this moment. As for your stories: they both love fleshed-out characters, which fits beautifully with this week’s required story element. And since I’ve confiscated the marshmallows, they’re likely already licking their lips, eager to bite into your stories.    

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

Now let’s write!

* Word count: Write a 200-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title/byline) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

AND HERE IS YOUR TWO-PART PROMPT:

(1) Required story element (this week: conflict. If you want your story to be eligible for an award, the below conflict must be your story’s primary one. Note: this is the traditional description and is NOT gender-specific.) 

manvman

 

(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

 

Scene from the Hungarian film "Márciusi mese," released in 1934. Public domain image.

Scene from the Hungarian film “Márciusi mese,” released in 1934. Public domain image.

Sixty Seconds III with: Chris Milam

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Chris Milam.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD THIRD win at Flash! Friday (woot!). Read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews as well as his bio here. Then take another minute or two to get to know him better below. (Note that three-time winners are never held to the word count rule. Chat away, Chris!)

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?  Nothing revelatory with the kitchen prompt, to be honest. I instantly saw a mother and son at breakfast. I wrote the first paragraph without having any idea how to include the prisoner picture. As the story unfolded, I knew a tale of hardship steeped in love and tragedy needed a father character of some sort. The story wrote itself after that.

2) You’ve been writing for FF a good while now. How has your approach to the prompts changed since you started? I think I approach the prompts in a less literal way. Not always the case, depends on the prompt, but I always try and do something a bit different. I usually know where a high percentage of writers will go with their stories and I focus on taking a less-traveled route. In a contest, it’s important to write a story that doesn’t mirror the vibe and thoughts of others. Originality is always the goal, and one I fail at often.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing? Writing flash fiction has certainly helped with poetry. Brevity is the key to both, and the process of condensing and excising unnecessary words applies to poetry as well. On the rare occasion when I write an essay, flash fiction can be found all over the page. Usually it’s a smear of overly-descriptive prose, a bad habit of mine, that reveals itself. Poetry, flash and nonfiction all aim to impact the reader in an emotional way. It’s the duty of words, a plunging of the reader’s mind with a profound precision.

4) In your first interview, you said you were writing a “surreal fairy tale” for your daughter. How’s that going? What are you working on these days? Well, the story for my daughter is currently languishing in my documents. It’s more laborious writing a children’s tale than I ever imagined. Hopefully, I’ll return to that story and create some magic. Time will tell. I’m currently focused on the #FlashDogs anthology. I have the rough draft of one story completed, and I’ve written the first couple of paragraphs of a second story. I’m not pleased with either one. A bit pedestrian. Plenty of time to fix them, though. And I will.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites? I don’t enter the weekly contests as often as I used to but a few I enjoy are: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and Angry Hourglass. Also, I’m always lurking on the sites of various online magazines and journals. Always reading. Always learning.

6) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet? To new writers: just write. That’s all you can do. Take those strange thoughts in your head and spill them across the digital vellum. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all do. But you can’t fail or succeed if you don’t write. Take a chance. Push the envelope. Create. Write. Have fun.

For the seasoned folks who haven’t won FF? It’s all subjective. Keep writing. Keep entering. I know some of the people who haven’t won. I’ve read their stories. I’ve seen their talent. Don’t let not winning yet define you. It shouldn’t. It doesn’t. Believe in your ability to work the word and keep plugging away. A crown isn’t required to be known as a fabulous writer. 

7) Tell us something about your writing life. How often do you get to write, and how do you balance writing and responsibilities?  I usually have an adequate amount of time to write; balance isn’t a major issue. My problem, at times, is motivation and self-doubt. I can easily slip into a lazy, negative mindset which isn’t conducive to writing. I’ll question my abilities, my reasons for writing and what the whole point of flash fiction is, when I’m in a dark mood. I’m always engaged in a bloody battle with my demons. It’s exhausting. Good times.

8) What’s your writing process like? When I write, it’s all about coffee, solitude and music. And doubt. I tend to take a break from a story and pace the floors like a madman. Back and forth. Yelling at myself. Sometimes out loud. Then more coffee, more words. More pacing. Look at Twitter. Fill a jar with teardrops. More coffee etc.

9) What are your biggest writerly pet peeves? I’m not a big fan of cheeky, goofball humor in a story. It’s an arduous endeavor for even the best of writers. Sometimes, a story that is all inner-monologue can be a pet peeve of sorts. I’m guilty of this one quite often. I prefer movement in a story, not just a writer’s thoughts. The whole “Show don’t tell” applies here. Twist endings can be a turnoff, at times, when not done properly. If the entire story is uprooted by an implausible turn of events at the end, it’s a waste of the reader’s time.

10) Final thoughts? Shout-outs are in order for the folks doing all the heavy lifting for the #FlashDogs anthology: Mark King, David Shakes, Tamara Rogers, and Emily June Street. Not only are they putting this massive project together, but they’re also extremely talented writers and kind human beings. I applaud them.

Quite a few writers have truly inspired me and I’ve learned a great deal from reading their work. Whether I’ve long been a fan or they’ve written something recently that caught my eye, these folks deserve a mention: Grace Black, Jacki Donnellan, Voima Oy, David Borrowdale, Carlos Orozco, Marie McKay, Steph Ellis, Foy Iver, Tamara Shoemaker, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam. You guys can sling the prose. And to be honest, I could’ve named any #FlashDog here. Every single one of you continues to astound and inspire me.