Isn’t winners’ day sooooo much fun?? No matter who’s judging, I love reading your comments on stories, I love seeing which stories stood out for our judges, and seeing winners’ names is as yummy as a fresh Cadbury bar. Grateful to all of you for showing up to write with us & encourage each other. And again, thank you for your critique help on Saturday’s #Pyro. That honest, concrete feedback is gold, lemme tell ya — the story and critical comments are well worth the read.
Don’t forget that coming up this Friday we’re opening up applications for the next round of judges, who’ll kick off Year Four for us in December. Judging is where the fun is; it’s also the most critical part of this contest, and we couldn’t keep going without y’all. Please consider becoming a Dragon Captain! Advance details here.
Many thanks to Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver, for daring to take on the White Whale. They say:
FI: I’m breathless. Something about this prompt called out the poets in you, dear writers. There were so many captivating images of ocean swells, so many moments of levity turned raw with hurricane force, so many brackish life truths that parched my tongue. How is it possible to choose? More than any other judging round, I had to look to the mechanics, the emotion, and meaning behind each. Even if your story isn’t on the winners’ podium, it’s likely etched on the walls of my heart.
HG: I’m not as poetic as my dear partner, and after reading all your masterpieces, I really wanted to go to the beach. As the weather has turned and it’s already getting below 0° (Celsius) at night, that’s not the best idea. I had to settle for a drink on ice while I pondered my choices. It never ceases to amaze how many people with so much talent come together, week after week, to enjoy each other’s work. Righteous.
BEST OPENER IN THE WORLD: Geoff Holme, “Whale Meat Again.” FI: MD 2 txt talk? 2G2BT! UCMU. 🙂
BEST ABSTRACT TAKE – Betsy Streeter, “Coffee Brings Clarity.” FI: A diner, gnat, and reticent admirer born from a Moby Dick prompt. Writer, you have skill.
GREATEST TITLE EVER TITLED: Craig Anderson, “Son of a Beach.” HG: I have officially been tickled.
BEST OBSESSION EVER: Colin D. Smith, “Obsession.” HG: If he finally succeeds at the game, will he then corn-relish his victory?
Michael Wettengel, “Boneyard“
FI: Housed in the bones of a whale – such a powerful metaphor! Crisp, visual-laden sentences plant me firmly on that salty landscape; strong voices turn my head, looking for a weathered father and his incredulous child; purpose, guiding it all to the close, makes “Boneyard” an unforgettable piece of flash.
HG: “That’s what we thought…That there’d always be more.” Here’s an important life lesson. The characters in this story are exactly how I imagine future generations will be. Lovely story with a tragic ending.
F.E. Clark, “Seeking Yesterday“
FI: “Seeking Yesterday” charms and terrifies. Fairytale poeticism masks a darkly relevant theme: mankind chasing immortal youth. How poignant that our princess spends her best days sequestered, pining for what’s passed. This gem stood out for its Brothers Grimm quality and its unique take on the prompt.
HG: I agree that it has a fairy tale vibe, but it also echoes society’s pressures of today, and an obsession with beauty that doesn’t do anyone any good. Every word in this story is important and in a short time, something so important is driven home.
AV Laidlaw, “Memento Mori.”
FI: Here again another flash with ocean’s depths of meaning. I could think of countless evils manifested in the whales’ plight. How we try to right what’s wrong, fail, and agree to move on, never speaking of the bones because we couldn’t affect change. The short, clean structure works well with the narrative style, bringing greater power to those last bitter lines.
HG: The format of the story is what grips me here; the single final line on its own, with so much tragedy wrapped up in such a short sentence. The poor whales.
Caitlin Gramley, “You Can’t Ignore Me.”
FI: I love a left-fielder! The ‘cost of obsession’ was a popular element but “You Can’t Ignore Me” sucks you in, almost convincing you that the voice is inside your skull. The syntax drives that impulse to heart-root, compelling you to get up and check the stove (did I turn it off?), or the lock (maybe I only thought I turned it). For me, it resurrected dead memories of compulsive prayers whispered in the dark, never good enough for the ears of God. Absolutely gripping, friend.
HG: You…wow…Whether or not it was the writer’s intent, this story captures the essence of Obsessive Compulsive disorder. I had to take a moment after I read this one, it strikes so close to home. Beautifully done.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Eliza Archer, “She, An Island”
FI: That second line gives it all away and yet somehow we don’t see it until the fourth paragraph. Genius use of both the island and whale elements; neither felt strained. The whole piece leaves me yearning to know her backstory and yet afraid of what that glimpse might reveal. She sees the whale as benevolent but is he…? Was the man behind this manifestation responsible for her plight? We’re left to wonder.
HG: Beautiful imagery conceals the tragic twist of the ending, and makes you wish for Anne’s better island. Few words hint at something deeper, like the ocean, and the revelation that perhaps she’s only there in her mind is heartbreaking.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Nancy Chenier, “And the Whale”
FI: Such a slow and careful unfolding! We see colors, hear songs, and feel the meaning in each before it is all given in that final line — even the title must be read through it. Each sentence is strong but the one I love the best is, “Megs wears levity like water wings, but what good are inflatable cuffs against a hurricane?” Their dichotomy couldn’t be drawn any sharper: the unquenchable hope of the mother and the tidal wave of fear drowning the father. A heart-bursting fiction that bleeds like reality.
HG: Adorable, sad…it has everything. I’m not sure how the almost-dad pictured the sea monster, but I’ve got a kind of stork/kraken hybrid in mind. The island and whale metaphors are consistently sweet (and great use of the Jaws theme).
FIRST RUNNER UP
Mark A. King, “The Mighty Whale That Skims the Apocalyptic Skies.”
FI: Moby Dick goes Steam Punk? Yes, please! Not only did you recreate the original theme in a fantastically unheard of setting, you turned your spyglass on that symbiotic dance every good antagonist and protagonist must perform. What is one without the other? Gorgeous language, strong world building, and perfectly paired bookends. I only wish this weren’t flash, but a fully developed novel in which to lose myself.
HG: I second the novel notion, consider me second in line when this is out for sale. I love the idea of the sky-whale (nightmarish memories of D&D notwithstanding) and the “vermillion-stained apocalyptic skies.” The title is huge for such a short story – and the story doesn’t disappoint with its scale. Awesome.
And now: for his perfectly gorgeous third win, it’s this week’s
Mark A. King!!!
“The Framework Bird and the Ringing Singing Tree”
FI: Dear Writer, you’ve chopped into my chest cavity and tapped my lifeblood. Women who feel unwanted or unworthy will always have a refuge in my heart, and you’ve given us such a devastating portrait of this all-too common reality. I adored how you weaved in the “ringing, singing tree” (though its name is flipped), and I thought it worked well either as a reference to the musical panopticon or as a nod to the German tale “Das Singende, Klingende Bäumchen.” Your story arch is tangible and encouraging; we watched her travel from self-loathing to self-acceptance beneath that odd, metal tree. Your words are poetry and the message so fitting in today’s airbrushed society. Here’s to hoping that all the beautiful framework birds come to love what they see as unbeautiful.
HG: Ah, if only this was a feeling with which so many of us did not have to be familiar…In poetic verse you have captured sadness and hope. “In the winds and rain, she is accepted.” Isn’t that the truth? I can’t find the words to express the feelings this has awoken in me. A strong, clear winner, and a beautiful story.
Congratulations, Mark! Sheesh, after you won once, it would seem there’s no stopping you! Congratulations! Your winner’s page has a fresh coat of dragonpaint; your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Stand by for scintillating questions for your newest #SixtySeconds interview. And now here’s your ringing singing winning story:
The Framework Bird and the Ringing Singing Tree
She is but a jumble of blunt shapes encased in scrawny skin.
She is a framework bird.
In her stomach, the emptiness of self-loathing. In her mouth, the tang of acid reflux, the sour aftertaste of self-induced sickness.
She walks away from the whisperers. The airbrushed magazines. The imperfect reflections that stalk her.
She hops in the swaying heathland. Treads the foothills of stubble fields. Flitters beneath skies of wonder and fear.
She sits beneath the Ringing Singing Tree. Warped trunk and jutting boughs, its canopy holding up the sky. Its metallic tubes howl in the crosswinds, and ping in the pitter-patter rains.
In the winds and rain, she is accepted.
Beneath the Ringing Singing Tree is where the framework bird heals her wings.