Tag Archive | Allison Garcia

Fire&Ice Sol 6/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Mondays are one of our favorite days here at Fire&Ice. It means a new, shimmering Sol 7 winner’s crown to forge for you, and the bestowing of Sol 6’s, with all the feasting and hymns and resplendence in your honor! In our most recent Flash! Future follow up, we shared an interview on trauma and empowerment with the immortal Toni Morrison, and in it she speaks to how she honors her characters by revealing them as they are: “complicated, interesting, mysterious people,” not larger than life, but rather as large as life itself. This is how I see our little community; each of us brings our own beauty, our own complexity. For enriching our lives with your words and presence, we thank you!

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 6’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter: Boy oh boy do the writers have things on your minds this week! This felt like a bit of a therapy session. And the vividness of the various “commutes,” after months and months of lockdown — it’s such a strange double life we lead now, memory plus current state plus hope to regain what’s in the memory… all at once. Seems like the prompt being a train, something we maybe can’t/don’t access – or if we do it feels like a gauntlet – really set off some things.

As a cartoonist, I’m on this endless quest for the lyrical line and the turn of phrase, and I so admire the various ways little worlds shine through with each story. I especially enjoyed Mark A. King‘s “The Driver/The Loop” and its hopeful phrase, “with every loop, there is a chance of a new beginning.” Like Nicola Liu in Untitled,” I too have wondered if goo on the floor of the train is some form of life making First Contact. MJ Bush‘s “Bea Yourself” was a great portrayal of being on public transit with a kid. Dr Magoo‘s [Note: Eric Martell!] “Riding the Red Line Into Heaven” just opens right up at the end in such a lovely way. Pippa Phillips‘ “Root and Thread” went a WHOLE other place with the prompt, which I always admire. And Phil Coltrane‘s “To Get To The Other” is a terrific example of world-building through narration, with “So glad they don’t have six legs like me.”

Karl A. Russell: So, my first pan-global judging session brought a wealth of wonderful short pieces. It’s great to see so many of you returning every week, and I’m pretty sure that I recognised some of your distinctive voices coming through loud and clear. That feeling of recognition – of being amongst friends – is one of the finest things about the return of Flash! Friday and it’s one more reason why I’ll keep coming back for these few precious weeks. Once these comments have winged their way to our fabulous hosts, I’ll be heading over to see if my suspicions were correct…

But first, we have some winners for you. It was very pleasing (and a huge relief!) to find that Betsy came to the same conclusions as I did, but there were so many great stories along the way that I have to mention. I loved the bleak despair of Chris Milam‘s “Goodbye,” the rhythmic language of Becky Spence‘s”Beneath” and the startlingly surreal lobster of Voima Oy‘s “Rush Hour Afternoon.” The visual playfulness of Mark A. King‘s “The Driver | The Loop” was another stand out, and the cynicism of Allison Garcia‘s “Essential?” cut so close to home right now.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

First Visit by Tinman

BS: Perhaps because I’ve recently gone through this process with the loss of a lifelong family friend, whose presence just keeps popping in and out of my consciousness, this writer’s description of that strange, disorienting, in-between place of grieving really struck me. Well done.

KR: A meditation on loss and finding yourself newly alone, with the absence of dad’s dad-jokes keenly felt and cleanly detailed.

RUNNER UP

Untitled  by Helen Laycock

BS: I loved seeing all the ways writers played with point of view with this prompt, and this one felt uniquely special. So much character and story contained within, and the ending is just sublime and heart-level.

KR: Taking the low-level photo prompt and staying there, this story gave us a shoe’s-eye view of the daily commute. Some fun, well-written observations (and a lovely soul/sole pun) helped this one reach the podium, and those final lines sealed the deal. Sad and stunning.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

PEG STUEBER!!!

for

Untitled

(“Our lives, are measured, in clicks”)

BS – I found this one compelling right away. First, the use of the social media language as this “world” everyone is inhabiting, together yet alone – the use of “click” and “fwoop” and even “/endrant” which took the language one step further into the Reddit/radicalization space. Using so few words to sketch all these realities, again right next to each other yet isolated, and then the lurch into the dark and deadly side of this out-of-control technology – so timely, and also multi-dimensional. Really great.

KR — This stood out from my very first read through. The snapshots of different worlds, all the lives about to come to a crashing halt, made it feel so much bigger than the 93 word count, and despite the brevity, each of those lives felt distinct and real. The prompt was cleverly integrated, and the repeated “click….click…” mirrored the motion of the train and gave the writer an easy way to hit the word count without massive rewrites. Best of all, that sudden lurch into a very real horror at the end reminds you that you never know what your fellow commuters are going through… 

Congratulations, Peg! Here’s your winning story:

UNTITLED

Our lives, are measured, in clicks.

ClickClick…clack. ClickClick…clack. Staccato heartbeat of the train.

Click…click…click…click. “What’s for dinner?” “IDK, Mexican?” “Thumbs up emoji.”

Click. ClickClickClick. Click…fwoop…click. “I swear, these PEOPLE.”

Snap. Fwoop. Click..clickClick……click..click..click. Fwoop. “Found this cute rubber duck on the train. r/hiddenducks #awesome #HideandSeek”

ClickClickClick. Click. Click. Loud sniff. Click. “OMG, I can’t believe…with HER???” “How?” “You bastard, it’s OVER!”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. ClickClick…clack. ClickClick…clack. Click. “As our needs have not been met, and our voices go unheard, perhaps now they will listen. This blood is on your hands, President.”

BOOM.

/endrant

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 31: WINNERS

HAAAAAAPPY Monday! A pleasure to see you back here for the medal party! Always exciting times here, finding out which stories struck our noble judges’ fancies this past round. And what a round it was! I’m STILL giggling from Brian Creek‘s “Chuck’s Five” with Chuck, Fat August, Indigo, Teller, and Pepper. (That’s Charlie, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, and Veruca Salt in brilliant parodic form, of course), Geoff Holme‘s “Ian, Diana, Jonas and the Lost Dark,” and former dragon captain Eric Martell‘s untitled dialect piece (“‘e’s wonky, ‘e is”).  And clever J.M. gave us hungry adolescent dragons (!) with a craving for patricide in “It Will Change Your Life.” … And goodness, Clive Tern‘s richly dark twist on a ticket winner’s motivations (“I’m gonna mash their smug faces in, and win”), and Marie McKay‘s vivid take on synesthesia, both still follow me. 

Also loved srof2eeing bunches of new writers join us this week — and beloved old writers stop by (here’s looking at you, Karl Russell & Allison Garcia!). Reminder to all regulars, and those about-to-be-regulars (because we all know, SIGH, just how addictive the #flashfiction circuit is!) — don’t forget to track your participation here at Flash! Friday: if you write stories at least three Fridays in a month, your name can go up on the Wall of Flame. Each month you’re on the WoF nabs you a chance at the jackpot of prizes at year’s end. Details here!

{{Note: quick housekeeping reminder that parodies and derivatives of public domain stories (e.g. fairy tales) are allowed, but otherwise please use your own characters & world when telling stories; writing with copyrighted characters could get us all in a heap o’ trouble. Thanks for your cooperation!}}      

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Judging for us this round was Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis & Josh Bertetta. Wish I could’ve heard some of those arguments! Though they didn’t send out for emergency bandages or chocolates, so perhaps we’re still all right…?? Thanks to both of you for your time & thoughts this week! Here’s what they have to say:

A real confection of wonderful tale-telling was tossed at our feet this weekend in honour of one of the greatest children’s books ever.  For a first-time judge in this dragon’s lair, this was a nerve-wracking event but one I thoroughly enjoyed.  It feels strange that I haven’t been part of Flash! Friday for a year yet, but here I am judging.  When I first discovered this site, I was somewhat overawed by the sheer quality of the writing – and, I must confess – I still am.  But the comments have always been kind and supportive and this has driven me on to try harder every week and I hope that those who are new to this site will find this true for them.  I have a reputation for darkness but your tales don’t have to involve blood and guts, they just have to be good stories.  And they were.

A big thank you also needs to go out to Deborah Foy and my [Steph’s] lovely (insomniac) daughter Bethan for ensuring that Josh and I received our entries ‘blind’.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Title: Geoff HolmeIan, Diana, Jonas, and the Lost Dark.” SE: Oh that wonderful title, and the sinister Germanic overtones which only serve to heighten the humour.  Mönions for Minions in particular was a brainwave.  Wonderful. JB: A wonderful use of dialogue to build tension—so much so that the action is quite incidental to the story. I read it as a parable about corporate exploitation of childhood hopes and dreams.

Best Use of Song: Mark A. KingSweet Muzak.” SE: For song-inspired writing, titles cleverly woven together to seamlessly form a story.  Bonus points for including one of my favourite U2 songs.  Lyrically lovely. JB: A delightful incorporation of numerous pop-culture references. I feel like I am on one a quiz show: can you name them all?

Best Homage: Mark Morris, “Wonkered.” SE: A true homage to Dahl, from character names to the idea of a moral delivered in a uniquely dark manner; the children literally are what they eat.  Terrific homage to a great author. JB: Tragic and ironic, here we have three human ourobori (or is it ouroboruses?) whose desire blinds them from the glaringly obvious.

Most Poignant: Allison Garcia, “Hershey’s Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate Woooorld.” SE: They say there is nothing greater than a parent’s love for a child and this story provides a perfect example, deflecting awkward questions in order to protect their son from harsh reality.  Delicate writing.  JB: A poignant expression of the suffering a parent holds deep in his/her breast to shield his/her child.

Best Huggable Programming: Phil Coltrane, “Manufactured Peace.” SE: Everything about Paxbot is programmed, from his emotive subroutines to his neural circuitry.  But Paxbot is more than code.  He has a sense of self-belief, he ‘yearns’ like a human to become called a child of God. I want to give Paxbot a hug. JB: One heck of an interpretation of the prompt, here is the story of a robot, who through programming is able to bring to humanity what it has long yearned. And still, there is something missing…

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Shakes, “I Don’t Like the Sound of That.” 

SE: Usually we are fed horrific stories about the dental health of the poor, whilst newsfeeds and pictures reinforce the perfect smiles of the wealthy.  However this norm is inverted in Charlie’s world, the ability to afford sweets being the privilege of the wealthy, as, bizarrely, is the resulting tooth decay.  The children of the rich go round happily displaying ‘gap toothed grins and bleeding gums’ because it shows their status; unlike Charlie who keeps his mouth firmly closed to prevent anyone noticing his poverty.  Pride is truly a strange creature.  A nice twist but a sad commentary.

JB: A terrific story of reversals of expectation symbolized in the teeth of the poor kids and the rich kids where the impoverished would rather hide his straight teeth than reveal his poverty. So desperately wanting to fit in, he would rather keep a straight face than smile; he can’t just be a kid in a candy store.

Craig Anderson, “‘What Goes Around.”

SE: Sympathies are immediately raised in the opening sentence with a reference to ‘the crippled kid’ but ‘He really looks the part’ is a telling sentence, cluing you in that all is probably not what it seems.  The tragedy is that the boy does become what he pretends to be when he gets run over, by, ironically, an ambulance.  The last sentence reveals the humanity of the other hustler, he can ‘no longer confront the kid in the wheelchair’, because this time the boy is truly a deserving cause.  Karma in action.

JB: Oh that karma is, a…well, you can fill in the blank, and what happens to the kid in the wheelchair is indeed tragic. I can only wonder—karma being karma—what, in addition to his own guilt, lies in store for the protagonist.

Clive Tern, “It’s All About Winning.”

SE: This is a story about someone prepared to grab hold of any and every chance he gets.  He looks down on those whose ‘mental arms are too short to grab the chances that flutter past their tiny little existences’.  They are not worthy, he however will grab a chance and wring out every benefit, even if it reduces others to tears, even if he has to offer violence.  Winning is all.  Winning is everything.  Well done.

JB: Oh, our competitive, dog-eat-dog society where those who lack the vision miss their golden opportunities (or in this case, tickets), while others, like this story’s protagonist (is he really?) has enough vision to see his opportunity—in this case, theft. You have to do what you have to do, after all, to get ahead — for ours is a society that loves its winners.

 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jeff Stickler,Six.” 

SE: A life taken over by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is no life at all.  This is the tragic conclusion that our character comes to as he struggles through yet another day where every action has to be performed six times.  Nights give him no respite, insomnia strikes as he dreads ‘another day of sixes’.  It all becomes too much and he does not count out his medication for the simple reason he has swallowed them all, there will be no more days of sixes, no more days at all.  Desperation has driven him to seek a tragic respite.  Thoughtful, though ultimately grim, description of a tortured soul.

JB: Painful to read, but exquisite to do so over and over again. Perhaps I read it six times. Here is the story of — what most would call — an individual with mental illness, the harsh reality of mental illness and the extreme measures some will go. I sense an element of social commentary here, which I appreciate, for this individual lives in dire financial circumstances and I, as the reader, in filling in the gaps in the story, wonder if his poverty prevents him from getting the help he needs, feeling, in the end, there is only one way out.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The Troll ‘Neath the Towers.” 

SE: In the daytime our troll is a normal person, smiling, charming, a pleasure to know but … in his home he becomes something else, hiding behind ‘proxy servers, fake identities and cloud accounts’.  Every day he casts his net to catch, latch, onto anyone who has suffered, anyone who has any ideas or beliefs, anyone at all that he feels he can abuse and insult in any way, inflict pain in more than fifty shades, delighting in the hashtag #AskELJames.  He is addicted and he knows it, pain ‘calls him like Meth’, soothes his dreams, keeps him content.  Even in his poverty, he is the kid in the sweet shop and you would never know him, he could be sat next to you now.  Definitely a tale for our times.

JB: Upon reading the title, I figured I would be reading about those good old trolls of folklore and myth, but reading—pleasantly (or perhaps unpleasantly) surprised, I read a story not about those trolls with which I am well familiar, but trolls much more sinister, those who hide in the cyber sphere. Here is an individual full of hate, seemingly choosing anyone and everyone, firing “insults at both sides” who, despite his apparent poverty spends “all his riches” on technology to spread his malice, malice born of pain, and for whom trolling the internet is an almost cathartic experience.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Foy S. Iver, “Dr. C’s Freak Show.” 

SE: The poor girl has paid the price of youthful folly but it is wonderful to see how much hope she has for her premature baby and her desire for a future full of life.  She stands up to the midwife with her ‘righteous scorn’ whose God is a harsh God, subverting the message about loving all regardless of who/what they are.  There is no love or compassion in this midwife’s God, there is actually more in the girl herself, young though she is.  Her baby with its ‘fighting heart’ deserves a chance and she’s determined to give it her.  Tragic and inspirational at the same time.

JB: A surreal, carnivalesque, almost (in my mind) sci-fi, juxtaposition of a mother’s love for her child, her fight for her child matched by the baby’s own fighting heart. This in the context of a mid-wife who, despite claiming “God’s will is perfect,” condemns the young mother with her self-righteous indignation. Here is a woman with eyes of granite, who would rather fight over the baby—all two pounds of her—than act with compassion for arguably that which is most fragile in the world whereas the young mother, though she has nothing, relies on God’s help rather than resting upon dogmatic principles as does the midwife.

And now: welcome and whoop and holler for first-time

DRAGON WINNER

SYDNEY SCROGHAM!!!

for

The Choice

SE: Opening with the line “I’m no good for you”, you almost expect the rest of the story to be doom, gloom and disaster.  And yes there is some of that, but it is also an uplifting tale of the power of love to overcome all suffering.  Between this first line and the last the woman reminds herself why she is with him.  There is extreme hardship and poverty with their ‘shack outside the city’, the ‘dumpster diving for food’ and ‘stealing ibuprofen so our kid didn’t die from fever’ but she does not dwell on that as he speaks.  She shoulders those burdens willingly, accepts them because he is her soulmate, if she had not chosen him her ‘soul would wither away’ and that is something she could not bear – everything else pales into insignificance.  And in all this, her ‘poor boy from downtown’ understands the sacrifices she has made, recognises that she’s ‘the best thing to ever happen’ to him.  Fluent writing that tugs at the emotions.

JB: “The Choice” is a story of expectation, disappointment, relationship, love, economics, heartbreak — all in one of this week’s shortest (if not the shortest) stories. Here is a man feeling unsure of himself, his esteem and sense of worth rooted in his sense of poverty while his partner — through whose thoughts the reader learns of their dire situation — makes her choice based on feeling rather than reason. Love, the narrator lets the reader know, is, for all intents and purposes, irrational and when it comes to love such as this — a soul-love — there is really no choice at all. Chalk full of gut-wrenching images of poverty, “The Choice” reminds me of the times when things seem dire and there is a loss of hope, when love is in the heart, thinking and “common sense” are secondary.

Congratulations, Sydney! Here’s your brand new (DON’T SIT DOWN, PAINT’S STILL WET!) winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. On a personal note, it’s a pleasure to see another one of my own magnificent Shenandoah Valley Writers on that wall!!! (Note for anyone who’s suspicious; judging is blind and done by the dragon captains, not me.) Sydney, please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature! And now, here’s your winning story:

The Choice

“I’m no good for you.”

When he said that to me, I wasn’t thinking about living in a shack outside the city, dumpster diving for food, or stealing ibuprophen so our kid didn’t die from fever. I wasn’t thinking about torn jackets, sockless toes, or begging for a few laundromat coins.

I was thinking about how my soul would wither away if we really said good-bye right now.

I choose this lifestyle because I choose him. Every day. I open my eyes and the one poor boy from downtown stirs beside me, turns over, and whispers in my ear.

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

FFwinner-Web

Sixty Seconds III with: Deb Foy

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 Deb Foy (again)Read her winning story here. Note that this is her THIRD win (knock our socks off, Deb!!!) — read her first #SixtySeconds interview (from Jan 21) here and second one (from last week) here. Then take another bit of time (no word count limits for three-timers!) to get to know her better yet below.

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece? You definitely went outside the box.  This was one of those prompts where I didn’t connect at all with the picture. When that happens, I check the corners. There’s a house. Okay, what could be going on inside the house? For several weeks, I’ve had a story slow-cooking for The Molotov CocktailFlash Fools” contest. The story was highly seasoned with images from the Mirel Wagner’s “No Death.” I decided to give Flash! Friday my story rather than MC, which meant a lot of chopping! Eventually, two women formed inside those log and mortar walls, two women with a history and a shared aspiration.

2) What do you like about flash as opposed to working on longer projects? Has writing flash helped you with other aspects of your writing? if so, in what ways? Absolutely! Flash fiction has taught me it is okay to wax eloquent, to use odd images. My chica Lauren Akers and I bemoan the fear of sounding pretentious or like John Milton wannabes. Flash has given me permission to relax and realize the way I write is not a gimmick. It’s my voice.

3) Has your flash fiction or approach to flash changed since you started in October? It’s done a 180. I want to disown my first flash pieces (sorry, Loves!) because they couldn’t have found their way out of a wall-less box if dark chocolate waited, wrappers open, within reach. Now, I let my mind jump to other places or run to forgotten memories, and once the story is built, I weave webs back into the prompts.

4) What advice would you give writers who are new to or considering flash? What encouragement might you give to seasoned flash writers who have a hard time nabbing a win? Oh goodness, I don’t feel qualified to answer this question (which means I’ll answer it with way more words than necessary)!

I guess for new flash fictioneers, I would say jump in! The water’s fine. 🙂 Even if you don’t win a single category, ever, for the rest of your writing days amen, you’ve given yourself ideas and tales to expand on in the future. And more importantly, you’ve joined one of the most supportive online communities you’ll find. Friends outweigh wins.

For those faithful flashers still chasing that capricious dragon, know that it is just that. Capricious. Sometimes your words will push the souls out of one judging team and leave the next team puzzling. That’s what I comfort myself with anyway. It’s better than falling into the despair that this writing dream is actually a delusion.   

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Sydney Scrogham. She has the determination and the skill to go far. I expect to see her name (or pen name) on Best Sellers lists in the coming years.

6) What are your favorite books of this past year? What’s your desert island book? Die Empty for starters. It made me realize what a weight of loss I would feel if I found myself on my deathbed with no fresh ink to speak of.

Second, the FlashDogs Anthology. While reading it, I keep thinking, “Oh! I need to message this person and tell them how much I love their story,” and then life blusters in and the thought slips away. I’ve told Tamara Shoemaker I’d love to mail a copy of the Anthology across time zones, collecting signatures from each brilliant contributor. That book would be more traveled than I am.

Desert island life sounds lonely. I’d want the Gospels for daily strength and comfort.

7) What are you working on now? Still working on my NaNoWriMo story and every day more grateful that I’m not sick of it yet.

8) Tell us something about your writing life. How do you balance writing and responsibilities? This is sumamente difficult for me. I work full-time, weekdays and sometimes weekends so before SVW I didn’t make writing a priority (which is why I’m eternally grateful to Allison Garcia!!). Carving time out of rump roast-round minutes is something I’m getting better at. It means mornings might start at 5:30am. A Flash! Friday baby could be conceived on lunch break and born by clock-out. You make time for what you love. Thankfully, I have an understanding husband who’s happy to let me create beside him while he fights Ozma, Nemesis, or Yiazmat.

9) What’s your writing process like? Do ideas just float into your head from the Great Muse Factory in the sky? I think they come in fragments, elements of beauty and meaning demanding to be included. That’s why it takes me a good while to get a cohesive story on paper. When you find that Great Muse Factory in the sky let me know!

10) Any hobbies? Other than writing and eating? Long distances races. I don’t consider myself athletic, so obstacle courses (looking at you, Tough Mudder) or sprints are not my forte. But I can run 20+ miles with a friend beside me and tell myself I want to sign up for another while dragging myself over the finish line. 🙂