Tag Archive | Ben Miller

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 9: WINNERS!

Howdy! Welcome to the results for Vol 2-9; glad you’re here! 

REMINDER: the application deadline to judge for the 2nd quarter (Apr – Jun) is this Saturday, February 15; details here. Join the fun!   

I want to say how much I appreciate all you long-timers coming back and keeping this writing community so vibrant and awesome. Many of you on today’s dais have won and/or placed many times in the past. It’s also a great thrill to see how many new writers we’ve had joining us these past weeks. Thank you! AND as a final note–I didn’t see anyone attempt to translate this week’s challenge word, che’ron. Here’s a major hint: Jeff Hollar, care to take a stab at it in the comments? 

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Judge M. T. Decker says: Wow, you all definitely made me work for this one!  I looked at the picture and drew a total blank, and yet you all were able to draw so many tales of victory, defeat and everything in between.  You made me laugh, you made me cry and you made me think and for that you ALL deserve acknowledgement. 

Image Ronin, “The Chosen” – Thankfully I had my sushi and sashimi earlier this week – haunting.

Eliza Archer – for the clever use of “dangly bits.”  For the image of Athena loath to say the words, I salute you.

SJ O’Hart  – “The Spirit of the Games.”  Your title was totally misleading, and yet very telling once you got to the end.  Bravo!

Erin McCabe  – The description of Mitch’s victory dance is priceless.  “constipated chicken and anaphylactic octopus…” is easy to imagine even while I was laughing at the wording.

Margaret Locke  –“Endurance” – That knowing smile at the end is precious.

I wish I could comment on all  of your stories, but I’d be here all day and you’re not here to listen to me wax poetic.. and so… the results…

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Catherine Connolly, “Gladiator.”  This story takes the prompt and turns it into a very personal struggle that resonates with very human challenges and obstacles.  Its haunting simplicity kept drawing me back to it even after I’d read it.  That sort of pull is hard to resist and makes it memorable. 

Ben Miller (winner Round 44), “The Symbol of Civilization.” This story talks about rebirth and recreation, but on another level it talks about the fallibility of man, that even when we recreate something… we don’t always get it right.  Like “Gladiator,” it has a very human quality to it that draws the reader in.  The humor in the ending kept me smiling for quite a while.

Jeffrey Hollar (winner Round 21), “Vindication.” This story takes a rather dark twist, where logic and determination meet a broken psyche.  Again, this story was haunting but in a chilling sort of way.  It displays all the attributes required of a competitor: determination, focus, patience and practice and puts them to a less than altruistic plan that left me with chills.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Alissa Leonard (winner Round 25), “How Champions Are Made.”  Through clever use of dialog, the author sets the stage for the Olympics of the future: where man has reached the stars and met other alien races.  We learn that the competition has expanded into zero-and fluctuating gravity games, and that, alas, cheating is indeed universal.  It puts a very human face on the games and tells a much greater story than its 157 words should allow.  Bravo!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Marie McKay (winner Round 26), “Only a Matter of Time.” This story takes an inventive view of cheating, and the title resonates throughout the story.  “The timing had to be right…” when talking about people cheating gives a warning that it really is “Only a Matter of Time,” but the twist at the end brings that point to the forefront and indeed it is a matter of time.  This story has a unique way of explaining the use of… time in cheating, and left me thinking about how timing is everything, in the games and, it would seem… in winning them.

And now: in a Flash! Friday FIRST, we have FOUR TIME 

DRAGON WINNER

BETSY STREETER!!!

for

“Fear of Flying”

Betsy is Flash! Friday’s first ever FOUR TIME WINNER (she also won rounds 18, 23, and 35). The language of this story is one of support, achievement and pride.  Through reflective narrative the author draws the reader in with its lyrical qualities and clever use of imagery: a “bear cub on skates” giving way to a “butterfly made of spider silk” are both poetic and far more telling that simple words should be.  It is this quality that defines the story and then the powerful finale, the humanity and emotion, that even in pride and joy… there is envy.  The full range of emotions and frail humanity are framed in a gorgeous tale. Congratulations, Betsy!

AWESOME job, Betsy! In your honor as our first-ever four-time winner, I’m flinging a physical prize your way: a Flash! Friday commemorative poster (those are finally rolling off the press from the Flashversary, hurrah!). Here is your updated winner’s page–and below is the Flash! Friday Year Two ebadge for you to claim. Please watch your inbox for brand new interview questions for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Fear of Flying

I picked you up every last time you fell.

Reached under your arms, lifted you to your feet, and gently pressed you to try again.

Sometimes I showed you what to do, how to leave the ice and then land effortlessly, how to make nearly impossible feats look easy. Like dance. Like flying.

You watched, and then you attempted to follow. Your first efforts looked clumsy like you were a bear cub on skates.

But eventually, you got it. And you got the next thing, and the next. After many months you became weightless, a butterfly made of spider silk.

How you flew. Even on the ground you looked like you were flying.

Now, as I watch you enter the stadium, my breath puffing out of me in little clouds, the world gathered to celebrate our work,

My chest contracts into a stabbing, black, hateful desire to see you fail.

It should have been me.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 3: WINNERS!

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2…. JUST KIDDING! Can’t say that last digit as it’s not New Year’s Eve yet (not even for our bold Aussies!). It’s another full week here at Flash! Friday, with our winner’s interview posting hopefully Tuesday, and our regular contest on Friday–the first one of 2014, if you can believe it; which, since we kicked off in December 2012, makes me feel reeeeally old.

Also going up on the FF site in the next two days is my story contribution to accompany Composers for Relief, a fundraising effort to support the victims of November’s Typhoon Yolanda. This companion e-book will be published in January, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity organization. Your support is gratefully appreciated!

And now: here are comments and results from our valiant, brand new Year Two judge Erin McCabe:

She says: So here we are, the last Flash Friday Fiction contest of 2013! I’m so grateful for being given the opportunity to judge it! I must admit this was a challenge for me, so many wonderful entries this week; putting together my finalist list I felt like a kid in a candy store being pulled by my Mother as I screamed hysterically, “Can’t I just have one more?” I won’t lie: it was really difficult to decide, but I guess that is the hallmark of an excellent and vibrant writing community like this one.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter their work this week and to those who came along to read. This close to Christmas it can be hard to get time to write, so the effort is appreciated.

Before I get to the winners, I would just like to make a special shout out for Amy Wood‘s  In Silence I Wait.” When she mentioned that her Mother had exclaimed this weeks’ prompt looked like a Dragon’s eye I was immediately transmitted to that scene in JurassicPark where the terrifying T-Rex is peering through the van window, excellent interpretation of the prompt!

I’d also like to make a shout out for Chris White‘s “There Wasn’t Much Room for Hope, mainly for the excellent use of pacing and paragraph structure that works so sublimely well. This felt like the start to a larger story that I would be itching to read more of. 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Karl A. Russell, “Attempt # 408?”.  I really loved this piece, a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, the choice of words easily created a very visually detailed and intricate little scientific world and workshop; “splintered roofbeams (#360, #387) each with their own numbered casual connections. The addition of the tiny protective daughter “Hope” was utterly adorable. I now really want to own a “flask of tiny, swirling stars”. 

Adrian George Nicolae, “Talks.” Through only one side of a conversation, Adrian had me in stitches with this one; I love the dismissing, judgemental and cheeky tone of the main character. I also love the idea of a bumbling creator who has caused his people to stop believing he ever existed through his sheer incompetence. The line; “yours will sulk without a reason” is such a perfect and condemning way to describe the nature of the human condition.

A J Walker, “Patricia.” I have to praise the skilful use of language throughout this piece; the relationship between the telescope, the viewer and the vast expanse of space is beautifully captured through lines such as: “speckled dance of life and death played out above him on an enveloping black sheet.” Really well imagined and a nice use of the prompt, especially the notion of hope.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Dieter Rogiers, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Excellent piece of world-building in such a small word count, with the addition of a great title which had me humming that song all morning. (I’m a sucker for a good title!) It is made obvious that our character has watched his home and all he has ever loved burn; a home connected to our own through object reference such as the LPs and candy floss; human kind now appear to be floating aimlessly through space, devoid of hope. Yet our character does not dwell on this destruction. Instead the story is willing us towards optimism, towards new beginnings: the start of a new song, which this time will probably be far from the sounds of the Beach Boys. This piece ties in particularly well with the prompt too, it had me hoping they find a new home, well done!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Joidianne4eva, “We Will Light the Heavens.” I loved the poetic style of this piece; it was both stunning and glorious. I like the idea of space pressing in from all sides; that the void can be so purely dark, that its sheer nothingness has its own oppressive presence. I’m a huge fan of great endings and the line “Alone they were nothing but soon they would be a star,” is the perfect endings for this piece. Clearly this line extends the story beyond the nature of mere stardust to encompass mankind. Together, through collective bravery we can accomplish the greatest things, things far beyond our individual imaginings. That is what this story tells, through poetry, stellar motions and song. Beautifully done!

And now, at long last (seriously!), for her very first time as 

DRAGON WINNER

REBECCA ALLRED

for

“Rebirth”

The central premise of this piece is so powerful: Christa stayed behind to experience what it is to be engulfed by a black hole, not for any suicidal notion, but merely for the sake of curiosity, to experience the unknown.

There is also a political theme here too. The poor, the ill and the crazy have all been left behind to die, presumably because the rich have abandoned them, their wealth providing them opportunity to flee.

The approach of the black hole being signaled only by the extinction of the stars is really effective; its consumptive power can only at this point be perceived through tiny incremental acts. I also love the use of the world “cartwheeled” to describe Christa’s movement into the singularity; it’s so playful, reflecting her nature. I also appreciated the use of the word “unborn” to describe the sensation, something we can articulate but not truly experience and therefore understand. The end for me was a fantastic surprise; I had imagined Christa being locked in the singularity forever, infinitely extended beyond herself; instead she bursts through it to be born again as a new light, a bright star heralding new hope. A highly deserving winning piece. Congratulations!

Congratulations, Rebecca! Your winner’s badge waits most excitedly for you below. Here is your 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, which this week will (I think) post Tuesday. Woooohooo!

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 2: WINNERS!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR! In honor of you, valiant writers that you are, unfazed by crowds, snow, sunburns, or stray cats your children (not naming names) dub Cleopatra that insist on visiting your door every day for a meal no matter how insistent you are that she is not your cat, and no matter how far from the front door you place her dinner dish, Flash! Friday will still run over the holidays as normally scheduled. Interviews and other features may pop around a bit–and we will ring in 2014 with the long-awaited, multi-day interview with our first-ever Flashversary winner, Jacki Donnellan. Yeehaw! 

Did I ever LOVE what you all did with the snowman and the Dragon’s Bidding of duty in your stories this week. How the judge managed to choose winners, I can’ t imagine. Oh wait, yes I can: Here are comments and results from snappy and sparkly judge Whitney Healy:

 

She saysThis was truly an awesome experience (and I can’t wait to do it again!). Many thanks to all participants–seasoned, new, and returners–for a very enjoyable weekend read. To the three judges that participated: Shame on me for not writing a “for your entertainment” entry! I wanted to enter the contest completely blind, so all I did was look at the picture when I got up Friday morning–I read no entries until 7:30 AM Saturday.

 

A little about my process: I judge blindly, ranking the entries with a plus sign, minus sign, or nothing (indicates neutrality). After each title, I make a few notes–what stands out, what techniques I appreciated, what they made me think/feel, etc. Then, I go to all of my minus signs and draw a single line through them. I then reread all entries that received “plus” status. (This weekend, I sifted through 10 entries a second time).

 

There are two writers I really think deserve shout-outs, aside from the winners. None of you knows this, but I have a private obsession with Norse Mythology, going so far as to create an entirely new world as a setting for the fantasy work I’ve been writing based on the realms found in such myths. For that, I tip my hat to SparkyGetsTheGirl.

 

Secondly, I must mention judge M.T. Decker‘s entry. This piece of writing creates an incredible contrast between what is seemingly innocent/good (the snow and snowman) and what is reality and, in many ways, corrupt (the hidden soldier in the snowman). It was a piece that left my jaw drop. And now:

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Kristen AFC, “The Thawing.”  A haunting take on the prompt that shows what we will and won’t do for love. This piece made me want to know the young girl’s other secrets. An excellent piece of writing. 

Zevonesque, “Coffee Shop.” Your use of long, near run-on sentences may be frowned upon by some, but is embraced by me: when a reader sees a long sentence, it makes them read on and on, wondering what is next. With that technique, you created a stream-of-consciousness in your main character…and then broke that thought with fragmentation (the way the waitress interrupts the traveler’s thoughts). A very mature, distinguished piece of writing.

Marie McKay, “Icarus.” You had me from your title, as I love mythology of all shapes, creeds, and sizes. I appreciated the naivety you produced in Icarus, and how much is parallel beyond his name: wings melt, snowmen melt. A very upper-level connection between two seemingly unlike things.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Dan Radmacher, “The Sentry.” Flashback to wartime with Sergeant and Private Jones: the character development in this piece was exceptional. I really appreciated how you developed Private Jones into an innocent, dutiful soldier, whereas the Sergeant was portrayed as a dutiful, no-nonsense superior. The inclusion of things like the Sergeant switching his cigar from left to right or the Private explaining he was only trying to find someone for watch overnight created a perfect foil between your protagonist and antagonist. Excellent, well-developed writing. Impressive, advanced use of dialogue (an approach I almost always support with bells and whistles!) I look forward to reading more of your work (In fact, I believe I’m following you now!).

FIRST RUNNER UP

Ian Martyn, “Goblin’s?” In the comments I alluded to the fact that your writing made me think of a piece of writing/movie/something I recalled from childhood or adolescence. When I read your piece a second time, I realized it echoed of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, two characters I have always adored. At a very first glance (simply structurally, that is), there was something very unique about your writing: your syntax is not unlike my own! With your use of both long paragraphs and short, specific lines of dialogue, you managed to create a fast-paced, believable story with great character development and an entertaining ending. I wanted to know more of Harold and the Inspector, and I look forward to reading more of your work. 

And now, at long last, for his very first time as 

DRAGON WINNER

KARL A. RUSSELL

for

“The Climb”

Of the entries presented, this was one that stood out because of its use of a third-person omniscient narrator. This entry powerfully depicted what a mother would do for her children. I think this entry in particular exemplified what this week’s prompt intended: a story about the elements and carrying out a duty. The urgency of the mother rabbit’s need to find food for her young was mirrored in your intentional syntactical choice: to use run-ons when necessary to show how quickly time was slipping by, and how soon her time could run out, especially when this mother was combating the elements and struggling without water, food, or shelter. There is so much power in your 160 words: we see pride, love, the shadows of loss, and the power of perseverance. It was a read that touched my heart and made me cheer for the mother rabbit and her babies. A very emotional, symbolic read that (perhaps) signifies all we will do for love (and children). 

Congratulations, Karl! Your winner’s badge waits happily for you below. Here is your 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, which this week will (hopefully) post Tuesday. Well done!

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