Tag Archive | Betsy Streeter

Fire&Ice Sol 16/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Results day! Results day! And the final mad word dash for all our NaNoWriMo participants. Whether you wrote 50k or 50 words (mine was closer to the latter), I hope you’re celebrating what’s been written and energized for what will be written! We’ve only three Sols left and the last Fire&Ice Flash contest promises to be a spectacular one, so bring your best writing tools and most luminous selves, and we’ll be right here waiting for 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 16’S JUDGES SAY:

Voima Oy:  Greetings–  I want to thank the Dragon Queens for doing Flash! Friday again. It’s such a gift! This is a good place, an opportunity to write and comment on other stories, We are creating community and connections.  It’s truly an honor to be part of this as a writer and judging.  I’m thankful for my judge partner AJ Walker, too. It’s been a pleasure! And you, the writers, thank you for all these worlds that were not here before. Thank you for sharing your stories. 

This time, I found I was really paying attention to how people used the photo. For some, the photo was a starting point for the story. For others, it was the story. In Bill Engleson‘s “Mumbai Idyll“, the photo inspired a family history, a bittersweet reverie. In Brett Milam‘s “Sweet Death“, the picture is deceptive–it seems innocent, but it’s horrifying–the sweetness and poison of antifreeze. And in Firdaus Parvez‘s untitled story–“The city was a smudge”–it really could be about that photo. There’s even a photographer in the story! It feels so real–the heat, all the people on the road. The pandemic is part of the story, too. It is happening now, yet there is this moment of sharing and kindness.


A.J. Walker: It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been asked by the dragons to be part of the judging pairs once again with this lovely community. None of the judging has been easy and it’s nice to see the variety of stories that can come from the same prompts. It’s also been lovely to see so many of the old Flash Dogs still out writing very well indeed. But also good to see new people finding the Flash! Friday Fiction thing. All in all the dragons done good again – thank you. 

Nancy Chenier‘s “The Three“—Competition, Generosity and the truth; yes indeed. It always surprises me how the first stories can be so strong after having hardly any time to put together (we judge the stories blind after that are sent to us by the wonderful dragons so I assume it’s first if the dragons have provided the stories to us in the order they were written). Well done. Really enjoyed Laurence D‘s “Player 1. I’m not a gamer and haven’t been since back in the day with Final Fantasy VII and early World of Warcraft, but I totally get this story (made me think of the great Otherland series by Tad Williams). Helen Laycock‘s “Counting Moons– Woah! What an emotional rollercoaster and a fantastic story. I loved it the first time I read it and even more on subsequent reads. To pack a punch in so few words is a wonderful piece of work. I can see that being turned into a great longer story. Do it!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Afternoon Picnic IV: The Sharing by Matt Krizan

VO: So well-done–the setting, the descriptions, the details–the smell of scorched jackal fur. The sister running through the room with a blaster.  In the game, three  children are sitting quietly, sharing a banana.  I loved the contrast of violent reality and the peaceful moment in the video game.

AW: Loved the idea (lets face it we’ve all had it) that people, the gamers, are missing so much of reality all around them (this year maybe not a bad thing), funny that Arin was so made up to get his characters to get a banana whist all sorts of big things were happening around him with the boring game and exciting real life somehow being swapped. Neat.

No Camera by Betsy Streeter

VO: Here is a parent and child sharing love of video games—and a real connection in the real world.

AW: Neat story of a proud parent passing on the video game gene and the nice old style idea that not everything you do needs to be seen and documented by others as long as you know you’ve done it. You don’t need to run it over to Facebook, TikTok or Instagram. So say we all.

RUNNER UP

Silent Partners by Tinman

VO: Such a sad and powerful story. Told in gestures, the friend sighing next to him on the bus. The friends sharing lunch together. You can feel the weight of things unsaid, The things no words can say. 

AW: Beautiful, well paced story of childhood, of friendship and emotions. I loved Samir watching the football and life just going on before Neva and Renuka come on over with their bananas and silent friendship with their buddy.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ELIZA ARCHER!!!

for

Sharing Gift

VO – This story is pure magic. I loved the how the three friends are introduced–“Shahla played her game and never packed a lunch. Amal ate his food and but was still ravenous. His crow bright eyes watched every bite Malia took from her banana.” The description of the  marvelous banana is so vivid and real. You pause and savor the single line paragraphs. How does a magical banana taste? Oh, the sweetness!  And you wonder, too, if the Malia can bring another one tomorrow.

AWA story of a lunchtime friendship and a magically replenishing banana; ‘… sweet. Almost like honey.’ The story was told through Malia’s eyes and with few words she painted the friendship and differences between them: Shala never having a packed lunch, Amal never having enough. The matter of fact acceptance of the magical fruit and Malia sharing her bounty with her friends is a nice touch. It could have been so easy to make her keep her find to herself. I hope that she gets a magic banana again the next day – everyone could do with a magical banana. The story was sweet’ almost like honey.

Congratulations, Eliza! Here’s your winning story:

SHARING GIFT

Shahla played her game and never packed a lunch. Amal ate his food and but was still ravenous. His crow bright eyes watched every bite Malia took from her banana. Her friends hungry silence made Malia’s jaws stiff.

Then she noticed the banana, which she thought had two bites left, emerging slowly from the peel, growing longer as she watched.

Trembling, she broke off the bitten tip and quickly ate it.

The banana continued growing, normal looking, yellow fruit.

Her friend’s seemed unaware of the miracle. She divided the newly grown banana into three portions.

“Want some?” She asked.
Thin brown fingers blossomed on either side of her.

She gave them the larger two pieces, popping the remaining chunk in her mouth.

How would magic banana taste?

It was sweet. Almost like honey. As she swallowed, sweetness seemed to grow inside her.

The empty peel lingered in her fingers, strangely warm.

She felt as full and happy as when she ate a holiday feast.

“Thanks,” Shahla murmured, smiling.
“Best banana ever!” Amal said. “Can you bring one tomorrow?”
“I’m not sure,” said Malia. “Maybe?”

Fire&Ice Sol 15/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! As if the latest round of Fire&Ice winners weren’t exciting enough, did you know it’s also Doctor Who Day, Fibonacci Day, Eat a Cranberry Day, and National Espresso Day? It’s also NaNo Day 23 (38,341 words, or whatever beautiful number of words you’ve written). Wherever this Monday finds you—whether snacking on cranberries or not—here’s to another sunrise, and another day conquering the white page together. We’re glad, as ever, you’re here.

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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 15’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King:  I am sad that this is the last time I get to judge. Thanks to the majestic Ice and Fire dragons for their faith and trust in us, and for all the work it has taken to bring this magical place back. Thanks also to the folk behind the scenes who help to get the stories to judges each week. Much gratitude to Steph who shares my timezone, has a great work ethic and has impeccable taste in great storytelling. As writers, you did wonders with the prompt this week, I enjoyed every story and the ones I picked tended to just stand out in some small way. Some quick mentions: Betsy Streeter‘s “Untitledfor the image of grasshoppers and great use of dialogue. Tamara Shoemaker‘s “Soul’s March,” for the creepy and unsettling feeling. Maggie Duncan‘s “Fix Our Eyes Not on What is Seen” for the concise and very effective structure.


Stephanie Ellis: November already and my last time as a judge! Seeing Flash! Friday come back has been wonderful, even though the past few weeks have seen me somewhat absent for a variety of reasons; that being said, I’d like to thank Deb and Rebekah for inviting me to take part, it’s been an honour and a privilege to work with them and Mark. The quality of submissions was excellent, as always, and this week I found the majority of my choices went to those I regarded as a story, rather than an introspective or ‘scene’ piece. I needed to engage with the characters and the stories chosen allowed me to do that. In addition to those on the rostrum, I’d like to mention a couple of other stories. Laurence D‘s “King of the Hillwith its termites having distinct human speech and accents, and Tinman‘s “Transfer of Power,” with its finger pointing to the future destruction of mankind via a growing army of mutant insects, were both great fun and hugely original.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Museum of Nobodies” by Arvind Iyer

MK: It’s a reverse mirror to the superficial and branded world of influencers. I loved how the story took me to other places, transporting me, almost by word-teleportation – handy we can travel like this with stories when we can’t go physically.

SE: In these days of celebrity status and global powers, us lesser mortals often feel unseen and disregarded and this writing recognises that fact, and in doing so, it also reminds us we are somebody and that there are millions like us.

Be Careful What You Wish For by Geoff LePard

MK: It’s approaching panto season in the UK so while it probably wasn’t the author’s intention, I loved the thought of this missing eccentric British tradition somehow living on as a termite-mound genie in a story.

SE: A hugely entertaining story; sometimes we just need that touch of humour in our lives and I thought this was perfect. A termite genie granting the wish that would be the downfall of Terrance and Susan.

These Days by Karl Russell

MK: I loved the world-building in this one. The global nature of it. Those amazing images of buildings being like the termite mounds. The great name-dropping of Scorsese, London, Manhattan, Tokyo and Layla booming across the post-apocalyptic landscape. 

SE: A ghost with no one to haunt, such a sad thought. Bleak description of a post-apocalyptic world which we could head towards, if we’re not careful. Although maybe, we are already ghosts haunting ourselves.

RUNNER UP

The Land Remembers”  by Voima Oy

MK: This is a highly creative take on the prompt. It appealed to me in several ways. It was unique, it included a familiar tale of ‘progress’ at the expense of nature, it included wonderful images: At night, they gave off a strange glow, like cities at night.” It reminded me of the film, Avatar, only much, much better. James Cameron needs to take notes from this story.

SE: There is magic in our planet: our ancestors have often mentioned hidden energies or forces beneath our soil which affect us and our lives. This story gives this ancient magic a sci-fi feel, as the planet draws up its defences against the developers. Beautifully written.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Notes On a Life Lived

MK – I’m a sucker for an intriguing title, so this drew me in. Then the story grabbed me tightly from the opening and didn’t let go He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.”  In the middle, we have this amazing image, “We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.” 

There is a mastery of storytelling and structure and pacing, yes, it’s showcasing in a microscopic space, just what flash fiction can do. And that ending, what a life. It makes you think and be thankful.

SEThis is a story which must resonate with many of us, as grandparents get older and we drift apart, moving on with our busy lives, knowing they are still there in the background – until they’re not – and we realise we have failed to make time for them, to listen to their stories, thinking our own so much better. This delicate showing of ‘the life lived’ at the end is poignant, an emotional gut punch to those left behind. If only they’d talked. An imaginative take on an image whose markers called to mind those rows of white headstones in a war grave cemetery. Wonderful writing.

Congratulations on your back-to-back win, Arcane! Here’s your winning story:

Notes On a Life Lived

He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.

Nightfall, he, Grandmother and I would sit within the perfume of the plum orchard. Small words uttered as he split purple flesh with his blade, revealing the sweetest yellow flesh.

As the seasons faded into years I returned less to the cottage, till one day I never did.

When she died he moved into the city. Living in a small terraced house with dirty windows. Each time I visited, he would seem smaller again, as if every breath I took stole directly from him.

Seasons faded into years.

We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.

Sat in pews. An old man struggled to the front, hands trembling, eyes blurring, medals clinging to his chest.

Telling a tale never before shared.

Of parachutes, fighting behind enemy lines.

Of capture, the torment of the prison camp.

Of liberation, the gift the soldiers had given Grandfather.

For his leadership, fearlessness and love.

An odd shaped knife.

Fire&Ice Sol 14/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Welcome to what feels a wintry results day! Yesterday, it was all reds and golds with a sleepy sun overhead; today, it’s bare, gray limbs, and a sun that stays nestled beneath the clouds. Gone are the eternal autumns of our youth, I suppose. How the world changes; how we change the world.

Speaking of world-changing, in our most recent Flash! Future on “Writing the Other” (read that post here), literary agent and advocate DongWon Song offers us writers wrestling with questions of how (or whether!) to write diverse fiction this call to action: 

What we need to do is resist the default, and the only way to do that is by representing the world that we live in, which often has people coming from all kinds of cultures, all kinds of marginalizations that are inter-sectional, and rich, and complex. 

Every time I see flash here that resists the default, I’m so encouraged, inspired, motivated. Thank you. ❤   

A quick reminder: Flash! Future submissions are rolling in and if you haven’t gotten the chance to send yours, now’s the time to do so! Find all the tidy details here, and remember: deadline is November 20!

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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 14’S JUDGES SAY:

David Shakes:  It’s our third and final stint as judges on the resurrected Flash!Friday and I’d like to thank our Dragon hosts Rebekah and Deborah for achieving far more than they set out to do. There’s been light in the darkness thanks to you two, I’ve been plugged into a global community whose words and ideas have inspired me further.

My deep and heartfelt thanks to Nancy who, more often than not, liked what I liked but with an eye for detail and a perspective that I am in awe of. Thank you for being my co-judge in this. 

My thanks to you, dear writers, for coming back each round. The original competition is where I honed my craft, found a writing family (hey Flashdogs) and gained the courage to start putting my work further out there. I hope some of that is true for you. 

I loved the prompt picture when I saw it, and though it led many of you all down a few key paths (holes?) you amazed us within your short and precise word count. 

Nancy and I were pretty close in what we liked this week, so we both got to drop in a few of those stories that we both enjoyed. Helen Laycock‘s “Look Before You Seep” was a hilarious take on the fountain of youth, with some great (gross) imagery. Pippa Phillips‘ “The First Thread” was rich in figurative language, took a look deeper at the prompt,  and had a great last line. R.J. Kinnarney‘s “Divine Calculation” takes a clever title, adds in the prerequisite statistics and then ends on a beautiful image. 

As it’s our last go, we’ve taken the liberty of having three honorary mentions.


Nancy Chenier: Here we are, our final round of judging for the reboot of Flash!Friday. I’m deeply grateful to the Dragon Den (Rebekah and Deborah) for lighting up the skies with flashes of light over a world confronted with its collective darkness, and for rekindling my own writing, a tool that helps me navigate said darkness. Also to Shakes: I don’t know what serendipity matched us up, but it turned out a wonderful pairing. If I ever find myself in that hemisphere, get ready for a visit (yes, that’s a threat, tell your family). Finally, a million thank-yous to all you flash writers, veteran and recent, whether here or in #vss365,#flashdogs, etc., for your inspiring creativity and enthusiasm wherever you drop your words. Hope to see you all in the twitterverse beyond the end of 2020.

This week, with the tiny word count, inventiveness was imperative. How else could you cram a sense of beginning, middle, end, while hooking readers into the story and then keeping them there? Very little space remained for incorporating unique takes on the prompts, but you all took on that challenge and created some fine work, which means I ended up with a bunch of shout-outs. First goes to Betsy Streeter‘s Untitled, where the miracle of medicine suddenly feels like a curse, and the word “lost” takes one huge emotional impact. Also to Michael Seese‘s Pitfalls for an amusing story with its fun use of both dragon elements. Then there’s Becky Spence‘s “A Tuesday Morning” for the most original use of the photo-prompt with the “pit” being the pupil of an eye. Laurence D‘s Untitled gets a nod for baudy slapstick that had me baffled (like the oblivious crowd) until the slapstick-rug got pulled right out from under me.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Exit Strategy by WeymanWrites

DS: We both loved the playful aspect of this and I especially liked the dialogue between our Meerkat protagonists Barbara and Derek! In a week when so many stories had something going in, this statistically risky escape plan stood out.

NC: You had me at meerkats, and you kept me with the surprises at every line of increasingly anthropomorphic dialogue. You kept me chuckling through to the end. With everything we’ve put the earth through in general and the meerkats through specifically, we so deserve that parting shot.

The First Question by Phil Coltrane

DS: Something lovely about this, that dual aspect of having the courage and intellect to get to Mars but the all too human frailty of having one’s heartbroken, but I like his odds. Maybe I’m an optimist?

NC: Inventive use of statistics throughout, ultimately tying in with the picture prompt (one in seven on Mars), plus a solid sense of movement through a story. I also enjoyed the pivot on the act of “asking questions”: the class asking the MC all the questions, except for Anna, who might have invited MC’s long-unasked question way back at the beginning had she asked a homework question too.

Numbers Game by Karl A. Russell

DS: We all know the drive into the desert plot from various mob movies, but I couldn’t resist this one – so well written. The dialogue is on point, the tension well-mounted within the word limit and a classic last line to complete the sort of flash that floats my boat. 

NC: This one stood out to me for the Lady-or-the-Tiger vibes (big folklore-buff over here). You set up a complete, distinctive story in a Vegas pit-trap with tension building appropriately enough like a high-stakes card game. I was hooked with the snake, immediately followed up by conflict via a sneering antagonist, then the surprise of another victim in the first box. The consistent character voice held the tone so the final line hit with authenticity. Well played! 

RUNNER UP

Quick Time by Tinman

DS: A unique theme amongst this week’s entries,  filled with clever imagery like the ‘Rachel hair’ and the right mix of humour and poignancy. The opening image of an unimaginably far shore sums up a teenager’s view of middle-age wonderfully. The subtle introduction of Jill’s treatment and the closing note of optimism was sublime. The economy and balance of this story had it near the top of my list from the start.

NC: This one settled in and gave me a time-release sense of nostalgic melancholy. The contrasts are stunning between the teenage creation of a time-capsule, during a time when we still feel playfully immortal, to the middle age opening when mortality has started seeping seriously in. The kick is that Jill is the one to reset the capsule by throwing in her smart watch, a symbol of time, when she probably doesn’t have much of it left (another cleverly introduced contrast: her cancer vs 1990s Rachel hair). Every detail is rich and evocative of place and character and theme—such strong writerly craft, here.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Butterfly Wing

DS – What made this stand out from the other monster in the pit stories? Firstly, an economy of language – the staccato punch of the lines creates a pace that juxtaposes with the depth and quality of the writing. I loved the flare…falling, a crimson-hot star seeking reassurance, mirroring the improbable fall of the asteroid. The use of statistics to underscore the title of the story puts us squarely in the existential shoes of our narrator. Two zeros x together  = something unknowable, and yet I know the feeling well. A slice of sci-fi noir that Nancy and I both liked a lot. 

NC — This week’s picture prompt lent itself to monster-in-the-pit tropes, so to get to the winner’s circle pit-monster tales really had to stand-out. This one ticked all the boxes. The first sentence hooked me, not only with its clear description of the MC’s shadow, but also conveying a sense of urgency (hurrying)—which is then undercut by the next fragment (the MC is chain-smoking, not hurrying to the crash site as fast as their shadow is). The MC’s voice is crisp with its staccato sentences and the sly, self-deprecating application of statistics. Then there’s a theme that threaded through and beyond the tale: the line up of near-zero probabilities starting with the MC’s own existence points to a vast gap between near and absolute zero. The vanishingly small probability of the MC’s existence raises the question what other improbabilities are entirely… probable. Thanks for the engaging read. 

Congratulations, ARCANE! Here’s your winning story:

BUTTERFLY WING

My shadow stretches out, hurrying before me to the crash site.

Chain-smoking.

Mind racing with possibilities.

My existence = 1 in 10 2,685,000

That’s basically zero.

Yet, here I stand at the edge of another improbability.

The hole is deeper than seems possible.

The asteroid actually hitting Earth was 0.41%.

Another zero.

Another cigarette burns.

Two zeros x together = something unknowable.

Tension envelops as we gather. Tabitha ignites a flare.

Falling, a crimson hot star seeking reassurance.

Illuminating an eye bigger than seems possible.

Whose existence = 10 septillion.

The slowest blink.

A pupil that isn’t possibly real.

Begins to come closer.