Tag Archive | Caitlin Gramley

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 45: WINNERS

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 TAKEBetsy 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 AndersonSon 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.


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.


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).


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.


Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 29: WINNERS

HURRAY!!!!! I love, love results day: a (small) way to honor some really fine storytelling. This week’s round — the last round of that sort of contest prompt here — how do you feel? are you ready? eager? skeptical? annoyed? READY FOR A MAGICAL ADVENTURE?? — struck especially close to home for us. Lots of really funny stories, and lots that… weren’t.  The writing life ain’t easy: no matter how many blogs you’ve read or how supportive your writing groups, at the end of the day it’s just you and the white space… alone…. (As my mother says, It’s only you and Jesus in the dentist’s chair…)  If you haven’t read through the stories yet, please take a few minutes to skim through. Writing about writing is where we’re at our most vulnerable, like a whole glorious parade of nekked Emperors. Thank you so much for sharing your skills and hearts with us.

rof2RING OF FIRE!!!! You poor, patient draggins. I’m shockingly behind on updating the Wall of Flame, and here we are, nearly finished with June! Scandalous! IF YOU HAVE WRITTEN FOR FLASH! FRIDAY at least three times in May and/or June, please let me know here (note: check the Wall first; I think we are current on all requests so far), and I’ll catch that list right up today. Details here!       




Judging for us this round were the fab Beth Deitchman & Emily June Street of Luminous Creatures Press. Many thanks to this valiant team who read and wept and laughed and battled over your writerly adventures, even while, in some cases, hanging upside-down. Such a privilege having you join us in this capacity; thank you so much! Now, here’s what they have to say before gracefully flinging trophies every which way:

Judging such diverse stories is always difficult. We Luminous Creatures tend to focus on certain recognizable literary elements to help make our job easier and provide a structure by which to order our judging. There were, as always, so many worthy stories put before us, but we had to narrow it down to these few. We focused on choosing stories with strong narrative arcs, conflict, resolution, layers of meaning, and solid writing craft.



Eliza ArcherLet Me Sleep, He Pleaded.” For engaging humor and excellent character names

Nancy ChenierThe White Flag.” For strong writing and memorable images

Caitlin Gramley, “Lively Imagination.” For use of dialogue to tell an amusing story



Reg Wulff, “Never Ending.” We enjoyed the great opening line and satisfying ending of this piece, as well as the layered commentary on the nature of writers not finishing stories. Haven’t we all been there?

C.A. Crawford, “Symbiosis.” This story hinged on the clever and diverting twist of prizing a writer’s words above an actor’s physical beauty. How could we not love it? 



Michael Seese,A Work of Fiction.” This was a creepy meditation on what writers do. Careful word choice created a deft slide from the metaphorical to the literal in lines such as “capturing realistic characters” and characters who “positively leapt into her life.” Well-written and strongly structured, this sinister tale had a satisfying and complete story arc. We were greatly entertained by the choice of Chastity as the name for the evil romance writer.


Steph Ellis, “Writer’s Block.” We love it when a writer takes risks, and this one did, by using puns throughout the story. This could have gone badly wrong, but the author applied the phrases with a deft and judicious hand, slipping in references to “sentences” and “rejection” that worked on multiple levels. We appreciated this unique approach to the prompts. The author’s cleverness permeates the entire story and the puns never overshadowed that fact that a story was being told. Subtle world building and multiple layers of meaning rounded out this stellar tale.


Foy S. Iver, “Conflicted Flesh.” This strongly written story had layers and layers. The bold language fit the subject matter, offering us such lines as “two heads bound by the same flesh” and “It raked his soul to form the words.” The world building was impressive given the constraints of two hundred words. The juxtaposition of the backstory with the italicized text that the author/narrator struggles against writing developed engaging narrative tension. This story gave us just enough information to incite the imagination, and the fact that the author managed to mention some “luminous sisters” tickled us, too. We wanted to learn more about this world, and yet with each reread, we saw more, too. A truly solid submission, only a hair’s breadth from being the winner.

And now: shattering all records, it’s our very first FIVE-TIME:




Dashiell vs the Dragon Invaders, Chapter 3

We have the ultimate respect for this story that shows confidence, restraint, and panache on the part of the writer. Never overwrought or overwritten, it directly and relentlessly focused on the purest endeavor of writing: to tell the story. Whether by natural skill or by ruthless editing, this writer knows how to slay darlings and focus on action. With a satisfying story arc, narrative tension, vivid imagery (“mottled orange sun,” “razor claws”), engaging humor, dragon references (!), cinematic action, and solid writing, this story scored high on all our favorite elements. Like the best genre fiction, it hooked us and reeled us in with fast pacing and perfect delivery, exemplifying that timeless writing rule: show, don’t tell.

Congratulations, Phil! You are the FIRST five-time winner of Flash! Friday in its over 2.5 years of life. What are we gonna do with you, hmmm??? I’m thinking at the very least a magical mug from the Dragon Emporium is in order. Here’s your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

Dashiell vs. the Dragon Invaders, Chapter 3

The mottled orange face of the alien sun loomed large in the viewscreen. Sweating bullets and gasping for breath, Dashiell pressed his browline glasses back up his nose. Blood dripped from the clawmark across his chest. “Just a scratch.”

Leaning against the cryogenic conduit to cool himself, Dashiell checked his .38 revolver. “One bullet left.”

With a crash, the hatch deformed visibly, struck by some awesome force. “I may be a washed-up pulp writer,” he shouted, “but I’m a fighter.” Razor claws forced the hatch open. Dash took aim as the reptilian entered. “Somehow I’ll get back to Earth. Then I’ll let everyone know aliens are real.”

The quadrupedal alien approached deliberately, licking its lips. He backed away. “They say write what you know. Want to hear the title of Dashiell Pendragon’s next bestseller?”

The creature lunged at him, seeming to soar through the air. Leaping aside, Dash took aim and squeezed the trigger. The bullet whizzed past the reptilian’s crested head, striking the cryogenic conduit. As liquid oxygen gushed onto the scaly beast, it writhed in pain. Dashiell covered his ears to muffle its death shriek.

When it fell silent, Dashiell prodded the lifeless alien’s face with the muzzle of his revolver. “Slaying the Dragon.”