Tag Archive | Carin Marais

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 52: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all: welcome to our final regular results show for Flash! Friday — combined today with Saturday’s Flash Dash results (still rather mind-boggled that an 11-year-old managed to write an entire funny little story in the 30 minutes!).

As for the wealth of gorgeous, dragonish love you wrote Friday, I’m going to reserve my comments for Friday, when it’s my turn to say thanks. Remember we’ve a grand finale party this Friday (Dec 11) with Flashversary: mugs, posters, books, and all kinds of magnificent prizes at stake. I hope you’ll come back to write one last time. ♥ 

Tomorrow is our final global #Spotlight, this time featuring the lovely F.E. Clark from Scotland. Be sure to join us! Haggis optional. 

Last for today: an enormous round of thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy and A.J. Walker. I’ve loved this pairing: Voima’s poetic spirit, A.J.’s tongue-in-cheekiness (and Catherine’s faithful blinding of the tales–thank you too!). Your thoughtful choices, your funny and poignant comments, your cheery spirits, your enthusiasm, every bit of it. And especially to A.J. who, I think, may have given me more dragons than anyone. Thankful til I die? Oh yes. And beyond. ♥♥♥  

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Up first: Flash Dash results!!! love the frenetic world of Flash Dash, getting a little peek at how brains work, how stories are born. Your stories were sheer delight, and yes, some fantastic creativity, everything from genies to werewolves. A literary buffet, y’all. Thanks to all of you!

Special mention first up for 11-year-old Crystal Alden, who defied the time limitations and wrote a creative, cheeky story with a strong start and hilarious finish. Great job, Crystal — you had me laughing aloud. Read her story here.

⇒⇒ The winner of the $20 Flash Dash Cash prize is

Nancy Chenier

Strong voice, spot-on pacing, and OH MY LANDS what a last line, executed with perfection. You’ve earned this one, baby. Watch your inbox for details on how to get your loot. Congratulations! And everyone: read her winning story here.

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Now for the final regular round of Flash! Friday! Here are Dragon Team Eight’s final comments:   

V — Thank you for all your great stories. Epic and  intimate, tragic and funny and brave — each unique and special.  It has been an honor and a privilege and so much fun to be part of this Flash! Friday community. To come together, to share  stories is  a remarkable thing. It takes tremendous amount of time and effort to make this place, this creative space.  Thank you, Rebekah, for everything. 

And I could not ask for a better co-judge than AJ. Your sense of humor and positive spirit is a delight–not to mention your own amazing talent.  Thank you, AJ for making Dragon Team 8 great. Thank you, Catherine, for sending us the stories. We could not do this without you. You are an essential member of Dragon Team 8! 

With the closing of MicroBookends, and Three Line Thursday on hiatus, we bid farewell  to other inspiring places for very short poems and stories. Thank you, David and Grace, for all your hard work. Thursdays and Fridays will be different now. 

These are very special places–here, we can come together. To me, the comments from other writers are part of the appeal of Flash! Friday, Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends.  People feel free to interact, encourage each other, appreciate a good line, or a fantastic ending.  This means so much to a writer, especially a writer who is just starting, or beginning again, this thing that we all do.  

Friendships have been forged here. Lives have been changed here. Writers have been born and grown here. 

The community continues to grow and change, inspired by each other.  We know writing can be a lonely business. Life can be demanding, and sometimes it seems impossible to write at all. Yet we need imagination and stories more than ever. We need possibilities. We need to imagine better futures.  We will write on, I do believe this. And we are not alone.

AJW — When #Team8 were put together all those months ago and the schedule set down, little did we know that we’d end up judging the last of the regular Flash! Friday challenges. It has been an honour to serve our most lovely Mother of Dragons, Rebekah. We’ve all enjoyed the anticipation in seeing what photograph, what phrase or book was to be our touchstone each Friday. Sometimes they floated our boat, sometimes they went up in flames. But always there would be fireworks somewhere, somehow, and Fridays won’t be the same without it. I have sent a personal message to Rebekah and so won’t get too schmaltzy here, but needless to say she has been a star and can be justly proud with what she created here.

This week’s stories have been smothered in thick gloopy love and affection for this special place and the keeper of the keys. The ‘beautiful girl who lived here’ turned out to be Rebekah, and she was either a resplendent dragon herself or very close mates with one (or at least an egg).  

To Voimaoy — THANK YOU!  For your patience and understanding. And being an all-round great judging partner. It has been a true pleasure. and I think we have worked well together. Cheers  x.   Thanks as ever to Catherine for forwarding the stories to us so we could judge them blind. Thanks too to everyone who entered this week – I trust that you have all mopped up the tears from your keyboards and that none of your computers exploded into flame from tear damage (I’m sure insurance for tear damaged electronics is impossible to get – more chance of getting Dragon Cover).

After toying for a millisecond with the idea of making everyone a winner, that was discounted for being a cop out; someone deserves the last badge after all. It was a really tough call picking the top ten or so and then drilling down to the winner, but we have. So, without further ado, here’s our call:

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MENTIONS

Chris Milam, “Table for One.” A bite of reality

Karl A. Russell, “The Girl and the Egg.” A door, an eggshell, magic!  

Bart Van Goethem, “Rebirth.” Refreshingly unsentimental–with a wonderful one-word ending.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Carin Marais, “Arad’s Dragon.” V – A beautiful story of friendship — the epic economy of flash

Bill Engleson, “Thanks Stan.” AJ – Hey, I like humour, and this one made me laugh. Snappy dialogue. Simple idea. Not being allowed within 100 yards of a maiden again. Poor lamb. Thanks for the laugh!   

Stella Turner, “Sins of the Flesh.” V – Dark, dark, humour–Love this take and the turns of phrase–“sliced bread, butter knife”…and “caught devouring bacon” 

Jennifer Terry, “#TimelessBeauty.” AJ – Loved the emotion in this piece. Getting old gracefully, perhaps not confident in oneself, then a nice uplifting end. And of course I’m a big Twitter fan so it needs a mention (Twitter has been great for us writers, hasn’t it?) #uplifting 

Geoff Holme, “Aubade.” V – Although a late entry, this deserves mention for a lovely tribute–Aubade is a song of parting, and greeting a new dawn.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Anderson, “Mother of Dragons.”

V — This one had me in tears.  It is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity–“The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free” to “How magnificent they are.”   This is a testament to the economy and power of flash. Wonderful and generous writing. 

AJW – ‘The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free.’ Well, that first line says it all doesn’t it? Like so many of the stories this week the heart is well and truly on its sleeve, on a badge, on the T-Shirt and in bright flashing neon, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Bookended (don’t get me started on Microbookends please) by last line; ‘I gave them wings, now they must fly,’ it is an instruction. Or at least a call to try. You’ve all got an extra hour or so on Fridays from now on; see what you can do with it…

Graham Milne, “The Auction.” 

AJW – Lovely idea, perfectly written. Who’d have thought dragons could have had their teeth pulled and fire put out by Capitalism? Picturing the once-proud beast with paddle No.68 having to bid for their supper/maiden is a super/supper idea. ‘Faded scales that once glittered’ perfectly encapsulating the idea. 

V — I agree with AJ: it is a sad commentary on Capitalism and the current state of affairs in this materialistic world. It  is so well done, and I love the take on “dragons bidding”  too!  We need magic and humor more than ever.

Steph Ellis, “Legacy

AJW – If someone can sort out the music, it could become an anthem for the FlashDogs and the ‘brothers and sisters’ we’ve found through writing here at FFF. Some powerful phrases and another call to arms/pens. I especially liked ‘‘take their fire, and burn down the battlements, breach the closed doors, of literati’s elite.” I’m feeling emboldened just repeating it!  And yes, we do see “the Dragon horde gather.’ 

Stirring stuff – get out those power chords!  

V – Forged in a “volcanic nursery” out of the “monotonous monochrome of the safe and the known” — these are   powerful and moving  words. This is an anthem, and a manifesto. Write on!

 

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

The Imaginator, “A Beautiful Girl Lived Here” 

AJW – Who doesn’t like a bouncing bosom (or preferably two)? And I must say we don’t see enough corsets in Flash! so thanks for that. Seriously, a well-crafted story. I liked with the simple use of ‘pon and ‘neath to give us an idea of the time of the setting (although maybe it could be contemporary Morecambe?). The description of the woman ‘a force of nature’ and the effect she had on both the menfolk and the women was very visual. I could picture the scene perfectly, even through to the unfortunate end and the ‘entrails on the moonlit cobblestones.’ 

V — I couldn’t agree more. This story reads like a folktale, and it’s as visual as a movie (a classic Hammer film, perhaps?). A “force of nature” indeed. and what a powerful ending!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Subject.” 

AJW – A neat original take with so few words to play with (I think it could make an excellent longer piece) it brilliantly shows Rebekah’s realisation of what she was and what she’d done. I loved the dawning of reality as she sees her eyes in the reflection in a shard of glass and then her ‘fingers becoming talons’.   The use of the font change to end the story was simple and perfect. Well done.

V –  The writing throughout is stunning in  economy  and confidence–“the truth of what she was, of what she’d done”.  And the final word –the Greek letters for “Dragon.”  Yes!  Powerful and fierce and beautiful.  This one is for the Dragon Queen.

And now: for her very first time (no, this couldn’t be more perfect; yes, I cried when I saw her name), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

CATHERINE CONNOLLY!!!

for

“Through Lettered Lands

AJW – Time for more olde powere chords? Maybe not. An almost perfect piece (I’m overlooking the added apostrophe (damn autocorrect) – sorry Geoff) and a fitting winner for the last of the regular FF. It perfectly presents us – the writers – from simply ‘writ(ing) a sentence on entering’  through to the creation of entire worlds yet to be mapped, and presenting the writer as an explorer: Lovely. The third stanza in particular stood out for me: ‘Take care little wanderer, they told me -/ once hunted, few care to return from/ the beauty of script scribbled in spaces/ blank, ‘til creation begins.’ A fitting epitaph. Don’t you think?

V — It is an epitaph, an epic poem–but most of all it is a story — our story — it beautifully describes the writer’s journey from initial hesitance to curiosity, and on into ever-expanding lands and worlds into the uncharted unknown—

“It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me 
take it wherever you go
its end starting whole new beginnings…
Explorers seek it, perpetual”  

In the as-yet unwritten future — “All write upon entering — Here Be Dragons.”  

Beautifully done!  

Congratulations, Catherine! I can’t imagine a more perfect writer nor more perfect story to take the very last Flash! Friday dragon crown. Here’s your lovely, brand new winner’s page; apologies for the tear stains. Watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
it’s end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

FFwinner-Web

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Spotlight on South Africa: Carin Marais

Flash! Friday may be winding down, but the global writing community’s growing stronger than ever. One of the greatest joys of our particular contest here has been the privilege of meeting writers from around the world; we are the better for expanding our naturally narrow patterns of perspective and understanding. Today we are joined by longtime Flash! Friday writer and two-time champ Carin Marais, who has graciously agreed to share with us about her writerly life in South Africa. Welcome back to the mic, Carin!

Carin Marais

Please tell us about your writerly journey.

For as long as I can remember I have made up stories, though I did not always write them down. I think growing up surrounded by books and being encouraged to read anything and everything I wanted to really spurred it on. I read very widely as a child (and still do). The classics were cheap so they always seemed great value for money, which meant that I read writers like Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, etc. early on. Roald Dahl, on the other hand, really brought home a kind of a stranger, darker fiction and reading The Neverending Story was a big step towards reading more fantasy and discovering writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and Robert Jordan.

I read Pratchett and Tolkien in high school and there was no turning back! Their books in turn also led me to texts like Beowulf, the Eddas, and The Golden Bough. I also started writing in high school after some personal tragedies. Writing has always been a way for me to work through personal stuff as much as it is fun and fulfilling. I can’t imagine not writing.

I find that I lean towards speculative fiction as soon as I start to write a new story even if I did not mean for it to have any of those elements. Watching series like Star Trek, X-files, Stargate SG-1, and Outer Limits growing probably had a big hand in that! I love the way you can ask any “what if…?” question in speculative fiction and work through your question in a world different from our own, whether it is a secondary world or just set in the future. I do tend to write fantasy rather than science fiction or horror even though some of my stories are quite twisted and dark. My love of mythology and folklore also has a definitely influence on what I write and the worlds I create.

At the moment I’m busy writing and editing my NaNoWriMo novel, which is an epic fantasy tale. In-between that I am also writing some short stories in both English and Afrikaans (I am Afrikaans, for those who perhaps did not know). I am hoping to finish the first draft of an Afrikaans short story anthology by April or May next year. I also write for Flash! Friday, Cracked Flash, and Three Line Thursday as often as I can.

How do you balance creative writing with a writing job and everything else?

I love having a job where I get to write and translate a wide variety of texts – it also helps for when I cannot write otherwise! Because the writing I do during the day is removed from the fantasy I write in my own time it is easier to switch between the two.

I write whenever I can, sometimes taking my lunchtime to work on something. Because I worked full-time and studied part-time for a few years, I have a work-study/write routine that I now mostly fill with writing and other projects and hobbies.

Introduce us to your writing life in Johannesburg.

I mostly write alone, though for NaNoWriMo I do go to the write-ins and at those times it’s really a lot of fun to be in that environment when everyone is giddy to get their first draft (and 50,000 words) done. I usually write at home or in one specific coffee shop (who makes huge cappuccino’s) close to where I live. The waiters know by now that they can just leave me and only need to refill my coffee mug or teapot every now and then.

When I do snack on something while writing, it is usually jelly beans. It was a habit which started while I was studying, and there’s this one brand which seem to put my brain into a mode where it knows that it’s time to focus and stop thinking about the weather and whether or not I need another cup of tea before I actually start working. Because I don’t drink much caffeine anymore, I tend to drink a lot of different teas. I especially like local teas such as rooibos, honeybush and the variations of those two (with cinnamon, vanilla, etc.).

What’s the publishing situation like in your part of the world?

NB Publishers, which is part of Naspers, is the biggest publishing house in the country and some of its most well known imprints are Tafelberg and Human & Rousseau. Some imprints, like Kwela Books, are specifically geared towards African fiction. There are also publishers geared specifically to Christian books.

As in the US and many other countries it is difficult to get published traditionally, but there are various new platforms available and writers can self-publish their work. One of the platforms which I am a member of is Woes, which is an Afrikaans platform for writing. You are also able to sell your self-published books there.

Introduce us to Johannesburg!

I live just outside Johannesburg. It is in Gauteng, which is the smallest province of South Africa. It’s in a part of South Africa called the Highveld and is at an elevation of 5, 751 ft. Our weather is mostly sunny and besides the late afternoon thundershowers in summer, I love that we still have a deep blue sky in the middle of winter. We very rarely get any snow, so the day that a few flakes fall almost everyone drops what they are doing.

About 4 million people live in Johannesburg, and it is a melting pot of different cultures, people, and religions. My own neighbourhood is diverse, which makes it a great place to get inspiration from. The city certainly has its own vibe that is a lot different from smaller places.

When it comes to entertainment we’re spoilt for choice because it is such a large city. There are, for instance, restaurants to pick and choose from serving food from around the world. For me the biggest treat is being able to go to the theatre and see live performances and there are various theatres you can visit. The Cradle of Humankind is also only about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and you don’t have to go too far to feel like you have left the city far behind you. Soweto is also not far away and there are some great tours that you can do there as well.

Who are your favorite South African writers?

My favourite South African writers are Karel Schoeman, Nataniël, Dalene Matthee, and P.G. du Plessis. Karel Schoeman has a way with language that I admire so much – the way he can conjure places and characters as well as writing lyrical without it turning into purple prose. I love his books Hierdie Lewe (This Life), Na die geliefde land (Promised Land), and ’n Ander land (Another Country). They have all been translated into English.

Dalene Matthee’s stories about the Knysna Forest and the people living there have always brought my imagination to life (and I love forests, so…). I think there are very few South Africans who haven’t at least heard of Kringe in ’n Bos (Circles in the Forest) and Fiela se Kind (Fiela’s Child). Nataniël’s sense of humor and his stories, which many times are bittersweet, are for me some of the best writing. He writes in both English and Afrikaans.

The heart in P.G. du Plessis’ stories and the way in which he writes characters is absolutely wonderful. He is one of the few writers who can make me cry with just one sentence! Dan Sleigh is another favourite writer and his novel Eilande (Islands) made a huge impact on me when I read it. I can highly recommend reading any of these authors.

What are you reading now? 

I usually read more than one book at a time and at the moment I am busy reading Boris Akunin’s The Death of Achilles, which is the fourth book of his Erast Fandorin Mysteries series. I am also busy with the series of books The History of Middle-earth. (I can highly recommend both series.)

The Erast Fandorin Mysteries are set in Russia in the late 1800s and the hero of the tales is part James Bond, part Sherlock Holmes. What I like most about Boris Akunin’s writing is his characterisation and his dry sense of humour. He can make me laugh out loud even when I’m reading in public. The names do take some time to get used to, though.

Who has most inspired you as a writer? 

My mother always supported my writing endeavours and my sister is always there to lend an ear and to give me motivation to carry on when I get to the place where I think everything I have ever written are the most awful things ever to grace a page.

When it comes to fiction writing, the Afrikaans teacher I had in my last two years of high school had a big impact on me and pushed me to keep on writing.

How can we as a flash fiction community do better? 

There is such a great vibe in the flash fiction community! I have not come across any negativity and have only received support and encouragement from everyone. So I guess what I want to say is that everyone can just carry on what they are doing now! I hope that there will be some more flash fiction writers from South Africa joining in in the future!

Sixty Seconds II with: Carin Marais

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 latest Flash! Friday winner (for her 2nd time!) is Carin Marais.  Read her winning story at her winner’s page here, then take one minute to get to know her better. (Read her first interview, from Nov 2014, here.)

1) What about Grimms’ fairy tales inspired your winning piece? I love fairy tales and “The Juniper Tree” is one that has stayed with me since childhood. It’s very twisted!

2) Please sum up your writerly year for us. I’ve been working on a novel and have had a bunch of articles and an essay published. And writing flash!

3) How would you describe your writing style? I’m definitely more of a pantser, but for longer pieces – and the current novel – I’m having to do some outlining.

4) When did you begin writing fiction? I only began to seriously write down my stories in grade 10 –  definitely one of the healthier coping mechanisms available!

5) Introduce us to a favorite character in one of your stories. The main character in my WIP, Selena Tellah. She’ll keep her loved ones safe no matter what it costs her.

6) What books have influenced your life the most? The Lord of the Rings. Also all of Tolkien, Pratchett, Roald Dahl, Jorge Borges, Umberto Eco, and Karel Schoeman’s works.

7) What are you currently reading? The Secret Life of Trees (Colin Tudge), The Meaning of Everything (Simon Winchester), and The Book of Lost Tales (Tolkien).

8) How do you combat writer’s block? Sometimes reading something completely different to what I’m writing helps. Otherwise writing really bad prose until it starts flowing again!  

9) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? The best advice I’ve received is to write as much as possible every day and to write what you love.

10) What do you admire most about dragons? There are so many types of dragons all over the world in folklore/mythology I don’t know where to start! [[Editor’s note: Wise answer.]]