Tag Archive | Emily Clayton

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 49: WINNERS

Happy Monday! So glad to see y’all; it’s a gorgeous sunny autumn day here in the Shenandoah Valley, and after a fun, quick morning hike, we’re all set for the results party! 

But first: it’s a fond and heart-rich farewell to Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver and Holly Geely. Y’all have been just fabulous. I’ve loved your thoughtful comments, your passion for the community’s stories, and your all-round good humored approach to judging. What a delight and privilege working with you this round. Thank you so very, very much.


And here are Dragon Team Five‘s parting words:   

HG: I can’t believe how quickly the past few months have gone! It’s been grand. I’ve read so many great stories and I’m so impressed by the talent and the kindness in this community. I don’t even have anything silly or sarcastic to say because I’m so happy to have been part of this.

FI: I have to echo Holly – this whole adventure has been like a carnival ride: over before the quarter hits the bottom. (I’d put in another but the attendant is telling me I’m too old for the miniature carousel.) Thank you all for the tears, the laughs, and especially for the privilege! I still don’t feel qualified to judge your words but it surely has been a pleasure walking among them and listening to the stories they’ve told.



for Best Mental Image: Craig Anderson, “The Young King.” FI: Anyone else picture Ramon Salazar from Resident Evil 4?

for Hacking my Brain: Margaret Locke, “Autobiography.” FI: It’s like you have a camera in my head…

for Most Kick A$$ Princess: Michael Wettengel, “Refuge in Audacity.” HG: I love it when the princess fights back, and this one has attitude. Love it.

for Unrelenting Grip: MT Decker, “The Lonesome Road.” HG: Highly poetic and thought-provoking, with a gripping final thought.



Nancy Chenier, “Rescue.”

HG: The maiden is not the prize, indeed. This is a well done piece all around but the closing line is particularly clever, not an ending at all but a hopeful beginning.

FI: What I loved most about this little twisted tale was the opening paragraph, and realizing that our heroine had taken what a man, father or former conquistador, had designed to keep her prisoner and used it for her own good. Talk about empowerment!

Casey Rose Frank, “She Walks.” 

HG: The format of this story is what grips you from the beginning, and a journey with no destination has its own appeal. It speaks of a dark past but leaves the explanation to the readers imagination.

FI: Ninety-nine words of literary tapas, “She Walks” carries its power in its form. We taste darkness, melting heavy on the tongue, until hope, in a zest of orange, reminds us that it’s the going and not the where that matters. Beautiful work.

Joey To, “The Long Path

HG: The four riders are not the apocalyptic ones of lore but they might bring their own apocalypse. The narrator of this story isn’t the main character; the doomed people of the needlessly warning cities are the protagonists.

FI: One of the reasons I loved this prompt was that, as a child, I watched the Pilgrim’s Progress adaptation “Dangerous Journey” until my eyeballs bled. Not really but you get the point. You, writer, did an incredible job capturing the allegorical feel of Bunyan’s work while giving us a fresh story. The names, the foreboding, all work so well together!

Emily Clayton, “Cerise.”

HG: The short story tells a much longer one and both are tragic through and through. I think this is the greatest tragedy, not your own death but the death of a loved one because of your choices and mistakes. In a few words, true pain is captured.

FI: So much of this story is told in the periphery. We’re hooked from the first line but then only given blurry details because ultimately the history can be forgotten. It’s the outcome, the “true pain” as Holly eloquently put it, that matters. Everything else is just another shade of red.


Bill EnglesonMadame Mayor

HG: This story has my favourite corrupt mayor. Through dialogue you learn the casual indifference with which she regards her subjects. It tickles the funny bone with dark humour and hints at a much larger problem the mayor’s subjects will face.

FI: High points for the names! Even higher points for the wordplay. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky commentary on politicians and their “desire” for bipartisanship (does this mean the other pinkie has to go?). It might be unseemly to admit but I wouldn’t mind if this lion-sized security system were implemented in our own capitol… Very clever, dear writer.


Colin Smith, “The Farmer’s Gift” 

HG: In my heart I believe this story was a personal gift to me. He talks about protecting his soul and making offerings, and suddenly bam! It’s a pun. There isn’t much in this world that makes me happier than a well crafted pun.

FI: I have to agree with Holly, that last line won me over instantly! You pulled me in with the world you built, the religious structure you unveil, the unfamiliar names you created, and, once you had me completely, peas. Just, peas. Jarro’s smile could only be a cheeky one.


Mark A. King, “The Mountain and the Valley.” 

HG: This is lovely. The change of the identity of the mountain is gorgeous. The vision of the soldier with his sweethearts picture in his pocket… familiar, horrifying, sad. A story truly deserving of a prize.

FI: Your brilliant use of bookend phrases brought out in bold the protagonist’s change in perspective. You dragged me down into dusty alleys, made me taste the fear and the sweat, and worry for his sake. But more than that, your story holds deep meaning. It speaks for us, the significant others that are left behind, often forgotten, and shows the strength that it takes for us to carry on in a loved one’s absence. I’m not usually one to cry over stories, but you had my heart in tears, dear writer. Masterfully done.

And now: for a stunning, super marvelous FIFTH win, it’s this week’s 




“Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament

HG: I’m no poet and if you know me at all you know it, but this poem is super cool (case in point). I like to read it aloud with a little goblin voice and shriek “deceivers!” The little voice saying divide, divide… awesome.

FI: This is one of those stories that I could read a thousand times over and find a new reason to love it every time. Writer, you earn so many points for originality (in fact, the direction I least expected), for cleverness (an amoeba with a spiritual and existential crisis, yes please!), and for flash on a truly micro scale (how on Earth did you fit so much into 99 words?). You have my respect, my envy, my congratulations – absolutely adored this.

Congratulations, Nancy! Thrilled to see you take your fifth crown which, truth be told, I set aside for you some time back. Check out your updated winner’s page; your winning tale has found there a comfy, non-lonely home there with your other winning tales. Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament

God is Unity
Nature corrupts with its dyads
Eschew division.

Purity is in the waters, they say,
Yet my long liquid hermitage
Hasn’t cleansed my thoughts

They say, too, the urge gets easier to resist,


The need to populate my loneliness
Shudders through my cytoplasm.

The mocking moons in their dual dance
Ooze across the sky.
The psalmody of our One daystar cannot mute
The taunting of wanton satellites.

Divide, they chide, divide

Under light and darkness, I strain
against that which would desecrate
my singular celibacy.

Quivering prophase
–Such lust cleaves our devotion!–
My mitotic sin.


Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 30: WINNERS

AWESOME AWESOME work, y’all. Despite the huge number of draggins traveling this past weekend (or who conked out early, not naming any names, A.J.), y’all still managed nearly five dozen spectacularly convicting (heh heh) tales of justice and/or vengeance and/or Napoleon. And what a riot those tales were. Beautiful, tragic, funny, terrifiying — a little like us, maybe, eh??

And speaking of beautiful, a special mention here for our own Voima Oy, who found inspiration in Phil Coltrane‘s flash fiction-style interview for his 5th win this past week, and wrote her own secret, gorgeous rendition just because. LOVE.    

rof2RING OF FIRE!!!! Since we ran late flinging out the #RingofFire badges for May & June, I’m just now about to update the Wall of Flame. Did you write for FF at least three times in May and/or June? Let me know asap to keep (or put!) your name on this stunning list. Details here!       


Judging for us this round was Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver. SO FUN having this new panel sifting through your glorious tales; can’t wait to get to know each team better as the next rounds unfold. 

Before handing out tiaras, Holly & Foy say:

HG: Good morrow, fellow writers; you have moved me with your display of talent, creativity, and pun-mastery. I was hoping for a bit of silliness and was not disappointed. I am honoured to have this opportunity to present winners, and look forward to the next adventure.

FI:  The inaugural Friday of a new format and look you all, dragony wings unruffled, laying gems at our feet! And is there something in the air? Death, annihilation, and mayhem must be on vacation with optimism and humor filling in; the body count was pleasantly low. While reading, I was swept along in swashbuckling tales of swapped identities, hilariously antithetical ghosts doomed to haunt the same grounds, brooding revenge fantasies–and some not so brooding! And each one laudable for its own traits. The stories standing here are those that demanded to be recognized, succulent, singular, and not soon forgotten.



Best Use of Random French: Emily ClaytonBrothers to the End.” While it might sound like I’m being silly, the French throughout is important, and a clever device.

Best Use of Puns: Voima OyRSVP.” My funny bone was thoroughly tickled. The hologram, the eerie way the prisoners sat down, the meal before them… heehee… gastronomical.

Best Twist: Brian Creek, “Penniless and Wanting.” Thoroughly convinced this was a revenge epic until this magnificent turn: “Come on, Charlie, you’re ruining my book launch.”

Best Ballad Remix-Mashup: Dylyce P. Clarke, “Not With My Body You Don’t.” Reads like a remix-mash-up of Loreena McKennitt’s “Annachie Gordon” and “The Highwayman.”  




Digestible Ink, “The Wedding Night.” 

HG: Clair’s letter reads like something out of its time period, a great use of language. You can feel her sorrow, and later, her anger. Her threat to her lover at the end is heartbreaking, at the same time that it’s cruel.

FI: Such a voice in this! Like a bulwark against the breakers, those first two lines clash (“It is my wedding night. My husband lies drunk on the bed.”), drowning us in Clair’s plight, prescribed by “parents and duty.” So far she’s sunk, that she sees her lover’s gift as an instrument of escape (“This silk can free me from…life”), and, in her jealous anguish, threatens the very man she longs for (“If you are silent then my death will unleash your downfall.”). Heavy at the close, we’re left despairing that they’ll be returned to that indigo night under the low moon.

Steph Ellis, “‘Til Death Do Us Part.”

HG: The chilling last line “Let me get you another drink…” ties together a story that started off with an “act of charity” and finishes with a murder. The title is appropriate, and sinister after you’ve read the rest.

FI: From the opening, we know not to trust that “expected humility” on William’s part, and the frustration with his success in sending his Lucy off to “Prison and the madhouse” mounts with every web spun.  Each read-through presented new information and unanswered questions. What must he have done to provoke Lucy’s first attempt? In a delicious twist, it’s his own false charity that brings him down, thanks to the clever scheming of his wife and the weakness of a certain vicar. Lucy’s final words to former love are gripping, “Poor William, you look so thirsty. Let me get you another drink…”

Ian Martyn, “The Tale of the Master Baker.”

HG: Not only did this story make me hungry for fresh-baked bread, it wowed me with the consistency of the metaphor.  My favourite line: “And jealousy is the yeast to the fermentation of rumour.”

FI: Like Holly, I am in awe of this tale’s uniformity! Phrases like, “My baguettes the toast of France.” and “I was accused of using performance enhancing substances, as if my bread ever needed the addition of baking powder for the perfect rise.” kept me rolling (please, if you haven’t enjoyed this story yet, do so!). Behind all the impressive bread metaphors and tantalizing descriptions of croissants, the author gives us a well-rounded revenge tale, complete with the threat that “like a sourdough starter I bubble away out of sight and I promise you, I will rise again.”

Josh Bertetta, “Resolution.”

HG: The three main characters are intriguing. The conflict of Man vs. Man applies because even the snail and butterfly are “people.” The snail has a valid argument at the end and I think he may have won the battle.

FI: A fantastic story should be more than it seems. “Resolution” is just that. What begins as the set up for an unusual “Three so-and-so’s walked into a bar” joke, builds into a worlds-deep philosophical study. The odd companions, man, butterfly, and snail, argue what gives purpose, worth, and meaning to life. Is it power “I could crush you…and I could end your life with simple salt”? Is it freedom “I am then the freest… for I, being created of fire, change from one state of being to another?” Or is it ordained by a higher being “I, like water, can take the shape of my container—the spiral—the very shape of creation itself. I am the potential for becoming, the very stuff over which God breathed in Genesis”? (Love the appearance of Fibonacci spiral!) At the end, we understand that God is part of His creation, the snail proclaiming, “You see, I AM.”


Tamara Shoemaker,The Making of a Man.” 

HG: This story takes the escaped convict character and gives it a charming twist. “My shackles are secure in her hands, my puppet’s strings taut and ready to leap with the first tug.” You might feel sorry for the man, if he hadn’t just been called “Mrs. McMuffins” (which is a spectacular name, by the way). “The outdoors beckons with manliness,” indeed. A creative tale that made me smile.

FI: With as much tension as launched its opening, “The Making of a Man” could’ve been set in an interrogation room. We sit and trembled as this mysterious jailor “narrows her eyes across the space,” and “recognize [our] sentence in their jade depths.” And then suddenly we’re sipping from “miniature teacups” and Mrs. McMuffins is not a Mrs. at all. The protagonist’s situation (and gender!) is cleverly disguised til the last. Though poor Mr. Johnson would’ve preferred to be out in the “manliness” of the outdoors, mowing and chopping, it takes a true man to sit and have “tepid water” tea with his imaginative daughter.


Marie McKay, “The Gentle Sway of the Forest.” 

HG: This story is compelling as well as eerie. The most powerful line of the story, “That made her want him more,” sets the tone and drives the ending home.

FI: “The Gentle Sway” is a beautiful example of the power of flash fiction. Stunning imagery throughout – “the studs in the denim blue sky,” “her brown curls splitting the yellow,” “claw fingers of the trees picking at the sutures of her patched up heart”), carried me through each heart-rending paragraph. So much is told in quiet, “cigarette-stained words.” He tells her tales, true or not that she believes: “Innocent. Locked up. Too long. Lost faith.” She stays because she “could change him,” ignoring every “cherry red warning” nature whispers. It’s a sign of true talent that such a dark fiction could leave you feeling comforted, wrapped in warm arms as the forest “casts its fresh, green blanket over her final resting place.”


Eric Martell/DrMagoo, “Jacopo’s Place.” 

HG: This story had a fine twist on the “escaped convict” character. I could feel the poor man’s fear as he sipped on his drink. When his jailor was revealed, I agonized with him; thankfully the bartender was there to save him. The voice was superb and the bartender was a noble hero. (I also couldn’t help but have a small chuckle at the man’s expense.)

FI: As Holly said, “Jacopo’s Place” centered on a refreshingly original “convict”: a man trapped in an unhappy marriage and seeking refuge. Our observant narrator picks out all the signs of a fellow “guest of the state,” darting eyes and uneasy posture, and decides to let him tell his tale in his own time. Rather than ridicule the man as a “whipped dog” when his oppressor is revealed, Jacopo offers him an escape, reassuring him that “No one gets found in my place unless they want to be found.” The line instantly adds texture, leaving us to wonder how many others have sought safety in Jacopo’s Place.

And now: forgive the blubbering mess, but ohh darling draggins, please let the celebrations reverberate across the galaxies: it’s our long overdue, first-time




The Dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy

HG: “Her dreams were crayon-colours.” What a gorgeous mental image that is, for someone as fond of crayons as I’ve always been. The implication of those colours is significant and unique. The two characters who are so different from one another, and yet who dream together…amazing. There is such depth here in so few words, such tender feelings and heartbreak. The final line is perfect and leaves you with hope as well as an underlying feeling of despair.

FI: From its unforgettable title to the prose-masked poetry dancing through its lines, “Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy” stole my heart on first reading. Its approach to both character and theme are brilliantly original. Rather than follow the trials of a traditional convict, it shows us two trapped souls from vastly different worlds: a boy living “his life in the smothering love of his parents,” and a girl surviving “in the folds of oppression.” And while many of the stories chose to paint portraits of revenge, this one chased after a “dream of impossible justice.” In their secret selves they crave a world where their “origami-porcelain children would be strong and independent, and loved,” escaping from that metaphorical prison the boy and girl have known from birth. For soul-searing prose and ingenuity, a worthy winner.

Congratulations, Mark! We’re all so jubilant and overwhelmed and giddy, we can barely contain ourselves. What a gorgeous story from a powerful and beloved writer. Please find here your brand new winner’s page (which has been waiting in the wings for some time now, knowing your day would come) 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:

The Dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy

She lived her life in the folds of oppression.

He lived his life in the smothering love of his parents.

She once twirled in the sunlight. Once smiled. Her dreams were crayon-colours. Roughly sketched blueprints of respect, dignity, self-worth and a mythical thing called love.

He only left the house when they went with him. Mind that step, son. Have you taken your tablets? Button your coat. Don’t forget the emergency procedures.

She pursued her dreams and saw that glimmer of love in broken men; men that she would come to realise were beyond redemption.

He watched his parents die from the genetic disease that coursed through his veins and was left ill prepared to face the world alone.

She folded into the roles and shapes demanded of her. She was the beautiful dove, the delicate orchid, the fearsome dragon. Between roles, she could not turn back to herself—such a person did not exist.

He hid in the musty shadows of his house. Breathed the mould-spore mists. He didn’t clean the dust, for the dust was them. It was all he had left.

They dreamed. They dreamed of impossible justice.

In their dreams, they danced in the mirror-ball light of the moon. They touched with tenderness. Kissed with compassion. Their origami-porcelain children would be strong and independent, and feel loved.

Perhaps she would leave these men?

Perhaps he would leave this house?

And perhaps justice would be found in the dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy.