Tag Archive | Helen Laycock

Fire&Ice Sol 18/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Welcome, welcome, dear dragons, to the penultimate results celebration! Yesterday, it was our pleasure to host two more of our fellow community members, Jethro Weyman & Tad Kelson, a.k.a. Tadk/GamerWriter, for the final Flash! Future. Please do click here and check it out! They fill us in on what they write, and offer some words of encouragement for all of us going forward. And speaking of going forward, as we launch into Fire&Ice‘s last Sol this week, this Friday promises to be a fire-drenched, ice-splintered battle like no other! We hope you’ll bring Rebekah and me your most piercing words!

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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 18’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter:  I felt like this week’s batch was just filled with endless gifts of details, both in terms of phrasing/word choices and in little things like names and places. I absolutely loved all the wonder and uniqueness contained within these stories. And I’m grateful I got to read them all! What a privilege. And of course many thanks to Karl for being my judging partner, our exchanges have been so much fun!

I have to mention these: Becky Spence‘s “Like Lucy,” for its clever references to both Peanuts and Star Trek (“I tend bar, and I listen.”), Laurence D.’s Untitled story for the lovely phrase, “danced to the melody of a city,” Voima Oy‘s “The Visitor,” with a nod to Arecibo and looking for life far and near, Tinman‘s “Over the Top” for zooming in on such a wonderful detail – hair! – and how fabulous can make even an alien feel, Nancy Chenier‘s Relativity for stretching family conversations across time in a unique way, Rab‘s Untitled story for digging into a whole other type of detail and ingenuity, Matt Krizan‘s “Mars and Venus on Vacation” with a wonderful nod to Hitchhiker’s Guide and a bit of grossness, and the pure sweetness of Susan Stevenson‘s “Adieu.” 


Karl A. Russell: As we hurtle towards our final Sol, I want to take a moment or two to thank our wonderful hosts for opening the lair one more time, my judging partner Betsy for making it look like I know what I’m doing here, all the people who comment, like and share their favourites on Twitter, and most of all, I want to thank you all for writing. You make us laugh and gasp and tear up, you take us right out of our strange days or push us to recognise that they will pass. You find the perfect phrase, the exact word, the single piece of punctuation that will reach deep into your reader and make out hearts sing. And most of you manage it every single week. So thank you, one and all.

This week’s spread of stories is a perfect example of this, and like Betsy said, there were so many wonderful details that are deserving of a shout out. I loved the final lines of Pippa Phillips‘s ‘Opening Bid‘ and Voima Oy‘s ‘The Visitor‘ for the hints of otherworldly strangeness they contained. Nancy Chenier‘s ‘Relativity‘ gave us the emotional heart of interstellar travel while Tad Kelson‘s ‘Silence‘ showed us what it actually feels like.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Cardboard Empires by Arcane Edison

BS: This could be read in two ways, both epic and delusional. That’s a lot to accomplish in 81 words. I loved reading this both ways, multiple times. Amazing.

KR: It’s all about to kick off! This one was the most action-packed story in a week of mostly wistful takes and is a great opener for something epic.

Consumed by Helen Laycock

BS: This one contains such detail, especially “Franco raised his right hand, covering the tear in his trousers with the left.” That says so, so much. Well done.

KR: That ‘flip’ moment seals this story for me. Franco’s life has turned upside down, and even if his only patrons now are the pigeons, he’s still trying to recapture what was. The lovely little detail with the torn trousers says that no matter how far he’s fallen, he still has his pride.

Commander of Cheer by K. Hartless

BS: Oh, the frustration of cheer muffled by lockdown. Plus interstellar travel, to boot. Really great.

KR: The most seasonal story and the most dystopic! I’d love to see a sequel where the jolly fat man takes on the curfew-enforcing security forced to finish his sacred deliveries!

RUNNER UP

Untitled by Michael Seese

BS: I love when extremely different things come together to tell a story, and this one is so unexpected and hilarious. And once you see “Cleveland” and “brown and orange,” you know where this fellow has landed. And then, partying as a bringer of peace. Just so great!

KR: The humour in this was wonderful; the matter-of-fact description of vomiting, the whooping drunk and the contrast between the alien’s intentions and their innocent imbibing…

RUNNER UP

Home by Eliza Archer

BS: Again, those details! The setting, the language, and then the simple practicality of the old coins. And, having been everywhere, just wanting a latte. Who of us hasn’t felt the pull of simplicity and wanting “normal” things this year? This taps into that sentiment so, so well.

KR: The details in this transported me right to a busy city street. The sights, sounds and smells of coming home. Yes, it’s about space travel, but it captures something more universal – who wouldn’t want to be free to wander crowded streets, watch beautiful people pass by and get a good cup of coffee right now?

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARVIND IYER!!!

for

The Letter

BS – This story jumped into a world and I felt like I could see Vo-Tan right off. Part of it is the use of words like “cosmodazzle” which immediately give a sense of other-ness, but also this story has a strong voice, and point of view, that is unique and shall I say, sparkly. And the idea that someone is out there building a cosmic Bridge of Emotions, and discovering how the good and bad travel together, warmed my heart in a very needed way. It evokes the idea that “negative” emotions are as necessary as “positive” ones to build a complete universe. And that is a big truth in a little story. Well done!

KR — Consider me cosmodazzled. With very little space to move, this gave us glimpses of a cosmos-spanning endeavour, an intriguing concept in the Bridge Of Emotions (I’m picturing something like Bifrost, daisy-chain-linking planets across the gulfs of space) and a wonderful inversion in the way that tears are more powerful than laughter. Vo-Tan’s obvious excitement at their discovery carries right through to the reader. So well done!

Congratulations, ARVIND! Here’s your winning story:

THE LETTER

Dear Iuri,

I write to you from the wondrous planet of Terra, and what we have been looking for– the missing piece to build our Bridge of Emotions spanning a thousand stars– is right here!

We’ve found cosmodazzle in varying levels across planets…why, the mildest form of it– laughter– was from here.

But the people here also do something else, Iuri. They cry.

I’m bringing it with me. When you taste the tears, you’ll know what I mean.

Love,
Vo-Tan.

Fire&Ice Sol 17/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! Here we are with the latest round of contest results—a delight, as ever, platforming your words. Speaking of platforms: be sure to drop by yesterday’s Flash!Future if you haven’t yet, featuring Fire&Ice writers P.A. (Maggie) Duncan & Bill Engleson. We’ll highlight two more writers next weekend to round out our collection of Sunday posts. And finally, we’ve just two more contests before closing up our five-month (!) run. This Friday will be judged by the most Excellent Betsy Streeter & Karl Russell. For the final contest on December 18 Deb Foy and I will serve as your judges, and we are excited to mail off a rather amazing pile of prizes to the winner. We hope you all will be able to join us for one last merry round before we collectively and permanently ban 2020 from the present. And now on to the winners!

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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 17’S JUDGES SAY:

Tamara Shoemaker: It’s been so much fun to dip back into the flash fiction world these last few months and reminisce over the short and powerful stories that eke out of the weekly prompts. Thanks again to the Dragons, who trusted me with the responsibility of weighing your words, to my fellow judge Eric Martell, who has good-naturedly put up with my plethora of emails in his inbox during our judging weekends, and to each one of you for consistently dazzling me with astounding stories. I have enjoyed this sojourn!

Two quick shout-outs before we jump into the winners list: Tinman’sWater Sport,” for making me snort coffee up my nose at “burst gloriously through the surface right into the midst of the Danish Synchronised Swimming team.” Helen Laycock‘s Ocean Lament: for the gorgeous and heart-breaking Romeo/Juliet-esque love story.


Eric Martell: In all of the chaos that 2020 has brought, there have been not nearly enough lights in the
darkness, and one that has been a big part of my life the last few months has been the return of Flash! Friday. The combined work of the Ice and Fire Dragon Queens, and their graciousness in inviting me to judge, has allowed me to return to writing and given me the privilege of reading so many wonderful stories. This marks the third and final go-round for me in the hot seat. I appreciate your indulgence and your patience with my judging idiosyncrasies. Thank you. And for whatever poetry I lack in my words, you get to read those of the incredible Tamara Shoemaker.

Before we get to the winners, I’d like to give a few shout-outs to: Becky Spence‘s “Untitled” [I stand on the cliff top]: “Always waiting, for that part of me to return.” StellaKateT‘s “The Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead“: What we lose when we extinguish another’s light. And Phil Coltrane‘s “0°C“: “I’m sorry, my dear. I thought you were someone else.” Thanks to everyone who wrote this week. It took forever to narrow my list down this far.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Black Sea Dreams” by Maggie Duncan

TS: This story, encased in some vivid mermaid bookends, shows such a sharp contrast between one life and the other, one subterfuge and the next. Loved it!

EM: When we pretend, for a time, we may become another.

Untitled” (Arielle Danced) by Mark Giacomin

TS: I was particularly caught by the way the words of the story themselves became the ocean in the weighted limbs, the oblivion-covered memories, and the dancing water. Simply gorgeous!

EM: A beautiful story of grief and the dangers of being consumed by it.

RUNNER UP

Waterling”  by Nancy Chenier

TS: This story touched on my mother’s heart and made me tear up a little. Granted, my own children are no waterlings, but most parents identify with the necessary distance that takes place in the inevitable growing stages. I could feel this parent’s despair in this line: “Or all the love I poured into this little boy only for it to evaporate into a spritely haze of indifference, webbed fingers always slipping from my hand.”

EM: We raise our children knowing they are their own people, that one day they will leave us and begin their own lives. We don’t expect it to happen at the age of four, nor that they will sink beneath the sea to begin a new life. This story broke my heart.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

BETSY STREETER!!!

for

Untitled (I’m Sorry, I Thought You Were Water)

TS – I agree with Eric in his comments below; the opening line of this one snagged
my attention immediately and kept me riveted the entire way through the story. I loved how this
story is a communication, almost a eulogy from a lover to his beloved who has gone before. The
enforced separation between what is above and what is below is gutting, and brought to mind the
African proverb: “A fish and a bird can fall in love, but the two cannot build a home together.”
The narrator’s impotence with “I fell back…” shattered me; the emotion all too readily resonates
with many of us as we watch our biggest dreams, hopes, desires slip through our fingers. This
was so well done, and very deserving of the win.

EM — What an opening line! The first line of the first story of the week, and I was
hooked. We try to stay attached to the people we love, but we don’t always walk the same path.
Sometimes, they’re not who we think they are, or wish them to be. This story painted that picture
so well, with such vivid imagery, that it was impossible to look away.

Congratulations, Betsy! Here’s your winning story:

Untitled (I’m Sorry; I Thought You Were Water)

I’m sorry,

I thought you were water.

I thought we spoke to each other in waves, and currents, and depths. I believed we felt the same seasons, saw the same colors.

We would swim side by side, every so often touching, squinting in the white sunlight from above, drifting in the dark below. I taught you what I knew. It wasn’t everything.

Sometimes we were still, other times we got tossed around, but we would pull back together like strands of kelp. Free-moving, but growing from the same stalk.

There are creatures that live so deep in the ocean dark they never bother to grow eyes.

You broke the surface, and I tried to follow. But howls of wind and machinery and screeches of gulls lashed my ears.

I fell back helpless, useless, and watched you shrink to a speck, now seen, now not, retreating toward the shore, forever.

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?”