I knew it, knew it, KNEW IT. Give you crazy writers a spying kid, and there’s NO END to the mayhem you’d uncover. One photo: nearly 75 stories. Reading them, I marveled over your skill for the millionth time. And then I got to thinking how much time we spend stressing over everyone else’s novels out there. People have already written dragon novels, spy novels, horror novels, desperately sad child novels. But just look at you. From the very same prompt, you created over six dozen completely unique worlds. You astound me. (You also astound the poor, brave judges, who requested space blankets and emergency chocolate for their recovery period.) Anyway, it made me think that who cares how many other dragons, spies, horror, or sad kids already fill the shelves. The world still needs our dragons (etc), you know?
It’s a new writerly year, and perhaps you, like me, have set lofty goals for the months ahead. I’ve just added a new one to my list. Worry less, I’m thinking. Write more! –Let’s do so together, shall we?
This week the FF community came out in full force (70+ stories), and Team Three has one thing to say before we get to the judging: you never know how difficult something is until you get a chance to do it. We have a new appreciation for all judges past, present, and future. Good thing the Dragoness has such wonderful powers of persuasion, and for that, we should all be thankful.
This week we received some wonderful entries and trying to narrow it down was no easy task, but winners needed to be crowned. The goal was to get down to ten stories each and hope there would be similar picks, but overlap would make things too easy and the world hates easy. The beauty of team judging in matters as subjective as judging stories is that your pieces were picked apart and viewed from two different perspectives. We pooled together our top ten lists and read anew. Sure enough, there were stories from each other’s lists that we enjoyed, and in the end a consensus was reached.
Best Facial Description: Jacki Donnellan, “Invisible.” “Since she left us his face looks sort of plastic and hard whenever I talk about her.” Can you feel the scorn? Imagining that face makes our skin crawl.
Blink and You’ll Miss It: Michael Seese, “Kid Spies.” “I wait, and write down in my super-secret journal everything I learned about tracking girls. I should share this intell with Dad. Maybe he can use it to find Mom.” This story is very light and humorous employing the use of Booger Guns and Cootie Rays, but hidden in the comedic folds is a hint at a larger, darker story.
Best Opening Dialogue: Tinman, “For Your Ears Only.” “If I could offer a hint about hiding,” said the voice behind him. Louis spun, startled. “It would be ‘never rest your drink on top of the thing you’re hiding behind’,” These lines of dialogue help create and cement the characters clever, suave manner right off the bat.
Phil Coltrane, “A Shaky Town Knight and the Fiefdom of the Bell-Bottoms.” Phil used the title to great effect here, transporting us to the 1970’s, with more than a touch of whimsy. The young boy at the heart of the story was trapped in a world where everyone was exposed to myths, but not everyone had access to their magic – a familiar feeling to many. William’s heartbreak was vividly rendered, and it was easy to share in his pain.
Voima Oy, “Howard Street.” This piece does an excellent job of stringing us along while dropping hints of what’s happening. We are unaware of what has transpired, but the mention of dodging surveillance cameras and rival gangs tips us off to the idea that the main character is in a bad way. Things start to get perplexing when buildings start to appear and disappear. We feel disoriented, which helps us relate to the character who is also confused. The last clue we get as to what has happened are the names of his dead friends. The last word, “home”, implies he has crossed over and joined them.
Sandra Hessels, “Candy Jars.” The candy store that grandmother described in this story was brought to life, and while reading it, you could see the brightly colored candy and smell the sugar wafting through the air as you walked the aisles. We also felt the challenge that she and her sisters faced – living in a world where there was just never enough unless they were willing to take what belonged to others. But even in darkness, there are still the glimpses of light from the candy store, and you could feel what that meant to three little girls so long ago.
David Shakes, “Cure.” The heartbeat rhythm in the opening sequence and its use in the middle cements the idea of the city’s “electric heart”. The word choice throughout the piece really attacks the senses. We cringed at the thought of the exhaust fume and urine stench. The final resolve: a sacrifice for a mother’s happiness. Nicely executed.
Mimi N., “Acceptance.” Even in a world of magic, everything has a price. Danny was about to lose his dad, and was out of options, save one. His meeting with the Fae woman was wonderfully described, and you could feel his anguish being transformed by her wisdom not into happiness, but into the titular acceptance. A father might well pay that price to save his son, but when their situations were reversed? Ah, now that’s a price too high to collect. Although, you’re left wondering if things would have been different if Danny had met a different magical creature.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “The Meeting.” A twist from many of the stories this week, where the protagonist wasn’t hiding from someone, he was waiting for someone. The author painted with a vivid palette, using colors to great effect, and it was easy to see exactly the scene they described. Both characters might be flawed, but they need each other, and we got to see the beginning of their journey.
SECOND RUNNER UP
James Marshall VI, “Discretion.” We learned a lot about the unnamed narrator and his companion, Dominique, in so few words, and were left with enough hints to want to know more. Whatever group they’re part of – be they human or otherwise – is not hidden, but they are secret. They’re not overburdened with morality, but don’t kill without a purpose. Just a glimpse into their world was enough to leave us wanting more.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “Siren Call.” This piece pulls on the parental heartstrings from the start. Relating the mom’s excuse to a bowl of soggy Cheerios is stellar. It’s as if we can feel the bland, soft, mushy texture of the words sitting distastefully in our minds; but the cheerios also provide insight as to what type of breakfast this child has every morning (two birds one stone). We finally learn the reason why the mother doesn’t have time for her son and it is summed up in a bombshell of a last line “The wild draw of the city held too much attraction, and its siren call drowned the whimper of the boy who hid in the corner”.
And now: for her very first time AT LONG, LONG LAST!, raise your glasses: it’s Flash! Friday
At first glance it seems like this story is simply about a game of hide-and-seek, but after rereading we can tell there is something more sinister hiding under the surface. Subtle hints such as a drooping face when asked if the characters will switch roles or the mother’s voice getting fainter implies the hider will not be found. This piece also uses more than just sight descriptions. The smell of Ivory soap on skin and the butterflies in the stomach when looking for hiding spots helps incorporate all the senses in a completely satisfying way. The narrator’s complete obliviousness when he/she says, “Now I wait” is heartbreaking and haunting. The inconspicuous nature of the conflict also forces the reader to seek it, therefore, looping the reader into a real game of hide-and-seek. Very clever writing.
Congratulations, Casey! Below is your wonderful and not-so-subtle winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
“Hide, Baby, hide real good so I’ll have to search real hard to find you.”
“And then it’ll be my turn to find you, right, Mama?”
Her face droops a little. I think that she likes being the seeker best too when she says, “I expect that’s about right.”
She pats the top of my head and I smell Ivory soap on her skin.
She places her hands over her eyes and begins to count.
I grin and run down the alley, out into the bigger world, her numbers growing larger and fainter.
This is the biggest game of hide and seek I’ve ever played and I can feel my stomach dance as I run through all my choices of hiding spots.
I find a spot that hides my body but lets me peek out so I can watch Mama’s face when she’s stumped over where I am. I’ll giggle to see her searching so hard.
Now I wait.