Tag Archive | Karen Oberlaender

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 27: WINNERS!

Welcome to the results show! Where, unlike results shows on TV, you will find a shocking lack of filler. Oh, except for this real quick dragon line dance. Everybody ready? ONE two THREE four five SIX SEVen eight…. Shoot. Well, dragons can’t be good at everything, I guess.

A couple of quick reminders:

  • Flash Points is back! This (non-scary) critique of an excellent story from the latest contest publishes at 7:30am Mondays, Washington DC time. Check back tomorrow to see if it’s yours! Read last week’s here
  • The Q3 judge panel kicks off in July; their names will be announced this Friday.

Last but not least: please join me in raucous praise and adieux for judge Alissa Leonard. Thank you for giving of your time, brain, and heart this past quarter; your service to the FF community is greatly appreciated. THANK YOU!


Judge Alissa Leonard says: WOW! Thanks for making my last round of judging so amazing! I truly loved the stories you wrote. This was the most difficult of my decisions so far – I think that means you all are just getting better and better! 🙂 I wanted to give awards to everyone, but realized that would take me way more time than I was allowed, so I had to choose. I gravitated toward the ones that made me feel something – which is highly subjective, I know – and then those with memorable characters and rounded stories. (There were honestly so many that did very well on all of those that I had to start being nit-picky.) So great job to everyone, and I look forward to joining you on the writing front soon!



Last Line: These were my favorites for completely turning the story on its head, or providing the crucial ‘Aha!’ moment – so much fun! Phil Coltrane, “Summer in the Elysian Blackberry Fields”; Ian Martyn, “Tommy”; Craig Anderson, “My Shadow”; Chris Milam, “Tethered”; Ellen Staley, “Flowers”; and Sarah Cain, “The Berry Picker.”

Theme: Touching stories that really made me think and left me with a feeling – left me changed: Allison K. Garcia, “Small Hands”; Sarah Miles, “Unbroken”; John Mark Miller, “Enough”; and Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Re-grow, Together.”

Revenge: So many of these this week! These were my favorites: MT Decker, “Beware the Rosie Thorn”; Adrienne Myshel, “Berry Pie”; and Tony Dingwell, “Rose’s Berries.”

Evocative Language: These stories were outstanding in using sensory words to make me FEEL and SEE and HEAR what was going on…not soon forgotten: 20/20 Hines Sight, “Deadly Delicious”; Karl A Russell, “Bruised Cherries”; and Katrina Ray-Saulis, “Grateful.”


Karen Oberlaender, “Rose and I.” I loved this story of redemption. It gave me goosebumps and pricked my eyes with tears. I loved the idea of fairy godmothers who do more than give girls dresses and send them to balls – perhaps sending a wind to blow a hat away? I loved Rose’s character depth with just a few lines; her dutifulness, her abuse, yet her kindness to others not even close to beaten out of her (“without thinking” she ran for the hat). And, of course, kindness from a stranger – rescue. Great job.

Joidianne4eva, “There’s A Room (Where The Light Won’t Find You).” Whoa. I loved how you looked at this picture and saw something that wasn’t there and decided to write your story about that. It was brilliantly creative and fascinating. I was seriously freaked by your description “The child’s face collapsed as he moved, jaws sinking into concaves as his skin withered.” – Those are the pictures horror movies are made of! Matthias could be a very useful friend for ‘the girl’ to have in her line of work (as enumerated by many other stories this week) – I loved how she had a protector.

Margaret Locke, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The character development you packed into this very short story is seriously impressive. Her growth from dissatisfaction and ‘forgotten’ and ‘waiting to die’ through desperation and disappointment to hope and determination is a whirlwind that seemed perfectly paced. The three lines that jump out at me are: “Anything sounded better than this” to “I never wanted to be here again” to “I’m never eating a damn strawberry again.” I love the perspective this piece gives to life. Thanks.

Carin Marais, “Rose and the Wind.” I loved your use of imagery – the words you chose helped me feel the wind: drifted, stirring, swaying, whip, billowing, longing, dancing, singing, calling, shimmering. Then you countered that with the earth words: rooted, well-trodden path, dust, clusters of hovels. The juxtaposition really helped to portray the wind as a bridge between the prison of the earth and the freedom of the sky. Then, as if that weren’t enough, you juxtapose the innocence and imagination of the young with those who have grown older, those “time taught that there was no place for imaginings.” The sadness of that line really caught and held me – like an inhale. Then the wind rushed out and through a door… I want to see behind that door! So well done! 


Marie McKay, “A Gentlewoman’s Agreement.” This one gave me chills – I had goosebumps everywhere. The love of a sister is so precious. Your characters jumped off the page: the dad who would sell his daughters for the chance at making a connection, the husband who treats women like livestock, the sister who’s pretty and fragile, and then our main character who’s “big fir twelve” and “stronger.” I loved the line “But it was I who’d sized him up.” Because that’s when you see there’s more to her than meets the eye – she was “smart for twelve.” However she made it happen, she protected her sister from a horrible man and herself as well.


Jacki Donnellan, Untitled. Honestly, I was so caught up in the child’s would-be imaginings that those last lines were a sucker punch right to my gut. There were tears pooling in my eyes, and I just wanted to give the child a hug. I LOVED the vivid imagination of the games they could play. And I especially loved how you tied these wonderfully inventive and happy imaginings back to a fact about the daily life of one who picks these berries: stains on fingers, tummy growling, basket bruises on thighs, too tired to speak – the contrast was striking. And, wow…those last lines… SERIOUSLY amazing. Great job.


Rebecca Allred, “Peter’s Promiscuous Pucker.” BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This was absolutely DELIGHTFUL to read! The alliteration is so much fun, and the tossing about of nursery rhymes willy-nilly is like frolicking in the meadow of childhood… AND THEN THE END!!! WHAT?!?!?! Because seriously, my jaw dropped. To. The. Floor. I’m still in shock from it. This, my dear, is brilliant. I loved it. Well done. 

And now: join me in the ebullient (if arrhythmic) dragon dance for first time Flash! Friday  


MATT L.!!!



Wow. Just wow. I loved this. Your format was perfect: the girl makes a comment, the boy reacts internally then externally. The dichotomy between his thoughts and his actual response is so true and beautiful and difficult. It really encompassed the idea of friendship so well – we bite our tongue rather than say something hurtful, we encourage when they’re down, we teach them, we care for them, and we stay. And sometimes, when the world is overwhelming, we tell them what they need to hear to keep them going – even when we’re overwhelmed ourselves. This had me in tears. Thanks so much.

Congratulations, Matt! Your gloriously fabulous winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your stunning and new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:


“My arms hurt, Joe.”
Opening your mouth ain’t gonna make ‘em feel any better. 
“I know sis. Mine too. Be there soon.”

“The sand is burning my feet.”
Blisters cause callouses. Won’t feel the burning after that.
“Walk faster and try not to think about it.”

“I’m hot, Joe.”
Everybody’s hot. Not everybody’s complainin’.
“It’s July, sis. Gotta pick the crop when the crop’s ready be to be picked.”

“I got a sticker in my finger.”
Life’s full of stickers, sis.

“Joe, it’s bleeding.”
Life’s full of blood and stickers. Just how it is. How’s it’s always gonna be.
“Camp’s close. Soon as Mr. Johnson weighs our haul, we’ll wash your finger over by the well pump.”

“Joe, when’s momma comin’?”
Ain’t sure she’s ever comin’.
“Just a few more days sis. She went to find daddy. Keep walkin’. Almost there.”

“Daddy’s gonna buy us back real soon, ain’t he Joe?”
Been six weeks already.
“Yeah, sis. Real soon.”





Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 21: WINNERS!

Once again I’d like to thank Jeffro Uitto, whose carving talents boggle the mind, for lending us his photo for our prompt this week. As ever, it was a pleasure and privilege reading the stories you all carved out of the white space. Thank you so much!  (And happy May the Fourth to our dear #nerd dragons.)


Judge Alissa Leonard says: Wow. What a beautiful prompt picture this week! It was mesmerizing, intoxicating, and powerful while on a different level being restful, peaceful, and serene. It’s like potential energy – at any moment it could become kinetic energy and move, but right now it’s resting with possibility. And OH! The possibilities! From dreams to lunatics, memories to time travel, sculptures to prisons, living wood to tattoos… Here are some of my favorites:



World building: Alana Guy Dill, “Driftwood”; Image Ronin, “The Joust”; Dody Chapman, “Luz.”

Endings: Steph Post, “Dreaming”; Tinman, “Gift Horse”; Charles W. Short, “Mina Ibrahim: Seeking the World Between Extremes”; Jon, “The Foreigner”; and John Mark Miller, “Jubilee.”

Language: Chris Milam, “Embers in the Dirt”; Miss Meow, “The Inspiration of Chocolate Mousse.”

Title: 20/20 Hines Sight, “Powerful”; Bart van Goethem, “The Guinevere Complex”; and AJ Walker, “In the Name of A King.”


Craig Anderson“Reflections of Battle.” You set this scene so beautifully, a bellow and a polishing. I’ve been that squire, frantically working at a task that could save people and having no one understand, but doing it anyway. I loved the curse and how it worked.  I loved how you tied the title into the whole thing. And I absolutely adored the last line – it’s so rare to be recognized for the tiny things you do. Very fun.

Margaret Locke, “Kindred Spirits.” I appreciated how you took the seeming isolation of the picture and drew from that mood – the battle between the stillness of the statue and the movement of the waves. Your use of language was beautiful. I could almost see the visions she had of riding as a knight or a cowboy. I especially liked the line, “Every day she climbed onto his back, closed her eyes, and willed him to break free, to run, to carry her away. Every night she returned home, broken, bridled, chomping at the bit.” Using horse terminology to describe her prison (whatever it was) was brilliant. 

Yanying, “Memory.” Whether the memory was a previous life or just his imaginations while creating the sculpture, this story evoked that feeling of connection between an artist and the art. I could almost see his wistful gaze. His pretense as he said, “I’ll miss him.” His wife’s understanding of how difficult parting with it was for him. …And then the last line. To think that our work, somehow, knows us back… That’s beautiful.


Karen Oberlaender, “Call of Duty.” I loved the progression from nonchalance to action in this story. I could almost see her turn over in her bed and put the pillow over her head! She peeks an eye open and that’s when the adrenaline hits. The world-building had me curious all throughout the story. What’s going on? Why 500 years? And you don’t answer those questions, but we’re given a glimpse at the end. She sets off into the past, fully restored to their true forms. And life goes on. Without that last line, I would’ve been extremely frustrated, but the ordinary-ness juxtaposed with the fantastic really worked well for me.


Dieter Rogiers, “Fire ‘neath the Bark.” I could FEEL this horse transforming! Your imagery was perfect. “Weathered bark broke his velvety black skin. Living, breathing pores clotted into wooden knots. And the sound of snapping twigs reverberated throughout his body.” I could feel the poor animal fighting back as he “fought the curse with vigour, striking at his invisible enemy with his front legs…” Your use of language let me see and feel and therefore empathize, especially when the princess starts crying for him. I wanted to cry with her. I suppose he got her close enough to survive? But I love the glimmer of hope you gave us at the end: a beating heart. 

And now: another first! for her very first time, it’s Flash! Friday  





The world-building on this is fantastic! The little hints you gave were perfectly portioned to provide me with just enough to fill in all the details of the epic battle, the curse, the sacrifice… I can see it now: The girl “forced him from his chargers back, and…bravely smiled.” I love the feeling of how much time has passed when he “saluted with gnarled hands, battle aged.” His kingdom now “forever secure” he comes to offer her the thanks she’s due. And then the tears… And the switch… And…wow. It felt so full-circle, and I’m dying to know who she is and what she does next! Thanks.

Congratulations on your first win,  Ellen! Your winner’s badge waits all nice and shiny for you below. Here is your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:


She looked as vibrant as the day he’d yielded his mount to her.

The knight studied her cheek with its single petrified tear. Drops of gratitude rolled down his face. He did not rub them away, but saluted with gnarled hands, battle aged.

Oh, to take her in his arms again, thank her for his chance at life and more, victory! The kingdom now existed forever secure. He returned to his steed, gathered a queen’s finery, the value of her sacrifice, and lovingly arranged them, an offering. He remembered the moment she’d forced him from his charger’s back, and cursed to sculpture, she’d bravely smiled.

He climbed up the petrified stallion, wrapped one arm around her waist. His tears flowed. He wiped them with his fingers, impulsively touched her lone tear.

She stood on the sand, startled by the statue and knight that rode it. Was it…? Richly appointed raiment caught her eye. And she knew.