Tag Archive | KristenAFC

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 17: WINNERS!

Apologies to the FF community for the seriously belated results; adventures prevented my ability to be timely. BUT I am very excited to be here at last, along with excellent comments from brand new second quarter judge Pratibha Kelapure, who applied her fabulous insight, skill, and judginess to Vol 2-17. So let’s get to it!


Judge Pratibha Kelapure says: Hello everyone! This is my first time being a judge here, and it is a little unnerving. First of all, I want to thank Rebekah for making Flash! Friday contest so much fun. I knew judging wasn’t going to be easy, but boy, it was really challenging.  I was wonderfully surprised to see so many interesting takes on the prompt this week, and how all of you paid attention to what I asked of you. I liked so many of your stories, choosing one winner was next to impossible. I agonized over my choices for hours, and put off making a decision for as long as I could. I learned so much about writing in the process. Thank you for this opportunity. If I had my way, I would comment on each and every story. I enjoyed reading and rereading all the stories several times. Thank you all for sharing them.

 On with the results:

As expected, the fire breathing pair prompt this week inspired many dragon stories 🙂  but it is amazing how many different themes it inspired. You people are awesome. 



TitlesSome of the titles caught my attention this week. Here are the ones that deserve a special mention. “The Blazing Row” by Craig Anderson“A Burning Desire” by Margaret Locke. 

DialogueIt is difficult to write effective dialogue, so the stories with good dialogue deserve a special mention.

* “The Universe Roared” by Clive Newnham is entirely written as the verbal exchanges between the Universe and an unnamed man, and it is quite impressive.

* “Wedding Bell Reds” by Michael Seese is also written as dialogue. I liked the play on words with the theme of fire. Get well soon, Michael.

* “Retribution” by Chris Milam gave me a chuckle with his clever dialogue.

FunnyIt is also not easy to write a truly comic tale. Megan Besing does this beautifully in her story, “A Betting Friendship.”

CharacterizationI thought that the character of the best friend in “Purge” by Kristen Falso-Capaldi is well drawn in very few words.


K. Brown“I Need to Stop Thinking.” Until I read the last line, I thought the author completely missed the prompt. I like this story because of its philosophical tone and “supernatural” rambling monologue. It was quite ingenious.

Anna Van Skike, “The Downtrodden.” The heartbreaking description of the neon city makes one worry. The description of the dance of Willow and Dane is a dance of words, smooth and graceful. The penultimate sentence, “They say a revolution is coming to bring back the sun,” cinched it for me.

Maven Alysse“Transcendence.” The idea of travelling together through different words for eternity is seducing. Author paints the vivid scene, I could almost see the wildflowers in the moonlit field. The pair vanished into the next world, “Amidst the wildflowers, arms akimbo, they tilted their heads back.”  Wonderful description!


Brett Milam, “A Match.”  It was easy to picture the schoolyard with the students surrounding the spectacle of a sad, fire-eater. The ease with which the two boys bonded is touching. The understated expression of pain is what captured my attention.


Sinead O’Hart, “Swallow.” This story gripped me from the first potent sentence, “Swallow. Even though it’s a thornbush, a crow, a handful of sand.” The coarse, hurtful unpleasantness comes alive in just a few words. The characters are revealed through the dialogue, a powerful technique.

And now: for his second time (the first was Round 38 in Year One), it’s Flash! Friday  




“The Life of the Party”

I completely agree with the brave philosophy of life, “If you are destined to burn out fast, do it with a flourish.” He was the first to post, and what he saw in the images is amazing, the lion and the humble chrysanthemum. The story is completely aligned with the prompt in the most creative fashion, and that deserves acknowledgement. What an amazing blend of the philosophy, prompt, and passion. The story of short-lived but meaningful life lifted this tale above all.

Congratulations on your second win, Charles! Your (new!) winner’s badge waits for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Watch your inbox for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature interview questions. And here is your winning story:

The Life of the Party

Life is meant to be a show, so burn bright, and hot. Choose your shape, and expect nothing more than to frighten some and entertain others. If you are destined to burn out fast, do it with a flourish. After all what are we other than just a flashing of heat and light. Life is meant to short, hot and lonely. So I made a show of it; took on the face of a lion.

Rising up into the air, I found I was not alone. Beside me was another of like kind, but she was so much more fair. Not garish or extravagant, as I had chosen to be. She simply took the shape of a flower, a humble chrysanthemum.

We lived our short lives, together. We loved without speaking. We publicly exhibited our passion in brilliant flames. And when we died, we died happy to have been friends.



Flashversary: CHAMPIONS

WELCOME TO WINNING DAY! The winners’ wall here at Flash! Friday swirls in colors and textures as magnificently diverse as the community that built it, and the #Flashversary celebrations have proved no different. The top ten stories range wildly in genre and style, authored by both familiar names and new ones (hey there, newbies! great to meet you!). The #Flashversary judge panel–including myself–read all stories completely blind, relying on thoughtful criteria to choose the entries to move to the Top 25. What a hoot it was discovering who had written them!

In the end fresh, clever approaches to the prompt which dragged our eyebrow-raising judges on emotional journeys propelled entries to the top, sometimes past strong and yes (don’t tell my students!) more technically correct stories, yielding a creative and compelling Top Ten any judge would feel proud of. You’d better believe the overall quality of ALL stories made choosing 25… 10… and now today’s champs incredibly but deliciously challenging. THANK YOU, everyone, for pushing each other to such extraordinary writing excellence. I can’t wait to see what you do in Year Two!! (Which–don’t forget–kicks off Friday with a brand new judge panel.)  

Thank you again to the wonderful #Flashversary team–the folks at 826DC (don’t forget to support them, please, if you can!), the gracious editing team of Susan Warren Utley and Savannah Spidalieri at Haunted Waters Press, the outgoing Flash! Friday judges (Jaz Draper, Maggie Duncan, Anthony Marchese, Patricia McCommas, Beth Peterson, Dan Radmacher, and Kinza Carpenter Shores), the #Flashversary judge panel (Wakefield Mahon, Stevie McCoy, Cara Michaels, and Nicole Wolverton), and the entire Flash! Friday family. Thank you for making this an unforgettable and awesome year. 

Year One is Done.


And now–without further ado (because we’ve eaten our fill of ado already), here are the results of the Flash! Friday 2013 #Flashversary contest!



The editors of Haunted Waters Press are so pleased to have been invited to participate in the Flash! Friday Flashversary Celebration. Thank you for allowing us to lurk in the background and read all of your wonderfully written works of flash. We enjoyed the variety of genres, clever themes, and unique storytelling abilities presented in this special round of Flash! Friday. You made our task of choosing a single story for publication a difficult one. However, we did discover a story which met the HWP criteria for elegantly written works of fiction and writing that creates a connection with our readers.

The 2013 Haunted Waters Press Award goes to



“A Dragon’s Gaze”

We loved it and would be honored to feature it in an upcoming issue of our quarterly literary journal, From the Depths.



Each wins a Flash! Friday commemorative poster

Karl A. RussellSummoning. This story pretends to focus on the girl shattered by her father’s death, but its true hero is the patient boy at her side. Her anguished rage vents itself on an imaginary dragon no one but the boy has the compassion to believe in. And yet it’s a story of hope: the boy waits for a day when her pain is healed. “Maybe that’s why I see a world where she stops thinking about what she’s lost and notices what she’s found,” he says. Summoning masterfully but compassionately presents the effects of an injured mind and its impact on those around. Its wrenching and powerfully written journey through tragedy and hope sealed this story’s spot at the top.  

Von RupertClara’s Dragon. Told in parallel, this story follows a young girl whose battles are both physical disease and the monsters in her nightmares. It’s easy for a story about sick children to turn saccharine/cliched, but Clara’s Dragon rejects the expected and gives us a spirited girl who chooses to fight even when strength is gone and who, in the end, faces her enemies and “crushe(s) them beneath her feet.” It’s not the happy ending that sets this story apart–though of course that’s nice–but rather the unique, stirring, and deft portrayal of a (far too) common circumstance. May all such children find such dragons!  



Wins an 8- postcard set of his story & a Flash! Friday commemorative poster 

Dan RadmacherThe Dragon’s Gaze. This story is framed by one of the simplest acts of affection in the world: holding hands. Here an aging veteran confronts a dragon from his past, but the dragon does not represent what we think. At every turn Gaze flips our expectations on their heads as it parallels the journeys of the naive young soldier and the retired, backward-looking traveler. The old man reminisces ancient battles (“They’d even managed to find one of the meaningless hills their squad had held at great cost for no reason other than their orders”) and his first love (“From her first shy smile, he’d never had a chance”) in an unforgettable way. Gaze marries technical and structural beauty with heart, creating a soaring and exceptional story. 

The Dragon’s Gaze

The old man gripped his wife’s hand tightly as he stared at the stone dragon out in the bay, the chill of the Vietnamese morning sinking into his bones. He sucked his lower lip into his mouth and bit down on it as his heart thudded in his chest.

The irony of the situation didn’t escape him. When he was 18, his tour of Vietnam was a nightmare that he had tried everything to avoid. Forty-five years later, he and his wife considered it the trip of a lifetime. They had spent a large chunk of their retirement savings to come here.

They’d met up with two other couples, squad-mates he’d kept in sporadic touch with after the war and their wives. Over beers, they’d told the old stories, made richer by their location. He’d watched his wife while some of the more harrowing tales were told, and saw in her eyes the concern and empathy that made him love her.

They’d even managed to find one of the meaningless hills their squad had held at great cost for no reason other than their orders.

It had been the trip of a lifetime. But now, staring at the dragon, holding his wife’s hand, other memories flooded the old man. A girl’s faced stared back at him from the depths of time. She was young and beautiful in that exotic way. The Kansas farm boy who’d barely left his county before he got shipped halfway around the world was thunderstruck. From her first shy smile, he’d never had a chance.

One weekend morning, much like this, they’d rowed a small boat out into the bay and tied up in the shallow water by that very dragon. They’d made love. His first time, and hers. The dragon had guarded the encounter, seeming to give their union his blessing.

They’d never returned to that spot, but he would always remember it. Forty-five years later, every moment was etched deeply into his brain and his heart.

He felt his wife return the squeeze of his hand, and he wondered if she remembered it, too.



Wins a full-size poster and an 8-postcard set of her story along with a Flash! Friday commemorative poster and a twin set of books (Strunk’s The Elements of Style and Kiteley’s The 3am Epiphany)

Kristen AFCRichard Thornton. The Vietnam memorial wall plays an important role in this gripping story, but what set Richard Thornton apart was its many smaller moments: the lonely, bullied girl and the grieving woman; the girl’s rebellious and careless use of a single name contrasted with “miles” of names stretched along the memorial. The structural framing of one small battle against a massive war is both poignant and powerful, and in a sense the dead boy-soldier’s name and spirit (“‘Don’t let those gals put you down'”) bind both together. Ultimately, we’re reminded, war isn’t confined to newspaper headlines; it’s personal. Richard Thornton carries its request in understated but persuasive tones: don’t steal names from the wall. Remember. Honor. The story’s elegant structure and vulnerable, intelligent tone make it abundantly worthy of top honors. 

Richard Thornton

I stole a name from the wall. I said, “Richard Thornton,” like I uttered it all the time, like I whispered, “Richard,” in dark back seats on Friday nights.

But they were pressing me again, teasing me, asking, “Have you ever even kissed a boy?”

I hadn’t. We were on a class trip, standing in front of the Vietnam memorial. I looked up and my eyes found him. “Richard Thornton,” I said. “I met him at a mixer at Kennedy Prep.”

They didn’t believe me, those girls with their peach skin and shiny lips, the curls that fell in perfect ringlets, like they were drawn by an artist. They walked away then, and I stomped my foot, took my soda cup and threw it at the wall.

The passers by glared at me, their eyes wide and angry, so I hurried to pick it up. That’s when I noticed the lady staring at me.

“Sorry,” I said. “That was so rude of me.”

I used the sleeve of my sweater to wipe the drops of soda from Richard Thornton.

“Sorry,” I mumbled again.

I was walking away when she spoke.

“He was mine,” she said.
“What?” I turned back.
“Richard,” she tapped a slender finger gently against his name. “was my high school boyfriend.”
“Oh God, I’m such a jerk. You heard me?”
She nodded her head.
“I didn’t mean to,” I said.
She laughed then, even though her eyes were sad.
“I think he would’ve gotten a kick out of you using his name.”
I took a step toward her.
“He would’ve said, ‘don’t let those gals put you down.’”
“Was he a good guy? Was he sweet? Romantic?”
“He was a boy,” she said. “He could’ve been all those things, but I never really found out. He sent me a picture once, of a statue of a dragon by a beautiful body of water. I wrote back, but, well, you know.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
She squeezed my hand and walked away, following the length of the wall, which seemed to stretch on and on for miles.



Wins a full-size poster, an 8-flyer and 8-postcard set of her story along with a Flash! Friday commemorative poster and a set of books (Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, Gardner’s The Art of Fiction), and the raucous, joyous praise of dragons everywhere.




“To Dream of Legend”

All the #Flashversary stories contain dragons, of course; that was the prompt, and it just felt right to end the first year of Flash! Friday that way. Across these dozens of stories, some dragons were real; many were metaphorical or ornamental. All were unique and wonderful in their own way, and I hope each of you takes your dragons and finds a home for them somewhere out there in the world. They have earned their place!

Legend gives us a dragon’s dragon, one of  lofty majesty. It’s the dragon of ancient fairy tales, mysterious, commanding, inspiring fear and awe in its admirers. But it’s also the dragon of a modern fairy tale and those who journey far, at great cost, to plumb the depths of Loch Ness (at least in imagination) in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her.

To Dream of Legend is written beautifully, its careful prose dancing in and out of poetry and longing. It’s also structured beautifully, with its striking opening sentence (“No matter what happens, they never look up”) answered in its thunderous closing. In subtle tones we are introduced to the frank business side of legend (“We… sell them our tartan landscape”) and to those in whose cunning hands the legend rests (“We will not feed them the courage to dream of legend”).  

The reader is never addressed directly, of course, and yet the speakers make their implication clear: We are the ones who look up. We are the dream-weavers, the heroes, the storytellers. -And this is the message of every storyteller: dare to take your place among those who look up. Each of you, in bringing your stories to the world, has shown yourself among those who do. To Dream of Legend challenges us to do and be more magnificent than this world could ever bear. Congratulations, Jacki, for this unforgettable and gorgeous story.

To Dream of Legend

No matter what happens, they never look up.

The water draws them downwards, without our help. It mesmerises them, with the flipping and flicking of a tail here, a rising head there.

And if ever the water should break and thrash, they may glimpse what they swear is reptilian skin, gleaming and rolling beneath the foam.

And they chatter of the rising and surfacing of what must have been the Monster, picturing her surging up from the deep for a brief, playful gasp of pure Scottish air, and then submerging, to swim once more along the murky loch bed.

They do not look up. They don’t pause, for a moment, to replay in their minds that strange, swift javelin of wind, moments before. They fail even to imagine an invisibly fast, joyful dive, straight from the clouds.

We play our part, of course. It is in our interests, too, to keep their attention focussed on the loch. We gather them around it and sell them our tartan landscape, woven of underwater caves and elongated prehistoric necks. And we take them out onto Loch Ness itself, where they clutch binoculars, and shortbread, and a growing hope, staring down into the opaque black water as if persistent eyes might penetrate what light does not.

Back on land, we’ll add soda to their Scotch. Water onto fire. Beside roaring flames, we’ll bid them relax, and think themselves brave- to contemplate an animal that has swum against the tide of evolution!

But we will not feed them the courage to dream of legend.

We will not carve her pearled, glistening scales on the wet, smooth skin in their minds, nor paint the glint of talons and the arc of wings onto clumsy flippers.

And we leave, uncorrected, the convenience of “Monster.”

We will look up, always, when her soaring presence circles and scorches the skies. And we will forever distract the crowds with weak, watery myths, whenever she desires to plunge and swirl her fiery form through the cool, onyx waters of Loch Ness.

She is more magnificent than this world could ever bear.

Flashversary: Top 10 Finalists

Welcome to Day Two of careening madly toward the grand and glorious and very, very noisy finish line! It’s a tremendous pleasure to be able to introduce to you these ten stories and their writers. These tales stood out for us for their originality, their punch, their fresh takes on the prompt–and–just wow.

In the top ten we have a grim office worker dreaming of dragons but defeated by ennui (A Story); a hardened pilot seizing an extraordinary opportunity to work peace (Anything With Wings); a child whose dragon-wrangling ultimately works her own salvation (Clara’s Dragon); a dragon-slayer whose greatest triumph goes (for now) unnoticed (Here); an oppressed girl freed by a long-dead soldier (Richard Thornton); a boy who tirelessly fights his love’s demons (Summoning); a man who escaped from dragons only to face true horror through his son (The Craftsman); an adventurer’s singleminded mission for notoriety (The Dragon’s Fire); an old soldier’s confrontation with his past (The Dragon’s Gaze); and the hidden world of the magnificent Queen of Dragons (To Dream of Legend). 

Here. Be. Dragons. AND HOW. Congratulations to these ten writers for their extraordinary work.

Join us tomorrow for the unveiling of the champions, the Haunted Waters’ Press award (have you followed them yet?), and Flash! Friday’s brand new, sparkly outfit for Year Two. The first Flash! Friday contest of Year Two will follow this Friday, Dec 13, with the first judge of Year Two, M.T. Decker (if you love her stories, you’re gonna adore her judgery!).


Here are the #Flashversary Top 10 finalists, in alphabetical order by story title, followed by the stories themselves (posted in the comments section, so you can leave feedback on the individual tales; they are numbered here only to make it easier to navigate their stories in the comments).

# 1 – A Story, Jonathon Ryan

# 2 – Anything With Wings, Ruth Long

# 3 – Clara’s Dragon, Von Rupert

# 4 – Here, Dragonsflypoppy (aka Elizabeth Savory)

# 5 – Richard Thornton, Kristen AFC

# 6 – Summoning, Karl A. Russell

# 7 – The Craftsman, Stephen James Lock

# 8 – The Dragon’s Fire, AJ Walker

# 9 – The Dragon’s Gaze, Dan Radmacher

# 10 – To Dream of Legend, Jacki Donnellan