Tag Archive | Matt L.

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 48: WINNERS

Welcome! TODAY’S THE LAST DAY!!!!  Please consider applying as a FF judge for Year Three. Don’t be intimidated by the dragons; you don’t need a grammar degree or published novels under your belt to serve. Seriously. Don’t let our slick, polished contest :coughcough: throw you off. I need you, and we’re all family here (and you’ll have a judging buddy!). What I’m looking for: people to choose stories they love and chat about why they’re so good. Details here

Speaking of judges, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to judge Phil Coltrane. I am so grateful to you for the time and effort you’ve dedicated to Flash! Friday. Thank you for your technical ideas, your insight, and all you’ve contributed. You’ve been simply awesome. And soon we’ll see your name back up on the dais, I’m quite sure!!!! Thank you, THANK YOU.       


Judge Phil Coltrane says: For my last week in the judge’s seat, what metaphor could be more apt than being put on a train? It’s with sadness that I realize my time as a judge is ending — and not just because of the rumors that roast judge au jus will be served in the Dragon’s dining car.

I found judging to be intimidating, time-consuming, sometimes even frustrating — but also tremendously rewarding. I had to scrutinize every story more carefully, and think about what I liked about each one. In the end, I learned a lot about what makes a flash story great, and found plenty of real treasures among them.

But you’re not here for teary-eyed farewells. This week, you wrote about all kinds of treasures: treasures of gold, of diamond, metaphorical and metaphysical treasures. Not surprisingly given the train prompt, a lot of the stories dealt with sad departures, happy arrivals, or long journeys. It seems the ones that stood out were the ones that dealt with the human condition: examining how we deal with joy, or frustration, or grief.



Matt L., “The Path Leading to the Door to Hell is Filled With Happiness.” Matt wonderfully characterizes a couple who have been together for a long time: comfortable with each other despite cramped quarters, able to joke about a bad vacation, together through any extreme, and simply able to treasure each other’s company.

Bart Van Goethem, “The Bearer of Bad News.” The repetition of what seem to be routine announcements builds to catharsis for this main character. Though we know little about this character, and nothing about what finally set him off, the author’s presentation allows us to sympathize, and perhaps even celebrate the character’s new-found freedom.

Clive Newnham, “Cursed Chain.” Thievery, pursuit, and murder feature here, and the uneasy atmosphere is accentuated by the descriptions of the sounds of the train. The author builds suspense, then eases us into a false sense of security just before the dramatic climax, leaving us to wonder what will happen next.  


Image Ronin, “The Return.” Throughout this story, the author emphasizes the isolation and gloomy outlook of the main character. In the beginning, “[t]he compartment was empty apart from Astrid, Grandfather, and the echoes of the others.” Later, she is alone in a crowd of “grey faces” and within “the bustle of tourists and commuters.” 

In a twist, the treasure turns out to be her Grandfather: she is bearing him (presumably in an urn) to the edge of the sea, to fulfill her final promise to him. The author raises questions in our minds as we read the story, neatly explaining Astrid’s glum mindset in the end, as well as her focus on “the echoes of the others”.


Jennifer Rickets, aka Donnie Darko Girl, “Beautiful Potential.” A treasure hunter finds the potential for something more valuable than a “collection of knickknacks.” The main character begins the story driven by wanderlust, with “no regrets and no worries,” seeking only “new adventure.” By the end, we see a hint that he has finally found his “real treasure.”

This is not quite a love story, but is about the titular “beautiful potential” of falling in love. We never learn his name (nor hers), and the author’s straightforward language suggest that they are meant to represent anyone — that like this Everyman (and Everywoman), we too may find our own treasure at any time.


M.T. Decker, “The Treasure of Sierra’s Madre.” Treasures abound in this story of a woman returning home to carry out a sad duty. Reflecting on the childhood tales her mother told of “untold riches in the north country,” she finds a real treasure: relief from her sorrow. Opening and closing with beautiful descriptions of “silver, glowing gold” sunlight, the author also manages to tell a complete tale of treasure within the story itself, as well as reward the main character with an easing of her grief. Overall, the author allows us to witness a silent and very personal discovery.

And now: for the first time, it’s Flash! Friday 


D. T. NOVA!!!


“The Greatest Treasure”

It opens with a legend: “everyone who takes this train finds a great treasure.” 

Surprisingly, treasure-seeker Anna is not looking for the greatest treasure. She has already found — and lost — “the most perfect person in the world.” Now all she has left is to travel the rails, hoping to find someone greater still. The title promises us “the greatest treasure,” and this story hits all the marks. The friendly lunchtime banter between Anna and the chef is believable, and hints at a deeper backstory both for the train and its passenger. Anna’s story is heartbreakingly believable.

In a twist from most stories, the main character is not seeking treasure, nor does she find it in her story. Her treasure is in her past, and now she has only the distant hope of riding the rails, finding someone else to make her happy.

The author gives us all of this, from a simple compliment of the chef’s soup.

Congratulations, D.T.! Below is your totally awesome winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega marvelous winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

The Greatest Treasure

Anna smiled at the chef. “They say that everyone who takes this train finds a great treasure. Are they talking about your soup?”

“I’m flattered, though I know you’re hoping I say no.”

“Your soup is your soup; it is unchanged either way. To find a series of increasingly greater treasures and continue to be told that they are still not the treasure would be a treasure in itself. Don’t you agree?”

“So you don’t want to find the greatest treasure of all?”

“I already have. I wish I hadn’t.”

“I don’t understand.”

No one ever did. How could they, if they hadn’t met the most perfect person in the world for themselves? And then been rejected. “They say ignorance is bliss. That’s not quite true. What I say is this: you have to be ignorant of bliss to settle for mere happiness.” But Anna still looked for the one who could improve on perfection.




Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 46: WINNERS

Welcome to results day!!!! So glad you’re here. Thanks for taking the time to write & comment, and thank you for coming back to see whose names are inscribed in gold on the trophies this round. MWAH!

Quick VERY COOL note: judge apps are already coming in for the first panel of Year Three. You’ve still got some time, but not a whole lot, to apply too and join the AWESOMEST dragon team anywhere; check out the details here

Final note: today it’s deep thanks and (sniff sniff!!!) goodbye to outgoing judge Betsy Streeter. Betsy, it’s been a privilege having you on the FF team this last quarter. Thank you for all your hard work and general wacky awesomeness. Can’t wait to read Silverwood for myself. Is it March yet???    


Judge Betsy Streeter says:  Thank you so much, Dragonness, for asking me to be a judge. There is nothing that improves your writing like doing a lot of reading, and Flash! Friday is like receiving a great learning experience on fast-forward each week. I’ve loved having the chance to share thoughts on the pieces, and to be really thoughtful about them out loud, and I hope it’s been helpful to get feedback in that way – everybody please keep writing!

Now for comments on this round: Something about this particular photo, and its vintage, and the notion of bankruptcy took many writers to similar places this week – both in terms of story and in terms of tone and dialogue/dialect. I haven’t seen a set of stories that were this convergent before!

Having said that, there seemed to be two forks in that road: Pushing the idea around until it became something new (a twist, a reference to a TV show, perhaps even aliens), or sticking with it as a pure expression of a time and place that really seems to resonate with people.

The stories that struck me grabbed onto a detail, or a moment, or a conversation, and held it until it yielded something that implied a larger story or situation – opening up a new world in the process.


David Borrowdale, “The Art of Keeping the Horse Between You and the Ground.”  David took that idea of failure/falling and applied it to the sometimes precarious act of riding a horse, and beautifully conveyed how our efforts not to let our world fall apart can take the form of both literally and figuratively climbing into a different place.

Stuart Turnbull, “The Gift Horse.” This is a great example of a small exchange implying a large story. Like in many Westerns, family bonds hold even in difficult circumstances. But choices must be made, and families must try to look out for one another even when they are just offering a least-worst alternative. This is classic Western, and the writing carries it out: “This ol’ nag looks in worse state than the one that left you to flit back to her folks in Mobile.”  

Matt L, “Untitled.” Many stories jumped into a particular tone and dialect, and this one did it particularly well. It reminded me of the speech at the beginning of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in which a small-time criminal’s many transgressions are listed out at length. The writer here really committed to the voice, and the content of the story supports it. Westerns have a certain craftiness and intelligence to them even when the characters seem to be just simple folk. I loved the use of squash.



Eric Martell, “Untitled.” This story is so authentic in the dialog, the tone, and the delivery. I love: “unless you squinted, you couldn’t see that horse anymore.” Also wonderful: “nowadays luck trumped breeding every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” This is a great meditation on the fact that social standing falls apart right along with the economy, and how that can tear apart a person’s dignity and sense of who they are.


Karl A. Russell, “Too Big to Fall.” This is a great example of taking a premise and pushing it farther and farther, drawing on known fairy tales and blending it with another narrative. Karl here tells a huge story in very little space, containing it all in one expression of the rage you know is just under the surface in hard times. And this phrase: “returned home to the shotgun and the pot.” It’s almost a poem.


Holly Geely, “Christmas Dinner.” I kept coming back to this one, such a small moment between two characters but conveying so much. The contrast between the invented and outlandish story and the real circumstances lets the reader feel a creeping desperation. No action takes place, but it is implied and that’s what creates the tension. I found myself really wanting that horse to still be outside come spring.

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




“Depression Glass”

This is another I kept coming back to. It beautifully conveys how grief and loneliness are made worse by the loss of the small but meaningful parts of one’s life, and how those parts are encapsulated in shared everyday objects. It took me right to my grandmother’s house. A life built over time, torn asunder, and uprooted into another home. Somehow it’s just not enough, and the narrator knows it never will be. The glass is unmoored.

Congratulations, Grace! Below is your super cool/hot stunning winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega sparkly winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Depression Glass

I watch birds now, their various wingspans, as I sip my coffee. Overpriced coffee from oversized mugs, brewed in coffeemakers costing more than my monthly wages when I was still a productive member of society.

That sounds ungrateful though, which I’m not or at least I shouldn’t be. My granddaughter has kindly taken me into her home. A home I never could have provided for Vera, but then times were different.

Her petite, gloved-white hands flapping around as she’d prattle on about some sale at the nursery. “Lilacs,” she’d said. She fancied gardening, and hated horses, but her hands remained petal soft even in the end as I held them between my own calloused monsters.

Milk-glass cups—we used to drink our coffee from—are kept on the top shelf of the hutch I built, collectibles now. We don’t drink out of them.

“Lilacs are in bloom.”

“Ah, yes! How are the birds today, Grandpa?”

“They don’t change.”





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.”