Tag Archive | Sinead O’Hart

Sixty Seconds IV with: Marie McKay

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Marie McKay.  She’s one of those rare and beautiful writers who has been with us from the beginning (her first week was Year One, Week 26!). Today marks her FOURTH win, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Take a moment to read her bio & her winnings stories here. Then take another minute or two to get to know her better below. (Note that four-time winners are never held to the word count rule!)

1) What about the 100 Years of Solitude prompts inspired your winning piece?  The words ‘inescapability of family’ really triggered my story. The world of Carers, I am one myself, can be riddled with contradiction and guilt. It’s very easy to feel guilty when you need time to yourself; after all, you love the very person you need time away from. It quite often takes an outsider to tell you it’s acceptable to be kind to yourself. Carers and the job they do can go unnoticed. I do think societies need to look after their Carers.

2) You’ve been writing with us since Year One, and this is your 4th (!!) win. Tell us about your flash fiction journey. I started on a site called CAKE which was a wonderful site for new writers. On that site, I ‘met’ SJ O’Hart who had written on FF, so I quickly joined in. My stories do tend to be dark, and I do like the spaces to do some of the work. I think I’ve developed my style to a degree, but there’s a long way to go. I like to experiment with form – and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but playing safe all the time in flash seems to me like a wasted opportunity.

3) You’ve written SO MUCH flash with FF. What are a couple of your favorite prompts (and/or favorite stories of others’ and/or yours that rose from them)?  Oh, I could be here forever! I loved Jacki Donnellan’s Flashversary winning story. Jacki’s writing style is crisp and beautiful. I loved Casey Rose Frank’s story ‘She Walks‘ that was in response to the Pilgrim’s Progress novel prompt. It is haunting and clever. All of Chris Milam’s winning stories (any of his stories, in fact). Steph Ellis’ first winning story, ‘Holiday Deals‘ (I was runner up that week, but I’m not bitter because her story booted mine right out of the dragon’s lair.) Mark A. King’s ‘The Dance of the Origami Girl and the Porcelain Boy‘ is breathtaking. Prompts I loved, a photo of two women in safety glasses, allowed me to write one of my own winning stories,’The Factory.’ The picture prompt of the three guys looking at fish tanks along with the word prompt ‘farmer’ caused quite a stir, and it allowed me to write a story that was a blatant tribute to Flash Friday and its High Dragoness. But as I said, I could go on forever.

4) What’s going on in your writerly life? During the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Miles who writes at FF and runs the publishing company Paper Swans Press. I was included in their anthology ‘Schooldays.’ I had the great pleasure of reading my flash piece at the Edinburgh Book Festival, as a result. And now, I am currently working on my Flashdogs anthology stories!

5) Flash is so different from how it was a few years ago–so many writers these days are SO GOOD. How can writers take their flash to the next level? Stay away from cliche.

6) What’s a writerly bad habit you have (or used to have) that you’ve overcome (or are working to overcome)? I think the problem I need to overcome more than anything is confidence. I constantly battle with a voice inside my head that tells me I am a terrible writer and that I am kidding myself that  I can be at all successful. And even as I write this, I am thinking, ‘hey maybe that voice is right.’ {Editor’s Note: WRONG. And a pound in the Self-Deprecation Jar, please.} It has stopped me from buckling down and finishing longer projects. 

7) What have you read lately that you really loved, and why? The Girl with All the Gifts’ by Mike Carey is wonderful. It is like reading a horror version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda.’ It is terrifying, dark and incredibly touching. ‘Girl on the Train’ is another great read. The unreliable narration makes for a gripping story. I am reading ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan, at the moment. I think every writer should read Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Birdsong’, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ and Ian Bank’s ‘Wasp Factory.’ I say this because I think each of them has a very interesting narrative technique- and they are just plain good.

8) Name drop for us! who are some writers in this community you’re always excited to read? who are we going to see on the bestseller lists? Well, this one is difficult because, obviously, I cannot name all of the writers I admire in the FF community, there are too many. I love all the Flashdogs, of course. I will only be able to name a few, here: Rebekah Postupak, Mark A. King, David Barrowdale, Grace Black and Rebecca J Allred. These four are terrific writers themselves and are so very generous with their own time. Chris Milam and SJ O’Hart  are incredibly talented writers whose work I can only admire. Steph Ellis, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam have such beautifully dark imaginations. Voima Oy, Casey Rose Frank, Foy Iver, F.E. Clark and Tamara Shoemaker for their poetic prose. It truly does go on… and on… and on.

9) Do you belong to any IRL writing communities? online? Talk about the Flash Dogs! I only participate online. I take part in a few competitions other than this one: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and The Angry Hourglass. A writing community that I am very proud to be a part of is Flashdogs. They are an incredibly supportive and welcoming group of talented writers. They have inspired me immensely.

10) Final thoughts/comments/encouragement/advice for the community? My final thoughts, well, I think it’s probably obvious that I am about to tell you how much I am going to miss Flash! Friday. It has been a big part of my writerly life for a long time. However, I cannot remain sad for too long when I think of FF, because I am truly joyous at the opportunities it has given me and other writers. Rebekah Postupak, you are a truly gifted writer who has given so much of your time to others. The foresight and imagination it took to come up with the site at all is part of the reason I consider you a leader in flash. The other reasons are manifold. Whenever I’ve had the privilege of reading your work, I have seen how stylish, versatile and effortless your writing is. You have been a teacher. I have read every Flash Points you were kind enough to share, and your knowledge of flash fiction and literature, in general, is staggering. You have championed all of us, when indeed you, yourself, are The Champion. I am forever indebted. Thank you. 

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 28: WINNERS

This is a BIG HUGE WEEK in the writing world; what a privilege getting a dragon’s eye view. In case you were temporarily off-planet, yesterday saw the official publication of the #FlashDogs‘ latest venture, the two-book flash anthology, Solstice: Light and Solstice: Dark.  Many of the writers in the Flash! Friday community (including me!) have stories in one or both of these; all proceeds go to The Book Bus

Next up: I’m THRILLED TO DEATH to reveal the names of our guest judges for this coming Friday: Emily June Street and Beth Deitchman of Luminous Creatures Press! Read all about LCP (and you will want to) at their guest judge page here

And in case THAT wasn’t enough excitement….?!?! Writing/editing/trapeze superstar Emily June Street‘s latest novel, The Gantean, is being published this Saturday, June 27. To celebrate The Gantean as well as LCP’s stint as guest judges, tomorrow’s #Spotlight feature belongs entirely to Emily. Be sure to come back: not only is it a super fun interview, but she’s giving away a FREE COPY of The Gantean! 

And now.

Sigh. I suppose I can’t put off this unpleasantness any longer, hard as I’ve tried: it’s our final farewell to our final judging team of Year Three’s first term: Pratibha (who judged TWO TERMS!), and Sinéad O’Hart. They have read and battled over your stories with grace, courage, and a keen eye. They turned the spread of cultures and time zones — California by way of India (Pratibha) and Ireland (Sinéad) — into a strong advantage as they sifted through your mountains of flash fiction jewels, ferreting out the most powerful tales and themes. Pratibha and Sinéad: working with you has been a joy and privilege. Thank you for sharing your myriad talents with us here at Flash! Friday (and please keep doing so!). I am forever grateful.     

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Dragon Captains Sinéad O’Hart/Pratibha say: 

Pratibha: It’s time to hang up the judge’s robe and drop that gavel. I simultaneously feel relief and sadness. This is my second stint as the FF judge: madness, I tell you. Even though, I won’t be officially judging, I will turn up to write Flash! Friday tales and actually post them here from time to time. Flash! Friday may be based in Shenandoah Valley, but to me it’s Hotel California –

“You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!”

As usual, excellent work this week, people. Keep on flashing!

Sinéad: Well, what a way to round out my stint as a Flash! Friday judge. Every time I’ve had the privilege of judging, I’ve been amazed by the depth and variety of stories, all based around the same prompts, and the level of accomplishment that goes into each one – and this week was no different. From malfunctioning androids to lives held in loops, from grieving parents to trains themselves being vehicles between worlds or realities, these tales truly raised the bar. I think I enjoyed every one, and choosing winners and Runners Up was a real challenge – there was a lot of back-and-forth between the judges! It’s never easy to pick winners, but when there’s such an embarrassment of riches to choose from, it really does make the challenge all the harder. Thank you, one and all, for your efforts this week, and we hope the choices we’ve made reflect the quality of the stories we were presented with. Thanks also for being so great during our tenure as judges! We hope we did y’all proud.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best dialogue: Reg Wulff, “Excuses.” 

Pratibha: This captivated me because the dialogue flowed smoothly. The characters are believable and strong. Well done.

Sinéad: Stories told through dialogue are always an eye-catcher for me, and this one made particularly great use of the conversation between Frank and Billy, using the trope to create brilliant characterisation and a clever story (which makes excellent use of the prompts!).

Best Rhythm: Colin D. Smith, “Always the Same.” 

Pratibha: The story is told in a poem that skillfully captures the rhythm of the train. I wish we had a special category of poems.

Sinéad: Of course, in a week where one of the prompts is a train, we hope for stories which make use of the wonderful ‘clickety-clack’ rhythm of the wheels, and this one did just that. I enjoyed its use of the sounds of the train itself and its effective ‘Until it isn’t’ at the end, signalling destruction.

Best Use of Humour & Topicality:  Mark A. King, “The Original Mr. Grey.” 

Pratibha: I always love a humorous tale; this one is it this week, and if the story addresses a current news story, even better.

Sinéad: As well as this one being funny and relevant to this week’s big literary news story, I thought it was charming and funny, particularly the image of Death doing a dad-dance once a year, and the very idea of there being a Mr Grey (a god of the banal?) was intriguing.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Clive Tern, “Wishing for Eternity in a World Lost to Love.” 

Pratibha: I loved this one for the subtle use of the prompt and overall sense of mystery. The sad predicament is only revealed towards the end. I loved the dialogue, and how it wraps around at the end back to the beginning of the story. A clever use of the flash technique.

Sinéad: Well, what a tearjerker. Such a tender tale until the giveaway line ‘All those times now gone forever…’, when we realise things aren’t as they appear; and then the sad, looping and deeply touching denouement finishes things off perfectly. This was a little story-gem, which I really enjoyed.

Eliza Archer, “Temps Perdu.” 

Pratibha: This was a treat to read. I enjoyed the experimental technique. A story told through a list poem with a twist at the end. What a great title. Well done indeed!

Sinéad: Structurally, I liked this story; I enjoyed the way it was put together and laid out on the page, and I enjoyed the way it was told through a series of ‘If onlys’. It was clever, and well titled, and a really well put together piece, and I admired the way the author allowed the story to unfold gradually, and without being obvious.

Brian S. Creek, “1979.” 

Pratibha: I loved this for the way the main character uses modern technology to get to the bottom of the recurring dream.

Sinéad: A lot of stories this week attempted the same, or very similar, themes, including (as here) the idea of having lived through a disaster in the past; but this one stood out for me. I liked the idea of the repeating dream, and the dreamer’s determination to get to the bottom of it. I also thought how it ended was just perfect, leaving the reader hanging.

Steph Ellis, “Family Outing.” 

Pratibha:  The writer builds an alternate world with a cast of characters from mythology, and sends them on an ordinary family outing. Nothing ordinary about that. This was a fun read.

Sinéad: I just loved this one for its use of mythological figures and its depiction of them as a family – it reminded me in some ways of the Endless in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ graphic novels. I enjoyed the last line, wondering how often Nyx has filled Morpheus’ flagon with Lethe water, and what else she has made him forget – and what effects this might have had on frail humanity!

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker,Like Daughter.” 

Pratibha: I liked the exquisite descriptions of the setting to indicate the characters were trying to avoid the unpleasant truth facing them. The strained relationship between mother-daughter is shown through the body language. I liked the expert use of the language and story-telling technique.

Sinéad: I loved the voice and perspective in this one, and the use of the prompts, which are subtle but intrinsically woven into the story’s plot. I particularly loved the use of ‘deja vu’, as the mother looks back over her life and sees her child repeating the same mistakes she made as a younger woman, and I was particularly taken by the image of the ‘wadded papers and candy wrappers’ on the coverlet, which shows how young the girl is despite her efforts to be grown up. I just loved this; I thought it was so beautifully written.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “I Love You/I Love You Not.” 

Pratibha: I usually don’t care for the stories that deal with supernatural, unless they are done expertly and bring home some truth about human emotions. This story does that. The train-wreck of emotions is portrayed by soft strokes that gradually turn into hard ones until the point is driven home. The end is chilling, but the words remain calm. I love how the ending sentence returns to the beginning.

Sinéad: Out of the many stories this week which dealt with rebirth, or people reliving events, I thought this one was interesting because it had a different perspective than the others – and it was also truly chilling! The idea that a spirit would wait until someone’s dying day just to get revenge on them for an imagined slight was memorable and clever, and really well expressed. One is more used to stories about people who meet their deceased loved ones at death in order for a peaceful and beautiful reunion to take place, so this subverted that trope very nicely.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Michael Seese, “Don’t Worry, Little One.” 

Pratibha: This story caught my interest right away. The vignettes of the series of firsts in a child’s life are portrayed tenderly. The refrain, “’Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine” is soothing yet ominous. We wait for a train-wreck to happen, and when it does, it’s nothing like we expected. I love how the story unfolds layer by layer. I loved the gentle tone and understated horror at the end.

Sinéad: This one brought a tear to my eye. I thought the emotion in it was true and touching, and beautifully expressed, and the repeated refrain of ‘Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine’ was particularly affecting, because of course sometimes things aren’t going to be fine, no matter how much we want them to be. Nobody, not even a mother, can guarantee this, and that hit me powerfully. From a writing point of view, I enjoyed how the author employed the prompts – the life of the daughter told and retold, and the unexpected use of the image of the train – and to combine skill like this with such deep emotion was a true accomplishment.

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

DRAGON WINNER

KATIE MORFORD!!!

for

“Iron Mistress”

Pratibha: I like strong characters, so this story and voice of this woman who is toughened by her life caught my attention. The story basically a monologue, but the entire life unfolds in front of our eyes. The slow realization that “Even freedom isn’t free,” is unsettling. I loved this woman in “peacock-feathered” hat, who is defiant and non-apologetic for her life-choices.  The imagery in the story is evocative, and the voice in memorable. I loved her “deja-vu” life that is still a runaway train, but with the shifted control. Powerful story.

Sinéad:  This story featured a great, snappy voice, one which caught my attention and held it. I loved the character’s determination and self-assurance, even if it may be masking a deep well of fear and insecurity, and I thought the ending – which is powerful, but also slightly disturbing, as we wonder what exactly she’s going to do when she gets ‘West’ – was excellent and memorable. I thought the lines ‘I may be cheap but nothing is free. I sold my soul to buy my freedom’ was particularly evocative, and I liked the idea of a life twice-lived, reinvention, and new beginnings, which took the idea of ‘deja vu’ to a new level.

Congratulations, Katie! You’ve earned other nods before, including winning an HM at the most recent Flashversary–what a pleasure to see you grab the dragon crown! Here’s your brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

Iron Mistress

They say I’m a runaway train, with lots of flash and smoke and steam. They say I’m nothing but an Iron Mistress, plowing through everything and everyone and leaving rubble in my wake.

Maybe I am. Maybe I ain’t. I’ll leave that for biddies to decide when I’m mouldering in my grave in my peacock-feather hat. Money don’t grow on trees and milksops only get the cash cow after she’s drained dry. Nothing is free — except maybe me.

If I’m a runaway train, it’s because this land pounded the weakness out of me with every clack of the wheels. A girl leaving a sooty New York orphanage for a hot, harsh land in the grip of the Dust Bowl, who had yet to learn that nothing is free.

Not even me.

Now I’m back on that train heading West and if my dress is a tad fancier and my legs lad-fumblers instead of dried sticks, those iron wheels are still pounding this truth home.

I may be cheap but nothing is free. I sold my soul to buy my freedom. Even freedom isn’t free. Say what you might. This train is a’coming. Ain’t nothing gonna stand in her way.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 28

We’re closing in on the June 21 launch of the dual-volume Solstice anthology produced by the #FlashDogs, proceeds going to The Book Bus. Despite being walloped by that preposition-heavy sentence, I trust you’ve already set up your sidewalk tents at the front of queues around the world in anticipation. At the first available moment, I will be ordering a copy of Solstice: Light for this week’s #Spotlight raffle winner Caitlin Gramley. How many books will you buy on the first day? (For some reason, my father-in-law’s Old World Ukrainian voice echoes here. He’d ask how many eggs he should cook you: “One or two… dozen?” and crack himself up. -So how many books you gonna buy: one or two… dozen? hahahhaha.) Moving on.

It’s our final dragon captain farewell today (see below) — but there are exciting days coming in the next weeks!!! On Monday, along with results, we will unveil the names of the guest judges for next Friday’s round (you are going to freak out), one of whom will also appear in next Tuesday’s #Spotlight feature. And after that? Friday July 3 kicks off our BRAND NEW judge panel. Prepare to have your brains melted by the stunning talent represented by these new captains.   

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Dragon Emporium! Buy dragon stuff!

 

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DC2WEEP WITH ME AS WE BID ADIEU to the fabulous, unforgettable Dragon Team Four: Captains Sinéad O’Hart & Pratibha. These two were tasked with sorting through a small mountain of priceless jewels each turn, in true Herculean style identifying the ones whose facets gleamed brightest. And yet it’s a task they dispatched with great courage and humor, no doubt because of their shared obsession for the rich, complex, bejeweled tapestries of the human mind. Raise the stakes and shake the earth for your characters, says Sinéad. Let your narrative flow smoothly, richly, says Pratibha, before smoothly and richly punching your reader in the gut. Guess they thought they’d spread that Herculean love around, eh?          

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.   Now let’s write!

* Word count: Write a 200-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title/byline) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday.

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

AND HERE IS YOUR TWO-PART PROMPT:

(1) Required story element (this week: theme. If you want your story to be eligible for an award, the below theme of “déjà vu” must be a central to your story): 

deja vu

 

(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

Train wreck at Montparnasse, 1895. Public domain photo.

Train wreck at Montparnasse, 1895. Public domain photo.