Tag Archive | Sydney Scrogham

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 42: WINNERS

Welcome to the results party!! It’s always such a fun adventure, picking out favorites from the glittering heap. And speaking of glittering: WHAT A FABULOUS kickoff to #Pyro!! (Go read the story & critiques, if you haven’t already!) I couldn’t be more thrilled by the good-humoured, constructive, kind feedback on our very first offering (and thanks to you, Writer, for your courage in going first!). Can’t wait for our next round this Saturday. I loved seeing myriad perspectives on a single piece — so insightful. Thanks, y’all.

Coming up TOMORROW: a #Spotlight interview with writing phenom Lisa Crayton. Y’all may not know her yet, but you’re going to love her. She’s a freelance writer, mentor, editor, and respected conference speaker (of particular interest to me is that her book on Toni Morrison (with whom I have a slight obsession) is being republished in 2016) — she has so many interesting things to say on writing and connecting with agents/editors/publishers. You won’t want to miss this.  

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Ever grateful for the powerhouse judges of Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver & Holly Geely, for their combined efforts. I have it on good authority that tears were shed (on less good authority regarding what sort of tears, however). Here’s what they have to say:   

HG: Dear friends…Once more I am floored by your talent, and yet I must wonder – why was the depressed robot the most popular character? Who out there needs a hug? C’mon, bring it in. My arms will enfold you.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let us delve into the goodness that is the Adams prompt. For the record, my favourite part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series is the oblivious whale falling to its death (closely followed by the bowl of petunias) which should give you a feel for my sense of humour. When I saw the prompt this week I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

FI:  Do I have to turn in my writer/reader card if I haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide? Hopefully not… I cried tears of laughter over the movie and have meant to enjoy the book ever since (no worries – my fellow judge is a fine connoisseur of all things Adams).

Your stories reawakened that sleeping intention! So many of you captured that tone, that voice, that hilarity (genius!), while others took the prompt a whole new direction (a boldness I’m quite pleased with), and all with wonderful results. Hopefully, our judging does them justice.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Revenge that Tastes of Strawberry: Nancy Chenier, “Dining at Starpost.” HG: I love it when the cocky customer gets what’s coming to him. You want to be a stubborn jerk? You pay for it, son.

A Beverage that Does the Trick: Evan Montegarde, “Galactic Jack: When a Good Whiskey Just Won’t Do.” HG: Anything that begins with a guy in underpants and a purple robe is bound to end well. Where can I get some of this drink?

For the Most Dizzying Use of Bureaucratic Drivel: Clive Tern, In Response.” FI: For both the laugh and the headache, I thank you.

For Working in a Few of the Best Sci-Fi’s on Bookshelves: @dazmb, “Tyrell High School.” FI: A clever alphabet soup of several of the best sci-fi’s on bookshelves. Miss Voight-Kampff’s empathetic head tilt especially tickled my brain.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Evan Montegarde, SAD2434 and His Box of Crayons.

HG: As a huge fan of crayons, I approve of their use in this story. SAD2434 (fantastic acronym, well done) tugged at my heartstrings. His heroic efforts to amuse himself made me cheer. That ship needed a real dressing down. I hope your crayons last too, SAD2434. I love you. Good luck. 

FI: Haven’t we all wanted to crayon someone’s face now and then? No? Just me? Never mind… SAD2434’s irritability is amusingly human.

Geoff Holme, “Bad Day at the Office.” 

HG: Dear writer… you win at life. “I’m afraid Elvis has left the building.” If you know me at all, you know how I love a punny ending. (I bet you did, didn’t you? I bet you were trying to trick me into choosing you, weren’t you? It worked, writer. It worked.) This is fantastic, a marvelous use of the depressed robot. 

FI: I wonder if a spoonful of peanut butter might make our irascible Elvis feel better. Great job telling through dialogue – not easily done! –  An amusing end makes this a fun read.

Craig Anderson, “Dozing Off.”

HG: This is a spectacular use of the depressed robot, the age-old question of what would happen if the machines took over (and had a dark sense of humour), and it includes sound advice: “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” Well done, writer; this is hilarious. 

FI:  A machine with an existential dilemma, Doze-master 3000 is exactly the type of antihero I adore! He thoroughly stole my heart. In fact, I’d take him to Paris in an instant. Charming voice, no excess word fat, and character progression in 160 words. A fine piece of flash.

David Parkland, “The Infinity Machine.”

HG: Even when one does not know one’s own purpose, how can one resist pressing the big red button? (One, or six, or nine…) This story has a clever, shivery feeling and I like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and press a big red button.

FI: Such a fascinating concept! A machine adrift in that dark void, creating something from the nothing, maybe even all the numbers in existence. What sealed it for me is that familiar curiosity – even a robot can’t resist pressing the red button.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Brett Milam, “Hollow.”

HG: “There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t fight another machine.” The title fits the story in so many ways. Hollowness, literal emptiness, loneliness… It makes me sad in a helpless way, and somehow I understand the robot’s pain even though I don’t have a similar experience to draw upon. Beautifully done. 

FI: Another story that won me over for the trim, simplicity of it. The voice in “Hollow” is perfect, cold, distant, matter-of-fact and ties everything together from John’s death to the slow wait. It, too, raised questions of the relationship (dependence?) between humans and their technology. Anything that makes me think gets high marks in my book.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sydney Scrogham, “Without You for the Last Time” 

HG: She died choosing him.” What is this in my eye? It can’t be a tear, I don’t cry. DON’T LOOK AT ME. (In all seriousness, though, this is truly beautiful and thought-provoking in such a unique way.)

FI: I adored this one for the questions it provoked: what lengths would we go to to keep our loved ones alive? If we could extract human consciousness, the soul, and upload it into an immortal body, have we really saved the original being?

The prose is clean, clear, and minimalist – William Strunk Jr would’ve been proud- and all the other elements of good flash are there, from the first line to the last. Who could stop reading after an opening like “He knew he’d outlive her”? The rest follows suit until that final paragraph brings this original twist on love and lose to a reverberating close. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Demolition.” 

HG: I am Victory, and you are Defeat” is, for me, the best closing line in the bunch. Something about this story makes me feel small; not insignificant, only small. It touched something in me I can’t usually reach; A+, writer. Well done. 

FI: I asked that your story sear itself to my memory, and this one has.

Gorgeous prose, meaning woven throughout, and distinctly unique tone kept bringing me back for “just one more read.”

It’s a clever wordsmith that can bring me from laughing at the oddities of depressed robots and horrendous poets, to hushed awe over a reflection on a single yet universal victory some 2000 years old.

It’s no small thing to take a prompt as concrete as a house about to be bulldozed and give us an abstract view.

You know your craft well, dear writer.

And now: for her second time, fabulous creature!! — join me in congratulating our 

DRAGON WINNER

Steph Ellis!!!

for

“Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite”

HG: This is a heart-wrenching tale of woe, tearfully sculpted from the broken dreams of a broken man.

I’m totally kidding. This is a hilarious romp in which the enemy threatens to “haiku on your face.” I don’t know what that means, but I desperately want to see it. This was a clear choice for winner; a bad poem about bad poets. It’s just like the movie Inception. Okay, not really, but it’s magnificent. My new favourite line from a poem ever: Byron swallowed, sensed the threat; From this man of beef.”

FI:

Two things you’ve done especially well,
Mysterious writer friend.
You’ve captured Adams’ cheeky flavor,
And did so to an end.

For while we laugh and cringe at him,
Lord Byron could be us.
At first so proud of his creation,
Cruel jeers send him running to the dust.

Was he bad or simply cowed,
By common negativity?
So oft, as writers, we heed the harsh,
Believing truth must lack civility.

Silly us, t’isn’t so! Truth is bold,
But also kind – we want critique not criticism,
Let’s hope Lord Byron learns this fact,
Before his passion fails him.

Congratulations, Steph! Please find here your smartly updated winner’s page (let me know if you’d like to rewrite your bio in verse? cuz that would be totally COOL). Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for details regarding your second Sixty Seconds interview! And now here’s your winning story:

Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite

Byron Grimshaw eyed the crowd
Gathered at his door
Better than at Open Mic
The chance he’d waited for

He inhaled the dusty air
Puffed out his pigeon chest
“Hark my fellow countrymen,
Beneath my bosom’s breast …”

“Lurks a Primark padded bra
And poncey pink silk vest”

Determined not to yield his spot
To hecklers, he declaimed
Words that he intended
Would endure, spreading his fame

“Down Durham’s dreadful dreary roads
Yellow monsters chewed up brick,
As the bard orated ….”

“You really are a p…”

The words were lost amid a stir
As the foreman pushed towards him
Bulldozed his way up to the front
Clear threat behind his warning

“I’ve tickets for the match tonight
Son, you’re a right disgrace
If you don’t come out here pretty quick
I’ll haiku on your face”

Byron swallowed, sensed the threat
From this man of beef
Meekly slunk out of the house
And ran off down the street.

FFwinner-Web

Spotlight: Sydney Scrogham

** CONGRATULATIONS TO EMILY!!!! (The Emily who commented Tues at 10:21pm.) Please contact me here and we’ll get that copy of Chase into your horse-loving hands! **

One of my favorite features here at Flash! Friday is #Spotlight, in which we get to chat with draggins across the writing community about writing stuff. (Do you have a book coming out? Let me know! This mic is for you!) 

Today it’s a pleasure to sit down for a minute with Sydney Scrogham. You will doubtless remember her from her recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed win here at Flash! Friday. I’m also delighted to say she is a member of my dear Shenandoah Valley Writers, and we couldn’t be happier to help celebrate the publication of her novel Chase by inviting her to the dragonstage to tell us all about it.

Be sure to leave a comment today; Sydney is generously giving away a FREE COPY of Chase to a randomly selected commenter. Thank you, Sydney!

Sydney Scrogham

Tell us about your writing journey. You’ve been writing a while! What sorts of writing have driven you? Has your heart chosen a genre (which, and why)? Have you had any formal writing training?

Ha, I haven’t had any formal training in writing.  But that’s okay.  That means there’s hope for us all!

I am suckered into fantasy and romance… and I’ll sometimes swing for a little sci-fi (having studied neuroscience).  I prefer fantasy because you don’t have to really know anything  – you can make it up, and it’s super easy to dig yourself out of a hole.  (It can also be super cool, too.)  And romance… just because.  Everyone wants romance nowadays, but even if they didn’t, I’d still write it.  I love it. (Pun intended.)

Please introduce us to Chase! Tell us about this world and the key players in it.

Chase started back when I was 14ish and I had a suicidal long-distance friend.  I wanted to write a story that would speak into that pain and let my friend know that no matter what, she would still be loved by God.  Here’s where my love for romance comes in – I can’t stand it when people think of God and faith as just a religious ritual.  It’s so much more than that.  Romance was God’s idea, and He’s reading poetry and giving flowers and singing to us… all the time.  Sometimes it’s hard to see and listen to that.  So, why not write a book?  Originally, Chase was designed to be a Jesus-figure character.  And Lauren represented humanity.  All of the Alicorns represented Israel, and the Snix represented Satan.  Some of the lines there got blurred with the rewrite, but that was how the story was conceived.

But aside from that, my favorite part about Chase is, well, Chase.  I love that he acts and thinks like a horse, everything is simple, and he will consider rolling on the beach to scratch his back.  But at the same time, he’s also very human.  For example, the first time he talks to Lauren, he gets tongue-tied like a school-boy crush.  I also love the world Chase lives in – Agalrae – my version of Narnia.  The idea for Agalrae came from Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway (you can see what I’m seeing on Pinterest @sszoewriter), and every time I go hiking up there, the magic of Agalrae tingles in the air for me.

Next: I’m dying to know about Chase’s journey. Tell us everything!

The first draft of this story was done in 18 days.  I was homeschooled, so I’d write for 8-9 hours straight sometimes.  Since I was modeling this story from a Bible story, I knew where it was headed so I didn’t ever get “stuck.”  And no, I didn’t outline – I hate outlines, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that.  (The story NEVER goes where I think it’s going to go.)  First chance I tried to get it published, it was accepted (unheard of, right?), and then three and a half years later, the publisher backed out of the contract.  That was a long, disappointing road.  Because I was afraid the publisher had gone behind my back and was selling books behind my back (they claimed it wasn’t printed, but it was available in their online store), I decided to rewrite Chase.  I felt like a lot of the original story had been lost through all of the years of editing, and I didn’t want to try and sell my story to another publisher when it might already be out there somewhere (grumble grumble).  So I rewrote Chase in 20-some days during NaNoWriMo 2014 using Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races as a rough template to follow.  Three months-ish later, I had a hybrid deal from Koehler Books!  And my entire experience with Koehler has been wonderful.

Did writing Chase require any research? You’re already a horsewoman; how much of the book is based on personal experience?

Oodles of Chase is based on personal experience with my horse Blue.  And that’s why the book is dedicated to him.  I lost him this March to a tragic accident, and when Koehler offered me a dedication, I asked if I could print a picture with it.  They agreed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Other than that, nope, no research was done.

Editing!!! as terrifying as it’s rumored to be, or is that a big fat lie? how did you find beta readers? an editor?

*gasp* I never actually had beta readers…  Koehler Books took care of my editing AND copyediting.  My skin is very thin, and I want it to stay that way.  I need to have sensitive emotions in order to write!  But what I had to teach myself is that I AM NOT MY WRITING.  Just because the editor is saying there’s all this crap to be fixed, it doesn’t mean I suck as a person.  Actually, just the opposite.  What I’m saying has so much value that editors are working with me to make my writing the best it can be.  So yes, editing isn’t fun, but it’s a necessary evil.  I keep coming out stronger.

Let’s talk about publishing. What made you decide against the traditional approach (or did you try that first, i.e. querying agents)? What drew you to self-publishing and, specifically, this hybrid approach? 

I wanted the traditional approach – my original contract with the first publisher was traditional – but Koehler Books said “no” to that because I’m virtually a nobody without any proven sales success.  Hard truth.  However, I was told to speak up if I was interested in the Emerging Author’s Program.  I said I was.  That means Koehler Books is going to take a year and mentor me into a professional, branded author.  I feel like if I ever needed something, I could ask, and Koehler would give me a great answer.  I’ve had phone calls and emails from them.  Communication has always been great.  The chance at getting good, professional experience was worth its weight in gold to me, and that’s one of the big reasons I went hybrid.  Plus, if Chase sells a certain amount of copies within the first year, then Koehler will offer me a traditional deal for my next book.  So I’m also getting a stab at a long-term business relationship.  I’m definitely open to doing hybrid again in the future, but I also really want to be published with a big house at least once.  But at this point, the only benefit I’ll really get with that is an exponential amount of marketing.  Being with Koehler Books really allowed me to get Chase exactly the way I wanted it, and that’s something that isn’t likely to happen with a big house.  (And yes, I am still interested in getting an agent so I can get into that big house.) 

Marketing is crucial, clearly, and we’re excited to be at the front of that effort with you, celebrating your launch right here at FF. What have you got in the works?

This is crazy, but I absolutely love marketing.  An entrepreneur brain runs in my family.  There’s literally no limit on the things you can do, and the creativity I can pull into marketing gets me almost as excited as writing a first chapter.  Yes, I am a little scared, but only because I’ve never done this before!  I actually may have my first in-person and radio interview coming up soon (Chase is currently being reviewed by some marketing teams).  In-person stuff is the only thing that really got me anxious, but I love the virtual stuff.  And giveaways.  And making things for giveaways – like custom totes or T-shirts – the sky is the limit!  Koehler Books is helping me some, but not as much as my writer communities.  That’s where the real magic is happening.  The Shenandoah Valley Writers critique group has had my back like mud on a rock (too much?), and the people I met at ReWrite: The Ragged Edge 2015 have given me invaluable advice and marketing support.  Moving forward, I don’t know what to expect, but I am excited because I know this is only the beginning.

What’s next?

I actually just finished my next novel.  While in Agalrae, Lauren reads a lot of journals to learn about the history, and she reads a journal from a character named Ariel.  Ariel’s story is the one I just finished, titled “Back To You And Me,” and I didn’t think this was possible, but I may be more excited about that than I was for Chase.  Ariel is a character I have loved for years – she’s been in my head for almost ten years now!  There are lots of novels in the world of Chase – one of them is up for freebies right now on WattPad, Nephtali’s Gift – but I’m kind of writing my series backwards like Star Wars.  There’s Chase, and that actually lands toward the end of the series.  Back To You And Me is two generations before Chase, and Nephtali’s Gift is even farther before that when there weren’t people in Agalrae yet… My plan is to have a few more prequels to Chase, and then finally write a sequel or two… or three… to Chase that ties in all the characters that went around in the prequels.  It’s going to be a great time!

Who are your biggest supporters? Who inspires you?

Sniffle sniffle… The biggest supporter goes back four years ago to Chase’s first draft.  Melanie Champ – she based some of her horse training business on what she read in my first draft!  That’s an incredible honor.  Another person I’ve had fiercely behind me is Lindsey Barnes.  Sometimes I think she was more excited than me.  Then there’s Margaret Locke, Tamara Shoemaker, Foy Iver, Nora Firestone from Koehler Books (who makes phone calls without warning to tell me she’s proud of me), John Koehler (for being so patient through all my endless questions), all of the Ragged Blue Monkeys from ReWrite – gosh, there’s so many of you – and all of my friends and family… I can’t forget my critters, either.  Snowdy (the horse) and Zoe (the dachshund), for keeping me sane through the emotional twists of writing.  I feel bad I can’t name all of you wonderful people – but that would take a novel in itself.  But know that I’m so grateful for you!

Any final words for the FF community?

I love this place.  It’s awesome.  To me, it feels like a virtual coffee shop hangout.  I hope that none of you will ever be afraid to release your words, especially not because you’re afraid of your family seeing something you’ve written!  As far as supporting me, I’m always game for cross-promotion.  I do interviews, and you don’t have to be published to get one, and my few guests posts have gone well.  So, if anyone wants to trade some blog posts… *hint nudge*

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Thanks so much for chatting with us, Sydney!!!! Now it’s YOUR TURN, FF community!!!! got any comments? questions? Leave them here; we’ll do a drawing Wednesday, and one of you will win a free copy of Chase!

Sixty Seconds with: Sydney Scrogham

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 first timer Sydney Scrogham.  Read more about here here; read her winning story here; and look for an upcoming #Spotlight interview with her to celebrate her first novel, due to be published in August! But for now: take one minute to get to know her better below.

1) What about Charlie & the Chocolate Factory inspired your winning piece? More like I took what I wanted to write about and found a way to work it with the prompt. 🙂

2) How long have you been writing flash? Less than a year.

3) What do you like about flash? The challenge of using as few words as possible.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? Write what you like. Feel the story in your body and translate that to words.

5) Who is a flash writer we should follow, and why? Foy S. Iver – she’s crazy passionate and competitive with flash.  

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? Yes, MicroBookends.

7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)? Novels, blog articles for Porsche eBreak, venting poetry, blog posts for Victory Weekend Ministries, but I’m not limiting myself there. 

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Fantasy because I don’t have to know jack squat about anything when I can just make it up. 🙂

9) Tell us about a WIP. An abused young woman. A man afraid of becoming his father. Inner darkness will destroy them or drive them together.

10) How do you feel about dragons? I want my own Toothless.