Tag Archive | Tim Kimber

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 41: WINNERS

Goooooooood morning!!! WHAT A WEEKEND!!! On one side of the pond was a #FlashDogs meetup, and here in the Shenandoah Valley we enjoyed a writers’ retreat hosted by the inimitable Foy Iver (you think she writes a mean piece of flash? you should taste her guacamole!!). 

Before we launch into today’s results, I’ve a VERY COOL announcement: starting THIS VERY SATURDAY, we’re kicking off yet another new opportunity here at Flash! Friday, a feature we’re calling Pyromaniacs. Have you longed for frank critiques of your writing but are too terrified to ask? Here’s your chance!

  • Email me via here anytime with a flash piece (500 words or under) you’d like the community to critique (regular FF guidelines apply). Be sure to specify it’s for critique.
  • Each Saturday I’ll choose one of those stories (stripped of all identification — no one will ever know the author unless you wish it), post it, and invite the FF draggins (that’s you!) to comment (respectfully) on how you think it could be improved. 

That’s it! The rest is up to the community. I’m terribly excited about this; writing helpful critiques is a tough skill to learn, and on top of writers coming away with useful feedback each week, this #Pyro feature will give us all a chance to work on becoming better critiquers ourselves. Fun stuff.

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Speaking of inimitable, thanks aplenty are owed Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier & IfeOluwa Nihinlola, for their painstaking work this round. Cry, the Beloved Country is a powerful but difficult novel to read; your stories likewise. Thank you, Nancy & IfeOluwa! Here are their comments:   

– What a week! Priests both philandering and intrepid, women bearing babes both auspicious and abominable, confessions dire and personal. Despair contended with hope. Tradition took on modernity. Cry, the Beloved Country inspired fifty delectable bits of flash. Thank you, thank you for once again sharing your craft and creativity, Flash! Friday Dragons.

Cry, the Beloved Country is probably alien to many in the Flash! Friday community, yet fifty stories come out of this. I don’t know how many of you do this every week, but I’m here, once again, thanking you all for another round of good writing.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Birdman Award: Marie McKay, “The City View.This award is for, well, the use of flight—both of fancy and of wings. And for the bird’s eye view we’re given of the city in figurative, emotional and literal language. 

Switcheroo Award: Tim Kimber, “Faith in Humanity.” This award is for reassigning the religiosity of lilies of the field to secularism, and imaging a world where science is the “true faith” and “flower unemployment” makes perfect sense.

Whiplash Award: Jenn, “Posh Preggers.” For boomeranging my attitude toward the MC in the final line. Suddenly the shallow, materialistic girl inspires sympathy by gazing out at the ocean.

Sly Fox Award: Michael Seese, “Judgment.” For the subtle forecasting (“Real pain and fear is hard to fake” and “good practice”) of what the very cunning MC is up to.

Lotus-Unfolding Award: Foy Iver, “Adrift on the Stars’ Ocean.” For its elegantly slow reveal of the urgent situation and gently disclosed and resolved friction between the women.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Carolyn Ward, Harvest Time.

N: The voice in this one drew me right in from the redundancy of “everlasting eternity” to the way she described the baby “being all hugged by my body” and herself being “filled to the brim”. The figurative language the narrator uses matches the voice of this girl with its simple honesty. The way the mother appears as the antagonistic force here (rather than the priest, the true villain) sets up some serious dramatic irony. Mom’s introduced as the cruel child-taker when she tells her daughter she’ll never hold her child. That is confirmed in the next paragraph with the mother’s slapping of her daughter whenever she protests (caterwauls). The pathos culminates in the final line, in the sad little victory the narrator assumes over her mother by “not telling her” about the priest. At that point the reader understand who the antagonist really is and how the MC putting one over on enemy-Ma is actually compromising her interests.

I: There’s a lot packed into the voice of this narrator: innocence, class, naiveté. At least that is how it seems at the start. She describes her baby as a bean growing at the speed of light, and describes her due date as her harvest time. She also shows a deference to her mother who instructs her, not just about her actions, but about her thoughts, and reinforces the admonishments with slaps to stem her “caterwaulin’.” Then the story gets to the last line and I see that the girl might have been many things, but naive wasn’t one of them.

Madilyn Quinn, “Battlegrounds.” 

N: Another one that lured me in with tantalizing imagery, particularly that of fire: torches arching and glaring, candles flaring. I’m lured in by the unexpected: a mob attacking a church when the stereotype is of a torch-bearing mob led by fanatical priests. The mob bent on destruction while the priest seems to take “turn the other cheek” in praying for them—and leaving the reader to wonder why a mob would be after a priest who seems to “walk the walk”. What landed this one for me, was the final element of surprise: the sword. The end has me wishing I could be there for the ensuing Mass(acre). The idea of Mass as sort of a defensive spell against one’s enemies is an intriguing one.

I: A priest being showered by shards of glass and being attacked by a torch-bearing mob is an image I’m familiar with. This is in contrast with Nancy’s view, yet this story manages to subvert both our views of what it would do, by its masterful telling. It’s easy to feel sorry for the priest at the point where he turns to the prayer candles. The line “Jesus averts his gaze to the sky” is brilliant because at first it looks like a sign of neglect, mirroring Jesus and his father.  By the time the mob floods in, however, and priest draws out his sword, I realise there’s a chance Jesus averted his gaze to avoid witnessing the carnage that would inevitably follow.

Sarah Cain, “Our Country.”

N: The man vs. man conflict serves as a microcosm to the more macrocosmic conflict between cultures. The representatives of the two sides are sharply drawn: the self-important MC, who is immediately signaled as the villain in his arrogant declaration that he has “come for what is his”. He stands against the “woman in soft crimson with a scar puckering her cheek”—and what a description: a history of violence evident, but quietly persisting. This image is reinforced by her words. She turns his implicit accusation on him and asserts that he can approach this conflict with violence, he can claim his ownership, the country will never belong to him.

I: This story is told close to the point of view of the oppressor, so we see what he sees: unfriendly eyes, impassive faces, and hear what he hears: rhythmic chant of women’s voices. That these are the victims of his oppression is implicit in the story, although not expressly declared. Then he strides into the doorway of one of the tin hovels, and his encounter with an old woman unmasks his true identity. Their conversation offers the line where the title, Our Country, is taken from, and it is also where the oppressor gets put in his place.

Becky Conway, “Faithful Servant.”

N: I was struck by the format, one-sided confessionals tracking a nine-month pregnancy. At first, the vocabulary seemed overwrought for a teenager, almost Victorian in its use. Then, I realized she wasn’t using her own words. In her uncertainty and insecurity, she parrots scraps from the Bible and religious language (most likely the language of her her abuser). She says what she’s supposed to say. She behaves the way authority figures (particularly the priest) direct her. The final confession is the first sign she has done something under her own volition, and typical of action long-repressed, this one is destructive in its liberation. The “liberation” is not complete as she continues to employ the somewhat anachronistic, “blood on my hands” to express herself.

I: The “Forgive me” that opens a confession, and the progression of a pregnancy is used repetitively to set up the disturbing narrative in this story. The narrator is asking for forgiveness for another man’s sin, and seems to descend into a deeper state of despair as the birth of her baby becomes more imminent. That is until one month after conception, when she declares that there is blood on her hands. Whose blood? At first I hope it is Father Abraham’s, for that will offer some poetic justice to the story. But the story refuses to end that way, saving an even more disturbing detail for the last.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Richard Edenfield, “Reflections.”

N – This one packs a lot into so small a space. The contrast and commingling of two worlds is dizzying. The surrender of the “ancient tribe” in the first paragraph is echoed by the priest’s personal surrender by the end. Hands shift from industriously working with nature to being “neatly laced”.  Hope for a revival of that old connection with nature sparks in the rawness of the baby’s appearance—weathered wood, fire in the eyes—but the “guillotine” of a steel shutter severs that hope. The priest and his new grandson are locked in the hard, shiny world of reflective surfaces, shut off from the sublimity of nature (“the purple intrusion of erupting dawn”).  Many gems in here, but my favorite line has to be, “A new generation being pronounced by a secret genetic language whispered in each body. Crying could be heard from a room. Learning a new language wasn’t easy.” In itself a beautiful expression of birth and generation, but as part of this story, I imagine the priest having firsthand experience of the difficulty in learning the language of the metropolis.  

I– Attempting to unpack this story properly is like trying to interpret a poem. The lines are simple, but, like good poetry, what that economy does is to open the story to more interpretation. At the surface, an old priest is witnessing the birth of his grandson, but simultaneously, it seems the priest is also witnessing the death of something more. Perhaps it is that of the tribe ‘surrendered’ with antique light from the sun, that is witnessing a new generation becoming forged with unknown hands in unknown places. I could go on and on with the imagery, but I’ll stop here, for every fresh reading offers something new to consider and reflect upon.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “Passing Down the Mantle” 

N – As a writer, I often regard storytelling as part of a legacy. How tragic, then, to ponder what would become of that legacy were there no audience to receive it. “Passing Down the Mantle” explores that territory—craftily covering a vast territory and in few words. The figurative language weaves the images together: the pregnant girl’s belly as a melon under the villagers’ “hungry eyes”, the sagging grey faces of the houses in keeping with the faces of the inhabitants, even the stories themselves as being fabric woven into the titular mantle. I feel the desperation of the villagers as they strive to tell their stories to the babe before it’s even born. The distillation of their stories into an essential core is beautifully formulated in the move from the three lines of dialogue to an ultimate sentiment: “Remember us”. Then the disparate voices of the people condense into the singular voice of the village itself invoking “hope”.

– The cause of the absence of the children in this story is not revealed, but the melancholia that follows it is shown clearly in just two sentences that make up the second paragraph. The rest of the story shows the implication of the absence of children: the loss of stories. This puts the hope at the start and end of the story into perspective. This is not just about the about the birth of a baby, it is about the survival of stories: the mantle in the title.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Homecoming.” 

N – After reading this the first time and enthusiastically slotting onto my shortlist, I noted that we didn’t get many gruesome horror pieces at Flash! Friday. I readied myself to defend a zombie baby’s position among the winners, let alone in the top three. Yet, Ife’s shortlist had this one among the top as well. That opening image just throttles me: an umbilicus swollen with sluggish blood and ditchwater. That’s some impactful show, right there. I think my exact reaction was “EWWWWW! And, whoa.” As it went on, the creep factor ratcheted up over the gore. The merging of the grotesque with infant mannerisms (two-stepping the stairs, mewing, snuggling down with the mother) is especially creepy as it inspires pity despite the horror. The figure of the mother is presented as a silver fish sleeping fitfully, apparently her sleep is wracked by guilt.

– Line after line, this story layers one grotesque image on top of the other. Umbilical cord swollen with blood and ditchwater. Big house slumbered like a bloated leech.  Hounds vomited… eyes rolled back in their skulls. Grandfather gruntled… then died… child gave a mew of pleasure. This story managed to shock me with each image without grossing me out. I cringed, and cringed, and cringed, then put it on my shortlist.

And now: for his very first time!! — join me in congratulating our 

DRAGON WINNER

@dazmb!!!

for

“Advice”

N – The intense focus and imagery blew me away. Here we have a consummate model for the power of “show, not tell”. The message here is “Marriage takes work,” but the writer (working through the main character) illustrates the lesson to us as she illustrates it to her daughter, through the work of making fufu. Even without the lesson, the measured action of the woman is compelling, particularly in the way the details establish the rustic setting and the woman’s situation (wodoro, woma, fufu — all deftly posited so that I didn’t need to rush to Wikipedia to figure out what these unfamiliar things are). The opening lines are weighted, as indicated by the woman’s words attaching symbolic significance to the ingredients: fruits of earth and sky. Moreover, we know a lesson is coming because of the title. The careful attention to the work engages me and carries me through the narrative and its beautiful analogy. That the daughter isn’t revealed until the end, in effect, places the reader in the position of the daughter from the first sentence. The reader is meant to nod with understanding right along with her.

– I like how this story uses its form to make up for what cannot be shown in the story. At first, all we’re focused on is the woman pounding the fufu, her focus undiminished, then a camera zooming out of a detail to capture a complete scene, the daughter is brought into view. The time the story itself seems to invest in the act of pounding the yam suggests how much time the mother chooses to invest in her daughter’s marital woes. Also, it seems to equate the tender care it takes to work the dough with the effort the daughter needs to put into making her marriage work. As if by making the daughter watch the raising and dropping of the woma, she was showing her how it is done.

Congratulations, Daz! Please find here your very own, super fancy, freshly built (watch the paint!) winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds interview feature! And now here’s your winning story:

Advice

Taking a boiled cassava root, she said out loud “fruit of the Earth”, before placing it in the the woduro.

Reaching for a plantain, “…and fruit of the sky”, then placing it in the woduro too.

Setting to work with the woma, pounding the mixture in silence, her jaw set in concentration.

The sun was high. Sweat began to run freely off her brow.

But her focus remained undiminished, raising and dropping the woma, up and down, up and down, until, gradually, it coalesced, and from the mixing of sky and earth, a fine, almost elastic dough began to form.

With tender care, continuing to work the dough, until, at last the fufu was finished.

Flexing the cramp from her arms, she looked at her daughter.

“The Sun has barely risen on your marriage, my child. Do you understand?”

Her daughter nodded.

“Good,” then smiling, “Do you think it was any different for your father and I? They are both good men. Now go and be reconciled.”

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 38: WINNERS

 

Happy Monday! What a riot moving from a loud-mouthed and jovial fellowship en route to Canterbury to a clever-tongued and ancient fellowship en route to Mordor and/or Mischief. Your stories were wrenching and hilarious and, as always, unforgettable, which is spectacular news for my poor memory muscles, as they need the help. 

On a personal note: these days are difficult ones for the family and friends of former FF judge Beth Peterson, who’s decided — in her indomitably spirited way, of course — that she’s had quite enough of her problematic, problem-causing health problems and is quite ready to go on without them, thankyouverymuch. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to walk at her side now through these final pages of her life’s story. I read her the stories you wrote this round; though she’s past the point of speaking, she laughed aloud at Karl’s The Seven (which you must read if you haven’t). Your stories — and all the wonderful heartsongs you’ve shared with her (via me) on Facebook — your messages of courage and love, and your prayers, above all, are beyond priceless. Thank you.

(Note: As a part of her fellowship of writers, if you’ve anything you’d like to say to her, perhaps a favorite poem?favorite quote? favorite verse? — and remembering, of course, that funny is entirely appropriate too!!! — please add them in the comments below. It would be my privilege to share them with her.)

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver, for judging the stories this round and teasing out their favorites. Here’s their take:   

FI:  Attempting an adventure epic in less than 400 words when Tolkien himself took four books, is gutsy! Good thing you draggins have plenty of those. If he could only see what his imagination has inspired! A special thank you to those of you who stirred up ember-memories of long winter nights and my father reading the Lord of the Rings to my siblings and me by firelight. 

HG: My Lord of the Rings memories are much less touching: in eighth grade the three “nerd boys” were reading it and I didn’t want them to get ahead of me nerd-wise. I am once again in awe of the abundance of talent. There was a sad lack of turnips, but I shan’t feel disappointed, for there will always be time for vegetables later.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Most Giggle-InducingWhen a Story Writes Itself by Michael J. BerryHG: Vanity dictates that this story be selected! This is a marvelously fun story and the names are superb; my particular favourite is “Grey-guy.” FI: Love it!! So clever and the thinly veiled references to FF are like hidden candies.

Most Likely to Become a Creation Myth: Legend by Sarah CainHG: Dragons – check, humans who thought they won but really didn’t – check, written like an old-school tale – check. Yep, I look forward to reading the book based on this world. FI: As a sucker for variations of the traditional genesis stories, I was hooked. As Holly said, I’ll be looking for this on bookstore shelves. 

Best Parody of All Things LOTRWhat Really Happened (For I Was There, Have Evidence to Doubt Me Do You?) by Eric MartellFI: Because even presented as farce, this one still made me long to be lost in that world again. HG: Dear writer, I don’t know who you are yet, but I love you. Once again I have different memories – of once upon a time when I wrote parodies for all my friends. Excellent.

Best Sleight-of-hand: Power Play by Brian CreekFI: Had to read this one to my husband. The troubles of a first world gamer. HG: As a gamer, I’d like for this video game to be real (minus the power outage).

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

A V Laidlaw, Respect.”

HG: The main character has spunk. I like it. She may not be as flashy as Archmage Sparkly (aka Johnny Big-Beard… excellent nicknames), but she knows her strength. The voice is superb; the sarcasm makes me smile. The ending made me snicker.

FI: Strong voice in this one and an irresistible cheekiness toward those who feel they’re better than she is. I have to agree, aren’t they ever out of Dark Lords?

Carin Marais, “The Last Song of Winter.” 

HG: This story is lovely. The imagery is vivid, beautiful and haunting, and I was taken on a journey. The ending is bittersweet; sad but full of hope. The idea of Spring as a beautiful young woman is one I absolutely subscribe too. Beautifully written, and well done. 

FI: Fresh as a winter wind, this story captured me for its originality. The stakes are clear and the battle lines unmistakable; I can see a whole series emerging from this concept.

Mark A. King, “Tinder | Box.”

HG: The three characters complement each other in a spiral of misery-and-hope. The three forms of immortality being sacrificed is an interesting take on both the prompt and the reality of this situation. So much emotion has been covered in this story, I’m still reeling.

FI: Another super original response to the prompt! Like Holly said the intertwined perspectives offers an especially insightful peek into the lives, desires, and struggles of these three. The added philosophical puzzler of digital immortality (vs their true selves) makes it a well-deserved honorable mention. 

M.T. Decker, “To Accept What Cannot Change.”

FI: Such beautiful imagery with a poetic voice that is irresistible! Every line drowns me in its murky waters of forbidden love, harking back to tales of gods who slept with mortals they claimed more fair than their own celestial women. We aren’t meant to live in isolation and this piece shows that well. 

HG: The moth and the flame…great choice! Every word is carefully selected and every line is a tragedy. Well done!

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tim Kimber, “Defender of the Corn.”

HG: You had me at “Oh, bloody… Hail!” Matthis is a delightful use of the “ordinary person” and his no-nonsense attitude is admirable. He became the conquering hero, but…at what cost? What will happen to him next? This has a good mixture of my favourite kind of dark humour; Matthis is in trouble but you cheer for him anyway.

FI: Matthis is fantastic! I can almost smell the dirt on his clothes and feel the spirit in his bones. Though his fate isn’t fully revealed, I like to think he stood his ground and proved the wetter man. Clear characters and a well-developed story arch, gave this tale a podium spot.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Richard Edenfield, “A Butterfly in Brooklyn” 

FI: One of the most unique stories that came of this week’s musings, everything about this piece works in harmony: nature is painted with words that HDT himself might’ve used; paragraphs unfurl like pages of Walden; characters are sketched then filled in the way a human eye might absorb a landscape after all it’s known is the city. Slow, detailed, and poignantly executed.

HG: “The pages fluttered in the breeze.” For me, this last line is the most beautiful. This reoccurring image of the butterfly, and the artist as a butterfly, with a book as his wings…incredible.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” 

FI: Gritty and so human, I couldn’t help but identify with this very personal struggle. Though Marl and his wife believe they’ve buried their light, their beauty, death is only the beginning. I appreciate that it ends hopeful where there is little hope. Conflict, resolution, and character depth all accomplished in a few choice words. 

HG: The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” always makes me think of Pony Boy. It’s a beautiful title for this heartbreaking tale of suffering and loss. “…for why should a man love someone who would be taken from him so quickly, but she was impossible to hate.” My heart is aching. I, too, like the beautiful ending and he birds that help cope with loss.

And now: for his FIRST TIME, it’s faithful FF writer & brand new

DRAGON WINNER

REG WULFF!!!

for

The King Who Wears No Crown

FI: This piece not only gave us gorgeously woven words, it brought echoes of familiar fields where foolish men battle and whispers of a different “King under the mountain”, one that is just as tempestuous as a dwarf by with a heart of true stone. While paying subtle homage to Tolkien, it remains distinct, an incredible feat. 

HG: My favourite line: “He has tasted the tears of creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life.” This is a king who demands respect. The people who underestimated him sure regretted it. The gardener is a fascinating character. The Tolkien-esque elements are there but nothing has been copied – everything is unique and uniquely pays tribute.

Congratulations, Reg! Please find here your brand new, mega sparkly, and very crowned winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

The King Who Wears No Crown

As I walk in the shadow of the king, I tend his garden. I slip among the trees, sometimes dancing on the wind. None sees me, but all feel me.

The king likes the garden unspoiled, as it has been for a millennium. He prefers the natural order of things. He calls it the sanctuary of the living, even though death is always part of life. The king understands that the garden has a cycle of life, death and rebirth. He respects the cycle.

Men do not.

The king has heard the cries of the trees torn from the ground and dismembered. Men cut down the trees in their prime and rip them to pieces. Men burn them and live in buildings made from their skeletons.

He has tasted tears of the creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life. Men pursue them relentlessly. He has felt the final heartbeat of the ones that could not escape. The ones slaughtered for their flesh and skin. Men rob the young of a future and the old of a peaceful ending.

When man pushes the king too far he will defend his garden through its destruction. His scorching anger will overflow and destroy those who have desecrated the sanctuary of the living. Their flesh will burn and fall from their bones. Their charred remains will feed the garden as it grows again. I will tend to the young sprouts and give the king a new garden, more brilliant and beautiful than the last. I will weep for the innocent creatures that suffered the king’s fiery wrath, enshrining their bones and singing to their souls.

As death is part of life, sacrifice is part of victory. The king is always victorious.

The mountain may not wear a crown, but not all kings need such a pittance. Once again, man has encroached, and soon, I will have a new garden to tend.

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