Tag Archive | Whitney Healy

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 14: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all!!! and welcome to Results Day, which I think ought to be celebrated with a global TimTam SLAM. (For you novices, this requires biting the ends off a TimTam and using it for a straw in, preferably, a hot cup of coffee. This creates a sloppy, caramelly mess which will keep you happy for days.)

COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the celebrated Writer’s Digest expert, professional editor, former publisher, and novelist Jeff Gerke. His interview’s a riot, and in conjunction with his visit, Flash! Friday is giving away to one random commenter a FREE 2 PAGE OR QUERY LETTER EDIT by Jeff. Don’t miss it!

Then please remember next is Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then Flash! Friday’s back all over again! 

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark King sayFrom stone-cold, lovelorn buildings to evil queens disguised in gingham dresses, the girls-next-door  took on all possible forms this week, and you brilliant writers broke all the boundaries of creativity. I don’t think I’ll ever see the girls in my neighborhood the same ever again. 😉 You all did an excellent job of casting aside the box this week, which pleased us mightily, and it was a pleasure to soak ourselves in your glorious imaginations. Once again, you did not make our job easy, but you did make it quite fulfilling. Without further ado, here are our choices below.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Eve.”Special Mention for structure, pace and hidden story arc 

Image Ronin (Dragon Captain!), “The Sins of Our Fathers.”- Special Mention for wonderful use of visual imagery 

Nancy Chenier, “Modularity.”Special Mention for an attention grabbing opening and product placement in a holo-marquee (other sports brands are available) 

Jessica Franken, “Ikiryō.” – Special Mention for most mischievous poltergeist since Peeves 

Brian Creek, “Inter Dimansional.”Special Mention for playful title and INTER DIMANSIONAL creativity within the story itself (MK also liked the sneaky Terminator quote)  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Whitney Healy, Strangers.” 

TS – Apparently, someone has picked up on my love of peanut butter sandwiches. Although I have never tried peanut butter and marshmallow crème. I’ll put it on the list for my next meal.

I love this piece. The division into three separate parts works well for building the relationship between the protagonists, first neighbors, then friends, then partners. I love how the writer describes each relationship in stepping stones, delving the reader into intensity as the piece goes on.

The separate points of view caught me off-guard at first, but as I read it over again, I enjoyed getting both perspectives. Then at the end, when the two PoV’s sat right next to each other, opposite sides of a mirror, it gutted me. Really enjoyed it. Well done!

MK – I too picked up on the PB sandwich reference, however, I have to keep reminding Tamara that Jif is/was a creamy bleach in England, you know the sort you might clean a kitchen sink with (yum).

The PoV changes were different and it’s a challenge to get them right in such a small piece.

The strength of the relationship is what stood out and I loved this “focusing as the worm crossed-curved-looped and laced around the barb and the point just right—stretched perfectly so he wriggled just enough to catch the bluegill’s interest”.

Sarah Miles, Home.” 

TS – This piece is beautifully written, lyrical and flowing. It reads almost like music. The social barriers between success and “a life behind checkouts” is well-illustrated in phrases like: “We stream into school like reluctant anti-matter, trapped in the pull of a black hole.” The girl-next-door provides the narrator with an illusory dream, and the piece lifts with hope at the last line: “Why don’t you come too?”

Fluid and gorgeous. Lovely.

MK – Now this is how to start a story! Wonderful beginning that is poetic yet blunt with feeling. The feel of the entire story is aching with unfulfilled aspirations and dreams that may never come. This was an example of the bluntness “Truth is, in ten years time, she’ll be fighting off a STD and serving pizza.”, which was neatly contrasted with the hope, “…but her, this girl next door, she dares to dream; longs to shed this second-hand living, run past the gates and inhale freedom”.

Marie McKay, “The Doll’s House.” 

TS – The concept of this piece is at once horrifying and mesmerizing. Using dolls as the main characters in this take illustrates so clearly the brittle smiles that often cover the deepest pain. The contrast between the horror of what is actually happening and the bright colorful innocence of a dollhouse scene carves an intense impact. The simplicity of the last line, like something you’d hear a young girl tell her friend, ‘Don’t tell. Don’t tell,’ underscores the whole piece. Brilliant idea. Well done.

MK – This is a deeply disturbing story, yet it is one that is sensitively told. The use of the house image as a doll’s house is a very interesting take and yet it is one that fits well with the story. Dolls are occasionally used by professionals and police when investigating cases and this story could be one that is played by disassociation out as it happens, or one that is reliving the events for the authorities. Traumatic and harrowing.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Margaret Locke, “The Lady in White.” 

TS – Exquisite imagery in this piece. I love the skillfully drawn correlations between a cold stone building and a woman ignored and unappreciated. I see the growth in this piece, and it strengthens it as it goes along. At the beginning, the woman waits for the man; he’s “all I can think about.” He’s a fantasy; she sees herself as a wallflower. By the end of the piece, she gains a sense of self, “a lonely edifice… serving others.” The gutting final line drives a spear through the piece, a backbone of support for all the imagery leading up to the final point: “I am so much more than stone.” What a great work of self-discovery! Beautiful.

MK – The prompt and story element were hard this week and standing out from the crowd took something unique. The clues were there from the start “…there are so many barriers in our way. Physical, emotional, social”, “The fences between us are mighty.”

I also like the fact that this longing is the ‘girl’ next door and not the house he lives in. “They can’t stay away. But they can’t approach, either.” and “If only I were free. I’d make myself approachable. I’d welcome him in with doors wide open.” Clever work, dear dragon.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Emily June Street, The Reflection.” 

TS – As a fan enamored with dark fantasy, this piece spoke right into my obsession. With hints of charm and darker magic reminiscent of Grimm brother fairy tales, the piece had such a satisfying ending with the reflection-queen in the fountain. “She wears a crown of burned love-letters, a corset made of flesh, and a necklace of skulls.” Shudder.

Love the contrast between the reflection-queen and the beautiful maid, and especially the girl’s description: “fresh-faced, milk-fed, sun-kissed,” the perfect girl-next-door in gingham and freckles. Nice use of the character. I want to read a fleshed-out book with this piece as the guiding inspiration. Homework for the author. 😉

MK – The writer has given us a teaser with the title. All the way through we’re pondering what is the reflection and how it comes into play. We proceed knowing that everything is highly unlikely to be as it seems (a great lesson in the power of a title). The initial part of the story plays out like the girl could be a girl next door, or even an incredible life-like statue “She never moves from her perch beside the fountain.”, “No one has ever seen her enter the house.”

Like the most beautiful of sirens, she calls to the desires of the flesh from the “neighborhood boys”, and like a mythical siren she hides her true self. As Tamara has already mentioned, I also loved the reflected images description.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, “In There.” 

TS – What a setting! A sanitarium (at least, that’s what I assumed it to be) gated and locked; it’s like something right out of Shutter Island, and I got just as many chills and thrills from reading this as from watching the movie trailer. There’s some really fantastic word pictures in this: “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned.” “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” What incredible description! The insanity of the narrator bleeds through in incrementally increasing steps as she watches from outside the gates, and then finds herself INSIDE the gates, and then finally at the end, sees herself in the rusty water (it was at this point that I had to run lock the door and close the blinds against the staring dark outside). Freaky, skillful, and riveting. Nicely done!

MK – This is breathtaking. The take on the photo is so clever that it took me a while to recover from it. Like Tamara mentioned, I had images of Shutter Island running through my terrified mind (in my opinion it is both a stunning book and wonderful film). The words also conjured the most vivid and disturbing images of place such as Arkham Asylum (and I congratulate the writer for this feat as this is a truly terrifying place).

The start is fantastic “…Mummy says they don’t commit children to places like that. Unless they’ve perpetuated adult-grade evil.” Eek.

These are some of my favourite lines on FFF, ever, “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned” and “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” Such brutal beauty – amazing.

By the end, this story played like the mind of someone who is suffering from fear, grief, guilt, paranoia and hallucinations. Simply sublime.

DRAGON WINNER

Jordan Louie (Jorbi K.)!!!

for

“Middle Class Martyrdom”

TS – What a powerful message woven through this! The girl-next-door in the role of terrorist-in-waiting. The piece etches quite skillfully the social hierarchy between the upper class and the bourgeoisie. The narrator is a strong character; she shows a lot of agency in phrases like “I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshiped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread…” The point comes across that the blood of the rich/famous/important is just as red as the blood of the normal girl with “no family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability.”

Some stunning use of color pervades this piece, too. “The stretch of green, white houses, black suits, insides as red, ivory towers.” The stark colors paint my mind with brilliant imagery, and it matches the vivid strength of the narrator.

Extremely well done! Fantastic job.

MK – A truly compelling and contemporary story. Someone who walks ours streets unseen. Someone who smiles at us in the coffee shop. Someone who is, in every way, the perfect ‘girl next door’.

Yet, she plots and hides. She dilutes her anti-capitalist terrorist-in-waiting ideals, for now is not her time. The house in the story is used to drive the power of the injustice the narrator is feeling; acting as an example of the greed and everything else that she sees as wrong. It is distant, unreachable, guarded and divisive. It is a perfect metaphor for her view of society.

The voice is strong and consistent. The power is ramped up to eleven and boosted with conviction and intent.

“..their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides” – the heartless cold of those with money and power.

“But I’ll show their insides are just as red” – terrifying.

For most of us, this idea of the smiling sleeper terrorist living as just another unseen face in the crowd is truly scary. Congratulations on the fantastic story and powerful character.

Congratulations, Jorbi! We are thrilled that you joined us this week and even more thrilled that you did so dramatically! Please find here your very own winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Middle Class Martyrdom

I’m tired of looking at them through twisted iron gates: their façade of exclusivity made tangible. Blocked off from hundreds of yards- miles away: the stretch of green in between me and them gives them their status. They stay nestled up in their white houses that contrast with their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides.

But I’ll show their insides are just as red as anyone else’s, and that their ivory towers are stolen from a much less endangered bourgeoisie. I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshipped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread across the world; it’s not as hard as they’d like you to think, and many times not for good deeds.

They’ll talk about me for years. My name will be on a list; our own working-class Walk of Fame. I’ll be researched, written about, analyzed, and posted up on every channel. They’ll keep me famous for a long time, because they won’t be able to figure me out. No family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability. I’m just the girl next door.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 23: WINNERS!

I hope you’ve had a fantastic weekend filled with all sorts of writerly goodness. It’s always a pleasure seeing you here Fridays, and I love that each week we’re joined by brave new faces. Thank you so much for contributing your amazing stories and for helping push each other onward and upward in our joint pursuit of writing magnificence. And a special thank you to all of you who made contributions toward the running of the Flash! Friday contest; I am deeply touched by your kindness. I’ve said it from the beginning: you are a community like none other. Here’s to another inspiration-filled week! 

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Judge Pratibha Kelapure says: Dear Friday Flashers: once again, you have outdone yourselves. I thought I was keeping up with my reading, but the stories kept coming, and I kept adding to the potential winners list. 🙂 So, honestly, if your story did not make it into the final winners circle, don’t fret. It is the nature of any contest. In each story, there is something striking and worth commenting on, and I do keep the list of those great lines, descriptions, or observations for each story.

This week’s nostalgic and happy picture-prompt combined with the ‘comeuppance’ word-prompt, inspired many stories of revenge and murder.  And what imaginative ways of slaying the tormentors, cheaters, stealers, mass murderers, and bad politicians! And what a wide variety of stories! Some people remembered the stock market crash of 1929 and Great Depression that followed. Some people dug up the history of the first Oscar and gave the K9, Rin Tin Tin, his well-earned honor. A brave few even traveled to the future to either solve a ‘cold case,’ or to deliver a comeuppance. The regulars dazzled me with their original takes on the prompt and flawless execution.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Worldbuilding: James Marshall VI, “No Happy Endings”: He has built a dystopian counter-culture. Image Ronin, “Metteur En Scene”: A world of theater; chinchin.unicorn, “Before He Cheats”: A vibrant bar culture.

Humor: Karl A Russell, “It Should Have Been Me”; Tinman, “A Whiff of Cordite”; drmagoo, “Cheese and Onions”; Jacki Donnellan, “The Wardrobe Mistress”;

Ending: Image Ronin, “Metteur En Scene”; Laura Carroll Butler, “The Way of All Flesh”; Aria Glazki, “Hero’s Uprising”; William Goss, “The Last Dragon in the Family”;

Dialogue: Whitney Healy, “THE DECREE”; drmagoo, “Cheese and Onions”;

Language: Katrina Ray-Saulis, Untitled; Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Lesson Learned”; Aria Glazki, “Hero’s Uprising.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

M.T. Decker, “Shades of Grey.” This is well thought out, witty, and humorous story. The Grey Lady trying to get the colors into the period photographs is a familiar character of an eager intern. A realistic portrayal of office dynamics!

Brett Milam, “Whiteface.” It is a story of a son denying his father’s legacy, but having a difficult time doing so. “He showed me how to become someone else. But I became him.” In a short span of 150 words, Brett manages to show the character transformation. The line, “Laughs subsided, but infamy subsisted forever” is truly memorable.

Craig Anderson, “Twins.” A twin laments his inferiority and compares himself to a movie sequel, “[..] sequel, an inferior attempt to recreate the magic of the original.” If you think this is imaginative, brace yourself for the jaw-dropping, table turning development.  “It’s my turn outside, my time in the spotlight. Time to collect my prize.” 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Joidianne4eva, “In the House of the Rising Sun.” Joidianne conveys the pain of an abused and ignored orphan in a few potent words. “He wore his silence like the dirty clothing that covered the scars on his back and the fragile curl of his ribs.” She used both the prompts in a subtle and original way. The sinister actions of the “no-name” boy are silently implied, never stated explicitly, leaving a lot to reader’s imagination. A perfect ode to silence!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Leading Ladies.” The story is told in second person point of view, a tricky proposition; but Marie does it effectively. The striking simile, “She enunciates her taciturn fury while her arms wave like a drowning woman’s” took my breath away.  She draws a believable portrait of the motel clerk, “(L)ipstick has leaked into the tight cracks above her mouth.”  The ending is surprising, but we can recognize the sentiment of the protagonist. Well done! 

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

DRAGON WINNER

STEPH POST!!!

for

“Ain’t That Something”

This is another interesting twist on the theme of revenge, funny on the surface, but sad and ironic on the inside. The dialogue sounds authentic. The accidental female bonding between the two female rivals is heartwarming. The image, “The circle of wolfish men,” is vivid and so is the image of Alice, “keeping her eyes on the empty martini glass trembling between her fingers.”  I had to take a double take to see the “wolfish men” in the picture prompt, but I am sold on the concept. The choice of rattlesnake as a weapon against the cheating husband sounds naïve, but is quite plausible for the simple-minded characters like Alice and Scarlett. I like this for the great character portrayal, dialogue, and the double jeopardy for the unsuspecting cheater. Bravo!

Congratulations, Steph! Your brand new (quite sparkly!) winner’s badge awaits you impatiently below. Here is your 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:

Ain’t That Something

Alice had heard you could put rattlesnakes in their beds. Men.

“That’ll shake em up, let me tell ya.”

This from Scarlett, her husband’s mistress, teetering on gold high heels from one too many highballs.

“This girl on the chorus line with me, she said she put a rattler under her boyfriend’s sheets once. Said he never ran around on her again. Ain’t that something?”

The circle of wolfish men, including her husband, had thrown their heads back in raucous laughter, their mouths as wide as manholes, and pressed in even closer.

Alice, sitting three stools down, keeping her eyes on the empty martini glass trembling between her fingers, had wondered where the hell you could find a rattlesnake in Chicago. She had almost dared to ask, when they had found themselves eyeing one another the powder room’s mirror, but Scarlett had winked at her first.

“Corner of Knox and 53rd, honey. Just knock once and ask for Vinny.”

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 14: WINNERS!

With many thanks for your patience (a power-blasting snowstorm in MARCH in the DRAGON CAVES!? outrage!), please join me in thanking outgoing judge Whitney Healy & congratulating our newest batch of winners. PARTEH IN THE DRAGON CAVES!

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Judge Whitney Healy says: The Ides of March are upon us, as is the imminent end to an intricate journey. This experience with judging has been fun: it allowed me to evaluate short fiction, entertained me, and motivated me at times to write myself. I am happy to be throwing the gauntlet to new blood: I highly recommend the experience. You will learn something about yourself, your writing, others, and others’ writing. I say I am happy to toss the challenge to another because I’m ready to start focusing on my own writing and (hopefully) compete again at this lovely competition. Eleven of the forty entries made my first cut this week, and the stories were widely diverse and (as always, delightfully entertaining. Applause to all!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jacki Donnellan, “The Domestic Dancer.”  I loved how we see the innocence of the janitor in this piece and how much he admires the young dancers. We grow to love the janitor and how he has supported this dance school for so long, and then we grow to hate the head mistress for removing him when he meant absolutely no harm. This was an entertaining tale of the sadness that often happens in our culture when someone is not accepted. 

Craig Anderson, “Dancing Days.” In so few words, a dedication to dance is made. We cheer for the dancer, as she has wowed the fans to the point all artists wish to reach: tears. But then, by an astounding turn of both language and events (the first part of the story is detailed and descriptive, while the second part is fragmented dialogue), we see that it is her dance that is helping her deal with the traumatic shock attached to an accident. Definitely worth a read, for those of you who missed it.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Caitlin Status, “Your Little Ballerina.”  I wanted more of this story: there’s a lot underneath the text. Why is the mother leaving her daughter? Who is Heather? What has the mother done that makes her so ashamed of herself? Or, is the mother ashamed of her daughter? Through the uncommon use of second-person point of view, the accusatory nature of the voice of this piece makes a reader feel as if she is the panicked mother who so wants what is best for her daughter (or so it seems). I appreciate the shifts between narration and dialogue as well.

FIRST RUNNER UP

AmyBeth Inverness, Untitled. I could read this story again and again and still laugh. There were many tales of jealousy and revenge this week, but most of those tales did not state such theme so subtly. In this piece, a young girl chooses what appears to be a modest type of dance (as her mother thought ballerinas’ dress was far too scandalous), but we find out otherwise. Instead, we see a young girl capable of manipulating and very in charge of her life–and how I would have loved to see Clementina’s face when the girls’ “grace” was displayed for all of the world to see. A hilarious tale of what, to me, is sweet, sweet victory.

And now: for his FIRST TIME EVER (’bout time!), it’s Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

Gordon B. White!!!

for

“The Our Lady of Thorns ‘Lil Sprigs’ Dancers”

I began my second reading of this tale by looking up the definition of the word “sprig”–and boy am I glad I did. I knew a “sprig” could refer to a small plant just breaking the surface of the soil, or perhaps the “sprig” of rosemary we add to something when cooking, but when I saw the other definitions, I realized a “sprig” is also a small branch or a could refer to offspring. Now pay attention to this story, folks. Thorns and sprigs in title: refer to nature. “Twist(ing) like a dogwood(‘s) branches”: refers again to trees. Collapse to the ground like kindling: kindling=wood. The last dancer’s name is Rosy, a play on the rose. Are you seeing a pattern? This writer knew exactly what he was doing with every phrase: every word on the page, every phrase, every rhetorical device, every image, wove an image of trees and the power of nature. In a dark and somewhat unnerving tale, this author uses his deliberate choices in language to manipulate both a reader and the audience watching the dance: a stylistic decision marked by a master of their craft. Not to mention the pacing was great and you could picture every “sapling” of detail he created. A well-deserved win: I’d like to see more of his writing!

Congratulations, Gordon! Your winner’s badge waits for you below. Here is your 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:

The Our Lady of Thorns “Lil Sprigs” Dancers

Hours later, the hurdy gurdy still grinds away and the girls still twist like dogwood branches in the spring breeze, trembling with the cold and exertion. The swollen red and white balloons are the only things holding some of them up.

A susurration of whispers stirs through the crowd.

“Will there be no volunteers?” Sister Agatha raps her birch cane against the stage. “None willing to donate? Not even an iron coin or a piece of beef?”

One by one, the balloons pop and the pale girls collapse to the ground like kindling.

“For God’s sake, stop it!” A man finally cries out and pushes forward, rolling up his shirt sleeves. “Just take it already.”

Sister Agatha plunges her needle into the crook of his elbow. The thick redness sluices up the surgical tube. She smiles and looks down at the lone girl still dancing, trembling like a daisy.

“This one is for you, Rosy. The greatest dancer of all.”

 

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