Tag Archive | winners

Flashversary 2015: WINNERS

IT’S HERE! The final Flash! Friday post, the final winners, the final comments. But ohhhhh the glorious beginning awaiting beyond these doors! Let’s take our stories and flood magazines and contests and publishing houses with them. Let’s fling our pages to the four winds, win awards, flabbergast agents, storm bestseller lists, enrapture the world; let’s make friends and family and complete strangers smile, or cry, or shudder, or dream, or swoon — but let’s make them notice us.

Let’s make them remember us.

And in the dark days when loneliness and doubt threaten, please return here and let this family of writers fold you in its arms again. Bury yourself in these glowing thousands of stories by these hundreds of extraordinary writers and let your own words remind you that you are one of them: an extraordinary writer, and a crucial part of the magical story you wrote that was known for a time as Flash! Friday.

Special thanks to:

  • Susan Warren Utley, for being a dear friend and helping make my Flash! Friday dreams come true
  • Shenandoah Valley Writers, for being the dearest group of friends an ill-behaved dragon could ask for: for unswerving belief in me as a writer (Margaret Locke), for our shared vision (Tamara Shoemaker), for faithfully providing chocolate (MT Decker), for sitting with me at Beth’s side (Maggie Duncan), for teaching me to fly (#HMN Foy Iver), for chasing Quinby with me (Annika Keswick), for baring your poet’s soul (Sarah Kohrs), for dreaming with me over veggie quesadillas (Josette Keelor), for letting me eat your baby (Allison Garcia), and all of you, including those I didn’t name, for understanding what it means to take Time Hoff. I love you dearly.
  • Dragon Captains, all of you, including those who would have served had we continued. Your love for writing & writers are the heartbeat of Flash! Friday
  • Contest hosts, both former and present, for creating such meaningful forges for writers to sharpen and share their work 
  • My hero and best friend, the greatest writer of all, who loves the members of this community even more than I do: so powerful and beautiful in thought and execution, one of his names is The Word. Without this Word, all of my words are gibberish. 

I’m closing this contest not empty, but heart full; not sad, but inspired. You generously shared your stories here, each one a gem in this expansive hoard that’s been my home these past three years. Thanks to you, I leave this place the richest person in the world. 

I will be grateful to you for the rest of my life. My prayers and love go with you. Thank you.

See you out there!

♦♦♦

HOUSEKEEPING:

  1. This site will officially close on Friday, Dec 18; once it’s closed, the front page will show a static howdy screen. However, your stories & winners’ pages (etc) will remain accessible through the menu & sidebar.
  2. The Dragon Emporium (a little store where you can buy FF logo stuff), as promised, will remain open through Dec 31.
  3. This isn’t goodbye! We’re just moving the conversation from the kitchen to the sitting room, is all. I’d love to stay connected with you; please follow me on Twitter & friend me at Facebook. And be sure to follow the #Flashdogs to stay abreast of even more flash fiction shenanigans. What, you thought you’d be forced to wander off alone?? Not a chance.

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And now for WINNERS!!! which, who are we kidding, is where you scrolled straight to anyway. 😀  One hundred twenty-three tales you brought me, a fabulous feast of worlds and characters, poetry and musings, murder and life. How does one winnow the wind?! In the end I chose stories that stood out for their originality, perhaps for their beauty, or perhaps for their humor; words that drew me back for a second, third, and fourth read, that followed me to work and the grocery store and the library, then leapt on me, licking my face (DOWN, Flash, DOWN!) when I came back home and reopened the door. Let’s begin!

NOTE: Winners, please contact me here so I can get your prizes to you. Thanks!

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rof2

>RING OF FIRE WINNER<
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster & mug, a copy of Calum Kerr’s The 2014 Flash365 Anthology, and a one-year subscription to all three Splickety imprints

Ashley Gardana

Thank you for sharing so many of your stories with us, Ashley!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster

Crystal Alden, “Rhyming Ever After.” This funny little rhyming story is clever and unique; like my favorite sort of story, however, depths and layers lurk just beneath the surface. Solely through dialogue, we’re introduced to a colorful and memorable cast of characters: a drunk witch whose tipsy wand cast a rhyming spell on our hapless passerby, and an authority who listens to the sad tale but in the end refuses to help. This isn’t a normal sort of poem, because only the cursed characters speaks in rhyme, and so we’ve got a wonderfully (and humorously) complex counterpoint of rhyme with straight speech. It’s a sophisticated and original approach to the prompt, and that double entendred just in the final line put it over the top.

Sal Page, “Number One Me.” Speaking of double entendres!!! This piece gave us a Shel Silverstein-style train wreck of a cloning tale (think again before you farm out daily responsibilities to your clone, people). The story is funny, yes; but the tone and clipped pacing is sheer magic, in the end reading like a desperate SOS note scrawled on a note and slipped under the door. What kicked this story up to a higher level for me was its layered title (reference to the arrogant “looking out for Number One” attitude) and its less-funny implied warning of what might happen should technology outrun ethics. (In the words of the esteemed Douglas Adams: there are some who argue this has already happened…)

Holly Geely, “Sentience.” This. Is. Hilarious. I’d love to go on about it, you know, lauding its (junior high-level jokes) wordplay, its satisfying framework, its original plot (sentient underpants convincing a regular Joe to rob a bank!), but in the end… Eat your heart out, Pilkey. This. Is. Simply. Hilarious. And of course you wrote it, Holly.

Nancy Chenier, “Vestigial Attachment.” The gorgeous, nuanced, precise word choices set this story apart first, verbs like starfished, adjectives like moony and atavistic, and imagery like “sand peel(ing) apart my unwebbed toes.” But it’s the worldbuilding and rich character development that slayed me most, the star(fish?)-crossed ex-lovers sharing custody across boundaries of magic, the pain of loss overlaid by the pain of wishing for a thing impossible to have. The story is tragically complex and gorgeous. It reads slow, like the low, haunting notes blown from a conch shell: the s-sh-s-sh of the sea against the d-l-l-d of the land. Wonderful vocabulary and beautiful work all-round.

Mark A. King, “#FlashFridayFiction.” After that amount of work, how could I not award it an HM?? While its James Joyce-esque meandering through hashtags is inventive and funny, it’s the shadow of its writer that compelled me most: someone who thought he’d be clever by playing with format, only to discover he got more than he’d bargained for. The bravado of the writer — which may or may not be autobiographical — overwhelmed by his story (shades of Pirandello?); his attempts to uplift the reader (in which he succeeds quite beautifully) are knitted tightly with self-deprecation and naked honesty. “Monday evenings,” he says, referring to when contest results post, “pretending it doesn’t matter when it does.” Yes, it matters! We know, and we understand. Also, I’m sending you a mug. #YouveEarnedIt #AlphaDog

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3rd Runner Up
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster & cool FF thing

Karl A. Russell, “One Week, Suspended.” Gruesome and terrifying, this story plays with time in a way no one else dared: backward, forward, and even bound between the minutes. While in my own writing I veer toward the fractured fairytale side, I couldn’t let this grim and cinematic piece go. In his reverse-moving scripting, unpooling blood, unstabbing, unbreaking, unshattering, with a horrifying, powerful twist the undoing doubles the story’s violent intensity by forcing the reader to imagine the doing. Structurally the story moves swiftly, sparsely down the page, each staccato line as sharp as a knife. The form echoes the story’s violence, and OH, what an end, with words doing so much work all at once! “His unending sentence/Jailed behind her eyes.” This kind of sophisticated wordsmithing makes me giddy. Powerful writing.      

2nd Runner Up
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster & cool FF thing

Bill Engleson, “After a Few Too Many Beers Whilst Bellying Up to the Flash Friday Bar.” Many of you tried (and succeeded) overwhelming my heart with your tender tributes, and I thank you for them. I’ve chosen this one as my favorite because it encapsulates so many elements that make flash fiction a genre to be reckoned with: a killer title, lyrical language, gorgeous imagery, creative word choices, onomatopoetic plotting, humor and heartstrings, a strong frame. All of that within a haunting, colorful, 100-word distillation of what a writing community is. “The words will still be there,” he says. Wonderful. 

1st Runner Up
Prize: A Flashversary poster with your story; a Flash! Friday poster; a FF mug; a copy of one of the soon-to-be-released Flashdogs anthology

Marie McKay, “Incremental.” This story first captured my eye with its increasing frenzy: stroll, speed, crank it up, hurry, rush. Like Karl & Crystal’s final lines, the double meaning of that last word — rush — lends a power to the story outside of the obvious. This piece absolutely blew me away, because the real story isn’t the one we see at all, in which a man pops out for a walk. In a single word, the final word, the entire story is reframed and set on its head, and we are given an entirely new understanding of what’s going on. That’s skill on some kind of stratosphere we haven’t yet invented a name for. In place of an ordinary stroll, we now have a man desperate to find what’s missing in his life. And look at that marvelously repeated word at the end, like a mountaintop echo: “…I found it/I found my rush.” What was missing: now found. Love. ♥   

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GRAND DRAGON CHAMPION
Prize: A Flashversary poster with your story; a Flash! Friday poster; a FF mug; a bazillion books (listed here); notecards, original artwork, for pete’s sake, just keep your mailbox open for the next couple months, k?

Flashversary 2015

ERIC MARTELL

FOR

“FREAKY FRIDAY”

On Friday, everything changed. I’d been dreaming of my days as a dragonling, soaring too high over the western seas, when my alarm went off.

Kids’ll be up soon, gotta get breakfast ready.

Swinging my legs out of bed, I shuffled to the kitchen.

Wait – when did I have kids?

I scratched my too-soft belly and started a kettle on the stove.

Soft belly?

The next hour was chaos, but at last, we were all out the door, headed for school and work.

High above the western seas, a great roar split the dawn. When did I become a dragon?

♣♣♣

This story has it all: the dragon-tinged frame of the dragonling dream and the roaring dragon; a story that’s telling more than it seems; a compelling protagonist; strong writing (look at all that varied sentence structure! fantastic!); tension. (And no, I didn’t choose it because it’s got a dragon; the dragon’s the fiery frosting on the cake.) This story beats out the rhythm of a common human theme: the dreams of youth vs the often shattered reality of adulthood. Our protagonist isn’t particularly unhappy, but the dreams of “soaring too high over the western seas” play out in sharp contrast to a disappointed (shuffle, too-soft belly, chaos) prosaic reality. Here is a parent consumed by the chores of daily life, who believes dreams have been relegated to the past. This, we find out in the glorious end, is incorrect.

When did I become a dragon? 

Eric has encapsulated in a single line everything I ever hoped Flash! Friday would be. Our dreams don’t have to be left behind: they follow us, roaring. We don’t have to hide our writing, hesitate to post, shy from sending to publications or agents or CreateSpace. No. The theme hammered home in a magnificent, victorious battle cry isn’t that someday we might have value, or that someday, someone might appreciate our writing: it’s that we don’t have to be afraid anymore. We have been dragons all along.

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Spotlight: Flashversary Winner Maggie Duncan, Part II

Welcome to the second part of our Spotlight interview with 2014 Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan. (Read the compelling first half here.) Today we dive into the choppy waters of criticism and negative feedback. CAN A WRITER SURVIVE?!!?

What about the Flashversary finalists’ prompt inspired your story? 

The perspective of the photo. It was the interior of a didgeridoo, and I’d never seen the inside of one.

Unfortunately, your story, while almost universally praised for its lyric beauty, also garnered some negative attention for presuming to write from a cultural perspective that isn’t yours. How did you approach the difficult task of writing from another ethnicity’s POV, specifically the indigenous Australian culture? 

I have always said the protagonist of anything I write has asked me to tell his or her story, whether it’s my grandmother, an old classmate, or a complete stranger. Pinckney Benedict, a writing instructor of mine, and a magnificent writer, calls this “allegory of self,” meaning you express your desires through your characters; they will only do what you want. Allegory of self is the place in your work where you find yourself. That means real writing, per Pinckney, “is a sharp, unpleasant stick.” I was true to my allegory of self, and, according to Pinckney, that is inescapable.

So, when I saw that photo prompt, the protagonist “recited” his (or her) story to me. Once I had a draft, I knew I had to fact-check—yes, even though it’s fiction. I have some awareness of the treatment of the indigenous Australians by people who migrated—willingly or unwillingly—to that area of the world, so I researched the culture and the political issues. Having been one of the few women in my workforce for many years, I understand the concept of feeling like an outsider and wanting to escape that feeling.

I also understand, however, that may not be sufficient for some, but, truly, in my writing I only disrespect people who have earned no respect in my eyes, i.e., the oppressor of any ilk.

You’ve made it a habit as a writer to try walking in other cultures’ shoes; your novels feature Russian, Afghan, and many other characters from cultures other than yours. What have you most enjoyed about writing from these POVs? What has challenged you?

I’ve written from the POV of rich English women, poor Irish men (and women), minors who have been human-trafficked, and bigots of all stripes, among others. Yes, one of my main characters in my novels is a Russian man born toward the end of the Great Patriotic War, indoctrinated by Communism, and now not only living as a defector but actively fighting against his previous homeland. (He will remind me he was Ukrainian and now an American.)

How boring would it be if I only wrote about middle-aged, divorced white women, which is what I am? So I write characters from different cultures to learn, to broaden my scope, to develop my understanding of the world. That’s the fun part.

My biggest challenge right now is a very new character for me: a retired Navy SEAL transitioning from a man to a woman. Since I’m comfortable with my gender identity, that’s a difficult character to grasp, especially when I want to do her justice. Again, research and sensitivity to the issues surrounding gender reassignment are absolutely necessary. Researching this character has heightened my social activism in support of people undergoing this transition.

How has your own heritage/background influenced you as a writer?

I’m half Irish, half Scots, and both families come from a history of being oppressed as minorities in their own countries for religious reasons and in the United States for ethnic reasons. Now, I personally have no experience with severe oppression, other than my Irish grandmother’s stories and my own experience in a predominantly male workforce. However, I think that heritage has influenced me in that I write a lot about bringing down the oppressors.

Criticism is a difficult but common part of writing, especially in these days of reputations being made or destroyed by social media. How have you learned to handle criticism of your writing? What advice would you give other writers, especially newer ones, with regard to handling criticism? 

Constructive criticism is something every writer should want, e.g., this character isn’t working for me because a, b, c. That specificity helps you build up the thick skin to handle those who’ve obviously not read your work and give you one star on Goodreads. Anne Rice is on a crusade (oops, trigger warning) against these faux reviewers who only want to disparage a writer. If I may be frank, I think it’s simple jealousy, i.e., the people who disparage for no apparent or for a dubious reason see something in you they can never have and feel compelled to punish you for it. There’s no way to handle that other than ignore it.

Back to your Flashversary story and flash fiction: do you participate in other flash contests? Have you won other writing awards or had pieces published?

I’m in the middle of prepping two very different novel manuscripts for agent submission, so I’ve given up on some flash contests for a while. In addition to an occasional stint at Flash! Friday, I also participate in Press 53’s monthly 53-Word Story Contest.

I was a finalist last year for the Press 53 AWP Flash Fiction contest. In fact, the story that didn’t win Flashversary in 2013 was a finalist in that contest and later published in Prime Number Magazine. If you go to my web site, you’ll see where several of my stories have been published.

What other forms do you write?

I also write standard-length short stories. I have a 3,000+ word and a 5,000+ word story both in process now. I’m searching for the right home for them. I also have a novella and novel-length works in various stages of readiness. I actually prefer the novel length work. It lets my raging imagination go wild.

What’s next for you–what are your writerly goals?

I’d like to have a solid body of work published. Right now I’m still working on the traditional route, but independent publishing is not out of the question. I think my characters have something to say, and I’d just like them to have an audience who appreciates them and the message. Those are the goals I work toward every day.

CONGRATULATIONS again, Maggie, on your Flashversary win. Thank you for allowing us to chat with you about your life and thoughts as a writer. Best wishes for a successful 2015!

Spotlight: Flashversary Winner Maggie Duncan, Part I

Our 2014 Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan holds quite a few distinctions here at Flash! Friday. As though it’s not enough to win the entire bamboggledy at Flashversary, she joins FF legends Betsy Streeter and Karl Russell as Flash! Friday’s only four-time winners; she served as one of the first judges here during Year One; AND she was, in fact, Flash! Friday’s very first winner, back in the old days before we even had our own website.

She. Is. Amazing.

To refresh your memories, her story “The Fire This Time” propelled her into the Flashversary semifinals; but it was her bold, didgeridoo tale “Dreamtime” that secured her spot in the finals and ultimately won her the trophy. The judges said, “Can’t overstate the wonderful descriptive writing. The story is full of contradictions that combine to make the MC a unique, fresh character.”

We sat down with Maggie, herself a unique, fresh character, over e-coffee recently and did a bit of brain thievery. Following today and in next week’s Spotlight feature, we are pleased to share the results of our mischievous labors.

Describe for us your journey as a writer. 

I have always written stories, from the time I’d get my weekly set of third grade spelling words. We’d have to use each correctly in a sentence, and my sentences were all related, connected, and usually about horses. (Hmm, my first flash fiction, perhaps.) I graduated to what’s now called fan fiction by writing Star Trek and Man from U.N.C.L.E. stories in English class when I was supposed to be listening to the teacher. I worked on my high school and college newspapers, started in the government as a reporter for an aviation magazine, graduated to editor of that same magazine, wrote handbooks for employees and guidance for airlines; all the while writing fiction in what little free time I had. So, when I was eligible to retire from federal service in 2009, I did so to devote all my time to writing fiction. I can’t imagine not writing.

What’s your current writing life like? 

As I said, I’m reworking and reworking two solid manuscripts I want to query to agents, so that’s pretty much occupying my writing life right now. A typical day is breakfast, newspapers, then some morning writing, lunch, some afternoon writing, dinner, and evening writing. So I don’t get house-bound, I go a couple of days a week to a coffee shop and work for a few hours. One or two days a week I keep my four-year-old granddaughter and pick up my six-year-old grandson from school, but since I’ve worked them into a novel,  it counts toward writing time. It does!

I go to about a half-dozen different writing workshops or conferences each year, ranging from one day to a whole week, and I try to find a new one in a different part of the country to attend. My goal is to find one in Ireland. There’s my writing group, SWAG, for open mic night, and my critique group, who is helping me hone one of my manuscripts.

It’s a full writing life, so I feel no qualms at telling anyone I’m a full-time writer.

What would you say to someone behind you on the journey? Where should they begin?

There was a meme circulating on Facebook recently to the effect of “put your butt in the chair and write.” It’s that simple. If you want to be a writer, write. Study your genre by reading the best in it, then write. Go to workshops and conferences, join a writing group, then write. Nothing frustrates me more than to hear people say they are writers, but they do everything except write and find excuses not to write. Yes, you have to research, even when you write fiction, and you have to learn your craft; but that’s for naught unless you write. So, I’ll borrow from the Nike ads of a few years back, i.e., “Just do it.” Just write it.

Who is a writer we should follow, and why? 

That’s so hard to answer. There are so many good ones. If you like engaging with writers, follow Anne Rice on Facebook. She always posts discussion topics and engages with her readers. Of course, she can’t be accused of writing flash, but she’s one of the few who doesn’t look at her readers as necessary evils. Or Neil Gaiman. Not a flash writer either but one whose Tweets (They could be flash, right?) are inspiring.

What is/are your favorite genres to write, and why?

For short stories, I like speculative or science fiction, even magical realism. I don’t think I could sustain either of those genres for a novel-length work, so short stories or flash give me that outlet. My novels are what Alan Furst calls “historical thrillers,” a suspense or espionage story with the emphasis on historical accuracy of the time. My novel drafts in this genre range from pre-Cold War to present day.

Tell us about a work in progress.

Just as an experiment for NaNoWriMo, I decided to bring my two main characters from the espionage novels into the present day, a challenge because the man is now seventy-one and the woman fifty-six. He spends his time as a house-husband and wood-working in his home shop. She is now the head of the U.N.’s global espionage organization, advising heads of state and running covert operations all over the world. On a day off, she and her step-granddaughter go shopping at a mall when a jihadi decides to start shooting. She shoots the terrorist and manages to get him in her organization’s custody before the FBI arrives. Mayhem and counter-intelligence ensue.

How do you feel about dragons?

Frankly, I’d like to have one so that when my neighbor’s dog barks in the middle of the night… No, dragons should be used for good.

Thanks for joining us today; come back next week for the second half of our Spotlight interview with Maggie. In the meantime, I encourage you to bite the ends off a Tim-Tam and use it as a straw in your coffee. It’s possible doing so will change your life.