Tag Archive | writing contest

Sixty Seconds IV with: Marie McKay

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

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

Matchlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 50: WINNERS

Good morning! Thank you so much for your overwhelming, loving support following Friday’s announcement that I’m closing up shop after December 11’s Flashversary. I’ll have more to say on that over the next three weeks, but today belongs to you; today is not my farewell — not yet –, but Steph & Josh’s (much as you and they are conspiring to keep me in tears for the next three weeks!).

**NOTE!** We still have a couple more global #Spotlight interviews ahead: please join us tomorrow for a trip to Bulgaria with Cindy Vaskova!

And now: a mountain’s height of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis and Josh Bertetta. We should perhaps be a little frightened and/or impressed by the sychronization of your judging thoughts — both of you should probably tuck that away for future use somewhere! It’s been a great honor serving the community alongside you. Thank you for your clever sifting of stories, for your generous comments, for your faithful support of flash fiction and this community in particular. Above all, thank you for contributing your own powerfully unique talents by sharing your stories here. We are so grateful to and for you.

♦♦♦♦♦

Here are Dragon Team Six’s final comments, crystallized by Steph, who apparently has no respect for my deteriorating supply of tissues:   

SE: I was feeling somewhat sad that my time as a judge was coming to an end at Flash! Friday but then came that bombshell from Rebekah about the closure of the site, an announcement which I must say left me feeling almost bereft.  I’ve just had a scan through the Flash! Friday archives and found my first entry back in October of last year.  I find myself amazed that it’s only a matter of some 13 months and not longer; this particular competition has become such a huge part of my life giving my week a writerly structure that I have followed (more-or-less) religiously.  What will I do?  What will we all do?  Well, we’ll carry on writing as she has trained us so well: we will continue with the familiar (MicroBookends, Three Line Thursday, FlashDogs anthologies, Angry Hourglass) and attempt new pastures.  So the gap will be filled, but it will not be the same.  I do have some more to say to Rebekah, but those words you will find in some of my responses to the stories below.

As it’s my last week I would also like to pay tribute to my partner-in-crime Josh Bertetta.  I know he has been unable to take part this week for personal reasons and I missed our few minutes of haggling across the pond.  And when I say few, I mean few.  Nearly every single time, at least half, if not more, of our choices matched; and where they didn’t, we quite often found that we had similar choices ‘bubbling under’ which allowed us room to manoeuvre.

I would also like to thank my lovely eldest daughter for her efforts in stripping the Flash stories for me, especially as she tends to work late; whether it was Bob Dylan or The 1975, she still managed to wake up not too long before noon and get the stories to me and Josh!  For that I have rewarded her with a Korean Vegetarian cookbook – as you do.

And one more big thank you – to all of you who have provided us with such wonderful stories to read.  Keep writing and submitting.  We will see you here until the finish, and hopefully we will continue across the Flashverse, taking our stories into unchartered territories and cheering each other on.

Now, without further ado, let the drum roll begin …

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Brady Koch, “Bougainvillea.” An apparently innocent start to the story, a young man returns home having travelled the world, for what you would think would be a much-wanted reunion with is family.  But instead we are faced with him drawing a plant whose leaf ‘grew out of the long-picked skull of the artist’s father’.  Then we discover that not only is there a skull, but a knife in the rib-cage, put there by our returnee.  Not quite the reunion expected.  Nicely dark.

James Atkinson, “Times Change.” A warning to those who would promote isolationism.  Initially the families were separate enough when their village’s isolation first occurred for there to be no problems in terms of marriage but as time passed cousins married cousins so that eventually all became closely related.  This seems to concern only our narrator.  He recognises that they need ‘another supply drop’ but implies this would be not of goods but of people to refresh and strengthen the gene pool; this latter a good example of showing not telling.

Bill Engleson, “Sweetapple Dodds.” Great pulp fiction tone to the narration of this story.  The agent’s in his office and in she walks ‘Hell, you could smell the country on her’, ‘wiggling her fanny as if she’s revving up for the Indy 500’.  He feels sorry for her but he has an ulterior motive, he ‘could see potential, a tremendous chassis’.  Wonderful language and a fun read.

Firdaus Parvez, “Born With the Devil.” I think everyone imagines twins are born with that unbreakable bond, where one would do anything for the other.  You certainly don’t expect them to be so different that the sister hates her brother to the extent that she would slit her wrists and ensure not only his death, but her own.  Unique take on the bond between twins.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Charles W. Short, “The Captain’s Calling.”

An homage to Flash! Friday (Dragonwraith) and its Captain (Rebekah) and an unashamed placing.  This one is slightly different in that it is the creation of Flash! Friday in a world in which flash was almost an orphan.  She built the ship, which grew larger, was a ‘spokeswoman for her cause’ and developed her vision until other ‘Teams developed, friendships formed, and entirely new classifications of vessels took shape’.  We have all seen how the flash world had grown, we all meet up on other sites, not just on this ship so that now we can give the Captain the freedom to take her own path.  ‘A new calling awaits the captain, and she has the proven courage to undertake it.’

Michael Wettengel, “May-Born.” 

I love the personification of Ambition and Inspiration, those little devils that assail us all but which often never seem to work together, as in this particular story.  Inspiration is intent on wrapping himself up ‘like he’s spinning a cocoon’ whilst Ambition ‘walks and fumes’.  (I will whisper now, I am a May baby so I huff occasionally too).  The deadline hits and they run out of time and Ambition isn’t happy with the rambling end.  But the author walks away to look at the falling snow, as sometimes you have to.

Holly Geely, “Cousin Jackson

Of course I would place a story with a good pun, especially one which worked itself out so easily.  I had no idea it was coming (I mean, a banana plantation in a non-tropical climate?? how did I not see it?) but there it was, waiting, a perfect little gem to be discovered at the end.

Michael Seese, “In Here.”

This trapped me as soon as elephants on shoulders were mentioned.  I knew at this point something crazy was going on, the writing bringing to mind the madness of Carroll’s Wonderland.  The MC, a child, has occasional glimpses of sanity ‘when the mists clear,’ but she cannot leave her world where there are ‘Pixie Stix’ trees and ‘priests in prehistoric garb’ as well as mocking marionettes.  And even though she wants to leave, her mother tells her, ‘You can never leave this place, dear child. Insanity is your home.  Wonderfully crazy.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Nthato MorakabiWhat Child Is This?

The God Delusion!  Casting Dawkins as a priest, working from the inside of religion to subvert its message was a very clever ruse.  Dawkins has pretended to be a priest and foretold the end of the world, indicating certain signs, for example the baby with the pig’s tail would foreshadow it.  The nurse’s message brings him joy, he has been proved right.  But it is a scene he has manipulated (he has no ‘virtue’) by adding chemicals to the water supply so that mutations occur.  He has used science, he had ‘faith’ that science would make these changes.  Now science supplants religion, it has become the new faith.  Nice inversion.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Karl Russell, “One Day, in the Square” 

This is a story about self-belief and self-worth.  There are so many talented people in this world who just never show what they are capable of.  The old man who appears at Juan’s side and gives him such good advice turns out to be the ghost of a musician who’d only just died.  He had been a brilliant guitarist but had never followed the advice he now gave Juan, leading him to his sad ending on the bench by the fountain.  He had wasted his talent and played for the pigeons.  But his ghost returned and hopefully Juan will take his guitar and play to people and not to the birds.  I must admit to a soft spot for this story as I have a son who is a talented guitarist but already he is playing for people.  And to all those of you who think your writing’s not good enough to send out, well, if you’ve been submitting here, you’re definitely good enough – take that step and find your audience.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Genesis.” 

How could I not choose something like this considering our Dragoness’ recent announcement? This acrostic builds a true and heartfelt tribute to Rebekah for all her efforts on our behalf.  All of us have fought, as writers, to find our niche, we have all lived ‘in the wilderness’, seeking ‘the lands of promise’, the bookshop windows, we were all ‘alone’.  But she created a place for us, a ‘fortress’ where we could hone our skills and become strong enough to challenge the ‘elite’, where we could make friends and recognise that our own writing has worth.  Through this platform and the support and comments given so freely and generously week in, week out, we have developed to the extent that many are now pushing onwards and upwards, and some have even made it into the bookshop window.  Things are changing indeed, but it is not goodbye.  We no longer need a fortress: we have a world.  This piece was a lovely way for us all to say Thank you, Rebekah.

And now: for her gorgeous, fantastic, stirring FOURTH win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

MARIE MCKAY!!!

for

“To Care: More Than Just an Action

A poem has claimed first place this week with a message that needs to be heard on a larger platform.  The army of carers that is out there amongst us is large but invisible: the husbands and wives having to care for both elderly parents and young children, young children caring for parents or siblings, an elderly wife, herself frail having to care for her husband and vice versa.  This army does so much and their efforts go largely unnoticed and unrewarded but they do it even though they are so often at breaking point – ‘She cares/Until she screams’, ‘You care/Until you break’, ‘I care/Until I reach the edge’ – but they always ‘care some more’. 

Short lines, consistent repetition from different viewpoints punch the message home and wrings out the emotions, the feelings that at times seek to destroy the carer .  We are not allowed to be separate from the message of this poem, we are part of it because ‘We. Should.  Care’.  Simple.  Powerful.  Effective.

Congratulations, Marie! Thrilled to see you take your fourth crown this week, which you’ve done and drawn our attention to this underappreciated cause. Thank you so much for sharing this achingly beautiful poem. Here’s your updated winner’s page — a page that includes your winning tales dating back to your very first in Year One (Week 26!!!! darling thing, still here after so long!!). Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for your fourth #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

To Care: More Than Just an Action
*inspired by Carers’ Rights Day in the UK

I care
my hands raw;
my eyes black;
my arms sore;
my hair out.
I care way beyond my own lifetime.

You care
yourself to sleep;
yourself awake;
yourself guilty;
yourself frail.
You care yourself lost.

She cares
herself bruised;
herself hungry;
herself lonely;
herself sick.
She cares herself away.

He cares
himself angry;
himself gaunt;
himself blunt.
He cares himself blue.

They care
themselves invisible;
themselves insular;
themselves inadequate.
They care to the quick.

I care
until I can’t, and then I care some more.
You care
until you cry, and then you care some more.
She cares
until she screams, and then she cares some more.

I care
until I reach the edge, and then I care some more.
You care
until you break, and then you care some more.
He cares
until he says he won’t, and then he cares some more.

I care
You care
She cares.
He cares.
They care.
And us?

We. Should. Care.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 50

Welcome! As we march boldly (and/or comedically, for some of us) ever closer to the end of Year Three, my heart overflows with love and gratitude for you dear writers. Thank you for writing faithfully, for reading faithfully, for supporting each other so powerfully, tangibly, and beautifully. Your very awesomeness makes these among the hardest words I’ve ever had to say: I am going to retire the Flash! Friday contest following the December 11 Flashversary bash.

I’ve said from the beginning that Flash! Friday would serve the writing community as long as it was needed. And just look at how far flash fiction has come! We’ve seen flash that smashes the boundaries of what we’d thought possible in only a few words. We’ve watched each other grow in the ability to write beautifully, to isolate the elements of story, to think beyond cliché. Things have changed “out there” too: today loads of paying markets wait for your work.

Back in December 2012, Flash! Friday filled a vacuum. That vacuum simply doesn’t exist today. You have a marvelous support network in the Flash Dogs, many other flash contests throughout the week, and the respect of the literary world. You have the advice, encouragement, and example of top notch flash writers. You’ve got it all, and I couldn’t be more excited for you, or more grateful for the flash network you helped create. And so, it is time.

♦♦♦♦♦

The Business of Goodbye:

  • We will finish out Year Three as scheduled, culminating in the mega-gargantuan Flashversary contest on Dec 11, with all the bells, whistles, and prizes (including the Ring of Fire prize). And JUST FOR FUN!!! I will schedule one more frenetic Flash Dash with a cash prize (watch for the date!). You will see final #Spotlight interviews featuring Bulgaria and South Africa. We’re also changing up the prompts: each successive week will feature a “flashback” prompt in honor of our past themes. Yep, Dragon’s Bidding will make a final appearance. Still LOADS and LOADS of fun to be had before the last hurrah! Help finish Flash! Friday’s story with a bang, won’t you?
  • I will leave the Dragon Emporium open through December 31, in case you want to grab a FF mug or any other souvenirs.
  • Following the announcement of the Flashversary winners & my official farewell (somewhere around December 18), I will post a static greeting page. However, I will leave your stories and comments intact here at the FF site. Those have and will always belong to you.

♦♦♦

DC2Don’t run off: we still have THREE more FF champ e-badges to award before the end. Today we’ll round out the novel-inspired prompts of Year Three’s second half, stories which will be judged one last time by valiant Dragon Team Six, Josh Bertetta & Steph Ellis. If you haven’t taken a minute to read their judge bios, be sure to do so (click on their names above)… lots of juicy tips on how to win their clever favor! 

♦♦♦

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

* Today’s required word count:  175 words +/- 25 (150 – 200 words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 150, max 200 words, excluding title/byline), the two story elements you based your story on, and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new or forgetful, be sure to check the contest guidelines.

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

Winners: will post Monday.

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

AND HERE IS YOUR (FINAL NOVEL!) PROMPT:

We’re finishing off our series of novel-inspired prompts with the Master Magical Realist himself, Gabriel García Márquez and his towering work One Hundred Years of Solitude, which spans the colorful, tumultuous, convention-and-reality-defying generations of the Buendía family in their fantastic town of Macondo. 

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content; and remember please do not use copyrighted characters). 

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific)
Character (choose at least one): a child born with a pig’s tail, a son returning from sailing around the world, a father who named all his sons after himself, twins fated to die at the same instant, a paranoid beauty contest winner, an iron-fisted matriarch, a man who figures out an ancient cypher, a musician, a mechanic, an author who wins a trip to Paris
Theme (choose one): solitude, the inescapability of family, magical realism, language, time, fate
Setting (choose one): an village cut off from the outside world, a banana plantation 

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):

Tayrona National Park, Colombia. CC2.0 photo by McKay Savage.

Tayrona National Park, Colombia. CC2.0 photo by McKay Savage.