Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, November 09, 2015

CrimeBake writing contest results!

We celebrated the 14th annual CrimeBake conference with a writing contest. Herewith the results:

Special recogniton for a great line:
Good toadies are so hard to find.
Jeff Deitering 9:57am

Between the Cuisinart and chainsaw she had done a good job mulching her new flowerbeds.
Melissa Guernsey 11:52am

Special recognition for an entry that wasn't quite a story, but wonderful:
Jeff Deitering 9:57am

Special recognition for an entry that wasn't quite a story, but quite terrifying indeed!
Dena Pawling 11:22am

I'm not sure what this is but it's delicious!
frenchsojourn 10:45am

These entries cracked me up:
Phil Smith 3:44pm
Annaka 7:55pm
Dee Blacks 9:33am

A pun worthy of a year long groan!
Michael Rigg 10:51pm

One of the most compelling closes to an entry I've ever read:
"But I know what's rushing toward us. The crowds. The torches. And what comes next. What always comes next."
JD Paradise 12:58am

Special recogniton for the entry about the great filly Ruffian
CarolynnWith2Ns 7:51M

Here are the entries on the long list:
jmaggard 9:58am
Steve Forti 9:58am
Colin Smith 10:15am
Claire 11:14am
CynthiaMc 11:19am
S.D. King 3:36pm
Kimber 1:23am
John Frain 1:58am

Here are the five entries that made the short list:

(1) Donnaeve 11:41am
Ten months old, bland eyes study us behind the bars of his crib.

Such a serious baby, we say.

training rewards us with persistent smearing of feces.

The Terrible Twos, we believe.

Four years old, an Easy-
Bake oven is smashed over another child’s head.

Oh, the daycare’s reaction. You’d think he committed a
crime, our little ruffian.

Sixth grade, he touches a female student.

Don’t they remember puppy love?!?!

High School, he’s accused of date rape.


Under cross-examination, he’s composed.

We win.

That time.

Blank windows of his soul stare from his cell.

Our own are filled with tears.

What makes this a story: there's a beginning, middle and end. We see the characters (the unnamed person telling the story) change over time. 

And that penultimate line: "Blank windows of his soul stare from his cell" require the reader to know "eyes are the window to the soul." I really like it when the story requires something from the reader as well.

This is brilliant, elegant writing. 

(2) Leiilani 4:14pm
Today, I bake. Bars, cakes, especially pies.
He's on the
train all week. He’ll need to eat.
I cream the butter, fold in the way she cries -
like something’s broken deep inside. He beat
her, he says, to teach her not to lie
but I know what I saw. Pinch the crust
into a ruff. I answer yes, and smile,
when he asks if it’s for him. The dust
of Grandma’s plate that broke is sitting by.
I sprinkle hate like sugar. If he should die…
Well. It’s not a
crime to bake a pie.

Notice that the rhythm of this entry is exactly what you'd get if you were mixing a cake by hand?
And the rhyme pattern probably has a name but I don't know what it is. Which proves you can appreciate the beauty of something without knowing what it's called.

This is a beautiful piece.

(3) Amy Schaefer 4:51pm
The key to good swimming is: stay steady. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Chug along like a train.

I try to concentrate on my technique, but thoughts keep invading. Let’s face it: this
crime was a half-baked idea from the get-go. The mark was too savvy, my back-up was more Teddy Ruxpin than Terrible Ruffian, and the score was, let’s say, impractical. Did I expect to lug the gold bars in my stupid clutch purse?

I gaze around in the golden sunset. The boat is long gone. That little island doesn’t look any closer.

And my arms are so tired.


I like how the story is framed by swimming. The first line doesn't seem to relate to what comes next. It's not till you get to the end that you understand.

It's that frame that gives the story beauty. As a minimalist you might think I'd say 'take out everything that isn't the story" but you have to know that it's both the cake and the frosting that makes a cupcake.

(4) Just Jan 6:43pm
I track my prey to the sign that reads EMERGENCY--red letters baked onto a white background like blood splattered at a crime scene. I slip into the waiting room, a ruffian on high alert for the trained assassins who would bar me permanently if they could.

My quarry rises to greet me with a tired smile. She is beautifully disheveled--and much too young. My eyes scan the room. I could take another instead--the croupy baby, the drug addict, the old man muttering epithets. But as I falter, she kisses me gently, inhaling my fetid breath.

I weep.

 ohman ohman ohman. This just grabs you and does not let go.
"Trained assassins who would bar me permanently" is a beautiful example of how to show character through POV. (For you literalists out there: this line refers to the EMTs and medical folk trying to save lives)

And when "she kisses me gently"...brilliant.

This is gorgeous writing, and elegant story telling. I'm in awe here.

(5) E.M.Goldsmith 11:53pm
The train was full to bursting. Tickets were a bargain, given for the least of crimes, an accident of birth. A utopia on rails as every man, women, and child, ruffian or respectable, were given equal accord.

Bakers, candlestick makers, and artisans were stripped of possession as each exchanged a name for a number. Ash fell like Hell’s snow at the destination platform.

“You get used to the stench,” the captain said.

“There are so many of them,” the boy said, clipboard ready.

The captain appraised him as he brushed yesterday’s arrivals from his uniform jacket. “There’s room until tomorrow.”

This entry is breathtaking.

There's no emotion in the story: that's left to the reader to provide.

And there's nothing overtly horrifying, except when you get to the end and realize where this is set, and what it's about.  

It requires the reader to bring something to the story much like Donnaeve's entry did.

It's subtle but has the impact of a sledgehammer.

This entry is perfection.

Each of the five entries this week could easily have won in previous contests. Each is magnificent in its own way, and worthy of recognition.  Each of the finalists are terrific writers.

But much like the very great skaters who had the "misfortune" to skate against Torvill and Dean in Sarajevo in 1984, it's really hard to beat perfection.

With that, E.M. Goldsmith is the winner this week. That entry will haunt me forever.

Elise, if you'll email me with your mailing address, and what you like to read, I'll send you a prize.

Congratulations to all the amazing finalists, and thanks to all who took the time to write and enter. It's always fun to see what you think up to do with the prompts!


french sojourn said...

E.M. well deserved, chilling and the prose; wonderful.

Congrats to all the long and short, the mentions, and those great ones that were a blast to read as well.

Thanks again for the Flash Fiction contests, always a blast to walk the figurative plank.

cheers Hank.

Steve Forti said...

I knew E.M. had this when I read through the entries. I'm always searching for that one where I think, "crap, I didn't win this time" because I know that entry takes the cake. It was easy to identify this week. Congrats.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This time I wept.
How utterly awful it is, that which we do to each other.
Em, you are amazing.

And Donna...imagined futures have always haunted me. With suspect comfort I'm glad I'm not the only one. Brilliant work, simply brilliant.

Beth said...

Beautiful! Reading through the finalists' entries was a wonderful (if dark) way to start my day. Congratulations to E.M. and all the finalists!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Excellent work, everyone! And congratulations to E.M.!

CynthiaMc said...

Congrats, E.M. and all the mentions. Exceptionally chilling this go round!

I don't ever want to get on any of y'all's bad side, that's for sure.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet, it is not lost on me that you chose Torvill and Dean’s Sarajevo performance as paying homage to EM’s winning entry. Whether it intentional, or rising from a heart which unknowingly glanced back to another tragic era of troubled differences, the connection is profound. Perfection from Bosnia and Herzegovina is like Germany’s open arms to the refugees of today.
Revelative writing moments like this bond this very special community.
I am so proud to call myself a writer and a Reider.

Audrey Shaffer said...

Congratulations E.M.! Truly worthy of the win.
Congrats too, to the runners-up. All wonderful stories.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Wow! I am overwhelmed and humbled. I can't thank Janet and all the Reiders enough. This contest and blog provide such great resources to improve our skills as writers. I am a great believer in surrounding yourself with people cleverer than yourself. That is the best way to push yourself to improve, and all of you inspire me to work harder and preservere through the hurdles of bringing my work to the public eye.

So many of the entries were so clever. I always enjoy reading them. Carolynn, I really loved the story of Ruffian. I am old enough that I remember that filly. And Donna's story preys on the fears of every parent. So many great entries. Thank you each and everyone.

Colin Smith said...

I'm right with you Steve. When I compose my entry the Friday the contest is announced, I think, "Yes--this is surely a finalist!" Then Contest Day rolls around, I copy, paste, and hit "Publish Your Comment" thinking, "There you go Janet--how about that?" And then I read the other entries. And suddenly I'm five years old, handing my scribbled portraits to the curator of The Louvre...

Well done, E.M.!! A great story and a well-deserved win. :)

And thank you for the "long list" shout-out, Janet. You know that means a lot. :)

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

EM big congratulations. Haunting indeed.

I love Leiilani's and Steve Forti's.

There were so many excellent entries. You guys set the bar so high. I've much to learn.

S.P. Bowers said...

Congrats E.M.

Each of the finalist were brilliant but yours was truly moving.

Donnaeve said...

Now that I've watched Torvill and Bolero skate about five times... (I remember this, but had forgotten about them)

E.M.!!! Congratulations on a superb story. There were two sentences in your piece that really hit it out of the ballpark (the one about ashes like Hell's snow and when the captain "brushes yesterday's arrivals...") QOTKU is right - perfection.

Congratulations to the special mentions, long list, and the other short listed - such an honor to be among you!

Kregger said...

I had the same reaction to Schindler's List.
And isn't that the ultimate goal of our writing?
To invoke emotions?
Very nice, E.M. Goldsmith.

Just Jan said...

Congratulations, EM, for a well-deserved win! And the same for the other finalists, semi-s, and mentions--well-deserved. I enjoyed reading each of them.

All of you set the bar so high--it is both a pain and a pleasure to try to reach it each contest.

Janet, thank you once again for your lovely comments and for being our host.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

EM, such a powerfully haunting story. Wonderful.

And congrats to all the other longlisted, shortlisted, and mentions.

Just Jan said...

Also: Kimber, your entry made me laugh out loud! Loved it!

Calorie Bombshell said...

Great writing is like porn, you know it the instant you see it. E.M. - congratulations on an eye-catching and gut-wrenching piece. It was a stunner!

S.D.King said...

"Ash fell like Hell's snow"

My, oh, my - you are good! Congrats!

Julia said...

B) Janet, I still owe you a drink. Nearly drove myself to drink trying to buy you a drink on late Sat and Sunday until I realized... duh...

So I'll catch you next time around, but that was the most awesome three days EVER. Like, EVER. As in, Christina and Bri, if you guys write any mystery, skip WD next time 'round and go to Crime Bake.

See you all soon. Work. (Work!)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I missed EM's entry when I read through this weekend, I'm sorry to say. Wow. Just wow, it took my breath away. Congratulations!

BJ Muntain said...

Kudos to EM, and congrats to the mentionables, and yay to all who entered!

Great job, all!

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Oh EM, I knew when I read that line "The captain appraised him as he brushed yesterday’s arrivals from his uniform jacket." That your writing would be tops. I am second generation here in the states; my family is from Poland and Belarussia; I have their stories. Yours hurt to read. And thats when you know it is beautiful, haunting writing.

Congrats to the notables, the long listers and finalists, and to Em!

Susan said...

Congrats, EM, and to all those mentioned and entered!

EM and Just Jan: Your stories moved me, both in different ways, but each profoundly. Beautiful writing and storytelling.

I never cease to be in awe of the talent in this space. Amazing people, writers--both in their grit and determination and in the majesty of their work.

Melissa Guernsey said...

Janet-Thank you! These contests are wonderful to read and write. It is enlightening to see how you whittle 71 entries down to the top five. It helps me to learn craft and what some of the "wow" factors are that make great writing stand out from good writing.

E.M.-Wow. The moment I understood what your story was about I did not want to read the end because we all know the end... Then, I wondered, "Do we all know the end?" The Holocaust is not a popular topic in today's education system. I am going to have my two older children read your entry this afternoon to be sure they understand. It is a history that truly should never be repeated for any group. Thanks for sharing your writing with us.

Dena Pawling said...

My entry was "terrifying" !

Lol it was fun to write =)

Congrats to all the amazing entries, and to EM for the win.

Kara Ringenbach said...

These are inspiring pieces, that is for sure. I loved E.M's, very haunting. I also saw Just Jan's and realized I was not understanding it at first. I kept coming back to it because I could tell I was missing something good...then I had an ah-ha moment. Those images... Congrats to all.

Leilani said...

This indeed - he brushed yesterday’s arrivals from his uniform… - is perfect. Congratulations!

(Mine - I borrowed the rhyme scheme from a sonnet and adjusted it to fit.)

Eve Messenger said...

I'm in awe of the talent shining through all of these entries. Well done, fellow writers, and congratulations to E.M. Goldsmith.

Steve Forti, with that last "Daddy" at the end your story killed me. . . in a good way.

Amy Schaefer said...

E.M., I liked how spare your story was. Quietly chilling, just as it should be.

nightsmusic said...

Congrats to everyone!

EM, I got to the end of yours and did a double-take, then read it again to make sure what I thought it was, really was. Brilliant. (I didn't really want to sleep tonight...)

SiSi said...

Another week of great entries! Congratulations to E.M. For a haunting story and everyone mentioned. said...

I feel like I should apologize for my entry. It's in no way a reflection of my opinion of CrimeBake or anyone involved. I've heard nothing but great things about it. I just got an image in my head of this jaded, bitter old guy and… well.

EM, it feels wrong somehow to "congratulate" you for that story. Stunning. Powerful. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us.

So many good ones again this time. Colin really nailed it, describing how it feels to enter: "handing my scribbled portraits to the curator of The Louvre..." Indeed.

Debbie Dorris said...

E.M., your entry caused me to stop a minute and visualize the scene (which came easily to my mind). An overwhelming sense of sorrow for the victims, of OMG, forced my eyes shut. Your few words spoke volumes. Definitely worth the win. Well done.

And congrats to all those mentioned. Another batch of wonderful stories.

Michael Seese said...

Fantastic winning entry. I considered a Holocaust theme as well. But I could not have bettered that story.

LynnRodz said...

EM, congratulations, I found your story beautiful and powerful. Perfect like Torvill & Dean and Nadia Comăneci.

Donna, your story was one of the two I was in awe of.

Susan, your story was the other one. I read it four times. The first time, I read it the way you wrote it. Then I read the story you wrote in parenthesis. After that, the one you wrote without, and lastly, I read it all the way through again. What you did with 100 words is truly amazing!

Thank you, Janet, for allowing us to say what we think here on your blog and letting us support one another freely.

John Frain said...

Can't say enough great things about the finalists. Congratulations to all of you. EM, you should feel very good because you won over some amazing competition. And rightfully so, that was a brilliant, haunting story.

Just Jan, your story was incredible too. So visual, and so alarming coming from such a POV. Shook me.

This neighborhood has gotten so upscale it's ridiculous. I won't be able to afford to live here much longer in my shack.

Lance said...

Congratulations, E.M.! What a sox knocker. Wow! But what competition! Well done to the finalists and mentionables and to all who entered. A great ride. Thank you again, Ms. Janet, for a great contest.

Megan V said...

So much talent! Pies for all! :)

Joseph Snoe said...

I was blown away by all five finalist stories. Inspiring and humbling.

Kate Larkindale said...

I swear these stories get better every time... Congratulations to all the finalists. I would have been hard-pressed to pick a winner from this bunch.

Sam Hawke said...

I'm not sure about the use of profanity in these comments so I will go with my Sis the Younger's preferred abbreviation and say HOSHI, guys. HOSHI. You are too good.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Congratulations to all. The flash fiction here has gone to another level of wonder I can't even touch. What a truly gifted group.

Elise, that was chilling. I also loved Just Jan's, but I loved them all, so I could keep going.

Good job!

Michael Seese said...

Fantastic winning entry. I considered a Holocaust theme as well. But I could not have bettered that story.

S.V. Farnsworth said...

Congratulations everyone! Thank you for the inspiration.

Angie Gregory said...

"Ash fell like Hell’s snow..." That line is just WOW!