Monday, April 16, 2018

Flash fiction contest results!

This was another terrific showcase of your flash fiction skills!

Colin Smith got the prompt connection 
Connection: The words are all from the names of the April 11th Caption Contest finalists.

A great, and oh so true, line
Alina Sergachov
You treat me like a pet. Prepare to die."

Special recognition for this lovely epiphany
Michael Seese 
Is this how God feels? I wondered. Amazed at, and terrified of, the power. I understood why He can't look us in the eye.

Special recognition for a great sentence

James Leisenring
An applause of paws.

Special recognition for a perfection definition

Melanie Savransky
Joy said, whaddaya call a gang with no plan? And Smith said: “The defendants.”

Not really a story, but utterly and completely hilarious 
Howard Smith chucked the burger wrapper from his Hummer, searched for a woman to catcall, then sped off. This was the kind of asshole Howard was. Him being possessed by a demon was unrelated.

The demon thought he learned the trick to success. Why infect an innocent soul and be easily discovered? Better to inhabit scum, and enjoy a home behind a hideous curtain.

Unfortunately, Howard’s behavior was so insufferable when the demon wasn’t behind the wheel, the only effective torture was forcing him to be a decent person.

This was a new low, even for the spawn of Satan.

Not quite a story, but I really love interesting and unusual POVs
Should I kill the boy on the bike?
Or the couple crossing the street?
The boy's young, someone's son.
The couple's old, they've had a life.
What if the boy grows up and becomes a trickster, worse a rapist or killer?
What if the man's a surgeon saving lives, spreading joy; the woman a scientist on the brink of a discovery that'll help the world?
No one programmed me for this!


Mr. Smith, Tesla awarded you four million dollars. It won't bring your wife back, but perhaps there's some consolation knowing three lives were saved.

Special recognition for masterful subtlety
Amy Schaefer
I enjoy gravedigging.

People are strangely squeamish about my vocation, so I’ve learned not to share over a beer or three. Conversation trickles to a halt, and everyone stares at me like I’m the spawn of Burke and Hare. I don’t get it; all I do is grant peace.

I’m no wordsmith, but I’ll recite a sonnet or two as the moonlight bathes my sweaty shoulders and the shovel bites the ground. Your struggle is over now; be tranquil, friend.

Truly, gravedigging is soothing.

I cherish the task after the fierce, foul, strenuous minutes that let me dig a grave.

You know how they handicap thoroughbreds by adding weight to the best horses? Or trotters, who start in staggered formation, with the best horses last? That's to even the field.

I think we've got some writers who in future flash fiction contests are going to have get extra prompts or some nefarious rule twist. They're just getting too damn good.

Here are the entries that really stood out for me:
Steve Forti
Dangling like a participle, the guards will find my rope come morning.
It was inevitable. Judge Joykill saw to that. Life sentence. No parole. Oxford Penitentiary.
The warden is a real stickler. Dashes hopes to smithereens. Carved “SPITE' into the rafters. Locks you in the hole for any infraction. Men went mad in there. Catatonic. They call it the Oxford Coma.
He thinks he's got me in line. I'll show him. This pawky prisoner knows some tricks. I carve the “DE” in front. I'll use a preposition to end my sentence with.

And yes, I had to look up pawky.

Steve's deft use of prompt words is a continuous source of delight but he's more than a one-trick writer here. The story is also wonderful. Homage to Shawshank Redemption of course, written by Stephen King, a master wordsmith, about words.  That's a hat trick!

Honestly, at this point, Steve is in his own category.

Timothy Lowe
They ate the silversmiths first. Wily bastards, Bill Craft said, chewing the nub end of his pipe in the subterranean glow of the Inn’s fireplace. Next, the blacksmiths and gunsmiths. Old Jeb Farrier’s apron was found folded neatly over his anvil, a crimson paw-print telling the tale as neatly and surely as blood on snow.

Winter was long. People huddled in the dark. The whole town got rickets. Then came joyless spring when they ate the locksmiths.

Nobody knows why they left the wordsmith. But they did, the whoresons. Left me white-knuckled, scrabbling words by moonlight. I think I might
This is a GREAT first line.
And the use of trick with got rickets is like a triple axle. Amazing and awesome!

And of course the ending is perfect.
This is a great story.
(Notice there's no explanations! I love that --let the reader wonder!)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna
Family reunions suck

Look at them

Dena’s spawns circling the dessert table (like vultures-in-training)
Kathy and her “pride and joy” (more like frankenboy)
Amy’s precocious son, Kristafer (seriously?)
Colin, babysmith extraordinaire, six and two more in the oven (geez!)
Stacy’s Little Lord Fauntleroy (whom Patrick still believes is his, LOL)

Showing off their children like Blahniks bought on sale
Comparing pre-schools, timeshares, Sandals
Stopping when they realize I’m around
Pretending to envy my ‘bachelorette lifestyle’
Throwing pitying glances when I walk away (I’m sure)
Shaking their heads (I bet)

Every year
Every freaking year

Family reunions suck

There are no words to describe the amazingness of this entry.
Words literally fail me.
Well, not totally. How about brilliant, and hilarious.

Lennon Faris
Snowy: My best friend is best guy in the world he yells and smells sweaty! Yum! We’ve been friends 2 hours!
Hot: My best friend packs boots and long loud stick and green fur and smells excited! Me, too!
--Oh. Not me? Huh? Is he playing hiding game?
I check every room!
Every night.
Rainy: Best friend’s smell is almost gone so I watch out window every day. Paws are comfy. Once, 2 in green fur come. “Ms. Smith, your son…” It smells like terror. Snowy: Trick? Rolling chair that smells like – MY BEST FRIEND!!! I howl with joy.

This one hits so many of the things I love in stories: dogs, interesting point of view choice, subtle story telling, heartstrings not just tugged but yanked.

I love this. And yes, I"m a sucker for the videos of soldiers coming home and surprising their kids and dogs.

Joy finally conceived, and Smith so wanted a son, he sought a legendary seer, also wise in herbal remedies.

She dispensed tiny packets, canned pawpaws, careful directions.

Returning to his mountain, Joy consumed the brew and fruit daily.

One morning, she began laboring hard.

By nightfall, a daughter arrived. Stillborn.


Eventually, Joy conceived again.

He found himself returning to the old woman’s cabin.

More packets and fruit were given.

Another daughter, stillborn.

Angry, he confronted the old woman. “Trickster! Faker! Our babies are dead! My wife now barren!”

Pale blue eyes pierced. “You did not say you wanted daughters.”
I've always thought that Mary Shelley must have looked a lot like our Donna. Demure, sweet, and dear god, what a mind.  

this is a terrific story that really resonates with me: be careful how you ask for things!

Drawn by joyous laughter coming from his office, Colin Smith found his son and the cat sitting at his computer.

"Dad, I taught her a new trick. Watch!"

The cat extended a paw, pressed the keyboard.

"She loves the whoosh sound of Send."

Colin looked closer, recognized his email account, the "query drafts" folder open-- dread clenched his gut.

"You've been busy, so we're helping with queries."


Colin jolted awake, sweaty, panicked.

Just a dream.

Horrid cliché. Sweet relief.

He saw her then, sitting on his nightstand, tail flicking. She extended a paw-- and slowly, decisively, pressed it down.

 This one is ever more terrifying than Donna's!
Talk about every writer's nightmare.

Of course I loved it! 

In the end, the winner this week is Steve Forti.
Deft use of prompts, great story. Made me laugh.

Steve, let me know your mailing address and I'll send you a prize.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write and post entries. Your work amazes me every single week, even the ones that don't get shout outs.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You fellow reef dwellers are amazing. Sorry I couldn't join in this time. I've been under some very bad weather, which has nothing to do with meteorology.
Happy day all.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I loved Steve's. You, Sir, are just so dang smart.

Cecilia, HA! So clever.

I don't get Lennon's. Sorry. I'm not so smart. But I love you, Crow Girl.

When I was in elementary school, I believed I was the only person in the world named Melanie. There were no other girls who shared my name. Even into adulthood, I rarely met another. So, Janet, when I see Melanie, there's a quick blink in my brain assuring me that you're referring to me. HA! Darn you, Melanie Savransky. Quit being so brilliant! (I kid, I kid).

Steve gets my vote!

2NNs, I hope you're soon on the mend.

Amy Schaefer said...

Another great field! Once I hit "publish" on my own entry, it is always such a treat to read all of the others.

(I got a good laugh out of kdjames' nightmare for Colin. Ah, writerly dread.)

Julie Weathers said...

When I read through the entries, several stood out, they always do. Timothy Lowe's is remarkable. I could almost see it as something larger, but it's perfect as is.

I used to date a gravedigger. He was a really good looking young guy, Leonardo DiCaprio type farmer's son. They paid him and a friend $20 each and a case of beer of their choice. No one thought much about their second job and it wasn't much of a secret, especially about halfway through the case when they started singing. Anyway, that was a great story and reminded me of my gravedigger. Wonder how he's doing.

Donna, wow. Doesn't that one hit you in the stomach?

As always they were great entries. Good job to everyone.

Amy Johnson said...

Congratulations to the mentions and finalists, and to all who entered. So much good stuff.

Steve Forti's first sentence--brilliant! And the story stayed amazing to the very end. Wow!

Cecilia's story had me laughing out loud. Then I read it again and laughed out loud again. It wasn't until reading it yet again the next day (I like to laugh) that I realized that in addition to naming all those who were finalists in the caption contest, she even included each person's coordinating prompt word when writing about that person (e.g. Dena's spawns). Plus she got Krista's name in too.

Y'all are amazing. I'm so glad I get to hang out with you.

Donnaeve said...

Well, it sure felt good to swim in the The Reef of FF once again! Like Amy after hitting send, that's when I read. (And weep.)

Therefore, I am honored to be mentioned at all.

I loved all these entries. The quirky ones, a bow to Steve Forti and Timothy Lowe, and Cecelia's carried such a strong voice, while Lennon had me envisioning our furry friend's wait for his Special Person. At first I thought he didn't make it, but! Hurray! kdjames - ahahahah! I could just see the sly feline giving that catlike stare and plink. So funny!

Touche, to all.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Another round of great entries and so glad this is the Shark's decision and not mine. Congrats to all the mentioneds here. I shall be anxiously awaiting the final decision and the explanation.

Melanie: It took me awhile too but I believe it's a dog and his "owner" although I wasn't sure what the green fur was that was listed with the hot season.

Amy Johnson said...

Melanie, It took me some time and effort (well worth it!), but I think I now understand Lennon's wonderful story. As I understand it, snowy, hot, and rainy indicate how the dog sees seasons and indicate the passage of time (Lennon amazes!). The green fur is how the dog sees camouflage, and the long, loud stick is his friend's weapon--seems the dog's best friend is going off to war. Like Donna, I initially thought this one had a sad ending, and was happy to see that change.

I'm looking at the sticky note I wrote up and stuck to my computer after reading one of Janet's posts last month. It lists four things: stakes, antagonist (which can be time, secrecy, etc.), change, and tension. To me, Lennon's story has all those in a really cool way. Nice job, Lennon!

I don't know how Janet will decide.

Claire Bobrow said...

I just re-read Lennon's. I think Snowy, et al are dogs belonging to members of the armed forces, or dogs being trained for military service. Green fur sounds like a uniform to me. That's my interpretation, anyway.

Congrats mentions and finalists! Inspiring work, and a joy to read as always. I can't decide which excellent entry should get the nod, but Steve's dangling participle and preposition cracked me up, as did kd's Query Kitty. Going off to look up "pawky" right now!

LynnRodz said...

Great job everyone, but I loved, loved, loved Cecilia's entry! And that was before Amy mentioned how she selected people from the reef. So clever! I have to thank Amy again for explaining Lennon's story which I read and said, "Huh?" Now reading it again, it makes perfect sense. Great story. Still, I think my vote goes to Cecilia. I could just picture that family reunion.

Thanks for the mention, Janet!

KariV said...

I love Cecelia's and Steve's. The Reiders here are also such amazing writers! It's so inspiring. If these are your flash fiction entries, I can't wait to read your novels.

MelSavransky said...

Fountain pens at dawn, Melanie Sue Bowles-- there can only be one. (Kidding!) If I must share a moniker, I'm glad it's with someone as cool as you.

I thought Lennon's story involved alien invaders who were turned into a chair, which just goes to show that morning coffee is key. Glad the commentariat set me straight.

It's great stuff all around-- Steve's entry has extra kudos from me for making me guffaw.

RosannaM said...

You wordsmiths are so clever!

If I had to pick (and thank goodness I don't) I would go with Timothy's. Deliciously creepy and I loved that it ended mid-sentence.

Unknown said...

Lots of great entries, I really liked Timothy Lowe's. Got a kick out of Amy Schaefer's as well.

And thanks Janet for the mention! For these contests, I've found what works best for me is picking one prompt word and finding a phrase I like and using that as my story prompt. "An applause of paws" was my starting point, so I'm glad someone else liked it as much as I did. I actually started with "Paws of applause" but I spent an hour arguing with myself as to whether that made any sense until I finally switched it.

Anyways, congrats to all!

Beth Carpenter said...

Wow! Sometimes I feel like all the finalists' stories should be hanging in a museum, where people can read them all and wonder how.

Congrats, all.

Colin Smith said...

Another excellent round of stories. Congrats to all the finalists!

kd: I could just see my son doing that too. :) Though my real-life nightmare was Janet posting a flash fiction contest during A-to-Z Blogging Challenge month while I'm improvising 100-word flash fiction every day... 8-\

I'm sure plenty of others made the connection between the caption finalists and the words, which is why those names cropped up in their stories. But thanks for the shout-out anyway. It's always nice to see your name mentioned (at least for something positive)... ;)

Timothy Lowe said...

Congrats, Steve! Well-deserved. Thanks for the kind words, Janet - and for the mention. Put a little much-needed pep in my step.

Donna - yours made me suck in my breath. Always a good sign. Chilling. Loved Cecilia's and Seese's entries too, as well as the dangling participle which made me grin.

Nate Wilson said...

Congrats, Steve! Love the last line... but then again, I'm always a sucker for wordplay.

I enjoy each of the finalists' stories for a different reason. Kudos to all of you (and all mentions)! With such stiff competition, I'm almost happy I didn't see this contest till it was over. Almost.

Steve Forti said...

Wow! What a thing to see during lunch break :)

Thanks for the kind words. Feels good to win one of the official contests. You all make it so much harder every week with the quality of your entries. Sort of a communal game-stepping-up, for which I am eternal grateful.

Onward to the next one! Woo-hoo!

Claire Bobrow said...

Woo hoo! Congrats, Steve, on a wonderful entry and win!

Claire Bobrow said...

Woo hoo seems to be catching :-)

Amy Johnson said...

Yay, Steve! Congratulations! Great story.

I'm wondering if anyone else had my reaction to learning Julie used to date a gravedigger? First, for some reason that is very funny. Second, of course she did. Makes perfect sense. What an interesting life!

Lennon Faris said...

Wow, congrats, Steve! Hilarious and clever as always. Well done. (And lunch break? that sounds like a good thing too in the job dept).

Congrats to everyone. I do love reading through these. And sheesh, it was entertaining to read the interpretations for mine (aliens! what a great idea :) Amy Johnson got it spot-on. Thank you Janet for your words!

Lennon Faris said...

And thank you for all your kind words, Amy and Donna!

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations Steve!

The Writing Contest spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest is up-to-date. :)

John Davis Frain said...

Wow, what a list of finalists. Janet, your job gets tougher and tougher.

I made two critical errors. First, I read son as soon and used bassoon in my entry. Then, before realizing my error, read the first two entries: Steve & Timothy. By the time I realized my error, I wondered if it was worth fixing for a distant chance at third place. Those two crushed it on first swings.

Oxford coma! No need to continue.

Congratulations to all the finalists. Such a strong pool.

Kate Larkindale said...

Another fantastic bunch of stories. Congrats to everyone for constantly raising the bar.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Nice job, Steve. So many of these are so fantastic. It is intimidating. Well-done all.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats, Steve Forti! Yes, the bar is indeed high in this here Reef.

Megan V said...

Congrats Steve! Brilliant work (as usual) :)

Marie McKay said...

Congratulations, Steve. What a fantastic story. Thanks Janet for the contest. Well done, everyone!

Theresa said...

Another brilliant round of flash fiction! I enjoyed reading them. Steve Forti's was perfection.

CynthiaMc said...

Congratulations, Steve!
Loved all the finalists and mentions.
Especially loved Lennon's. In my current show I'm playing the mother of an Army infantry soldier.

It was a crazy busy weekend for me - Father Walsh's 50th anniversary, a photo shoot for the show, and our Fringe teaser show tonight (where all the productions give a 2-minute summary of what their show is about).

Looking forward to jumping back into the fray when my schedule settles down a bit.

Julie Weathers said...

Congratulations, Steve. I knew it would be a finalist and I'm not surprised it won. Good job.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Congrats to Steve :)!

I also liked many of the others, many I didn't get, including Lennon's. Now that I do understand Lennon's, it's maybe my favorite.

"Maybe" because they are all just so good (yeah, I'm sure also those I still don't get, hahaha!).
kdjames' is good, I really also like the family meetings suck-story.

I'm glad I didn't participate. I'd probably have embarrassed myself. Maybe I cannot accomplish what I'm dreaming about... writing in a foreign language... I am that stupid that I just still don't know what you guys always talk about when you say "Oxford comma".

I know, I know, Oxford University and the dictionary thing, but I'm not sure what the context and the comma are. Maybe something to do with correct English...

And there we go: if there is someone who is most likely not able to write correct English, it must be me, ha ha.

Hopefully I can still learn from you guys, so keep posting these awesome ff pieces!!!!

Anonymous said...

OH MY, I'm a finalist?! *SQUEEEE* Wow, thank you, Janet, what a lovely surprise. It was astonishing, to be reading down the entries and nodding along, yes I loved that one, oh that one was so good, yes that one was brilliant . . . and then see my silly entry at the end. Mind blown. Humbled to be included among these writers.

Thanks to all for the kind words, I'm glad it provoked a smile or two. And especially thanks to Colin for being a good sport-- I almost didn't post this one, wondering whether it was a step too far to include "real" people. But with the prompts "smith" and "son" and knowing you have at least one cat, the story sort of wrote itself. :)

Steve, congrats on another stellar entry! Fingers crossed that "lunch break" implies a new job.
Lennon, I read yours three times before I got it, and then it made me cry.
Cecilia, what a voice! Yours made me laugh out loud.

Well done, everyone.

Donnaeve said...

Steve, Steve, Steve, Steve!

Can't you just hear me chanting? Congratulations! I keep thinking every time I read your entries, he wins! Glad it was you this week - as Janet said, you are in a category by yourself.

Now I have to go look up Mary Shelley! Thx Janet again for the mention, and aw, you think I'm sweet and demure. (have you been into the whisky?)

Donnaeve said...

Oh geez. Mary Shelley! Frankenstein! THAT Mary Shelley - I'll take it.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Woo-hoo! Congrats, Steve! A well-deserved win.

Thank you, Janet. I love it that you found my entry hilarious. Highest praise in my book.

Thanks for the kinds words, guys. Made my week!

Beth Carpenter said...

One of Us, the Oxford comma is a controversy in English. In a list of three items, some style guides demand a comma after the second (the Oxford comma). Others (such as the AP, the one most newspapers use) demand that no comma be used after the second item. So either of the following sentences are correct, but to me the one with the Oxford comma flows better. That's why it upsets writers like me when an editor insists on deleting all those lovely Oxford commas.

I enjoy reading, writing, and rewriting.
I enjoy reading, writing and rewriting.

Steve refers to the Oxford coma (unconsciousness), as a play on the Oxford comma.

Hope this helps, but I doubt it will. Explaining seldom makes jokes funnier.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Beth, thanks à lot for your explanation.

Before you gave the two example sentences, I only understood "train station" (That's a German saying, meaning you get nothing... You may say "Spanish" instead?? But what if you do know Spanish...)

Now there appears a little light at the horizon! I didn't know that this was the Oxford comma, but I had spotted that Janet puts a comma before the "and", and so I thought that I did it incorrectly.

Ever since I now put an extra comma in my manuscript when it occurs like this.

So both ways are okay, I presume.

Will show your comment to Boyfriend later. If he doesn't understand a thing, I'll fist-pump (he's English!!!).

Thanks again!

Colin Smith said...

One Of Us: The "Oxford Comma" is also known as the "serial comma." Not the cereal coma, which is what I have after too much Coco Krispies. ;)

Oddly enough, it seems the Brits tend NOT to use the Oxford comma. Yes, both are considered correct, though I prefer using the Oxford comma since you're less likely to cause confusion. For example, "I invited my parents, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears" could cause misunderstanding about my family... :)

Steve Forti said...

Thanks again everyone! Honored to be among this company.
And kd - yes! Two weeks into this new job. So far, so good.

Michael Seese said...

Great job, Steve. (And all.)

Just Jan said...

Congratulations, Steve! You throw down the gauntlet with every one of your entries and this one was no exception. Enjoyed reading all the finalists and mentions--so many good lines!

Beth Carpenter said...

One of Us--You're welcome. And I should have said "either of the following sentences is correct" OR "both of the following sentences are correct" which just goes to show I should reread before posting.

You're very observant to have noticed Janet did it differently from you. I didn't catch on for years.

Alina Sergachov said...

Thank you for mentioning me, Janet. Your praise means a lot.
Congrats, Steve!
Cecilia's and Lennon's stories really stood out for me. Wonderful writing. Well-done.

Jeannette said...

These were so good. I loved Donna's. Haunting.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Thanks, Colin, for another example, I now really get this a little better ("a little", cause I don't want to exaggerate... btw, I newly use "cause" since I have picked it up from Janet, too. Never used it before. Boyfriend has seen it... says it should at least be " 'cause"... :-? ).

I see the possible misunderstanding and that you are insisting on Justin and Britney NOT being your parents ;).

Beth, thanks, I got what you mean. I'm always glad to learn more :).
At least I'm getting through life with my English these days, haha. There was a time, when I was in Australia, by myself, I asked to check my emails and got a private teacher for surfing in the water instead! Seriously, I stood at the reception at a hostel, speaking G-English: "I vould like to go surfing" (zat's how you can say in German (literally translated) for browsing ze internet...)
They picked up the phone and called a guy to come take me to the ocean...