Monday, November 02, 2015

Writing contest results!

This week's contest was to find out where Colin and LynnRodz ended up when they were exiled from Carkoon for suggesting a writing contest that forbade use of the letter E.

These entries just knocked my sox off. Each week I keep saying it's the best I've ever seen, and then the following week, you outdo yourselves.  Honestly, some entries here would have won two years ago, bu don't even make the long list now.  If I wasn't worried it would scare you, I'd let you know how much I'm in awe of y'all.

Hilariously, the comment column got spammed and I read the entire entry before I figured it out! (I deleted the entry before I thought to save it for ya'll in this rundown---sorry!!)

Herewith the results:

Where did Colin and Lynn end up?
Inside a Word .doc! (a writer's real Carkoon!)
Kara Ringenbach 10:10am

Dena Pawling 10:20am

With Amy in Paradise
LynnRodz 10:26am (yea, right!)

"swim among the stars"
Kate Higgins 10:31am

somewhere in the unknown universe
Amanda Capper 11:56am

somewhere in white space! 
shtrum 12:13pm

limbo until he remembers the letter !E 
BJ Muntain 12:39pm
(this entry just cracked me up)

"ABNA Necro-Manse.” 
Kregger 9:53pm
(this is very subtle, you might need to unleash The Google to

figure it out)

Constellation of Cepheus
Lisa Bodenheim 7:44am

Literary Agents' Cross-Dimensional Construct for Information: LAX
Lance 8:27am

I think we'll have to go with Lance's entry for Colin and Lynn's destination.
The only place worse than Carkoon is the never-ending slush pile!

Special recognition for homage to the Bard!
"exit Droid, stage left" Craig 10:10am

Not quite a story, but this one has some GREAT lines
french sojourn 10:14am

the idea of a paint color called "kale dreams" is truly Halloween scary!
Donnaeve 3:01pm

Not quite a story, but egad, what a scene!
Colin Smith 10:31am

Not quite a story, but these just cracked me up
shtrum 12:13pm
Peggy Rothschild 1:24pm
Amy Schaefer 10:30pm

Not quite a story but a great Halloween entry
Steven 2:08pm
Sara Halle 12:01am

Not quite a story, but very very nice work
Terri Lynn Coop 7:17pm

Not quite a story, but hilarious!
Karen McCoy 7:46pm

One of the best lines of foreboding self-description, ever.
"I am a more permanent solution." 
Alan Milner 3:43pm

This entry just cracked me up
Mark Ellis 4:21pm

And a very special shout out for this entry:

CarolynnWith2Ns 6:32am
Some say,
To a baby, birth is a kind of death. Perhaps to us, death is birth. If this is so, than we are delivered from the lessons of life when our last breath exits.
What remains? A tidbit, a memory-snack?
And, what happens after our new birth? Where do we go, heaven, hell, Hoboken?

Why are some life-stories written short and some filled with bags of words that reach beyond time?
The answers are out there.
Lynn, maybe she knows.
No, ask Colin. If he doesn’t have the answer he will create the link to the one who does.

It's not really a story, but I don't care.

I love this.

These entries made the longlist:
DeadSpiderEye 11:06am
CynthiaMc 11:46am
Janice L.Grinyer 12:00pm

These entries are the shortlist
(1) jmaggard 10:04 am
I catch the redeye on a budget airline. No snacks, but I charm a scotch out of the attendant. She winks at me, and my heart stops. She’s gorgeous.

I’m nervous during landing. The Rook Card Grey cabal is after me, its eyes everywhere. But my source had come through, and I’ve got a full report. All that remains is getting to the Feds.

Steps from the exit, I crumple. The attendant crouches beside me, concerned, as she slides my report from my bag. There’s no free scotch, I guess. Lesson learned.

She winks at me, and my heart stops.

I love the mirror phrasing here, and of course the "charm a scotch" clue is one where you think "oh, of course that was a clue" only when you read the ending.

Very deft writing here.

(2) Steve Forti 10:18am 
    I just wanted a snack. We’re both veggie lovers, so I thought I’d be nice and share. Good grief. Now Darla’s trying to explain the complexities of her new flexitarian diet, but it sounds like cheating.

    I offer up my famous rutabaga and cabbage slaw. Goes great on my flourless onion bagels. Darla dumps it in the garbage. Not cool.

    I grab the bread knife.

    The smell from the grill is intoxicating. Maybe she was onto something. Who’d ’a thunk Darla’s remains went so well with BBQ sauce? I think I could get used to this whole flexitarian lifestyle.

This is really funny, and the word play with the prompts gives it extra verve.

(3) MeganV 10:39am

Lynn paled as her son pitched his bowl at the paper-thin walls.
“No—oh God, please—no.”
But the wail broke through the cacophony like a needy foghorn.
“No.” She wouldn’t go to the baby. Rubbing the bags under her eyes, Lynn plopped the boy in front of the television, scratched a missive to her husband.
The baby should sleep for another hour or so.
Scottie is watching some l
esson on Sesame Street.
I’m in the tub, desperate for an emergency exit.

Grinning at the last line, Jim shuffled to the bathroom.
He knocked twice.
Lynn’s remains never answered.

Any entry that makes you gasp out loud is one worth noticing.

There's nothing fancy here, no tricky word use, no clever sentences.

The beauty here is that it is so plain, yet so evocative.

This has the beauty of a desert or a prairie. Not much to see, except everything.

(4) Michael Seese 3:28pm

An empty can rattles along the road. Gravel scuffles the once-shiny metal as it rolls past an empty snack bag of potato chips.

And a small spiral notebook covered with dots and lines, a piece practiced endlessly in preparation for a violin lesson.

And a shoe, worn when the winning shot fell through the basket.

And a freeway exit sign, crumpled in the median.

And a cell phone, miraculously, still alive, a desperate girlfriend on the other end, screaming.

Then silence falls over the scattered remains of a life that would soon be collected and renamed “evidence.”

So, how many of you read this and said "what the hell, how is THIS a story?"

I'll give you a minute here to re-read and raise your hand.

Be bold!

You're not wrong.

The reason this is a finalist, and not "not a story" is because we the readers fill

in the story.

The story is in the negative space. Like the space outlined by the filaments of the spider's web

Incredibly hard to do. It's an epic balancing act: too little and the reader is befuddled, too much and the reader doesn't have enough room to imagine things fully.

This entry is brilliant.

(5) Just Jan 6:51am
No matter what lesson my father tried to teach me, I managed to screw it up.

I snacked before dinner and ruined my appetite.

I put all my eggs into one bag. They broke.

Worst of all, I killed the goose that laid the golden eggs and served the remains for Christmas dinner.

"What would he want?" the baby-faced physician asked gently as we watched my father's chest rise and fall to the rhythm of the ventilator.

That was easy. Dad always told me to leave sleeping dogs alone. I signed the DNR order and headed for the exit.

This entry is restrained and elegant but packs a wallop. The reader sees an entire life

here, in just these few words. Beautifully done.

(6) E.M. Goldsmith  7:17am
The morning news is plague in Middle East.

“Take out the garbage,” I tell my son.

“Yes, father.”

“Did you do your lessons?”

“Yes, dad.”

Exit is backed up. We’re late.

By lunch plague creeps into Europe.

“Want to give blood for plague victims?” I ask.

“Sure, dad. Whatever you want.”

My son smiles at needle and nurse.

He shares his snack.

Night falls. Plague is everywhere.

“His blood is the cure,” the doctor claims.


“We need all of it.”

My son or the world? Oblivious, the world rejoices.

All that remains is a cross marking my son’s sacrifice.

Well, that one just left me speechless.

The ending obviously makes us gasp, but the reason it works

so well is that heartbeat rhythm of the prose. There's nothing

extra here…like there was no extra blood.

It taps into a primal fear without the reader noticing, until
it's too late.

This is very, very good writing.

It's just insanely difficult to choose one winner.
I hope y'all are enjoying my fretting here.

(pause for consideration)

(read again)

(pause. Eat snacks. Contemplate using time machine to go back to Friday and change contest)

It took several more readings to finally settle on the winner. Honestly, every single short list entry was a winner. Really outstanding work here guyz.

In the end I went with (4) Michael Seese 3:28pm.
I think his entry is brilliant and subtle and elegant.
And it haunted me.

Michael, drop me a line (confirm I have your correct mailing address still) and let me know what book/s you'd like to read. There wasn't a specific prize announced with this contest.

Congratulations to all the mentioned entries, the long and short list writers, and thanks to all the writers who entered.

It's one of the great pleasures of my weekend to see what you've got up your sleeve. 


Kitty said...

Congrats Michael and to all the Reiders who entered!

And a special thanks to CynthiaMc for her hilarious smack-down of Common Core math ;~)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am breathless.
Michael, I humbly stand before you.
I read it twice and then again. Amazing.

These entries prove that among us there is greatness. What a privildge to be here.

And to be mentioned, indeed an honor.

Steve Forti said...

Congrats Michael! And to the other notables. Well done as always.
(And props to Peggy Rothschild for my favorite line of the week: "The only thing missing from ‘chum’ is the p.")

Glad I could bring a laugh this time. 'Til next chance...

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Awesome stories and syntax. So much to learn. Congrats, Michael and to all the others mentioned.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This time I thought, "Why bother entering Steve Forty will win." But it was Michael, Congratulations Michael!

It's a treat to read these stories and learn. Janet's comments are a real plus.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

oh, btw, the Dark Shark Nebula is real. If you didn't google it here it is from Astronomy Photo of the day:

Donnaeve said...

Superb writing, and I don't know about anyone else, but, I think I'm getting spoiled. I sort of *know* or suspect there are going to be brilliant entries! Congratulations to all and the finalists and to Michael Seese for the win!

(*And I thought we were really supposed to write about where in the world Colin and Lynn landed! I should know better. The only rules are the nine listed - not the ones I place in my head!)

french sojourn said...

So many incredible entries. congrats Michael...just sublime and for the win to boot. congrats to all the finalists, mentioned, and all that entered.

Thanks to the hostess with the mostess for throwing these wing-dings! Not only is it a great exercise, but an honor to read all the others (their hard work and mad skills are evident.)

But then the review of the finalists and the tutelage (in all 3 senses of the word) we receive is PHD level.

Thank you for your time, we appreciate it greatly.

Cheers Hank

Colin Smith said...

"Not quite a story"--*sigh* that's what I get for trying to be clever. My "story" was reversable. :) Nevermind--a mention's a mention and I'm grateful for it! :D

Besides, Michael's was truly a winner. Well done, and good work to all the finalists, long-lists, and mention-ists!

The slush pile? The SLUSH PILE? You mean, this box here with the lipstick coated bottle of Jack Daniels, the blond hair, and blood stains? I'm stuck here figuring out whose hair and blood this is, and if mine might be joining it...?? 8-O

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Michael! A truly haunting story.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Each contest week, I am dazzled by the entries. I try to pick a winner myself and feel bad for Janet. Michael's entry was brilliant. I loved it. For some reason it made me think of The Killing and in a scant 100 words. Very good stuff everyone.

And Colin/Lynn, at least there's some Jack Daniels in that slush pile.

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Michael! Well done. All of them were good, but so many of them were simply jaw-dropping.

Good company, I'm in. Sorry, slipped into Yoda-speak there, but sincerely, we can only improve by hanging around with each other.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and *hugs* to 2Ns. Your entry! :D

Cindy C said...

Congratulations to Michael for a breathtaking winning entry. And to everyone mentioned and everyone who entered. I love it when we have a contest--so many good stories to read and so much to learn!

Just Jan said...

Great job everyone and congratulations to Michael Seese! And I loved reading the Halloween entries. Thanks again, Janet, for the fun and the comments!

Kregger said...

WAY TO GO, everyone! And to Michael Seese...eerie. I can't even tell you which serial murder scene pops into my mind.
Everybody, keep up the good work.

Dena Pawling said...

Awesome entries! Congrats to Michael Seese and eveeryone. Amanda Capper and Amy Schaefer, yours made me laugh out loud. Too funny.

Congrats all and happy Monday.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Colin, ((hugs)) back at-cha.

Steve Forti said...

@Angie, thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm here to amuse.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats to Michael! A lovely use of the negative space. A lesson to us all--it's what's between the words that counts. Also why I liked Terri Lynn Coop's entry. So few words, and I could picture everything!

*cues Yoda voice* "Yes, Amanda Capper. In good company we are." And in the throes of edits, I'm so glad to remember that writing is (and has to be) fun.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Michael! Great entry. And congrats to all those mentioned. I enjoyed reading all the entries and I'm glad I didn't have to pick just one.

Susan said...

Congratulations to Michael and everyone else who entered! I love how we can create a thousand different stories spinning off of one prompt/a few words. There's some serious talent in the pool here.

Colin: I read your entry like a poem--which is a high compliment; I love poetry.

Carolynn: Your entry was stunning. I read it a few times to make sure I didn't miss anything. I love subtle philosophy in writing.

Casdoyle and Megan V: Both of your entries stirred something in me and broke my heart.

Well done, everyone! I don't envy Janet her job, but I'm grateful for it.

Colin Smith said...

Susan: Awww, thanks! I consider that a high compliment, especially since I don't consider myself much of a poet. Did you read it backwards (i.e., from the bottom up)? I kinda hoped people would pick up on the lack of punctuation at the end of the lines as an indicator that it could be read either way. I guess there's such a thing as being too subtle. Didn't Janet talk about that yesterday...? *ahem* :D Well, it was fun to write, and a challenge.

Theresa said...

Another fine fettle of flash fiction. I enjoyed reading them all. Congratulations to Michael!

LynnRodz said...

This has the beauty of a desert or a prairie. Not much to see, except everything.

The story is in the negative space. Like the space outlined by the filaments of the spider's web.

...his entry is brilliant and subtle and elegant. And it haunted me.

Janet, are you sure you're not a famous author using a pseudonym for your agent gig? Hmm, I'm beginning to wonder.

Congrats to Michael (I loved your story) and to all the finalists!

There were way too many others that I thought were great as well, but I do have to give a shout out to 2Ns for hers.

Good job everyone!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all. Michael that was great, but they all are outstanding. E.M. kudos to you.

Y'all, just keep getting better.

BJ Muntain said...

Yay! I caused laughter! That always makes me happy.

Great work, everyone! Great entry, Michael!

Lisa Bodenheim's link:

CynthiaMc said...

Thanks Kitty!

Kate Larkindale said...

Congratulations everyone! Such great stories. I am in awe...

Janice Grinyer said...

Congrats to everyone; notables, finalists, and Michael Seese! What incredible writing, and the Shark's analysis made me see how much story can be in "between the lines". I am in awe.

Last contest I learned my lesson. This time I learned that good writing takes provocative thought, not just writing a "story" to fit a criteria. And great writing is taking it to a whole new level the way Michael did. So much to learn, and practice. These contests with your comments afterwards really aid us writers in seeing the difference - Thank you for having these!

Amy Schaefer said...

Great entries! I was sincerely hoping Colin and Lynn might be allowed at least a brief layover in Paradise, but that "yea, right" sounded pretty final. Oh, well.

John Frain said...

Oh my. Some amazing entries. There might be harder things to judge, but nothing comes to mind quickly.

Congrats, Michael, on your haunting entry. Also, EM, that one moved me as well.

And through all the reading I kept laughing inside and repeating Septic Hank. That was the cleverest part of a clever entry.

Michael Seese said...

First, thanks to Janet for picking it.

Second, thanks to everyone for your kind comments. FWIW, my money was on E. M. Goldsmith. I agree with Janet... "speechless."

Since this a community, I thought I'd share my thoughts as to why it wasn't "not quite a story," because originally it was not.

The first draft opened with "An empty snack bag of potato chips" then proceeded to list the items. A notebook... A shoe...

Note the absence of the "and" at the beginning.

Likewise, the final paragraph began, "The scattered remains..."

I knew it wasn't a story because there was no unifying element. Then I came up with the can. (Incidentally, if it's not obvious from the "negative space," the can was an empty beer can the kid had been drinking while driving.)

Now I had a beginning (the can in motion), a middle (it rolls past the items, now connected by "and"), and an ending (silence falls as it comes to rest).

Anonymous said...

Michael, yours was the only story I couldn't read twice. Didn't need to. It absolutely gutted me the first time. Damn good writing.

So much talent over here. Thank you, all who entered, for letting us see a glimpse of it. I'm looking forward to the day I recognize all these names on book covers.

Mark Ellis said...

A very talented group indeed. I would like to personally thank Colin, who inspired my entry, and made possible my first post-contest mention.

Lance said...

Congratulations, Michael. Brilliant writing! And to the finalists, what fierce competition. And a shout out to the mentionables and all who entered. This was a great contest amongst the great contests of this year. Thank you, Ms. Janet, this incredible opportunity to learn and grow.

Megan V said...

Congratulations to everyone!

Michael—I am speechless. The way used the negative space...beautiful. Just beautiful.

Susan—That you were moved by the words means a lot to me. Thanks!

E.M. I read this like a poem. I couldn't help it, it was so well written. In a way, the rhythm reminded me of 'The Highwayman." Well done.

QOTKU—thanks much for the mention! I am adding "This has the beauty of a desert or a prairie. Not much to see, except everything." to my wall of motivation. I have to, in part, because my home is literally surrounded by desert.

John Frain said...

Hey Michael Seese,

Thanks for sharing that. Makes the writing even more interesting to get the behind-the-scenes look. Great stuff. And great effort. The story really pulled me in.

Can someone else step up and talk about how they put their story together. Otherwise, I have to quit procrastinating and get back to another 642 words (about!) for the day's Nano output.

Thanking y'all in advance...

Colin Smith said...

John: The last time I won was over a year ago, and it was only the second time I've won in over four years now--and I've been entering pretty regularly since 2011. That's why it's a thrill to even get a mention: the competition gets fiercer every time. Anyway, anticipating that this probably won't happen again anytime soon, I wrote a somewhat lengthy dissection of how I wrote that piece of flash fiction. As I've said before, I don't like posting links to my own blog (save for the "how to hyperlink" one because that's actually useful to people), but if you go to my blog (address in the List of Links on the top right) it's the October 31, 2014 post.

Mark: I'm honored... I think...! :)

BJ Muntain said...

Well, John, I'm afraid that the first thing that hits my neural synapses when working with a prompt (especially a flash one) is: humour. Just about any prompt brings out the little absurdities in my brain.

I have tried, at times, to write more serious flash pieces for these contests. But these last two, with Colin and Lynn's future in my hands... I couldn't help it. I decided to have fun.

Now get to work. :P

John Frain said...

Haha, BJ, I'm so with you on that. Never even crossed my mind to go anywhere but lighthearted.

Thanks for the attempt at distraction, but I've been hardly working. I mean hard at work. Darn, you caught me. Now, off to Colin's blog...

Kae Ridwyn said...

Congratulations, Michael, short listers, long listers, and mentionables - your writing is so incredibly inspiring!

And reading the comments of the QOTKU on the entries is BY FAR the most illuminating, the most educational, scene of my entire week. Every week. Without fail.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Janet, for running these contests and for sharing your thoughts with us! Sharks RULE!!!

(and coming from an Aussie, this is very very very true...)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

@Steve, I'm so sorry I mispelled your name. Hides under rock.

S.V. Farnsworth said...

Congratulations everyone! Flash fiction is more fun than I though. Thank you, Janet Reid, for this opportunity.

Steve Forti said...

@Angie - no worries, I've been called far worse!

@John - For me, I write down the prompt words, then let them noodle through my head for a few hours. I jot down any creative uses of them I can think of to see which spark something. One of them will always trigger either a funny phrase, or an interesting structure, and I just build from there. The most important things I've learned over the years doing these entries is how to make a true story vs a vignette, and how to make every single word count. The 100 word limit has really helped me tighten my prose elsewhere.

John Frain said...

Fascinating, Steve. I've tried both ways. First, writing down all the prompt words and see what they prompt in my mind. Second, tried creating a story by itself and then figure out how to insert the prompt words.

Unlike a smart person, I've never followed up with myself for the results. I've had some true groaner entries and some decent ones. But I'm not sure what the different methods have produced. Gotta start testing better.

Thanks for sharing, everyone. So interesting...

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Total and utter congrats to Michael and the other finalists. I knew these were winners when I read them in the slush pile.

All three were spare and elegant. Nothing but a trail of clues that invite inference. Megan V's really really caught me on the first time through. And Michael, all I can say is BOOM!

And thanks for my shout out! That's from and old story and it was tough to compress to 100 words. Because we are all in the business of "persistent prevarication" (and I never ever spell persistent right the first time.)

And where are Lynn and Colin? Well, duh, they are trapped in the second space after the period that is now some sort of cosmic worm hole. One day it was there and the next day, well, no one wanted to talk about it and averted their eyes when it was mentioned.

Superb one and all! Terri

Michael Seese said...

Personally, I focus on one key word (in this case, the bag of chips) then build the story, fitting the other words where I can.

CynthiaMc said...

Congrats Michael and everyone.

Tickled to be on the long list - thank you for that. I had a good time with this one. Enjoyed everyone's entries.

CynthiaMc said...

For me, I see a scene in my head (or in this case a snippet) and build on it. This time I saw kids in a classroom where the teacher had just left the room. What I couldn't show in 100 words was the teacher's dilemma - does the teacher risk his job by going against the new stupid rule or does he pose a question and trust his students to come up with a solution? What would kids too young to drive but old enough to recognize tyranny do?

DeadSpiderEye said...

Result! I made it onto a list, I'm fair chuffed now.

Eve Messenger said...

So glad to finally break away from this very busy week and read all the winning flash fiction entries. All the stories are FANTASTIC.

Congratulations, Michael Seese, on your compelling story, with imagery that masterfully painted a picture of this poor kid's life. I can still hear his girlfriend screaming through the phone.

I loved Jmaggard's story, too. :)

Tony Clavelli said...

Michael's story was really something! It had the same elegance of that Hemingway (maybe? the internets were unclear if he did it) story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I like when the negative space is clearer like in Michael's--yes the readers fill in their story but all signs give a sort of unique specificity that wouldn't have existed if everything were spelled out. An editor recently gave me notes on a story that simply highlighted some lines and said "pull back on these" and I didn't really know what they meant, but this story is a great example of how there are times when spareness can provide a fuller experience than spelling everything out.