Monday, December 07, 2015

Helluva week writing contest results!

It was indeed a helluva week, and y'all provided a helluva contest to judge!

It's always fun to see entries that come as poems

Thomas Brennan 11:18am
Lisa Bodenheim 3:37pm
kdjames 6:54pm

Homage to the query for Premeditated
Brigid 12:20pm

This is so creepy I may never look at a staircase the same way again 
Marie McKay 2:42pm

A heartbreaker for sure
Kathy Ellen Davis 8:15pm

This isn't quite a story but it sure did make me laugh
Rachel McCauley 11:06pm

Not quite a story, but I love this idea a lot!
Kimber 11:08pm
Kate Higgins 12:02am

And why I'll never eat Jell-O again
Terri Lynn Coop 12:50am

This is an exquisite sentence
A week ago, he’d made it over the mountain’s shoulder blade onto the glacier scarving her collarbone
Kastie 1:11am

Oh no! Felix Buttonweezer goes rogue!
Gabby Gilliam 9:09am

Here are the entries that made the long list

Steve Forti 10:42am
Gramma’s ragu took the whole weekend to prepare. Slow cooked mirepoix. Fresh garden tomatoes. Secret herb mixtures. Tender braised beef. (Or venison? She never let anyone snag that recipe.)

Such vivid childhood memories. The aroma, watching her stir the ancient pot.

In her waning days, her creaky knees and peakish figure toiled at the stove, yet her spoonula whack remained just as sharp if anyone stole a taste before it was ready.

After she passed, I cleaned out her basement freezer and discovered her secret ingredient. And what really happened to Grampa.

Now the family loves my Sunday dinners.

Colin Smith 10:53am
Annie Ragdoll couldn't speak,
She shut her mouth last Tuesday week
When Billy Bunny tried to tell her
Maizie Mouse had snagged her fella.

When another week had passed,
She'd had enough and went at last
To find her wooden soldier boy,
And end his fling with this new toy.

She'd win his heart back with her charms,
And oil to mend his creaking arms.
She'd whisper nothings in his ear,
Feed him brownies and cold beer.

But when she came to Maize's house,
She found that wretched knitted mouse
Alone beside her fireplace,
A wicked smile upon her face.

SiSi 8:09am
Her blood got all mixed in with the ragu sauce she spilled. It mostly pooled up right on top of that creaky floorboard Lois nagged me about fixing all last week. That’s like irony or something, right?

She can’t nag me anymore, she can’t even speak with her tongue under the table. Plus she’s dead.

Hell, I spent most of my marriage wishing Lois’d shut up and now I’m wishing she could talk. That’s irony too, ain’t it?

Whoever killed her did me a big favor, not saying they didn’t. I just wish they hadn’t set me up.

flashfriday 9:40am

“Care for an adventure?”

“Not likely,” said the cinder-girl, twisting a rag over her bucket and frowning at the hag.

“Haven’t you ever dreamed of love? Wealth?”

“Last week I dreamed all my teeth fell out,” said the cinder-girl.

“But you’re treated so badly here.”

“Ech. Not everybody’s got a fairy godmother, y’know.”

“What if you do?”

The cinder-girl snagged a roach. Squish. “Then she’s doing a lousy job.”

“Maybe the job’s hard.”

A snort. “Try ironing.”

“What if she improves?”

The cinder girl shrugged without speaking.


“I wish,” the cinder-girl said, the door creaking hollowly as it closed.

Here are the entries that made the shortlist

(1) Mallory Love 10:04am
Don’t speak unless spoken to, you’d say.
Don’t drag your feet, you’d say.
I don’t have time for this, you’d say. Week after week.
You have to be the best, you’d say. Harvard only accepts champions.
You will take over the firm, you said. There was never a choice.
You can’t marry her. You won’t, you said. A snag in your plans.
You’re better off, you say, tossing her wedding announcement aside.
The floor creaks under my weight.
Drop the gun, you say.
Don’t shoot, you panic.
The metal against my ear muffles the sound.
No, I say and fire.

I gasped aloud when I read this on the first go-round. Notice how the varied uses of "to say" informs the urgency of the story, and then at the end, it's "panic" not "say" in the last line. This is precision writing. And it's a complete story. This is amazing work.

(2) Nate Wilson 12:26pm
Once school ended, Ben and Jacob headed for the woods. They followed the winding mountain trail until they heard the small creak on the other side of the ridge. The boys clambered up and each took a peak. From either point, the old mill was barely visible, clothed in vines.

Inside, a gaunt figure slumped against rusty machinery, its arm snagged in the gears. The boys poked and prodded the body a while, till it stirred.

"Please... help me," the man said weekly.

Jacob dragged out water and crackers before joining Ben at the door. He smiled.

"Maybe next Friday."

Of course I was drawn in by the macabre story but then, reading more carefully, there it was. "Weekly" 
Oh my god.
To use a homonym to twist the story is just plain ever lovin' brilliant.

Then, when you read it again, you realize he's playing with more than just weekly. Brilliant stuff here.

(3) Emi PdeS 4:48pm
Don't like to brag or nuthin', but I’ve been lookin’. Been all over. Last week, I almost snagged one at Schoenfeld’s. But no. I tell you, nobody’s got any.

Course, that didn’t stop him from promising one to my kid. I told him, but it’s like he didn’t speak English.

A fine thing, promising a kid.

Real whiskers, but bad breath. Yellow teeth, creaky voice.

So Mama thanked Santa Claus, too. Thanked him with an ice skate blade to the neck.

‘Cause nobody’s got any business promising my boy something he can’t have.

A fine thing, promising a kid.

This is a brilliant example of voice.

(4) John Frain 3:04am
I’d been dead a week when I met Corinne, my intake interviewer. She had ligature marks too, so natural curiosity.

Hers were from someone’s hands, so I lied about my rope of guilt.

“They never fade away,” she warned. Calm, no rage. Presented my assignment.

“You need my signature?”

She pulled her collar. Showed her bruises. “I already have it. Welcome to purgatory.”

I didn’t recognize her. She hadn’t aged in thirty-seven years.

A gate creaked open. Peter speaking. “Sorry, sir. A snag in your paperwork. Corinne was too forgiving. Afraid you’ve been demoted.”

Some sins you keep paying for.

There's nothing flashy here, no word play, no sudden twists. It's just good clean storytelling at its best, and like meatloaf and mashed potatoes on a cold day, it's comfort food. I love this entry and I'm not sure I can explain why, other than it's just plain good writing.  Not to say other entries weren't but this appeals to me a lot. If you don't love it, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with your taste or your judgement. It's a subjective biz.  

 As always, you guyz make this a very difficult choice. Any of these finalists are worthy of a win, and picking one really shouldn't diminish the others.

In the end though, I had to go with Nate Wilson for that sublime word play with the prompts.

Nate, if you'll email me with your mailing address, and what kinds of books you like to read, I'll get you a prize in the mail.

Congratulations to all the short and long list entries, and many thanks to all of you who took the time to enter. I enjoy reading these contest entries very much. (In fact, I'm behind on answering queries today cause I wanted to read these first)


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I KNEW this would be the winner. Congrats to the creepy.

Lucie Witt said...

Congrats to this week's winner! A lot of great (and creepy) entries this week.

AJ Blythe said...

Well done to everyone who was mentioned, but particular congrats to Nate Wilson.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Congratulations, Nate! Also all the short-listers, long-listers, and honourable mentions.
@JohnFrain, I loved yours this week! I was hooked at the first sentence; by the last I was shaking my head in admiration of the execution of your idea. Well done!

CynthiaMc said...

Congrats, Nate and all the mentions. Well done!

Donnaeve said...

Congrats to all the mentions, long lists, and finalists!

As usual, I only now understood the "weekly" with the clarifying prompt from QOTKU. I just thought he was using it as word play. Great job, Nate!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congratulations Nate.

I loved John Frain's, too and also Sisi's. These contests are so hard. It's a pleasure to read the excellent entries.

Steve Forti said...

Congrats Nate! I liked the homonyms, but on first read only realized that weekly was being used in both ways. A little slow, I guess.

Also, Jeff Deitering, I loved your first paragraph. Really good sense of that woman!

Good work to all the mentionables. Always fun.

Leigh Caron said...

Congrats to Nate and all the others who got a mention.

french sojourn said...

Wow, 73 about up to ones shoulders in talent. Great entries all around. congrats to Nate, sweet entry.

And a thank you again to QOTKU for hosting, reading, interpreting,then sorting the talent. I hope you know its very appreciated.

Cheers Hank

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Great job, Nate. I also really thought Mallory's was brilliant. I loved John Frain's this week as well. Colin's made me laugh. Colin has that effect on me. Anyhow, great job everyone who entered. Fantastic work.

Timothy Lowe said...

Amazing job - Nate, great entry - I can really see it all and those boys give me the chills.

@JohnFrain, yours was one I immediately loved on first read.

I also loved Kim English's piece, and French Sojourn's evocative line: "She lived in a drafty house, where cowardly windows watched the driveway approach."

These contests set the bar! BTW, a bit off topic, if anyone wants a read that sets the bar almost impossibly high, try A Free State, by Tom Piazza. A runaway slave pretending to be who he is?? Holy hell! - and the writing is absolutely exquisite.

Cindy C said...

Wow, Nate, brilliant word usage! Congratulations on a well-deserved win.

Good job to everyone mentioned, actually everyone who entered.

Thanks again, Janet, for having these contests. I love reading and writing these.

Unknown said...

Well-deserved congratulations, Nate. Excellent piece.

I also enjoyed Colin's entry, damnable little ditty that it was.

BJ Muntain said...

Congrats to Nate and all those mentioned. Great job, all!

Kregger said...

Shout out to all the finalists this week. I had to read Nate's twice to get it. For the most part, if you skim these entries it's easy to miss the jewels.
Congrats to all.

Brigid said...

Congrats, all!

@SiSi, I loved yours. The voice and the twist were so fun.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What a great Monday.

Congrats Nate. Although, I'm another one that needed Janet to point out the complete brilliance of your story. Like Kregger said, skimming makes it easy to miss the jewels.

And congrats to all the other mentioneds, short-listed and long-listed. John Frain and Colin Smith also snagged my interest. And it's great to get a mention. AND it's a great Monday because I solved my computer woes of yesterday so I can actually get online and make comments. Sundays and Mondays are Very Important Days here in Reiderland.

Marie McKay said...

Well done, Nate. What a fantastic winning story. Just so, so clever! Congrats to everyone else, too. Thanks, also, for the mention.

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Nate, well deserved. Emi, you're obviously feeling the Christmas season. I enjoyed your take on the visit to Santa. Oi!

sonja said...

And Emi, that's a Miracle on 34th Street reference, right? Made me smile! (And cringe...)

Anonymous said...

A wonderful batch of entries as usual. I agree with the choices and especially Nate's. Congratulations.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Just superb and congrats to the finalists and Nate . . . you just crushed it.

But . . . but . . . there's always room for Jell-O . . . .

Really, there is . . .


Just Jan said...

Very creepy, Nate, congratulations! Also, congrats to all the other long- and short- listers and mentions. So much fun to read them all on Monday morning!

Susan said...

Great job, all, and congratulations, Nate--well deserved!

I have to say, I really loved Mallory's story. I can't say why, exactly--like Janet says, it's great writing--but I think the underlying meaning is what really got to me.

I also enjoyed Meg V and flashfriday's stories. I had a blast reading all the entries this week, what a creative bunch.

Emi PdeS said...

Bahaha! That scene in the movie was on when I read Janet's prompt words, and I couldn't help myself!

Emi PdeS said...

Yes! And you just made my day. I'm just a little overjoyed that someone caught it!

Emi PdeS said...

Well done, Nate! Ridiculously creepy.

Gabby said...

Every time Janet posts one of these contests, I hesitate with my entry because they're all so freaking good. This contest was no exception. Wow, Nate, your entry is amazing. Fantastically eery. Congrats on the win.

Kate Larkindale said...

Congratulations to all the writers mentioned, and especially to Nate. What a horrible little tale....

Kim English said...

Such great entries this week! Congrats to Nate and I also loved John Frain's piece. So hard to pick a favorite.

MC said...

Congrats to Nate and the other winners. I read these entries with the lights on during the day...So good and scary. Inspiring writing!

nightsmusic said...

I was only able to read the entries sporadically throughout the weekend (sometimes, Christmas is just too...too!) but congrats to all! I had to read through Nate's twice though because I did a double take the first time. Brilliant.

Colin Smith said...

Congrats, Nate! Great job, and congrats to all the other short and long listers.

Cool! I made the long list!! What an honor. I almost gave this one a miss. I read over the words and nothing came to me except those rhyming pairs, which I thought would be too obvious, and I still didn't know what to do with them. Finally, I gave in to the poetic urge, which I hesitate to do because poetry's not my thing. Really. So I'm quite chuffed to be among these very worthy pieces. Thanks, Janet! :)

Lucie Witt said...

Gabby, I lurked forever without commenting or entering a contest because I was intimated by the sheer talent on display. If anyone else out there is thinking the same, I strongly encourage you to give a flash fiction contest a try. It's great fun, improves your writing, and isn't nearly as scary as it seems.

Steve Forti said...

A hearty seconded on Lucy's comment about this improving your writing. It really helps make clear how to get your story told in the fewest, most powerful words you can. And shows you just what parts are truly important to the story, and what can be cut because it's mere fluff.

Janice Grinyer said...

The Shark's writing contest entries are always fun to read! Congrats to the notables, long and shortlisted, and to Nate; The word "weekly" hits that sinister high note just right! Congrats again :)

Back to developing a non-fiction proposal - writing out a perfect table of contents with one to two paragraphs following each chapter can take a person longer than you think... especially when the weather is in the 50's outside here in Montana. I might just take the mustang for a spin this afternoon (horse, not the car. The car couldn't handle all the rocky roads around here).

John Frain said...

Nate, oh Nate, that was clever and creepy. Not equal parts either, but I go back and forth on which was more prevalent. As clever as it was, I gotta go with it taking a heavier dose of creepy.

I completely misunderstood creak and peak on my first two reads. But weekly made me go back. And then I realized the creak was coming from the mill, not a creek. And I STILL didn't catch on to peak until yet another read. Why am I admitting this?

I don't like those two boys, no sirree, not one little bit. Keep 'em away from my part of the hills.

Great job, everyone, including long and short listers. Also, a shout out to Just Jan. Loved that little tale.

Nate Wilson said...

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words, and especially to Janet for selecting my creepy little tale from among such top-notch entries.

It was a fun one to write, even if it means I might never get anyone to go for a walk with me in the woods again.

Congratulations to all the other finalists and mentions!

Dena Pawling said...

Congrats to all the awesome entries and to Nate for the win. These contests are fun to see how everyone takes the same 5/100 words and the different stories that result.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Nate! When I first read "weekly" I thought, Oh man, he used that word wrong, what a shame. And then I got to the end and realized what you intended and literally shivered. Well done.

I also loved that sentence from Kastie's story. Made me stop and savour and give it a look of admiration.

Steve Forti, thank you for the new word! Had to look up mirepoix and having to do that always makes me happy.

It's funny, because Mr. John "just plan good writing" Frain and I have been emailing back and forth about something unrelated to flash fiction and he's been giving me grief about my entry last week and bemoaning his own talent.

The other day we were both all, "Don't think I'll enter this one, too busy."
"Yeah, me either, too much to do."
"I won't be surprised if I see an entry from you."
"Good luck on that contest you're not entering. (Yeah right.)"

So I'm particularly happy that he made the short list and now I can give him grief right back. In that supportive stop-doubting-yourself-you-twit way that writers do. When they see good writing.

Anonymous said...

Also, it occurs to me that Nate's story is a great example of knowing the rules, but knowing when to break them. In this case, the rule about never, ever using an adverb in a dialog tag. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Ooops. "just PLAIN good writing"

Although, as a directive, I guess "just plan good writing" isn't bad.


Just plain stupid typos.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Gabby, don't let the quality of other entries deter you from entering because there's really two contests going on here:

Contest #1: Impress Janet with your mad writing skillz for fun.
Contest #2: Improve personally as an author. If you can notice an improvement in your contest entries over the course of a few months, you're winning Contest #2.

I never place in Contest #1, but by watching others' skills and attempting them on my own, I'm improving in my mastery of the craft at sentence and paragraph level. The hundred words is constraining me to write tightly. (Hey, I managed to cram an entire month into a hundred words yesty.) I'm also learning the value of subtext and supertext.

Give it a go. While trepidation may niggle in your guts, be bold, be mighty and post something. This is one of those things that you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Karen McCoy said...

Wonderful finalists, and congrats Nate! Megan V's entry was gorgeous too, and hit particularly close to home this week.

LynnRodz said...

Congrats, Nate and everyone mentioned. Great job! I was out looking at the Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysées and taking photos. Janet did say it was better than taking pics of my cactus.

Megan V said...

Congrats all!

Nate—that was twisted...but I loved it. There's something about getting the shivers when reading that just makes you want more.

Emi- I enjoyed your voice a great deal!

I also enjoyed Michael Seese's entry this week.

Thanks Susan and Karen for the mention in the comments! But Karen—I'm sorry to hear that the story hit home for you this week. It's not a happy story by any means.

Nate Wilson said...

John Frain, after mulling over your more-creepy-than-clever comment, I have to agree with you. Once again, I try to say something clever, and it turns out creepy. It's almost like I'm back in the dating scene.

kdjames, thanks for pointing that out. It's probably the first adverb I've added to a dialog tag in 5 years, and I didn't even notice because it served its purpose perfectly. It just goes to show you: If you're going to break a rule, be damn sure you break it right.

french sojourn said...

Gabby, jump into these 100 word contests. Throw caution to the wind and give it a go. There is no criticism other than ones own reflection. They really help tons, and everyone here are the most supportive group anywhere.
I look forward to reading your entry. Everyone's contact information is listed in the upper right hand corner of the blog. Reach out if you want.
Cheers Hank

Kastie said...

Holy crap. I completely forget that I entered this. An exquisite sentence mention?! Turns out I don't need a win to bounce around the apartment with joy. (And thanks kdjames for your compliment as well!)

Congrats, Nate--I do so admire a good creepy story, and yours was just that.

Mallory Love said...

Wow! I'm in shock that I was a finalist and, like Kastie, jumping around with joy. Congrats, Nate! Your entry was excellent and terrifying. Congrats to all the other finalists and mentions. I love these contests and reading what everyone comes up with.