Monday, February 22, 2016

Treasure Chest writing contest results-preliminary!/FINAL

You guyz are really making this tougher every single week. Just when I think I've seen the MOST amazing entries, the next contest, you are MORE amazing. It's actually a bit frightening.

And you've gotten really artful in hiding those prompt words! I am now reduced to using the Find function on some of them. 

Herewith the results:

Special recognition for beautiful sentences:
"You, the most beastly, the most beautiful of all." Amanda Capper 10:07am
"He’s off, jingling donor-cycle keys." Claudette Hoffmann 8:47pm

Special recognition for a sentence of exquisite beauty and poignancy
french sojourn 2:30am
"We hadn’t only used blacksmiths to break steel, we’d also used butterflies."

Not quite a story, but a great start to something:
Jennifer R. Donohue 12:54pm

Not quite a story but positively Hitchcockian suspense!
Lennon Faris 3:10pm

Not quite a story, but definitely made me a tad nervous!
Claire Bobrow 3:46pm

Not quite a story but holy hell, it sure is captivating
Peggy Rothschild 8:10pm

Not quite a story but oh man, this is good writing
Caudette Hoffman 8:47pm
french sojourn 2:30pm

Not quite a story, but that sure didn't stop it from breaking my heart
luciakaku 8:29am

Not quite a story but breathtaking (literally)
this in particular was glorious: he waits to decide. Time waits to decide.
Timothy Lowe 9:07am

Not quite a story but there is a lot to admire here
particularly this phrase: done smithing useless apologies.
ace 9:07am

Too soon?
S.D. King 12:55pm

So very meta!
nightsmusic 6:50pm

Amazing sentence pairing:
Lydia D 7:03pm
It was a holy union. Then it went on strike.

Words I had to look up:
mithridate: Lydia 7:03pm
Benelli: Nate Wilson 9:06am

Here's the longlist:

Steve Forti 9:58am
“Milton Walloughby was a cantankerous old sod. He’d ice his walkway, call the cops on trick-or-treaters. Surely, you hated him. But he was nice to me.”

I scan the pews. “You see me an outcast. A quiet boy gone astray. Only he paid me mind.”

Holding up my hand, a rainbow projects from the prism. “I think reality is not always what you see. So I orchestrated this night, as a thank you to Milton.”

I smile, fangs prominent and stained red. The old man rises from his coffin, a hunger in his eyes and a panic in the crowd.

Donnaeve 4:21pm
Papa says, “Marry Roy.”

“Papa, he’s meaner’n a snakebite.”

Mama says, “Can’t feed all you young’uns.”

I marry Roy, and go live on Smith Mountain.

Roy liked things just so. Supper on a TV tray, six sharp.
Beer out a the ice chest, make it quick.

Once I says, “Them tank shirts you wear? They’s called wife-beaters.”

Truth sure can hurt.

“Go on, scream,” he says. “No one can hear.

One day he goes out trapping, drunk.

I find him, foot crushed, bleeding out.

“Help!” he yells, when he sees me.

“No one can hear,” I remind him, and leave.

Mark Thurber 4:29pm
Seven of us came. Mary is our big success, but we all write for a living.

The casket-lowering device is stuck, seems beyond repair.

She was certainly cantankerous. Sixth grade was erasures, wordsmithing, deleting stray punctuation, and her checking over shoulders that the verb matches the subject.

“Uh, guys?” I point to the headstone.

Here lies Regina. Born 1925. Died 2016. She loved her students, the cat and the English language.

Ten minutes with a chisel, then time for another try. Now Regina descends smoothly to her final resting place.

“She always was a stickler for the Oxford comma.”

Brian Schwarz 4:59pm
Title: To The Dentist Who Stole My Son
Category: lost & found
Area: Sydney, Australia

Mr. Smith,

I’m coming for you, like that guy from the Taken movies.

Liam Neeson.

And I’m bringing friends. The dangerous kind. With sharp teeth.

I am NOT clowning around.

Sure, it’s not all your fault. I told him not to stray so far out into the open ocean.

He never saw that diver coming.

But now you have him in a tank? With a bubbly treasure chest?

No sir. I will not stand for it.


Cipher 9:50pm
If you thought getting a locksmith in Queen’s was hard, try getting one on Saturn. After-hours.
That’ll teach you a few choice swear words. Promise.
I tapped the glass of oxygen tank strapped to my chest. Thirty-minutes. Shit.
Grotty legless chav was three hours late.
Ash was going to bury me. ‘It’s a sure deal Ray. Can’t miss.’
I could still smell the stinking optimism on his stupid lips.
Sod it, I’ll just—just see my keys. On. The. Roof.
I pulled the aviators over my eyes. Time to shake it Ray.
After all, bank wasn’t about to rob itself.

My only complaint here is that it's Queens, no apostrophe. 

kdjames 10:22pm
I watch him underestimate me across the bar, tight tank top stretched across my chest, short skirt exposing long tanned legs.

I suck hard on the straw in my drink. He smiles, approaches.

So suave, assured of his power and invincibility.

He sits close.

I lick the straw clean, running my lips all the way to the end, fitting the dart just so. Blow.

Fitting, as his orders blew the hotel, my reputation, my sister's life, to smithereens.

His fall knocks a tray off the bar. I scream, just another ditzy blonde.

And an assassin. Who never, ever misses twice.

Michael Seese 9:30am
Nobody wants to die in a tank.

Freedom is an ocean of opportunity you take for granted. Until you've been snatched from it, and your entire existence becomes subject to the will of another.

Feast / famine.
Day / night.
Life / death.

I smithed my own demise, using the blunt instrument known as my ego. Betrayed by my own cocksure spirit, I flirted with the uncrossable boundary. And I lost.

They found me chest-up on the floor. I didn't expect much. A short elegy, perhaps. Instead, my captors scooped me up in the green net, and unceremoniously flushed me down the toilet.

Here's the shortlist

(1) Colin Smith 10:13am
Chantelle lowered her hand into the tank and, with gentle fingers, stroked Michael's chest, feeling his little lungs fight the odds.

Seven weeks premature.

She gazed through tears, overcome with guilt. Surely Michael was being punished for her sin? An act of betrayal in an empty marriage, filling an emotional chasm. It hurt to be reminded by this helpless child.

But it hurt more that Julian hadn't understood. He wanted her to abort. She didn't want to commit murder.

But when he tried to force her, she had no choice.

"Visiting time's up, ma'am."

Chantelle followed the police officer out.

Took me a good long pause to get this one. I love stories that have those twists that just make you go "ahhhhhhhh!" when you realize what the writer has done.

(2) 10:26am
    Meagan adjusted her veil. It made everything look gray. The air stank of lilies, unbreathable. Her composure was in smithereens. Was it too late to run? She focused on Joseph, waiting patiently at the end of the aisle.

    "Lots of people here," Father said. I bet Raymond came, Meagan thought, to remind me of my first love. Probably that bitch Esther, too, pretending she and Joseph were "just friends." Meagan shook the thoughts away. Not today.

    She trudged down the aisle on Father's arm, eyes behind the black lace locked on Joseph, lying among the flowers. So patient. So lifelike.

 Notice how the writer uses your own expectations and assumptions to trick you? "Adjusted her veil" "down the aisle on Father's arm."

I love that kind of twisty writing.

(3) Amy Schaefer 12:09pm
Full disclosure: I’m a part-time asshole.

But the Reincarnation Review Panel was unfairly harsh. I was chillin’ like a villain on the astral plane when – boom! Slapped with a “Failure to Seek Enlightenment.”

I stumbled from the hearing, hopes smashed to smithereens. One of the judges appeared at my shoulder. He stank of virtue and cats.

“I can fix this,” he murmured.

A judge gone astray. “Deal. Anything. Just give me music, kissing, and dancing.”

We shook hands. The other judges appeared.

Entrapped. Motherfucker.

Now my soul resides in the tuba mouthpiece in Dr Oetker’s Bavarian Oompah Dance Orchestra.


This is one of the best openings EVER. Talk about grabbing your attention! And the voice here is utterly compelling.  

"He stank of virtue and cats" is one of the most perfect sentences I've ever seen.

Then of course, the ending of the story is hilarious.

(4) CarolynnWith2Ns 5:49pm
They didn’t name her because she wasn’t expected to live.
She did.
They didn’t take her home because they said she was ugly.
She was not.
I took her.
I named her.
I loved her.
She loved me but she loved them more.
She ran back to them.
They thought she was a stray.
She was not.
Lost to loyalty and unmeasured cruelty, she died giving birth.
So I, the cantankerous one, orchestrated their demise.
Blew their house to smithereens.
They were not expected to live.
They did.
So did her puppy.
I love her.
She loves me more.

There's really nothing harder to write, or more beautiful to read than short, sharp
declarative sentences. This piece is all about emotion, but it's got so few adjectives
and adverbs you'd think twice about calling it emotional. Stark, and beautiful, and elegant.

(5) Her Grace, Heidi, The Duchess of Kneale 7:11pm
When my life tanked--love, social and work--the only way to deal with it was to succeed at something, no matter how small. (Pills are small.)
I'm not a big drinker. Never been in a bar. (Did you know waitresses bring the drinks on a tray? I sure didn't.)
But I knew alcohol was an excellent solvent, though by ten pills, the precipitate started settling in the bottom of the glass.
So what happens? Some asshole with a chest big as a blacksmith's comes along and drinks my drink.
The whole thing.
Honestly. Can't I get anything right?

This just cracked me up, but more than that, I love the parenthetical asides.  I love stories that use form to give the story texture. 

(6) Just Jan 7:59pm
Back to work after restless weekend at cabin.
New case with indeterminate cause of death--
Body reduced to smithereens by roaming pack of strays.

Third quarter—
No DNA, no suspect, no leads.
Victim’s parents petition for closure.

Waning crescent--
Public outcry at full boil; Chief demands results.
Case ice-cold.

New moon--
Tanker driver found with history of mental illness and public inebriation.
DA coaches ambiguous witness, presses for indictment.

First quarter--
Scapegoat pleads guilty; sentencing ensues.
Accept commendation.

Gibbous moon, fat and waxy--
Mind and body tense, chest tight.
Return to cabin to pray...
And prey again.

This story is a perfect example of using what's not said to convey what's going on. And those last two lines: yowza.

For those of you who have mentioned you don't get the subtle entries, can you see what's going on here? If you don't see it, say so. It's really interesting to me to hear those kinds of comments.
(I'll let the comment column run on that question for awhile)

(7) Sara Halle 12:29am
We bonded over a love of cubism.

I treasured his enlightened activism.

Then he accused me of sarcasm

Said I betrayed him with my narcissism.

I developed unrelenting bruxism

As he tanked my days with his criticism.

Soon he shared his love of pugilism.

Pain filled my chest like an embolism.

Authorities only voiced their skepticism

And I could no longer embody stoicism.

My meal appealed to his gourmandism.

I threw mine away, blamed my metabolism.

The end came in a cataclysm.

The doctors reported an aneurysm.

My actions might deserve criticism

But I think they were pragmatism.

Well, ok then. There ya go. I mean what is there to say here other than holy fuckamoli?
This uses form, style and diction to tell a story totally off the page.  In other words, all 
telling, no showing, and it works beautifully which just goes to show (ha!) you can break every rule in the book if you do it right.

And it took me forever to find the prompt word smith. When I figured out all the lines ended in "sm" I finally spotted it. Too too clever!

(8) Nate Wilson 9:06am
The chasm, it haunts me still.

It's twenty years on, yet each night the fissure beckons, entreating me to hurl myself headlong into the abyss. Oh, that I could.

Carrie had orchestrated the whole thing. I'd merely given her the strength to act.

She couldn't bring herself to shove him, though. Dad's Benelli was easier. And it got the same result.

Her exhilaration, sadly, was short-lived. Regret loomed. Left alone with her thoughts, she'd betray us both. And I hadn't the strength.

Her tan knit sweater, with the chasm at its center? I gave her that.

I gave her that.

Took me two reads to fully grasp this. And the repeated final sentence is just perfect.

(9) Kitty 9:52am
Old Mrs. Mandelbaum was sitting at the register in her Manhattan kosher deli chain-smoking Chesterfields, ashtray poised for the fallout, while training a new busboy.
“Mayor’s coming,” the busboy said.
“Nanny Bloomers? That pinstripe schmuck doesn’t bother me.”

“You know smoking will kill you.”
“I’m blowing that theory to smithereens.” {laugh, cough, hack}
“It’s against the law to smoke in here.”
“So you keep telling me.”
“Is my order ready?”
“Pastrami on rye, two dills.”
“Just put it on my tab.” He smiled. “See you tomorrow, Sylvia.”
“Always a pleasure, Michael.”

“Where’s the mayor’s tab?”
“I’m smoking it.”

This just cracked me up. You need to know that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was derided as "Nanny Bloomers" for his efforts to pass legislation about health stuff (like banning smoking in bars.)

And "chain smoking Chesterfields" is a great use of brand names to convey characters. If she'd been chain smoking Virginia Slims you'd have a whole different idea of her, right?

And it took me three passes to find the prompt word tank!

How about I let you guyz take a look at the finalists and tell me what you think.

Think of it as payback for a bunch of terrific entries that are making my job VERY hard!

Further results later in the day!

I read all the entries again and I had to pick the one that just took my breath away with its awesome use of form and style.

The winner is Sara Halle. 

Her entry was original and bold. Those can sometimes go splat, but this one soared.

Sara, if you'll drop me an email with your mailing address and a comment or two about the books you like to read, we will get your prize in the mail.

Thanks to all who took the time to write and enter. It was an amazing array of work. Congrats to all the mentions, the long and short list: much to admire there.

The only thing I don't like about these contests is how hard they are to evaluate!



Timothy Lowe said...

Good lord - I can see why this one is so tough! Just Jan's is exquisite - using the moon to frame the story's chronology was just too brilliant - gets my vote.

But yeesh, all of these are so elegant. Nice job, everyone!

french sojourn said...

Just incredible...good luck oh toothy one.

I would say, that I recalled "He stank of virtue and cats." stayed with me the longest, and whats not to like about Bwaap!

Thank you as always for doing these. The time you put into this is appreciated by all.
Great job everyone that entered. Christ the talent is mindnumbing.

Anonymous said...

I am often compelled to ask my self what is good writing, because from what I read it seems that the art of it escapes me. 'I am not a writer', I say to myself. I look at these entries and sometimes I wonder if I just imagine that being a writer is something I can become. Then I am reminded of something King said.

"Writers cannot be made, either by circumstances or by self will. The equipment comes with the original package."

After reading these entries I feel like my equipment either doesn't work right or I don't have it at all. Great job folks. I think at 40 years old I may have to go back to college to learn to write so well.


Anonymous said...

Boy, I'm gonna be no help at all.

I didn't have time the other day to read through all the entries, but the ones I did read, I remember Colin's and Amy's. Of the ones that I hadn't read before, 2Ns and Just Jan really get me.

Four-way tie?

Jason, calm down a little before you retire your keyboard. Flash fiction is its own beast. I don't write it very often, but some of these folks have been participating in Sharkly contests for years. All that practice in this specific form gives them some tools you and I can't compete with right now. Flash isn't really my medium, but it's good practice and lots of fun in a community of good writers. I'll definitely admit I sit here going, "boy howdy, do I stink," when reading the other entries--so do most of us. There's also no need to go to college, since you can find ways to improve your craft loads of places.

As long as my comment is too long already, can anyone help me out with what made mine not a story? I fought with that a lot, worrying over whether it had narrative arc, and I honest to jeez thought it did.

Susan said...

Stopping in quickly to say I loved the entries this week.

Carolynn: Yours was my favorite out of the above--perfect ending.

Sara: Loved this, too. So creative!

Lynn: I have to tell you, your entry took my breath away. I read it and read it and read it again...and then I printed it out and stuck it on the bulletin board near my desk. Beautiful.

Amy Schaefer said...

Jason: read a lot and write a lot. Read and practice, read and practice. And don't give up. That's all any of us ever do. (And, if it helps, everybody cringes at their own work, at least sometimes.)

I really enjoyed Her Grace, Heidi, The Duchess of Kneale's entry. The narrator felt like a person, not a character.

Steve Forti said...

Really good ones this week. Although there was no question on my first read through the comments which was my favorite. So my vote (if I had one) would go to Amy Schaefer.

And I must give The Duchess props for "Pills are small." That, in its context, is probably one of my favorite sentences I've ever seen in these contests. Kudos.

Thumbs up to wordwacker, too. I dug that one.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thank you for explaining Kitty's entry. I did not know the Nanny Bloomers name. So when I read it now, it grabs me.

So many excellent entries. This morning, I'm gravitating toward Just Jan's 2Ns' and Sarah Halle's structure. I am intrigued and marvel at their creativity (and envious too, I need to unbox my brain somehow).

Such excellent entries. And so much fun to read the results and try to study them in connection with Janet's comments.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I told you yesterday this was going to hurt. I think there's more than one winner here.

Brian's cracked me up- love Nemo.

Amy's really blew me a way- made me think of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in miniature. Brilliant.

Colin's was poignant and he's getting way too good at this.

I enjoyed Kitty's- I like a good chuckle on Monday morning.

Nate- well wow. Romeo chickens out.

Carolynn- great voice. Hope she does something with that in something book length. That's a talent.

Sara's was interesting - the literary piece among the finalists

Her Grace- lovely and a dark funny. Great stuff

Just Jan- it's not easy being a werewolf.

So I am no help at all- I think based on mood, and in full disclosure, no coffee and high fever, I am leaning toward Her Grace or Amy. Both appeal to my sense of humor. But any of these are great. Good luck, my Queen

Colin Smith said...

Wow! I don't blame you calling on the Tank for help with this one, Janet. The last time you did that, I recused myself from voting--I don't feel comfortable voting when I'm one of the finalists. Just being one of these nine chosen is humbling. HOWEVER, I was blown away with Sara Halle's creativity. I love the rhythm of it, and the use of -ism words to convey the story. It reminds me of John Frain's "Amy" story from last August. So clever when you can pull off that kind of word play AND tell a story in 100 words.

But this is a tough call. You're all awesome! :)

Unknown said...

Oh you don't. No shoving it off on us. These 100 words killers are your idea, you pick.

But. Since you asked. I do like Just Jan's. Oh, and Amy's. 2N's is also very good.

Who did the very clever thing ending in ism's? Missed 'orgasm' but guess it didn't really qualify.

Hope this helped, and am very tickled I wrote a beautiful sentence.

Susan said...

Just did a second read-through of the entries, and Christina, holy cow! I just finished watching a documentary about the Titanic, so I don't know how I missed this. So sad, loved it.

Great job, everyone. You're all so talented with these stories but, what's more, it's enlightening to see the varying voices, inspiration, and perspectives in them.

Anonymous said...


My vote goes to Carolynn. Although the entries were so awesome. This flash fiction exercise is great fun.

Thanks for the encouragement guys.


Marie McKay said...

I am going to be of no help at all by saying I love all of them. They are all quite different, but oh so good! Well done!

Donnaeve said...

My word. I have NO idea! I've read these through at least twice. If I HAD to lean in any direction, the ones I liked best are:

Just Jan

...but, I could read through again and change my mind! Ugh.

As to the one I don't get. I understood Just Jan's, (waxing and waning of the moon. The character is part of the investigation, only they are also doing the killing. I loved that play on pray/prey.)

The one I don't get is Nate's. (sorry Nate!) I read it over and over, and I'm assuming the chasm is gunshot to the chest? And the character telling committed this murder, therefore, the "chasm" in the chest, is the visual that's haunting him?

And now, after writing this, I've read again, and I like the lyrical pattern to Sara Halle's entry. Damn. All I can say is GOOD LUCK. :)

Timothy Lowe said...

Donna -

My take was they both committed a murder, then the narrator killed the woman because she was going to snitch.

Fun stuff. Took me a few reads and googling "benelli"

Awesome sauce, Nate.

Unknown said...

All were fabulous (of course). Amy's was my favorite. The voice, characterizations, and conflict were perfect, and the resolution was my vote. :)

Brigid said...

What a brilliant week for entries. I like Her Grace's, mostly because I empathize with the character something fierce. Especially on Mondays. Also the line (Pills are small.) had me in stitches.

nightsmusic said...

Thank you, Janet, for the mention! I'm shocked. I only wrote what I actually was feeling. It's getting harder and harder every week.

I really liked Steve Wilkins and Dee Gee's but then, I'm a sucker for anything Merlin. Laura Mary's was good because I had to read it twice.

There were so many great entries. I can understand how Janet finds it hard to make a decision.

Donnaeve said...

Thanks, Timothy. I didn't look up Benelli when I was reading through (and that was key). Although, even without that, I'm still on the right track. Somehow.

I still have no idea on the winner though. I know. Prizes for all!

(Ticket stamped to Carkoon pronto, I bet)

Anonymous said...

These entries are AMAZING. I started drafting this comment by describing how much I loved each one, but had to prune it down to just a few. Janet, how can you choose?

Colin's twist on the word "murder" made me gasp when I got to his last line. Beautiful.

I loved Amy's irreverent take on reincarnation, with its hilarious ending. I want to go out drinking with her protagonist.

Just Jan - I liked this one when I thought the moon phases were just to give a sense of time to the story, like flipping calendar pages in old movies. I confess I didn't get the special significance of the moon until I read the comments - then oh, man, what a story!!

Sara's structure, the "ism" at the end of each line, made me think of ballet -- pulling off an excruciatingly difficult form while making it look effortless. Awe inspiring.

Good luck, Madam Sharque. It's like asking someone who's hungry to choose between the perfectly done steak, the cornucopia of juicy fruits, or the caramel cheesecake. Can I have them all? Please?

Celia (aka WordWacker)

Lochlan Sudarshan said...

Just jan is definitely the best one.

There are certain threads of commonality between entries even those not on any of these lists. A lot of us wrote about dogs this time around. That's kind of interesting.

I didn't realize until now that you'd snuck one by me with the prompt words. Tray sure. Treasure. You got me.

Unknown said...

Regarding yesterday's WIR: I don't happen to have a Nerf baseball bat so I hit myself over the head with a rolled up yoga mat and it seems to have done the trick. Should I ever receive an offer of rep (!!!!) I won't worry about "wasting an agent's time" by accepting said offer without letting everyone who has a full have a chance to read if they so choose.

Good luck to all the finalists in the Flash Fiction Contest!

Laura Mary said...

Luciakaku - good point well made; Flash fic is it's own beast and something I am only just getting to grips with.

What I love about it is the 'quick hit' - to go from staring blankly at the prompt words, to having a sudden spark of an idea, pouring it out, editing it down to those blasted 100 words... and you're done in an evening or two. I've been pleasantly surprised with each of my entries, and try not to get too overwhelmed by the brilliance of others!

I'd also be interested in why yours wasn't considered a story, I thought I was getting good at recognising that!

RachelErin said...

This is one of my favorite contests, because the stories are so varied. Some weeks are a little murder heavy for me. There also seemed to be a wider variety of innovative form. Usually Janet only calls out one story for great form in a contest.

I loved the takes on Finding Nemo, the werewolf story, and almost Colin's, but I got hung up on his use of tank instead of incubator. Was the baby supposed to be in water? Usually the little beds have holes in the sides for parents to reach through. Maybe I know too much about NICUs and preemies...

But Amy's was my favorite. The world and character building she pulled off in 100 words is so impressive. And funny! I'm going to be giggling at Bwaap all day.

Laura Mary said...

nightmusic - Thank you :-) *big cheesy grin*

Dena Pawling said...

I'm one who generally doesn't “get” many of these stories, even after several reads. This time, most of the stories I couldn't figure out on my own.

Then on Mondays, once I learn which ones Janet has selected, I can sometimes figure out those, altho some require outside help, which I usually obtain from the comments. I needed the comments for three of these, but eventually I did figure out all but one of the ones mentioned.

Jason – my take is that I'll never write like some of these folks, because honestly the fact I have to WORK to figure out a story isn't really a positive, IMO. Once I do figure out some of these, I can see how they're brilliant, but the ones I understand on the first pass are the ones I usually like best. Not all readers are like Janet. You and I are not writing for those readers. We're writing for others, the ones who want a clear, straightforward, entertaining story. I still enter the contests, not because I think I'll win, but because I might get a mention [I did last time] and because they help me improve.

You're doing just fine. Keep entering.

Megan V said...

I loved Amy's entry and I needed a laugh after a rough week. Bwaap, indeed. :)

Unknown said...

These are all brilliant, but I have to cast my vote for Amy's. The setup, the voice, the ending -- perfect!

Anonymous said...

Nope, I can't choose. They are all awesome. It reminds me of when my boys were little and I'd think, "Oh, this is my favorite age. This is awesome." Then they'd reach a new stage and I'd have a new favorite age.

Kate Higgins said...

Sara Halle's story (#7) is my favorite.
I learn more about writing from these contests than reading pages of advice on other "writing" blogs. I also learn the heart has a lot of darkness hiding in it. Maybe one day, just for the sake of balance, you might have a contest that doesn’t reveal the vile and bile of our souls; chose prompt words that have grisly, ghastly and gross connotations yet require a story twist with more convivial conclusions.
Now THAT would be a challenge for this group, don't ya think?

RKeelan said...

My vote is for Amy Schaefer. I almost never like funny stories, and not only did I like hers, it made me laugh out loud.

Unknown said...

I also wanted to give a quick shout-out to Marie Wallace for a great fantasy setup!

Nate Wilson said...

Donnaeve, you guessed right about the chasm. And Timothy's summary is accurate. (Thanks, Timothy.) I might have said the character was going to give herself up, rather than snitch, but that's semantics.

As for the best story, that's even harder to decipher. Right now my pick would be wordwacker's by a hair over Amy's (and Her Grace's, and Just Jan's, and Sara's), but I suspect each time through I'd switch allegiances yet again. I'm just happy to have my tale listed alongside theirs.

Janet, you can't go wrong with whichever one you choose here. I'm looking forward to seeing whose it is.

Karen McCoy said...

luciakaku: I loved how you made two different connotations to the word princess. Well done!

As far as I understand, "not quite a story" refers to how much story is in the negative space.

More explanation here,with Michael Seese's entry.(Thanks, Colin!)

My votes are for Brian Schwartz and 2N's. My only regret is that my entry fell between them in the sequence, and fell flat in comparison. Will be seeking more emotional heft in my next entry, as well as more activity in the negative spaces.

Craig F said...

My recommendation is a dartboard and a blindfold. They are too close for me to make a pick. Congratulations to all of you.

Colin Smith said...

Jason: As others have said, Flash Fiction is a form in itself. We tend to talk about "writing" and "writers" as an amorphous group, but we are as distinct and diverse as line/brush artists. Some artists are skilled with pencils, some with paint, some with watercolors, some with oils. Not all pencil artists excel with paints, not all paint artists can do cartoon sketches, etc. Likewise, not all novelists can write short stories or flash fiction. Those skilled at flash fiction might struggle to write novels. Poets are not necessarily good with prose. All that to say, just because you might struggle with flash fiction, that doesn't mean you're not a great writer. This may not be the form where you excel. It's still worth trying, however, because the discipline and out-of-the-box thinking required for flash fiction is good creative exercise, no matter what you write.

racherin: My FirstBorn was 6 weeks premie, so I was drawing from experience a bit in this. The incubator does look a bit like a fish tank, so I used that for a bit of misdirection at the beginning.

Lucie Witt said...

Jason, I promise you're not the only one who feels insignificant in the presence of so much talent around here. I am very much a novice writer when it comes to flash fiction (I like to think my other writing is stronger). But like Colin said, it's great for sharpening your skills and I promise no one here (including Janet) is laughing and pointing.

I can't get over how great the entries are this week. I have to go with Amy. That first line speaks to my heart.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I vote for 2NN's, and the simple reason is puppies. There's more to it than that, but really. Puppy.

Thanks for the mention! I knew it wasn't really a story when I added it, but I knew another wouldn't come to me once I'd committed. Maybe I'll expand it, and it'll be the story I write in March (I finished my February story on Saturday).

Sherry Howard said...

The flash fiction contests are always an education for me. I'm amazed that people can use the same, exact prompts in so many different ways. I've written flash for a long time, but I learn something new from every contest here.

Someone mentioned the abundance of murders and gore. In my experience, flash tends toward the macabre, the darker side of life. I'm not sure why exactly, only that those horrible moments are the ones that hit the gut within the word limit. Butterflies and roses within 100 words might be pretty, but probably wouldn't provoke quite the reaction one hopes to achieve.

I always *get* the subtext, or the unwritten. I wouldn't want to read a longer work like that, but for flash, it's the most beautiful technique, IMHO.

I couldn't possibly choose! This informs me of how an agent must feel when *good* writing crosses her desk, but isn't a good fit.

John Frain said...

If I had to choose three for the podium like the Olympics, I'd go with Colin, Her Grace Heidi and Sara in the order they were presented. But I'll be darned if I can figure out who gets which medal.

If I'm judged by the company I keep, I should be feeling pretty good right now.

I tip my cap to the finalists.

John Frain said...

How many times do we get to vote? Because I've got three new finalists after reading through them again? Oh criminy. I hope you have a nine-sided coin, Queen.

Aside to Jennifer Donohue: Just curious, based on your comment -- are you writing a short story per month in 2016? I'm liking that concept, and I think I'll join you. Thanks for the resolution idea.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh Lord, it is truly an honor to be included in such good company. And your comments...they take my breath away.

I'm bowing out of this one. They are that good.

I'm going with Craig's dartboard and blindfold. Knowing me, I'd miss the board and probably pierce one of the shark balloons drifting above the bar.

Janice Grinyer said...

I love Sara Helle's - that is a work of word art. Nate Wilson's also caught my breath with the last sentence, repeated twice, but each time with different meaning.

Colin, congrats on being a finalist, with words that you inspired :) ! I got hung up on law enforcement protocol reading yours. I felt for the mother, but since she's in for murder- she most likely would not get visitation, too high risk (even though its obvious that it is a Domestic Situation, murder is murder). Also, she would not be following- a dead cop is one who turns their back- a big protocol no-no, plus she would be shackled up so she would have to be wheelchaired out. I worked for a Police Dept, so entirely my fault in what I know - our prison system does not favor mothers.

Congrats on the mnetionables, the short and the long listers - this week's was incredible!

Amy Schaefer said...

Well done, Sara Halle!

John Frain said...

Sara, you should feel especially proud for winning this week against competition as stiff as many of the victims in these stories.

I bet that took more than a single rewrite. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Sara - congratulations! A well-earned award. Janet, I don't envy you the task of choosing. All the stories were remarkable.

Jason: Flash fiction is very different from long-form fiction. I've been writing a novel, and you know why I took on this challenge? Because my writing partners told me I needed to do more pruning in my long work. "You've got good ideas, but you try to put them all in." So I figured the discipline of pruning a story down to just 100 words would be good for me. And not only that, it also turned out to be fun! But that's just me - we writers don't tend to fit a mold. Be yourself and write what you write.


Janice Grinyer said...

Ah, I refreshed the page and found out that Sara Halle's was selected - Congrats Sara, that IS a definite work of word art!

Marie McKay said...

Congrats, Sara. Amazing work. Well done to all mentionables and long/short listers - talented bunch!

Colin Smith said...

YAY! Well done, Sara!! Congratulations!!!

Janice: I understand. I'd feel the same way if the story was about something I'm well-versed in, and the author had made some glaring errors. One biggie for me is if the author has a "British" character, and when he opens his mouth it's all, "Cor blimey, mate! Call the Bobbies, he's hidden the bloody body in the boot!" i.e., clearly the author has gone with stereotype as opposed to actually listening to English people speaking. That will pull me out of a story immediately.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the winner. They all demonstrated a craftsmanship which creates jealously in me. Sketching objects and then filling them with tastable emotion. All the themes hit home. If I were smarter there would be more fine books for sale in this world.

Kate Larkindale said...

Congratulations to Sara and all the finalists. What a great bunch of stories! But I knew Saa would win. That story was just beautiful.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well done, Sara. Congratulations.

And good job all the finalists and mentionables. I am in awe of all of you.

french sojourn said...

Congrats Sara;
I would say this win is one for the ages, there were so many brilliant entries, long and short list. Enjoy your win, you deserved it!
Cheers Hank.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Sara congratulations.
Excellent and beyond creative.
My kind of wordisms :)

Unknown said...

I love reading these -- and taking part. I'm always amazed by the variety of directions, styles and stories the prompt words inspire! Congrats to one and all :D

Sherry Howard said...

I'd just like to add to Janet: your comments are very helpful in understanding WHY you like particular selections.

Colin Smith said...

I'd like to Amen Sherry's comment. It's helpful to see why you like particular entries. Might I humbly and meekly suggest that, perhaps, in future, you might possibly pick one of the "not quite a story" entries and do a similar thing? i.e., explain why it's "not quite a story"? I'm not suggesting you do it for all of them, but maybe one that's a good example? This seems to be a point of confusion nearly every week these past few months, so... just a thought... I don't want to go back to Carkoon, so only if it's not too much trouble. Ma'am. Your Highness. Ms. Pointy Teeth. :D

Nate Wilson said...

Congratulations, Sara! Rising to the top of this crop of entries is quite the accomplishment. A well deserved win. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sara and all the mentions. Well done!

Janet Reid said...

Just now, at FPLM headquarters:

Shark: Hello? Hello? Is that Carkoon reservations?

(indistinct voices muttering)


Carkoon: Yes! Hello! Carkoon here!

Shark: Prepare for one incoming!

Carkoon: Cor blimey, mate!

Shark: What?

Carkoon: Call the Bobbies!

Shark: What the hell is going on up there?

Carkoon: He's hidden the bloody body in the boot!

Shark: He who?

Carkoon: Who? That rapscallion you airlifted up here some time back, then sent on to LAX! Turns out he was Up To No Good whilst he was here.


Shark: indistinct weeping

Colin Smith said...

*dabs tea from keyboard*
*hopes co-workers aren't looking*

I swear, gov, 'e wuz dead when I found 'im. OK, so 'e wanted a lift, and there wuz no room in the back. Couldn't very well stick 'im under the bonnet, so the boot it 'ad to be.

'Ow wuz I to know 'e needed air...


John Frain said...

Not only is that a classic sendoff to Carkoon ... it's also 98 words!

Janet Reid, send me your address and what you like to read and I'll send you my manuscript. I mean, a book.

Colin Smith said...

John: ROTFL. Almost literally. That's got to be a contender for subheader of the year! :D

BTW, it seems even Carkoon doesn't want me anymore. Mixed feelings about that... :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

John- classic just classic.

There is a way to sneak Colin into Carkoon. The sewer system of the Slush Pile Cafe empties out in Carkoon for obvious reasons. We could sneak Colin in that way. Not sure what the Carkoonian authorities will do to him. Writers don't normally sneak into Carkoon. They might beat him with salad. But if QOTKU feels strongly about this, it's an option. Just a thought.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congratulations Sara.

I read through about 50 entries on Sunday and then my eyes crossed. I don't know how Janet can read 8000 words, 80 entries and in such a short time, decide.

Every one of Steve Forti's entries stand out, in my opinion. I loved Colin's entry when I read it and Lynn Rodz poem. I loved Donna's marry, marry wordplay. And Brian's entry blew me away. I didn't understand K.D.'s, but I'm obtuse. (at least my brain is.) I loved the twist in wordwaker's, it was a bride all the way to the end.

Congrats again, Sara.

Colin Smith said...

E.M.: It's okay, really. I'm good here. Better than I am on Carkoon, it seems! :)

Janice Grinyer said...

Why am I having flashbacks from when I read Brian Jacques's Redwall series to my kids?

I didnt know Carkoon was modeled after the Abbey!


Colin- Thanks for understanding, I still love your writing!

Sara Halle said...

Wow, thank you! I was elated at making Janet exclaim, "Holy fuckamoli," so winning is incredible, especially when the other entries on the short list were all wonderful.

I also had a lot of fun playing with the -sm words, so I'm glad others liked the end result!

S.D.King said...

A big congrats, Sara!

Wonderful entries all around!

Steve Forti said...

Congrats Sara!
@Angie: Thanks so much. It's comments like that that keep me motivated :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

John Frain: Yes, my resolution was to write a short story a month for 2016. Plus, my boss put it in the library newspaper column, so I've got actual public accountability (a patron asked me about it the other day, in fact)! I realized that the stories I've been sending out....are the stories I've been sending out (rewritten several times over of course, but still). I'm great at starting stories, but finishing them? Yeah. So far I'm on track, too! Glad to have the company ^^

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm glad to be reading this after the winner was selected. Saves me the trouble of trying to narrow it down. Too many good ones this time.

Congratulations, Sara! It's rare that a story touches me as a reader AND earns my respect and awe as a writer with regard to technique. Got to say, though, not as rare over here as elsewhere. Such an excess of talent in this group.

John, I choked on a sip of tea over your comment at 2:47 PM. Well done, sir.

Angie, I'm not surprised you didn't understand it-- I wasn't happy with what I wanted to convey compared to what actually ended up on the page. Very surprised it made the long list (although, thank you, Janet).

Jason, I'll echo what others have said. When I first worked up the nerve to enter these contests, I was lucky if I could write a SCENE in 100 words. If I was really lucky, it was a scene that made sense. I got all sorts of "not a story" comments. Or sometimes a "nice line" comment. But I kept reading and paying attention to comments and, here's the key: I kept trying. Sometimes now I end up on a list as a finalist and it's a great feeling. But the big payoff for me is to see how I've improved, both my ability to tell a complete story (not quite, this week) and the art of being more concise (not quite, this comment). Keep trying, you'll improve too.

Anonymous said...

The Colin-Janet-John-Colin byplay is a sterling example of why I read the comments. I agree with Colin, and nominate John's line of 2:47 as a subheader.

Angie, thanks for the mention. I'm glad my twisty bride/widow worked for you.

Love you all. Aannnndddd... that's my third comment of the day. Peace out!


Craig F said...

Congratulations Sara.

My Queen had to look up Benelli? The makers of the greatest sporting shotguns, tactical shotguns and breeching shotguns? Wow.

Cindy C said...

I'm really late getting to the blog today, but congratulations Sara and everyone mentioned. Another great batch of entries, and I love seeing all the different ways we use the prompt words!

Amy Schaefer said...

Janet, I'll be returning to Floating Mobile Paradise in three weeks, and at that time can offer an inexpensive one-way ferry service to Carkoon. Places are limited, so book early!

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

6 Just Jan's story: Yes, I did get the subtleness, but only because I am familiar with the supertext.

Nice werewolf story, with the conflict between the investigator's role of seeker of justice, and being the cause of injustice.

8 Nate Wilson's entry. This is the one that displayed the use of dual meanings for me in a word: the chasm, then linked with fissure to abyss. Elegantly subtle, which is why it works so well.

I'm starting to get the vibe of how the entries are judged and what makes them good works. I'm going to have to play with this phrase-level structure more. This sort of thing often gets forgotten when one is used to cranking out long form novels. Wondering if I could write a longer work and maintain the multi-level structure this kind of writing embodies? This extra level of meaning may be the thing to lift my own works from "yeah, okay" to "holy fuckamoly" stage.

Congrats Sara Halle! The poetic structure really worked for me.

Took me a while to figure out what made 9 Kitty's entry work, but I got it in the end after a brief explanation of who the mayor was (says the Sandgroper). Still, five reads to figure otu the mayor's tab.

Much what makes these stories work is what the reader brings to the tale. If I wasn't familiar with the myth of a werewolf, I would not have gotten the significance of the phases of the Moon, just as I didn't get the connection of the Mayor's tab until someone enlightened me with the smoking laws of New York City.

It's not that the info is missing from the story; the clues are there, if the reader knows how to interpret them. That is the difference between missing info and subtle info, and a mark of the mastery of the craft.

I've been so focused on trying to tell the story in plain text. It seems I need to stop trying to shove a 5K word story arch into 100lb rock and start looking at how that 100lb rock is a keystone instead.

I confess I'm chuffed for my first listing, ne'er mind short listing, evah. Evidence I'm figuring it out?

Just googled Benelli. Oh. What a clever play on words! At first I thought the brake lines to the motorcycle had been cut.

Kate Higgins: Now that would be a twist, with the stories requiring a positive conclusion, if not an acutal HEA.

Lennon Faris said...

Congrats, Sara! All very good entries!! Thanks, Janet :)

Jason - I understand completely. These folks are great writers, and sometimes I have similar thoughts. But I have learned that art isn't something you can truly compare. Whether with FF or in the 'real world,' you might write one thing that REALLY speaks to a group of people. Others may never 'see' it, but it's still invaluable to that group. There have been a few entries that haven't won, but I still think about sometimes because those 100 words left a mark on me. If it's your passion, I think you should keep writing.

Just Jan said...

Congratulations to Sara for a job well done. I am honored to be on the short list today, especially when the competition is so fierce!

Kitty said...

First of all, I was shocked, SHOCKED, that I made Janet's short list. I've been very busy lately because my daughter had another baby. (Her first is a freshman in high school.) I hadn't planned on writing anything until I thought of Chesterfield cigarettes for the prompt word chest. Even then, it was a very last minute thing. So thank you, Janet, for including mine on your short list.

The entries were outstanding. Congrats to all, especially to Sara Halle!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Frain hahahahahahaha.
Don't send her any Christian stuff.

Amy, I'll have the latrines clean by the time your passengers arrive.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Sara!!! Thanks so much for your story it was amazing!

And thanks to everyone for your kind words and encouragement. I'm off to read Elements of Style. See you in a week or two.


Colin Smith said...

FYI: I have updated the Writing Contest spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats, Sara!

And wow, look at all the excitement that went on here when I wasn't around.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Mark! I liked your entry, too. Definitely stood out-I love punctuation/grammar humor! :)

Lance said...

Congratulations to Sara H. Well done indeed. And also to the listers and mentions. Scary competition. Get thee to an agent! Quickly! Thank you, Ms. Janet, for taking the extra time and effort for such a splendid contest.

Claire Bobrow said...

Congratulations, Sara! I loved your story. Absolutely fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to everyone, but especially Sara. What a marvelous group of entries and short rounds.

Good job. This place is getting serious.

Theresa said...

Great entry, Sara.

And that marvelous Carkoon phone call....

LynnRodz said...

Congrats, Sara, well done!

Susan, your comment made my day! Thank you for sharing that with me. And thanks Angie, as well, for the mention.

John, loved your comment at 2:47.

I'm taking this jet lagged body to bed now.

Anonymous said...

Now that I've had a chance to sit down, my first comment still stands. I agree with the winner. I didn't see the Smith part. I'm catching on. Just Jan made me paranoid, but after reading it through a few times I saw how it had layers of story. I was impressed. Same with Amy Schaefer. The one I liked the most right off was Marie Mackay. I'm not sophisticated enough, yet, to comment on the technical parts of the writing but I do like Women getting back stories, solving their nasty problems on their own. I also enjoyed the others with this theme. Just one of those things. I also thought Marie Mckay's might make a good short story.

I have just started reading the comments more closely and there is much insight there. Today: Elegance in less. Still need to study that. Person not character. Story not just a scene. Sorry I didn't take notes as read I through. But you know who you are!

You guys are great. I wish I had more to give back right now, but I'm just not there yet. And of course, the hostess is the mostess.

From recent experience I wouldn't assume college will teach you to write. I agree with an un-noted commentator (sorry!) that reading and writing are the best ways. And the Wells Fargo Wagon Master. If you're still standing at the station when it pulls out. Get back to work (I tell myself.) Thank you!

scaryazeri said...

I am very new at this but my favorite was Colin Smith 10:13am

Mainly because it was a proper story, whereas I felt that there were some of them just playing with words for the sake of using them, if that makes sense. Some came across pretentious, trying too hard to appear original…some were all about how they split those words in tricky, clever way…But there were just a few that I thought were great as proper, self-contained, beautiful pieces of flash fiction.

Colin Smith said...

Thank you, scary! I'm glad you liked it. :)

Anonymous said...

Karen, I think that was about that particular entry. It was a story because of what the reader filled in. So, if you didn't "get it" enough to fill in the blanks, maybe you thought it wasn't a story.

Also, thank you so much for the compliment! *blush*

However, mine being marked "not quite a story" means that it lacked something. (In true woodland critter form, I spent a few hours last night fretting over whether or not me questioning that came off as whining that I didn't win or something, when in fact I'd like to know so I can avoid repeating whatever mistake I made. In similar form, I'd like to clarify that I'm quite pleased with myself for breaking the Shark's black heart. Bwaha~)

Seconding Colin that getting an explanation now and then on what's missing from one of the not-a-stories might help us learn how to quit it. Not unlike Query Shark--it's not just reading a bunch of stories that tells us what to do, it's reading what's wrong with the ones that don't work.

Marie McKay said...

Thank you very much for that. I really appreciate it.I also feel I'm not there yet, but I think all writers feel that. We just need to keep going.This is a good place to learn, so glad I've found it. PS.I liked your wordplay/rhythm.

Karen McCoy said...

Luciakaku: Very well put! I thought your story was well written, and I'm glad it got a mention. Janet mentioned last week how important it is to evoke feeling with words, and your story did that very well. It's something I am still working on.

french sojourn said...


Loved yours.