Monday, November 20, 2017

Flash fiction contest preliminary FINAL results

Despite some caterwauling about the prompt words on Twitter, you guyz really embraced the challenge this week!  I thought I'd really stymie you but you just sneered at my paltry challenge and whipped up some really great stuff.

Herewith the results:

Special recognition for Excellence in Prompt Words (the Steve Forti award)
Steve Forti 9:16am
Dellcartoons 9:17am

Utterly strangely wonderful. A veritable word circus
Kerry Bernard 9:45am

A sentence that just cracked me up
Mike Hays 9:55am
"Hopefully, the Bat was away chasing other fools in tights."

E.M. Goldsmtih 8:08am
A succubus’ job is never done.

Kathy Joyce 10:32am
"Equal partners, us, fifty-fifty-fifty."

Special recognition for excellence in an unappreciated art form: the pun
Dena Pawling 10:19am

Not quite a story but terrific writing
Chelsea Owens 10:55am
J. Corpas 2:08pm

A phrase that is pure gold
Craig F
"A phone zombie"

Not quite a story but a perfect example of what to leave unsaid, and what details to include.
Waiting for my Whopper I heard, "Excuse me. Have we met?"
I turned to look. Twenty years faded away. "You were hitchhiking. To Nyack."
"You gave me a ride in your
Mick Truck."
"You mean Mack, but it was a
"You were very kind."
"You weren't. You
nicked the bills stashed in the console."
She blushed. "I'm sorry. I was young, desperate, and stupid. I can repay you." She seemed sincere, but who knows?
I spent twenty years in Rikers for that truck theft. She looked well off. I smiled. "Water under the bridge. Want to share a table?"

Here's the long list

S.D. King
“In a story we first reported Monday, thousands of men across the country are reporting mysterious blindness, followed by sudden clarity of vision. In stony silence, victims refuse to tell details, but many mimicked that they were alone with a woman and remember a bright flash.”

“And now to Wall Street: a team of women programmers developing phone apps specifically aimed at female users. With an IPO set for this week, these soon-to-be billionaire engineers are solving a host of problems specific to women. We will attempt to learn more about beta-testing on the top-secret app nicknamed ‘HARVEY.’”

This just cracked me up completely. I want it to be non-fiction SO MUCH!

The Noise In Space

    Passing into the light didn’t hurt nearly as much as she’d thought. Soft, cottony clouds billowed underfoot, and harp music filled the air. Not a bad way to spend eternity. She nodded to a man, who she took for St. Peter, and passed through the gates. Perhaps Nana would be waiting for her, or her cat Mickey.

    But wait. That man—she’d seen him before. The other driver. At his feet, a car seat. “Baby on board.”

    This wasn’t right. She heard someone snicker. Her face felt flush—if only she had a fan, she was so hot, and—


I love the twisty ending, and how much is left unsaid here. What's left unsaid is a good way to measure of how much tension is in a story. (Tension in a story is a good thing!)  Here I'm left wanting to know more, which is EXACTLY what you want at the start of a novel.

Nate Wilson
Tony: Award-winning author William Shakes is talking with us today about his new children's book, titled...

Peter: Cottontail. It's the story of a most unexpected friendship. It begins...

Nick: At night, with a tiger's stomach growling. Yet, when...

Tony: The tiger goes in search of a meal and finds a...

Peter: Rabbit, he doesn't eat him. William, you've said you wrote this to educate children.

Bill: Of rights and wrongs, yes. Though truly, it's more gimmick than actual story. And the end is rather...

Tony: Stark. Agreed. Unfortunately, listeners, it seems we've run...

Peter: Out...

Nick: Of time. Until tomorrow...

I'm a sucker for writers playing with form, and this is a terrific example. (No suprise, it's Nate Wilson's; he's known for this kind of word dexterity.)

Like all great short form work it's a whole lot harder than it looks, and when it looks this easy, I know bullets got sweated writing it.

I saw you playing in the park,
the little boy with the broken heart,
and your father who would practice catch with you.
Each day you came out with new hope,
terrible and stupid hope,
that you could bear the role he put on you.

He knew your dreams were far from there.
He smiled at you as if he cared,
but your dreams weren’t worth a nickel in his eyes.
Still hope, it billowed out from you,
in your Mickey shirts and your light-up shoes.
I had no choice but to save you from that life.

The twist at the end is a literal body blow. I was left gasping, and then re-reading. Packing that kind of wallop into 100 words or fewer is not easy.

E. Berg
Tony.” Mickie spoke so softly only I heard her.

The name caused tiny
nicks to tingle on my skin.

Beside us, Jamie whispered, “

We all looked at each other.

The bitchy girl in front of us whipped around. I braced for her quip.

Billy,” she said.

We sat in silence. Outside were high calls and low grunts of boys lacrosse. Inside, the sun illuminated dust particles people pretended not to see.

My heart rumbled. I walked to the chalkboard and wrote #MeToo.

Soon the bell rang but we stayed there. We were on our own time now.

There's nothing I can add here. This may be fiction but it's also utterly true.  This is the kind of work I point to when people tell me they only like to read non-fiction.

My brother's joint was the kind they'd slip you a mickey sooner than start an honest fistfight.

The regulars played billiards in the back, the snick of balls an accent to rough voices. Couldn't compete with the tony clubs on the north side, but the table felt was immaculate. Priorities.

Conversation petered out as I stepped up to the bar.

"We don't serve cops."

"Good thing I ain't planning to order one."

We traded hard stares, harder memories.

"Cut bait while you still can, Frank."

He sneered.



I held the door for the Feds on my way out.
That first line is one of the best I've seen in a long time. The importance of a good first line can not be overstated. And the ending is sublime. This is a perfect story.

Reflowered were once a boy band.

They refused to be considered washed up, but did acknowledge some vigorous wiping with a damp cloth.

Enter: A reality show.

Just them, the elements, 60 crew.

Tony realised he only loved reality TV for the lack of reality. The same reason Bill missed alcohol. The others arrived with identical rhinoplasty so hadn’t spoken.

The fight was gluten related. While Mick and Nick had the size advantage, Peter really knew his way around a kick ball change.

Six weeks later, they hated each other.

Seven weeks later, they hated each other in sold-out arenas.
This cracked me up. I think the line that made laugh out loud was "Peter really knew his way around a kick ball change." For those of you who weren't dragged to dancing class as an innocent child that's a term from dance, not fisticuffs.

And "identical rhinoplasty" is a genius phrase.

This is really terrific.

Karen McCoy
The salesman emitted a gimmicky smile. “This one’s a beaut. Bit rickety, though.”

The chair sighed, missing Mexico, and the girl who painted him stony red. An old woman, now, if she was still alive.

The woman inspected the armrest. “Paint looks cracked.”

Nicks--constant pokes and prods that deepened each year the chair was stuck here, with the store’s soul-killing Muzak.


“I’ll take it, along with another coat of paint. Send me the bill.”

“Might peter out on the journey. You certain?”

“I’ll make sure it passes the border,” the woman said. “My grandmother will be thrilled.”

I'm a sucker for odd points of view, and this one, from the POV of a chair really charmed me. It tells a lovely story without overtelling. Notice the choice of a few perfect modifiers: gimmicky, stony, soul-killing." This is great writing.

“Button your shirt,” said Mom, as though a grave hadn’t just appeared in the living room floor, “company’s coming.”

She didn’t mention the grave, not the next day or even the next as the stench grew, though she did—stepping round carefully—spritz the room with lemon.

By Week Two, guests were gagging.

“Waiting on the recarpeter,” Mom said, eyes mimicking steel. “Tea?”

Eventually friends quit coming by. But Mom never panicked, just kept spritzing, once, twice, a billion times.

Bizarre, all those years we lived in that house before she died, how she never mentioned the grave at all.

A few of you mentioned you didn't get this story. That's what makes it so good: there's nothing to get. A grave opens up in the middle of the living room, and no one says a thing. It's like the elephenat in the room with horror overtones. The reader brings all the interpretations to this story; it's a perfect example of letting the reader terrify herself. This is the kind of story you think about for years afterwards.

Richelle Elberg
At Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, there’s a memorial where the World Trade Center once stood. Two immense square pools have been built into the Twin Towers’ footprint. Water falls thirty feet into the pools along each wall. Flanking the pools are great sheets of bronze built into a protective barrier. Some 3,000 names have been cut into these great bronze sheets, for all to remember.

I remember.

Bill, Tony, Mick. Peter and Nick. There were all there with me.

I trace my finger over another name.

My name.

I turn and leave.
I love this story because it's entirely up to the reader to decide what's happened. Is "I" dead? Or did "I" use the events of 9/11 to walk away from a life and start another.

Look at the very artful use of punctuation in the names: Bill, Tony, Mick. Peter and Nick. They were all there with me (yes, there was a typo, but for this entry I don't care)

Richelle didn't put all the names in one sentence, or make sentences out of each name. This is a textbook mastery of rhythm which you know I yap about a lot. 

Let me know if you have a favorite among the finalists, and who you think should have been a finalist but wasn't.

Final results later today.

Choosing a winner was just brutal. I can hear you all saying "good! Revenge!" when I say that. We should call these contests Writers Revenge on the Agent instead of the tepid Flash Fiction contests.

Each one of these entries is worthy of winning. When I read through them the first time, each time I said "this is the one" so each one did win if only for a couple minutes.  

In the end I came back and read them all again this afternoon, and I picked the one that haunted me. 

Richelle Elberg, you're the winner this week.

Let me know your mailing address. If you live outside the US, you can pick someone to get the books and I'll send you something else.

To all who took the time to write and enter this contest, thank you. It's amazing to see the pool of talent among the readers of this blog. 


Unknown said...

Tough to choose. I'm narrowing down to Richelle, Rio, E Berg. Congrats to all, listed or not. Great reads, as usual!

Kae Ridwyn said...

My vote would be Flash Friday. Gorgeous writing! Or Rio - I needed to read it twice, and it gave me chills.
But congratulations to everyone! Your writing is inspiring, all of you. These competitions are too hard for me...

Steve Forti said...

My vote is for Nate Wilson because it made me laugh with its cleverness, and self-referential comments. But I have to give props to Brig for the best line, by far: "some vigorous wiping with a damp cloth." Brilliant.
Also, I think I'm dumb, but I don't understand flash friday's entry. Help?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

It’s too hard to decide. Maybe Richelle - so haunting. These are fun and getting better all the time.

RosannaM said...

Ooh. So hard to pick as they are all so good. I'm leaning toward Nate's as I suspect that was trickier to write than it looks and it gave me a feeling of pure delight when I saw what he was doing.

And pure delight can be in short supply these days.

Sherin Nicole said...

I enjoyed the entries from Brig, Nate, and FlashFriday—those were the ones that surprised me or made me want to see more of those worlds.

Amy Johnson said...

Congrats to all who entered, especially the mentions and finalists! I showed Nate Wilson's story to someone. "See what he did? Isn't that cool?" Fun to read and clever!

I also got a kick out of Colin's story (10:16 AM). A paper cut? The billowing hair. Very funny.

There are so many complimentary things to say about so many entries--I can't mention them all. Thanks to all entrants for the good reading. And thanks for the contest, Janet.

Richelle Elberg said...

Woo hoo, thanks Janet and all. I have to say I really liked kdjames' story. And mine has a typo. :( Posted at 10 til and noticed the typo at exactly 9. Ugh. Third section should read:

Bill, Tony, Mick. Peter and Nick. They were all there with me.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I made a long list? That hasn't happened in forever. Thanks, Janet.

I love Noise in Space for the twist.
And Nate Wilson for the creativity (how do you even DO that?)
And Rio for the subtlety.
And E. Berg for being poignantly on topic.

I can't pick a favourite, they all meet such different criteria. Great writing, everyone. As always.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Thank you Janet, as always, for these contests. Such a joy to read all the entries. Congratulations to the finalists.

Nate's! So creative. If I have to pick one, my vote goes to Karen McCoy. "The chair sighed, missing Mexico..." I just love that.

Dena Pawling said...

I thought with my story, if I got a mention at all, it would be something like “The Carkoon award for groaning and eye rolling.” But Janet makes it sound respectable! Thanks!

Loved Craig's “phone zombie”.

I actually understood several of the stories this time. That rarely happens. Congrats to all!

RachelErin said...

Rio and Flash Friday. Both made pictures in my mind that will stay with me a long time.

Megan V said...

kdjames and Brig have my vote.

Among those not listed, I really enjoyed Michael Seese, Melanie Savransky, and Rochelle

roadkills-r-us said...

That's a hard choice, but I'd have to go with flashfriday or e berg.
e berg really brings the point home in a way anyone should be able to understand.
I keep rereading flash's story, wanting to know more, having to inventing the rest.

And I was thrilled to get an honorable mention. I think it's my first. Cloud 9 3/4!

Claire Bobrow said...

Great contest, as always. Tricky prompt words (names - argh!), but fun to see how everyone tackled them. Congrats to the shout-outs and long-listers. So tough to choose, but Brig made me laugh with that line about the damp cloth :-) Good luck picking just one, Janet!

Karen McCoy said...

Hooray, the long list! I'm all flabbergasty--been a while for me too. Thanks, Janet, and everyone who entered. And Melanie!

I liked everyone's for different reasons:

kdjames--masterful setting
Nate--story structure--I've been a part of similar story building activities and I love how you enter everyone's subjectivity.
Richelle and Noise in Space for beautiful twists, something I've yet to master.
Rio--a heart-wrenching, relatable story
S.D. King--this technology would be excellent!
E.Berg--so poignant
flashfriday--I'm stymied, but fascinated!

Hard to narrow down!

Karen McCoy said...

And Brig! I want a novel of this.

Mike Hays said...

A tough choice to pick just one from the long list. Since I'm starting the process of refinishing an old rocking chair and winter weather is setting in, I'll go with Karen McCoy's entry. Old furniture and Mexico. Plus, there's so much story in 100 words.

Nate Wilson said...

It's tough to pick from such stellar entries, but in the end my vote has to go to Brig. Such humor woven into those small phrases peppered throughout: identical rhinoplasty, gluten related, kick ball change. All else being equal, voice will win me over every time.

Colin Smith said...

The moment I read E. Berg's entry, I knew it would at least be a finalist. Great work, y'all! And thanks for the shout-out Amy! :D

Have fun judging, Janet. Oh how we love to torment you... >:-]

Unknown said...

Brig, Brig, Brig! I laughed so hard. I would SO read this book!

Unknown said...

Well this made my day. Thanks Janet.

Rio's gave me the chills and Nate's was so clever, it'd be between those for me.

These are so fun to read. I still can't get over how different all the entries are from each other.

Julie said...

Thanks for the awesome contest and congrats to all!

E. Berg said...

Wow! As a frequent lurker here, I'm so honored to be a finalist. Thank you! And I'm in great company--creative entries all around. Congratulations everyone!

Kate Larkindale said...

Another stellar bunch of stories. I don't know how you pick, Janet! Rio's was lovely, and I loved Brig's, but also KD James... Too many good ones.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I'd have to go with Brig's for getting the most images out of a few words. And yes, we can see this novel or movie!

Gypmar said...

These are all fantastic, as usual. Brig's was a standout for me in its originality. Really strong use of language!

Kregger said...

I'm giving my vote to Flashfriday as well as a nod to EA Poe.

Colin Smith said...

Congrats, Richelle!!

I'll update the contest spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest soon. I know there are other things I need to add to the chest, but I've been busy with NaNo, and still am. I'll get to them. Feel free to send me reminder emails with links to things I need to include. I get way too much junk mail, and wouldn't begrudge a little friendly badgering. ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Congratulations, Richelle, you won a library.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, Richelle! I'm always worried that typos keep me out of the running...this is proof that story wins out, every time! Well done!

Richelle Elberg said...

OMG, I'm really stunned because the competition was so fierce. Thank you thank you Janet. Congrats to all who made the final cut. So glad I've risen above lurker status on this site--it helps my writing immensely.

Colin Smith said...

Richelle: We're glad you surfaced from lurkdom too! You as well, E. Berg! Welcome to the top-soil. You've made quite a splash (yay! mixed metaphors!!), so I hope you keep commenting. :)

Lennon Faris said...

Oh so many good choices... flashfriday's (it was so dang weird but fascinating, I couldn't look away) or Richelle's (beautiful!) for me, if I had to choose. I also chuckled quite a bit at Nate's.

But they were all incredible!

Congrats, everyone!

The Noise In Space said...

Congrats, Richelle! Well deserved!

Lennon Faris said...

Oops, I had opened the page long ago and I guess I hadn't refreshed it before commenting.

Congratulations, Richelle!!! Well done!

Nate Wilson said...

I missed that bit of punctuation in Richelle's entry the first couple times through. Such a nice touch. Thank you, Janet, for pointing it out.

And congratulations, Richelle! Enjoy your haul!

RosannaM said...

Congratulations, Richelle! It was a great story--my takeaway is the MC is alive and walked away to start a new life. A story that will linger in my brain. Well done.

Janice Grinyer said...

Ooo Congrats Richelle! And congrats to the mentionables, non-mentionables, and finalists!

E. Berg's story haunts me, especially concerning the age group. Unfortunately, her story is based on true events and has been true for many many centuries... :(

Well, back to getting ready for a trip to Spokane for Thanksgiving festivities. I have been very busy this autumn bowhunting, and then gun season- so everything is behind...I hope I can find a suitcase at least!

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Richelle! A beautiful, haunting story. And if you haven't read "Magpie Murders" yet--WOW are you in for a treat! What Horowitz does with plot and structure is unreal (especially if you don't read anything about it first).

Thanks to the dear Sharque Queen for hosting, as ever, and to all of y'all for being so nice to my stinky grave story. I almost explained it, but the way it's lying there eyeing me, I thought I'd better not.

Richelle Elberg said...

LOLOL, flashfriday, you're scary!

Scary good. Thanks again all!

Timothy Lowe said...

Congrat Richelle and all long listers. Great stuff!

Fearless Reider said...

Congratulations, Richelle! Beautiful entry. I loved reading all of them. Flashfriday's entry especially left me wanting to hear MORE and has staked out a permanent claim on a part of my brain. I'm tiptoeing cautiously around my living room today.

Rio said...

Richelle, your entry was one of my favorites. When I read it, I thought how surreal it would be to see your own name on a memorial, under any circumstance. Beautifully written.

Amy Johnson said...

Congratulations, Richelle! Thought-provoking and beautiful story.

BJ Muntain said...

Congratulations, Richelle, the finalists, semi-finalists, mentionables and everyone who entered!

I didn't get a chance to enter. I'm busy trying to get moved out of my house, and finding someone to buy the darn thing. With all that going on, and with my brain under stress from all this crap, I just couldn't write. Maybe the next contest.

Although, with all the impressive writing here, I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Richelle! I agree with Janet, that premise is haunting and one I've considered as an intriguing basis for a longer story. Good job.

Thank you to everyone for the kind comments, especially you, Janet. Those words of praise go a very long way. I came *this close* to not submitting this one, because I didn't think it was very good, let alone even a story. This has been a good reminder for me that writers are usually the worst judge of their own work and I need to stop doing that.

Richelle Elberg said...

Thanks kdjames. I'm trying to finish a novel around this premise, this month. I had worked on it off and on for the last six years! My resolution for '17 was to finish. Getting there. :)

Karen McCoy said...

Ditto what kdjames said. Words of praise go a long way--so thank you everyone--especially Janet.

And Mike--I'd love to see your chair!

Theresa said...

Another round of fabulous entries. I loved Richelle's, too. Congratulations!

Gingermollymarilyn said...

Some really wonderful, imaginative stories. Congratulations finalists, and hip hip hooray congratulations to Richelle! Good on ya!

Just Jan said...

Congratulations, Richelle! Lovely work. This contest was fun to read and I enjoyed reading through all the entries.

John Davis Frain said...

Congratulations, Richelle. That was exquisite writing. I absolutely love the thought of that story.

For me, the narrator of your story was alive but conflicted. The events of that tragic day had saved her from a different fate, but she has to live with so much weight from it.

Oh, it's such a wonderful story you've weaved. Thank you for sharing it.

I'm so late, you probably won't even get this so I should make it a point to email you. I'm not allowing myself to visit the neighborhood until I have my 1667 words in. Was on a good roll today and hit 2400. Turned the Julie Weathers sand timer TWICE this evening!

Michael Seese said...

Sorry to be late to the party.

Nice work, all. And congratulations to Richelle for a tender little tale.