Monday, October 30, 2023

Flash fiction contest results


Reading your flash fiction entries  was a lovely respite on a rainy Sunday. Normally I go to MoMA on Sunday but I also like to stroll down Fifth Ave after my visit, and the rain today just made that sound...soggy.



I read all of these of course, and the first cull is usually based on whether the entry is a story. This is not a hard and fast rule, there are some exceptions, but generally you need to write a story with a beginning, middle and end.


There were some terrific scenes, but scenes are not stories.



Here are the entries that made the cut:

Steve Forti

Alice Openshaw



C. Dan Castro

Alec Breton



Timothy Lowe

BJ Muntain

Colin Smith 


Mallory Love

french sojourn

Amy Johnson  





Then I go back and read the semi-finalists again. I try to give it some time so I read with fresh eyes.


Here are the sem-finalists:



Steve Forti

Crusts of old dinner stuck on cast iron
Mold and dead roaches ruled this environ
Then like a ghost, and odd sheet did appear
When it spoke, I admit that it struck me with fear
“I am the Clorox, I speak for the sneeze
Mold spores disrupt how my Auntie Seuss breathes
Clean yourselves up, or I’ll end you all. Please.”
No harm intended, a case of false figuring.
“Your slime and your scum keeps on biggering and biggering!”
The sheet came with vengeance, it cleaned up wi thneed
The Clorox did wipe us out with great speed. 



I'm always a sucker for a hat tip to Dr. Seuss, and odd points of view (is this one really from dinner scraps??)




Becoming a tiger wasn’t as difficult as she’d been told. She simply untucked herself, stopped ironing her soul tame. Her claws – unfolded now from their polite velvet – rent the sheets, shredded the casement of her dungeon window. She roared herself free and streaked across the snow outside, bright as gunpowder and flame.

Huddled unseen on the tower, the hunter cocked his rifle. Master had paid for this one in rubies with blazing hearts. Quiescent talent, he’d said – don’t lose the girl. But better dead than liberated.

More than his life’s worth if she escaped.

Eyes blurring with tears, he fired.


This is brilliant.



C. Dan Castro

Tuckleberry Fawyer’s house had gone mad.

I ran into a dead-end room.

Behind me, Injun Joe: “You gotta settle!”

I tore back the one bed’s sheet.

Hollowed mattress.

Iron case.

I yanked it open, revealing gold coins. And vanishing half the room.

A river appeared. Nearby sat fence sections.

I dropped one into the river. It dissolved.

Joe unfolded his spring-knife.

Under the bed, I spotted a can.

White paint.



I slapped it on fencing. Instantly white.

I dropped it into the river, jumped on, and floated out of Joe’s murderous reach.

And to the next escape room...


Deeply imaginative, AND a hat tip to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn!





In the clamor of her leaving, I didn’t realize it was Halloween.

I just stood on the buckled sidewalk, pleading for her to stay, as she tucked her life into that trusty Civic.

I staggered back to the rowhouse with her departing words boxing my ears. She had stripped sheets from our mattress, leaving a case of Iron City to prove her point.

Now, every October 31, I put her favorite candy in a plastic pumpkin with a “Take Two” note.

Inside, I open a tallboy and remember: “You were a hand worth folding long before I met you.”


This isn't quite a story, but the writing is so vivid I just really loved it.




BJ Muntain

Jason couldn't tell if the perspiration on his forehead was from the heat of the forge or the delicacy of his work. The tiny shoes threatened to slip from his smallest tweezers. A fold in the ultrathin sheet of iron here; a tuck there to fit the mount's feet. With a pinhead for a hammer, he completed his greatest work.

He'd asked the fae why she wanted to shoe the insect she'd flown in on, in case it affected the shape.

"I tried to ask the wizard something. He said, 'Shoe fly,' waved his hand, and I was here."



Utterly brilliant.



Colin Smith

Jane carefully folded her resume—two sheets of neatly typed ivory paper—and tucked them into the envelope. Taking her premium Parker from its case, she inscribed the address on the front.

Donning her shawl, she braved the street to find a mailbox.

In her day, she would have seen at least a couple of those iron boxes within five minutes’ walk.

After an hour, she slumped into a bench seat, took a frail handkerchief from her sleeve, and dabbed her eye.

Almost a month. No job. No money

Silently, she pleaded for another time storm to take her home.


Nice twisty ending! Plus, mailbox woes!!



Mallory Love

Some people would see being stuck in an elevator with a beautiful woman as an opportunity. James saw it as a case for his anxiety to spiral. He spent his days with spreadsheets; she looked like a centerfold.
A few awkward glances ensued, then stilted starts of small talk. Eventually the conversation began to flow. James forgot about being trapped.
Suddenly the iron hinges lurched.
He was about to ask her out, when she turned and whispered.
“I’ve wanted to tell you something for a while.”
James leaned in and smiled.
“You have a piece of spinach between your teeth.”


Oh the humanity!




Amy Johnson

“I thought I’d go to Ron’s Place tonight?” He always assumes I mean my cousin Rhonda’s apartment. If he finds out, I can say I wasn’t lying.


I finish all the dinner dishes, then tuck a roll of bills under the tampons in my purse – he never searches that section.

“Laundry done?”

“Your shirts and the sheets are ironed. Everything’s folded and put away.”

I park along Rhonda’s street, in case he’s checking the GPS tracker, and take a bus downtown.

The bartender waves me on.

I clean up at Ron’s Place. Now I finally can afford my own.


I really like the ambiguity of clean up.

Does she vacuum and dust?

or dose she fleece suckers at the poker table?

And the subtle, but utterly compelling way she builds our sympathies for the main character.


This is superb work






There are three entries that really stood out: NLiu, BJ Muntain, and Amy Johnson.


I let those three sit again, but it was clear right away that the winner this week has to be Amy Johnson.


AmyJohnson, drop me a line and let me know what kinds of books are on your wish list (or if you have an Amazon wish list, send me the link.)



Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries. It's a real pleasure to read your work.






french sojourn said...

Congrats Amy, loved how subtle your writing is.
Colin, I liked the last sentence and it's effect on the story.

Great job everyone, Cheers! Hank.

Steve Forti said...

Congrats all! Especially Amy. That last line definitely took it a way I hadn't anticipated, well done.

And hat tip to Mallory for my favorite line: "He spent his days with spreadsheets; she looked like a centerfold."

And yes, mine was from the perspective of the dirty sink. Though I had to opt for the misplaced space to work in "thneed".

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love these so much. I wanted to enter but I am unable to compete with such brilliance. And life is insane right now. I am so glad our shark is willing to take the time to have these contests. I love seeing the quirky and wonderful twists on words and stories. What a lovely respite. Thank you to all who enter and to Janet for making the time.

BJ Muntain said...

Congratulations, Amy!

I am in awe that my entry stood out so much. Thank you, Janet!

NLiu said...

Congratulations Amy!

And I'm stoked you liked my story, Janet - and that it was actually a story this time!!

Always have so much fun doing this. Reading the entries is a highlight of my week.

Timothy Lowe said...

Caught this one late on Friday which meant a scramble, but I was glad I could get an entry wrangled together. Excellent work all, and congrats Amy!

Lennon Faris said...

Oooh nicely done everyone! Amy, congratulations and well deserved! Loved it. These were superb.

From the non-mentioned entries, Fiona's violin stage disaster I thought was hilarious, in a horrifying kind of way.

Great to 'see' everyone here.

Theresa said...

Another great batch of Flash Fiction entries. Loved reading them all, and congratulations, Amy!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Congratulations, Amy! Well done, everyone!

NLiu's entry was so vivid, and I loved the first two lines.

Beth Carpenter said...

Congratulations, Amy, and to all the finalists. Your stories blew me away!

Just Jan said...

Congratulations, Amy! Loved your story.

KDJames said...

Congrats, Amy!! I loved how your entry didn't have the usual rage in that kind of story, just calm methodical steps to get free. Understated and powerful.

I also really loved Lennon's entry, which made me laugh when I went back to read it after the mention of the Headless Horseman-- "a companion to help me get ahead." Nicely done, Lennon.

And Hank, yours made me cry.

So good to hear all these voices again and wonderful to see several new names. Thanks for taking the time to do these, Janet. As others said, a welcome respite.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats Amy! And all the mentioneds. Wow! Lots of brilliant stories out there.

Luralee said...

This was so fun! Congratulations Amy!

Amy Johnson said...

Wow! Thank you so, so much, Janet, for all your time and effort you put into these contests. And thank you for the encouragement. Perhaps I'm not alone here in that any "hey, I can write" affirmation means a lot. And thanks, writer pals, for your kind words and your amazing stories. I was blown away reading the entries yesterday. I'm so grateful I get to be a part of this reefy neighborhood. Fudge for all!

Colin Smith said...

Excellent stuff, Amy! Well done. And thanks for the shout-out, Janet. It's always an honor to make the honor roll in the Reef, surrounded by such fine talent.

I've updated the Contest Spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest. Be sure to check it out, and peruse the other writerly goodies there!

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

These all sang to me, but yes, Amy's sang the most. Maybe it's the sense of empowerment, of finding an out from a stuck position. (Feeling the same about the day job, currently.)

Definitely a winner.

Lennon Faris said...

Thank you, KD! That made my day! Congrats again to all :)

Kate Larkindale said...

Congrats Amy! What a well deserved win! And to all of you; you all blow me away with your cleverness.

John Davis Frain said...

Wow, so many magnificent pieces. Amy, you're the writer's version of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Trying to figure out story one week and winning the championship the next.

Terrific ending. You managed to combine subtlety with blowing the reader away, a rare feat. Huzzah!

Amy Johnson said...

Again, thanks so much for the kind and encouraging words. Y'all are a special group.

And Colin, thanks also for maintaining the spreadsheet.

Mallory Love said...

Congrats, Amy! Well deserved. I knew it was a winner the moment I read your entry. Thanks for the shout out, Steve, and hats off to you. Your word play is always impressive.

Amy Johnson said...

Thanks so much, Mallory. I loved your story's spreadsheets/centerfold -- perfect! :)

Kregger said...

Great job, everybody, and congrats to Amy.
My jet-lagged, Carkoon-fogged brain is still awed by the entries.
I'm glad to see the band warming up in preparation for a grand symphony.

Amy Johnson said...

Thanks a bunch, Kregger! :)