Issue 44 - Let's Get Personal - Memoir Personal Essay Journaling - Adair Lara, Sue William Silverman and Linda Joy Myers


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We had an open prompt this season. Our only guidelines were that the entries be fiction with a minimum of 250 words, and a maximum of 750 words. So, enjoy the creativity and diversity!

   

Thanks to our Guest Judge:

Literary Agent, Elaine Spencer

WOW! was honored to have Guest Judge Elaine Spencer choose the Winter season’s top winners. Thank you, Elaine, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true.

Bio: Elaine Spencer joined The Knight Agency in 2005 after graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Literature and Economics. Originally acting as assistant to agency president Deidre Knight, and as TKA’s submissions coordinator, Elaine went on to begin building her own dynamic client list in 2006 and has since sold over 50 titles. Elaine now represents a diverse list of adult and young adult authors, and handles all of the sub-rights’ licensing for the Knight Agency’s 150+ client list as well as acting as the agency’s general business manager. Her diverse experience makes her well qualified to juggle both the artistic and the contractual sides of the business, and she prides herself on the one-on-one attention and personal relationships that she is able to develop with each of her clients.

As an avid reader Elaine is willing to try any author once. Regardless of genre, she is most interested in a unique voice that captivates readers in the opening pages. Elaine is most actively acquiring young adult and middle grade fiction, women’s fiction, romance (all subgenres), engaging commercial fiction and narrative non-fiction.  

Elaine is not interested in children’s or picture books, horror, poetry, screenplays, short story collections, history, westerns, straight fantasy or science-fiction.

Elaine currently lives in Athens, Georgia. In her spare time she can most likely be found curled up poolside with a good book and her beloved Westie, Claude.

To learn more about Elaine and the Knight Agency please visit their website at www.knightagency.net.

   

Special Note to Contestants:

We want to thank each and every one of you for sharing your wonderful stories with our guest judges this season. We know it takes a lot to hit the send button! While we’d love to give every contestant a prize, just for your writing efforts, that wouldn’t be much of a competition. One of the hardest things we do after a contest ends is to confirm that someone didn’t place in the winners’ circle. But, believe it when we say every one of you is a true winner.

Every writer has been a gracious participant through the whole process, from the beginning of one season to the next. We’ve written emails to authors, agents, and publicists who have donated books to our contest, and we’ve shared our delight regarding the true sportsmanship among our contestants. It doesn’t matter if it’s one writer who placed or another who tried but didn’t; all writers are courteous, professional, and wonderful extensions of WOW! Women On Writing’s team. Writers’ stories and e-mails fill us with enthusiasm.

Kudos to all writers who entered, whether you won or not, you’re still a winner for participating.

***

To recap our current process, we have a roundtable of 4-7 judges who blindly score equally formatted submissions based on: Subject, Content, Technical, and Overall Impression (Style). That’s the first step of the process. If a contestant scores well on the first round, she (or he) receives an e-mail notification that she passed the initial judging phase. The second round judging averages out scores and narrows down the top 25 entries. From this point, our guest judge helps to determine the First, Second, and Third Place Winners, followed by the Runners Up.

As with any contest, judging so many talented writers is not a simple process. With blind judging, all contestants start from the same point, no matter the skill level, experience, or writing credentials. It’s the writer’s story and voice that shines through, along with the originality, powerful and clear writing, and the writer’s heart.

***

We’ve enjoyed reading your stories, each and every one of them. The WOW! Women On Writing judges take time to read them all. We recognize names of previous contestants, writers familiar with our style. We enjoy getting to know you through your writing and e-mailing. Remember that each one of you is a champion in our book. We hope that you continue to enter so we can watch you grow as writers and storytellers, because each season is a rebirth of opportunity.

Now on to the winners!

Drum roll please....

1st Place:  Caroline Trent-Gurbuz
Kansas City, Missouri
Congratulations Caroline !

Caroline ’s Bio:

Caroline Trent-Gurbuz is a journalist by trade, but a fiction writer by passion. She graduated from Drake University with degrees in music and international relations, and she just completed her Master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In her free time, she loves to read anything she can get her hands on. She maintains a home base in Kansas City, Missouri, but is currently traipsing around Turkey for the next few months with her husband. To read more of her stories, please visit thestoryshewrote.wordpress.com.

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Other and Together

 

The girl stood on the corner, alone. Her hands were at her sides, fingering the pleats on her burgundy skirt. Her blue school bag lay silent against her leg, though the occasional breeze gave life to the buckles that remained unfastened. She didn’t glance around, looking anxious; she didn’t look bored, her eyes glazed over and blank. No, she observed, absorbing the colors of the trees and the sky, the touch of wind against her skin. She felt.

This little girl, Amber, was other.

She saw strangers’ looks, the fear, the lack of understanding. She saw the flushes of embarrassment, though she didn’t understand them. She saw parents kneel down and scold their children when they laughed or pointed at her.

Unlike the children around her, Amber could not hear, could not speak. She could make sounds, enjoyed the vibration in her throat. She didn't know that the noises were jarring and loud, didn’t realize they made her a target. Fluent in sign language, Amber communicated with a flutter of her hands that appeared almost poetic. But without friends, she chose to interact with no one. She merely watched the world around her.

On this particular day, while she waited at the bus stop, something changed for her. As strands of blond hair danced around her face, as the hem of her skirt lifted and fell with each gust, Amber slowly raised her arms higher and higher, reaching toward the sky. She tilted her head back, closed her eyes, and welcomed the sunlight that turned her vision red. She swayed back and forth, back and forth.

And when she lowered her head and opened her eyes, there was a girl standing in front of her.

“Hi, my name is Annie. I’m new. My family just moved here. What’s your name?”

Amber stared at the girl.

“Are you new here, too?”

Silence.

“Am I bothering you? I can stop talking. My dad tells me I talk too much, but sometimes it can be a good thing. My family moves around a lot ‘cause of my dad’s job, so being a chatterbox makes it easier when I’m at a new school. I have a new cat, too, and his name is Charlie. Do you like cats?”

Amber’s brown eyes revealed nothing, only reflected Annie’s curious gaze.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but you don’t seem very talkative. Are you OK? My sister, Sarah, she says I can be really annoying, but I don’t care. Anyway, I spend a lot of time with my mom. She doesn’t work, she stays home to take care of me and Sarah and Charlie and my dad, and she likes to cook. She’s really shy, so I like to keep her company. I’m great company. Do you want to come over sometime? Where do you live?”

Again, silence was—and could only be—Amber’s response.

“You’re really quiet. Is there a mall around here? Sometimes Sarah drives me to the mall, and we go shopping. It’s really fun. You should come sometime. My mom doesn’t like to go shopping ‘cause people look at her funny. I talk for her using my hands. See, like this.”

And Amber’s world opened up.

***

What Caroline Won:

  • $300.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • An eBook pack
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place:  D.L. Diener
Goshen, Indiana
Congratulations D.L.!

D.L.’s Bio:

D.L. Diener lives in northern Indiana with her husband and three children. She feels called and equipped to do a few things well: to be a partner to her husband, to be a mother to her children, to be a friend, and to be a writer. She got her writing legs wet by participating in the weekly challenge over at FaithWriters.com. Then she eventually took a plunge into a bigger pond and entered a short story into the Writer’s Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition. Not only did her story receive an honorable mention in the Genre Short Story category, but it also placed 3rd in the Inspirational category. Lynn is completing edits on a novel and hopes to have it submission-ready soon. When she’s not beating an editing path through the jungle known as her novel, she’s blogging at her website: www.dldiener.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/dldiener and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DLDiener.

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The Unexpected Burden of Hope

 

Meredith traced the shape of Jacob’s boat through the window. Five months had passed and now the snow had melted enough to show the bare patch of earth that seemed to wait for Jacob’s return.

An elbow moved along the interior of Meredith’s belly. “It’s getting tight in there isn’t it,” she said to the baby beneath her skin, rubbing her hand over the bump.

In just a few weeks time, the baby would arrive and Meredith wouldn’t be able to ignore the fact that she was about to become a single mother. She’d stopped going into town to shop. It was too hard to pretend that the questions and pitying stares didn’t bother her. She let her mother go for her now.

Until Jacob disappeared, everything had been planned so carefully, including the purchase of the little clapboard cottage on Lark Lake. It was the perfect place for her to paint, for Jacob to fish, and the second bedroom made a lovely nursery.

Most people assumed she’d move out. Too many memories with Jacob in the house. But Meredith wanted to stay. She wanted Hope to grow up sitting at the table her father had built. She wanted Hope to love the lake, just like Jacob did. Leaving would be like losing him all over again, and she couldn’t bear that.

A shiver stole down Meredith’s spine, and she set down the cup of tea that had long grown cold. She turned the light off over the sink and heard the scuffle of her mother’s slippers approaching.

“You should go to bed, Mer,” she said wrapping a blanket around Meredith’s shoulders, giving them a squeeze. “You need your rest, and so does the baby.”

This was their routine now. Every night around eleven, Meredith’s mother put down her crossword and urged her daughter to sleep.

Meredith nodded and shuffled her way back to bed. Sleep would come, but not without dreams of Jacob. It always started the same.

Jacob’s bottom lip is jutted out and he’s batting his eyelids. “It’s just for a few hours, Mer-bear.” His breath feels warm on her face.

Already, the autumn mornings are predictably cold. This is his last chance to fish this season. Though dawn hasn’t broken yet, she can see the stubble on his chin and slides her hand over his cheek.

Meredith rolls over, snuggles her back into the curve of Jacob’s body, and pulls the comforter up over her shoulder. She’s not ready to give him up yet.

He pulls her closer to him and settles his hand on her newly blossoming belly. “I’m so happy,” he whispers into her ear. “I love you so much.”

She smiles and looks back at him. “Okay, you can go. But be back before lunch. We have an ultrasound at two.”

He kisses her on the cheek and slips out from under the covers. “I bet you’ll still be in bed when I get back.”

Every morning, she clings to that moment. She pretends she hasn’t wasted hours pacing the floors, that there have been no police involved, and no search parties. She pretends that no one has given him up for dead, and that there is still hope he’ll come home.

But this morning, like the others, the growing burden inside her urges her to remember the present. Jacob isn’t coming back, and she has to keep moving.

She forces her feet to the floor and sits up.

Her mother is in the kitchen cooking breakfast. Outdoors, a soft sweet song is being sung.

“Do you hear that?” Meredith asks her mother.

Her mother smiles. “Yes, Darling. The robins have been singing for a few mornings now. But this is the first morning you’ve been awake to hear it.”

Meredith pushes open the kitchen door and walks down the steps. Her bare feet sink into newly thawed earth.

There is a glimmer in the patch of dirt where the boat used to lay.

She walks over and squats down to get a closer look.

Small green blades, jeweled in morning’s dew, are poking their way through the dirt. The earth is done waiting. Spring is about to push forth, and with it, the recognition that winter’s death cannot hold back life.

Meredith sits down on the damp ground and begins rocking back and forth, holding the baby within her belly. Quiet tears slip down her cheek and round the corners of her smile. Hope would be here soon.

***

What D.L. Won:

  • $200.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook pack
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place:  Judy Beaston
Beaverton, Oregon
Congratulations Judy !

Judy’s Bio:

Judy Beaston lives in Beaverton, Oregon, drawing inspiration from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Retired, as much as any parent can be, she now spends her days penning tales short and long. Chance Encounters is her first flash fiction publication, though WritersType recently published her short story, Jason’s Triumph

Judy hones her flash fiction skills in an online workshop at Writers Village University. In addition to short fiction works, she has a YA novel in process and enjoys spending hours on poetic compositions. When not lost in the words of her stories and poems, Judy enjoys the creative connections found playing tenor saxophone. Two grandchildren help round out her enjoyment of life.

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Chance Encounters

 

All of Amy’s friends insisted she avoid the Sixth Street Station even though taking the bus meant an extra forty-minute commute. The trade-off, they said, would make her life easier over time. This day, however, she felt drawn down the steps leading to the open platform. Today was Valentine’s Day and if she got home sooner, she would have time to bake the special strawberry cobbler Conor loved.

Conor—how lucky could a girl get? They met bumping into each other, literally, at Pete’s Bar during a St. Patrick’s Day gathering four years ago. He caught her gently before she could fall, and she felt her body tingle from head to toe. “Who are you?” she’d said then. “Yours,” was his reply. The memory always made her smile.

Afraid she was being watched; she hurried to the far end of the station, close to the second stairwell. The platform appeared empty, but the fear remained.

With winds whipping her coat about her legs, she wished she had remembered her scarf. As she pulled on her gloves, a body-embracing stillness caused her to look up suddenly.

“Hello, Miss.” The man’s deep voice struck her as oddly familiar, but the hood of his jacket hid his face. Was he someone she met near her bus stop or maybe at the coffee shop by work? She hadn’t seen him when she crossed the platform. Was he following her?

She smiled politely, nodded, then stepped back from the edge, not once taking her eyes off his shadowed face.

“You look cold.” He moved closer, as if to block the wind.

Amy glanced around, hoping they weren’t alone, but the platform was empty except for the two of them. Knots of fear grew in her chest. How could she defend herself against him? She wished she had Conor’s commanding presence next to her.

Then she remembered the small can of mace attached to her key ring, a gift from Conor. While she fumbled with the opening of her shoulder bag, the young man stepped even closer.

She smelled sandalwood, a hint of iris and violet—Conor’s fragrance. Her throat tightened, her focus locked on memories of the man she loved.

Forcing her attention back to the present, she took another step backward but lost her balance. In that split second, it seemed time stopped, then rewound. Before she could emit a scream, she regained her balance, found herself resting on the platform, a warm comfort wrapped around her.

“I’m sorry if I startled you,” the young man spoke. “You remind me of my fiancé who I lost a while back. We always left work early on Valentine’s Day to meet here and then go somewhere special together. I came here to reminisce and when I saw you, I thought I saw her. I just had to find out for myself. Are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you,” Amy said while getting back to her feet.

The young man’s jacket hood had fallen back, and Amy’s heart skipped a beat. His eyes were a striking, deep green and his mussed hair was a bright copper color. Both were just like Conor’s, her own lost fiancé, who died two years ago.

Baffled by the growing list of similarities, Amy took a deep breath then asked, “How did your fiancé die?”

The stranger remained quiet. His eyes seemed sadder now.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t intrude.” Amy said as she prepared to move away. “Thank you for breaking my fall.”

Amy walked toward the tracks looking for some sign that the train was nearing. The stillness she experienced earlier, wrapped around her again.

“My fiancé didn’t die.” The young man stood next to her, his gentle words sounding a strong chord in her heart.

Amy swallowed hard, her instincts like live electric wires sending signals throughout her body. She turned toward the young man, this time studying him thoroughly. The green hooded jacket matched one she gave Conor the Christmas before he died and on his right hand he had a Celtic cross tattoo exactly like one Conor proudly wore.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

The platform shook as the five o’clock train approached the station. Amy shivered when the train swept by, the turbulent air making her turn away from the young man. When she looked back, he was gone; but in his place was a red rose just like the ones Conor used to bring her when they met here on Valentine’s Day.

***

What Judy Won:

  • $100.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook Pack
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin

RUNNERS UP (In no particular order):

Congratulations to the runners-up! It was very close, and these stories are excellent in every way. Enjoy each one’s story!

Click on their entries to read:

The Search by Dana Leipold, Castro Valley, California

Cropping by Christine Sandoval, Riverside, California

The Burr Oak by Molly Van Norman, Rochester, Minnesota

Unnamed by Gayle Beveridge, Narre Warren North, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Pink Lipsticked Lips by Serena Helriot, Glendora, California

Pigeon Poo-etry by Tiffany Carboni, Pacifica, California

The Anniversary Waltz by Jeff Cohen, Sewaren, New Jersey

What the Runners Up Won:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook Pack
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin

HONORABLE MENTIONS (In no particular order):

Congratulations to our Winter Contest Honorable Mentions!
Your stories stood out and are excellent in every way.

Things I think About in the Afternoon by Sonja Vitow, Brighton, Massachusetts

A Girl in the Gibbous Moon by Grier Jewell, Olympia, Washington

The Triumph of Pasta by Sabine Sur, Heverlee, BELGIUM

Watching, Waiting by Jan Berkeley, Monrovia, California

Ripe by Kim Haas, Brighton, Michigan

Butterfly Woman by Michael G. Robertson, Columbia, Missouri

Searching for a Unicorn by A.W. Gryphon, West Hollywood, California

Sheep Boy by Karen Wojcik Berner, Naperville, Illinois

The Secret by Patricia J. Warren, McLean, Virginia

The 7:33 to Grand Central by Erica Bauman, Brooklyn, New York

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook pack

IN CLOSING:

This brings our Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest officially to a close. Although we’re not able to send a special prize to every contestant, we will always give our heartfelt thanks for your participation and contribution, and for your part in making WOW! all that it can be. Each one of you has found the courage to enter, and that is a remarkable accomplishment in itself. We’re looking forward to receiving your entries for our next contest. Best of luck, and write on!

Check out the latest Contest:

http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


 

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