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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, Elise Capron

WOW! was honored to have guest judge Elise Capron choose the winter season’s top winners. Thank you, Elise, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true.

Elise Capron is an agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, an agency known for establishing and guiding the careers of critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction authors, including Amy Tan, Lisa See, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chitra Divakaruni, Kate White, Diane Mott Davidson, Luis Urrea, Janell Cannon, and many others. The Los Angeles Times dubbed the Dijkstra Agency “the most powerful literary agency on the West Coast” and, in its 27+ years, the agency has developed a reputation for discovering new talent and representing quality work with commercial potential.

Elise has been with the Dijkstra Agency since 2003. In addition to her own agenting, she assists Sandra Dijkstra and handles first serial sales. She specializes in debut fiction, character-driven literary and offbeat fiction, and short story collections. She is also interested in selected nonfiction if it has a literary edge. She hopes to find fiction with unforgettable writing, terrific narrative voice/tone, and great characters. Elise loves novels with an unusual or eccentric edge, and is drawn to stories she has never heard before. She hopes to work with writers who are professional, have a realistic sense of the market, and who are getting their work published regularly in literary magazines.

Some of Elise’s recent and soon-to-be-published books include Jonathon Keats’ Virtual Worlds: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology (Oxford University Press) and The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six (Random House), Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Graywolf), Rikki Ducornet’s Netsuke (Coffee House Press), Cynthia Barnett’s Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis (Beacon), Jack Shuler’s Blood and Bone: Truth and Reconciliation in a Southern Town, Ali Liebegott’s The IHOP Papers (Carroll & Graf), Peter Plate’s Soon the Rest Will Fall (Seven Stories Press), and Whitney LylesParty Games (Simon Pulse) and First Comes Love (Berkley).

Find out more about Elise by reading her interview on WOW! Women On Writing: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/7-20questionselisecapron.php

Visit the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency: http://www.dijkstraagency.com/

   

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 that 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 20 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:  Sarah White
Mesa, Arizona
Congratulations Sarah!

Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah White usually writes poetry, but has been venturing out into the world of fiction. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Arizona State University and is contemplating returning to school to pursue an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. She enjoys reading, shopping for vintage items, watching horror films and drinking far too much Diet Coke. She currently lives in Mesa, AZ.

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Why I Am Named After My Mother’s Sister

 

Somewhere between the age of three and four, Gail had been told that thunder came from the angels bowling and rain was God’s water. Soon after, she requested God’s water whenever her mother would wash her hair. Sometimes she refused to have her hair cleaned until rain could be collected. So while her mother preached the value of truth, when the barrel of rain water was dry and storms came weeks apart, she allowed everyone to tell Gail this white lie: “Yes darling, this is rain water,” even though they lifted the water from the well. Because she didn’t beg for candy or dolls and only coveted rainwater, it was pointless not to indulge Gail with little gifts of sweet peaches, bouquets of wild flowers, or dragging a barrel into the yard when it rained. So in that sense everyone in the family spoiled her.

Her two older brothers would share their paycheck from the mill in the form of liquorish whips or peppermint sticks, one for each of the girls. My mother, Gail’s sister, only older by three years, became her first playmate. They were two little girls, my mother seven years old and towheaded and Gail with a head of soft brown curls, who spent whole afternoons collecting flowers in a field. They clasped their hands together and their summer dresses were sun faded and worn thin from play and wash.

A month before her fifth birthday Gail lay in bed with chills and a fever that would not break. The doctor said there was nothing left for them to do but pray. And still, sometime in the middle of the night her breath became softer until it stopped all together, dropping from her like a stone. She was buried the following weekend, in her only good dress, a dress of white cotton with lace along the collar. The next time that it rained dragging the barrel into the yard seemed pointless, so it stayed tucked against the house and porch.

My mother only understood that she had lost her best friend, her hair braider and flower picking partner, her mud pie assistant. Later she would understand that in Gail’s last breath, her childhood was also carried away. My grandmother spent days in bed and so my mother learned to cook and eventually developed a technique for biscuits soft as cotton. After all, there were floors to scrub, clothes to wash, vegetables to can, and someone had to fill her brothers’ lunch pails with sandwiches. When they came home from the mill, the liquorish whips and peppermint sticks were few and far between until they stopped bringing them home all together. My mother didn’t mind, as the taste had left her mouth bitter. Soon, my mother thought of how she had sat with Gail in the field, the sun illuminated them, the grass, and the flowers twisted into wreaths and wondered how anything else could be more holy. Eventually, time made the memories surface less and less until they struck her only when she saw a chubby faced child with brown curls or someone proclaimed the angels were bowling when the clouds thundered. Even then the images were dimmed, and my mother could hear Gail’s voice but the inflections weren’t clear. Gail became something that was, not something that still should be.

My mother met my father when she was seventeen and after a month of dating when he asked her to marry him she said, “I suppose.” She learned that cooking dinner and scrubbing floors at her new house were not much different than doing so at her childhood home. On paydays, my father brought her home tulips or carnations, sometimes white lilies and he’d kiss her on her neck, call her “doll.”

Five years into her marriage, while slicing apples into a bowl my mother looked up and out the kitchen window. She saw Gail walking in the yard. As an image thin as a paper gown, Gail stood in the white cotton dress with the lace collar. She turned around just long enough to smile, just long enough for my mother to believe in ghosts. Like light through a glass pane, the paring knife slipped through the fruit and into my mother’s palm and in that sharp jolt blood pooled around an apple seed in my mother’s cupped hand.

***

What Sarah Won:

  • $350.00 Cash Prize
  • 1 Year Premium Membership to AutomatedEditing.com ($420 value)
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place:  Dan Gemmer
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Congratulations Dan!

Dan’s Bio:

I am married, have three grown children, one enigmatic Norwegian Forest cat, a beautiful native plant garden and, finally, lots of time on my hands, since I retired from the Pennsylvania Protective Service Division of the Aging Office. My interest in writing began while writing case notes for Protective Services, which tended to be concise and descriptive. I have only been writing fiction for about two months and really love the cathartic freedom this provides. Before my Protective Service days, I was an Army Sergeant and served in combat with an infantry company in Vietnam for a year. I was also a store manager for several retail chains, all of which went out of business, which I consider a mere coincidence.

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Guests

 

I always recuperate at home which is peaceful except for the phone calls. Most of these are charities. It doesn’t do any good to tell the charity people that you are on a Do Not Call list because they tell you they’re not trying to sell you anything. They explain about the plight of feral cats and dogs in Arizona, and I always end up sending a few bucks, which might be the reason I keep getting more calls. This is the downside of recuperating at home.

I don’t get much company except for the mailman, so I was surprised to see two young men knocking at the door one day. I looked through the curtains and they both had white shirts and ties and short, well-groomed hair. They looked okay so I opened the door. They said they were Witnesses. They talked to me about Armageddon and God (who they nicknamed Jehovah) and the scriptures and the need to get on God’s good side before the earth goes up in flames. I was very polite and listened because I hadn’t heard about this stuff since Sunday school, which had pleasant memories for me, because it reminded me of Miss Barton, who had great independently animated boobs. They gave me two magazines and left.

This is where the problem started, because different Witnesses kept coming back, all of them wholesome and polite, so I didn’t want to be rude and tell them to go away. I started to hide in the bedroom and behind the couch, because groups were surrounding the house and staring in the windows. They pressed their faces against the glass and tapped until I came out and opened the door.

I figured that I needed a watchdog to scare them away so I called the charity in Arizona and asked them to send me their top feral dog. They said the dog’s name was Bruno. Bruno arrived from UPS and the driver pointed to the crate with a bandaged hand and told me to watch his teeth. Bruno was snarling and foaming at the mouth, probably traumatized by leaving the sunny desert. He was black and about the size of a wolf. I talked to him in my most soothing voice before I let him out. When I opened the crate he jumped for my throat and crashed through the window when I ducked. He tore down the road, biting the tires of the UPS truck until the driver jammed on the brakes and backed over him. The charity called right after that and wanted to know how the dog was adapting. I told them that he was a little frisky at first, but lying down right now.

By now, groups of Witnesses were coming during the day, both boys and girls, nicely dressed and friendly. Most of them were in their late teens and very focused on the scriptures. They didn’t drink, curse, or maneuver around on the couch trying to jump each others’ bones like normal teenagers. They had keys made to the door to save me the trouble of letting them in at odd hours. They began to stay at night, sleeping on the couch or in sleeping bags on the floor. Then they knocked out my back wall and built a big knotty pine-smelling Kingdom Hall. They added two more floors for a dorm and installed an elevator. They bulldozed the back yard and built a playground for their children, who were not grubby like average children. Then they tore off my roof and built an antenna to talk directly to God. They tossed out my beer can collection, cigarettes, cards, TV set, Cheetos and all my Hotsy-Totsy magazines. By now my patience was wearing pretty thin.

Staying loose is one of my best traits in my chosen career as a car crash projectile specialist, but one of my worst traits in dealing with aggressive people. I always found it easier to sail through a car windshield than to assert myself in a confrontational situation. I figured my best option was to hide, so I locked myself in my closet with a supply of food and water and snuck out only to use the bathroom. This lasted for three days until the group found me and began to drill through the lock. They told me Armageddon had begun in Vegas and was burning up sinners along the way. They told me Miss Barton was the first to go.

***

What Dan Won:

  • $250.00 Cash Prize
  • 1 Year Standard Membership to AutomatedEditing.com ($240 value)
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place: Lori Parker
Chicago, Illinois
Congratulations Lori!

Lori’s Bio:

Lori Parker lives in Chicago with her beloved husband and his extensive music collection. She wrote her first poem at eight years of age, her first play at fifteen and completed her first novel just last year. To date, none of them have been published but she is an optimistic existentialist, which explains her continued work on a second novel, assorted poems, plays and short stories. Beyond publication, her goal is to author a book worthy of Shared Inquiry™ discussion at the Great Books Foundation.

To learn more about the Great Books Foundation, including the Shared Inquiry™ discussion method and their outreach initiative to returning veterans and their families, please visit their website: www.greatbooks.org

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Sand

 

There is so much sand I don’t think I’ll ever feel clean again. It gets in the cracks, the crevices of your body. Grit in every pore. It crawls through your hair, lodges deep under each fingernail, between your toes, up your nose and you wake up with it in your eyes. Sand. Grit. God, it’s so damn gritty. You feel it between your teeth and your lips; you crunch on it when you eat your food or grind your teeth at night. I swear I think there’s a chance I might spill out on the ground like a sandbag if one of those nomads ever opens me up with his bayonet. Or bullet. Or IED.

It clogs your throat, you know. You puke it up until you want to scream, until you pray to God Almighty, “Just let me die!”

But then you get a gulp of air, a sip of clear water and you remember you’re still alive and you don’t want to die anymore. No, you want to live. You want to live until you fall down again and get another mouthful of that god-awful grit. That sand; it just fills you up until there’s no room for your soul anymore and you’re just one of those bags they lay down against the flood. Floods of blood and sand. You’re a sandbag again. Cannon fodder. First Infantry.

The President doesn’t want to bring us home. Not yet. We still have a job to do; and so we go, we run and obey, and we can’t stop. But we can die. That will stop us. Death will stop us. And this sand, this desert. That will stop us. Maybe.

But then the LT fives us a fresh canteen and says, “Here, son, drink this. It’s pure, it’s cold. That’s right, soldier, drink. Drink.”

The water is cool, his voice soothing, gruff, solid. You feel the clear clean of it slide down your throat but it mixes with the sand there and you gag on mud.

He thumps you on the back. “Wash it out, son. Spit it out. Don’t swallow, you’ll choke. Spit. Swish and spit. It’ll come out, I promise. It’ll come out and you’ll get out. Now do it. Do it.”

He doesn’t say it but I hear him just the same. “Do it, do it, do it.” Rapid fire like bullets zipping into sand, like the beating of a heart, panicked. It gets faster and faster and louder and louder. “Do it! Do it and you will get clean. Do it and you will get out. Do it but you can’t go home. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet!”

Then, as the water washes you clean again and your pulse begins to calm, the words in your head come slower and slower. Gentle. Soft. “Soon, baby, soon. But drink this and you’ll have a taste of heaven. And you’ll be going home soon. But not yet. Not. Quite. Yet.”

And you obey, I obey and we wanna live. The water’s cold and I’m alive and I—

***

What Lori Won:

  • $150.00 Cash Prize
  • 1 Year Standard Membership to AutomatedEditing.com ($240 value)
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • 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:

Him by Joyce Finn, Bluffton, South Carolina

Lil’ Izzy by Jennifer Flueckiger, Paris, FRANCE

Crate Training for Kids by Amy Lewis, Longmont, Colorado

The Seminar by Anna Venishnick Shomsky, Seattle, Washington

Sisters by Renee Troxler, Austin, Texas

Artist Doublespeak: The Imaginary Interview Within by JC Sullivan, New York, New York

One Human Being to Another by Michael Throne, Ashburn, Virginia

What the Runners Up Won:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • 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.

Beyond Words by Erica Hayes, Kansas City, Missouri

Why Not to Kiss on a Park Bench by Connie Almony, Elkridge, Maryland

The Alphabet Store by Kay Butzin, Fulton, Texas

Sense of Loss by C.T. Charles, Iverness, Florida

The Uncertainty of Daryl by Jill K. Sayre, Dallas, Texas

The Runaways by Louise Hartley, Upwey, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Sandstones Like Sepia by Marija Elektra Rodriguez, Brass Hill, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA

What Nobody Knows by Carla Cummins, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 

Field of Vision by Linda Todd, Pleasanton, California

Fight or Flight by Genevieve Whitbourne, Kew Gardens, New York

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings our Winter 2012 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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