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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, Suzie Townsend

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

“My favorite books are ones that keep me up all night with characters that I can’t stop thinking about long after I’ve finished.”

After teaching high school English for several years, Suzie Townsend started publishing at FinePrint Literary Management in January 2009 and worked her way up from intern to agent. Now an agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, she represents adult and children’s fiction. She is actively looking to build her list. In adult, she’s specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens’ she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the movie SUPER 8). She’s an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI.

She’s interested in strong characters and voice driven stories: she’s particularly keen on strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre. Some of her favorite novels (that she doesn’t represent) are Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Jeaniene Frost’s Vampire Huntress series, Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.

She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in New York with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not.

To find out more about Suzie and New Leaf Literary, visit:

Website: http://newleafliterary.com

Blog: http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com

New Leaf Twitter: http://twitter.com/NewLeafLiterary

Suzie’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/sztownsend81

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NewLeafLiterary

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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:  Jayne Martin
Santa Ynez, California
Congratulations Jayne !

Jayne ’s Bio:

Jayne Martin is a TV-movie writer whose credits include “Big Spender” for Animal Planet and “A Child Too Many,” “Cradle of Conspiracy” and “Deceived By Trust” for Lifetime. She lives in Santa Ynez, California, where she rides horses, consumes copious amounts of great local wines and shares her view of the world on her blog, “injaynesworld - where nothing is sacred” Her book of humor essays, Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry, is available in paperback and digital formats through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

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The Heart of Town

 

Everyone in the village agreed; there was something most unusual about the garden in front of the long-abandoned Humelsmith house. Harriet Humelsmith, the last of the family to live in the old, wood-frame Victorian, was said to have been tending her beloved tulips when she took her last breath, planting herself face-first into a bed of begonias, and rumors abounded that her spirit still remained. Not only were the garden’s flowers larger and brighter in color than those of any of its neighbors; but even in the harshest of winters they raised their blooms toward the sky in what could only be described as a defiance of every natural law.

This, however, was not the strangest thing about the old place, for though no one would speak of it for fear of being thought quite out of their minds, several of the villagers could swear they had heard the flowers whisper to them as they passed by. Gladys Weesley had been warned by a gentle geranium not to sleep in her bedroom on the very night that a large branch from an ancient oak had crashed through the roof pulverizing the bed where she surely would have been at slumber, while Delores Kiddlebaum found the comments of a climbing rose about her sizeable derriere particularly thorny, but she never wore horizontal stripes again.

Though the garden was glorious, the house itself had fallen to neglect over the years, becoming quite the eyesore; and since no one had ever come forth to claim the property, talks among some of the village council about tearing it down continued to clash fiercely with those who wished to see it restored. Having neither the resources nor the will to do either, the council inevitably voted to table the discussion for another time; and so it would have continued had it not been for the arrival in the village of Teddy and Lettie Talontongue, of the Tallahassee Talontongues, who found the land where the Humelsmith home had peacefully sat for generations to be the perfect location for a summer retreat.

At first buoyed by the belief that the home would finally be restored to its former glory, the village folk were thrilled to welcome the Talontongues. It was not until their true plans were revealed that everyone realized how they had been duped, for rising upon the bulldozed ruins of the beloved home and garden would be a massive mansion surrounded by a six-foot stone wall. As mortifying as was the mansion, the villagers could not get over the insult of the stone wall. Why no one in the village had so much as a picket fence!

The villagers were bereft. For the first time that anyone could remember, the flowers in the Humelsmith garden began to wilt, and those who would admit to it were certain they heard crying amongst the Baby’s Breath. Ashamed for being so quick to sell off what they clearly saw now as a town treasure, the village council was no longer at odds over its future.

When the Talontongues found not a bulldozer operator in the county who would lay blade to the land, and not a bricklayer or a carpenter, not a plumber or a painter, not an electrician or a roofer or even a chimney maker who would hire on to build upon its ruins, they begrudgingly sold the property back to the village and left town in quite a huff.

And so the Humelsmith home remains to this very day,and the children of the villagers, having grown up playing among the precocious petals all their lives, find nothing unusual about the garden at all, though they still keep those conversations to themselves.

***

What Jayne Won:

  • $350.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place:  Natalie Hart
Stuttgart-Vaihingen, GERMANY
Congratulations Natalie!

Natalie’s Bio:

Natalie is a Brit currently working in Northern Iraq. She lives and works with her colleagues, who are remarkably tolerant when she grinds coffee at 6am before her early morning writing sessions. Natalie has a BA in Arabic and Spanish from the University of Cambridge. She has always wanted to be a writer and is very lucky to have a boyfriend and best friend who are there to remind her of this if ever she forgets.

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The Promise

 

On the day of my wedding, there was a space on the pew next to my father.

It wasn’t an obvious gap. People had shuffled along, spread themselves out, put handbags beside them in an effort to make the chasm less visible. But we all knew it was there. As my father reluctantly released my arm at the altar and returned to his place, my eyes trailed after him and hung on the absence until the vicar coughed awkwardly.

She had promised to come.

Not that promises meant anything with my mother, you must understand. She had promised to organise my sixteenth birthday party, to hold my hand while I had my wisdom teeth removed, to be there smiling and applauding at my graduation. I should have learned that promises did not translate into actions, that they were merely expressions of intent to put both our hearts at ease.

But the drink washed away her promises and numbed her soul to maternal instincts. The liquid selfishness coursed through her veins, dulling her heart and igniting my anger.

It would have been better if she hadn’t promised at all, if we had both just accepted the way things were and the inevitable outcome. But in flickering moments, she returned: the woman who had carefully braided my hair before school for eleven years; the woman who had arranged my packed lunches into smiley faces that grinned out at me, to the envy of other kids, as I opened my lunchbox at break-time; the woman my father had married.

And in the brief moments she returned I, the fool that I was, lapped up her promises. She had even come with me to choose the dress, had cried as I tried it on, had looked into my eyes and told me that she had never been more proud and that she would not miss it “for the world.”

For the world, no, but perhaps for the bottle.

These moments of hope, or normality, made each betrayal more bitter than the last. Each time a semi-healed wound was ripped open afresh, the building scar tissue making it harder to close.

As my father made his wedding speech, recalling anecdotes of my childhood from a happier time, I made my resolve. No more would each milestone in my life be approached with trepidation, wondering if she would be there sober, wondering whether she would be there at all. No longer would her empty promises tear at me, leaving my new husband to gather my broken pieces and coax me back together. No longer would I wonder what kind of grandmother she would be, whether she would cause my children the same heartache she inflicted on me. No, she would not have that chance.

And so the years went by. There were Christmas cards and birthday cards, the odd phone call, but never an apology. She kicked up a fuss when Harry was born, and I wouldn’t let her come to visit. I sorely missed having a mother’s wisdom, but reminded myself that I was sparing my son from the pain that I had endured.

But now, here we are. Her skin is grey, and there are tubes coming out of her nose. The nurses all know her from so many visits before. I can see them looking at me quizzically; they must be wondering why they don’t recognise me. The doctor says that it is bad, that her liver is failing, that she doesn’t have long.

So I sit at her side, one hand holding hers and the other wrapped tightly around a tumbler of amber liquid. Because the one promise I made myself was that, when the time came, she wouldn’t be alone.

***

What Natalie Won:

  • $250.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place: Kim Briggs
Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania
Congratulations Kim!

Kim’s Bio:

It took Kim a double Bachelors, a Masters, a handful of jobs, three kids, and a house full of laundry before she realized what she really wanted to be when she grew up: a writer.

Kim finds time to write in the early mornings, late nights, and stolen moments throughout the day. She survives on soy chai lattes and dark chocolate, lots of dark chocolate.

Her writing leans towards Young Adult, but she enjoys New Adult and the occasional picture book. Starr Fall, her 70,000-word YA Contemporary Fiction, is ready for submission. Her WIP is a dark NA thriller about a high school reunion that combines sex and evil in all the right ways.

Deadly Cocktail is her first short story, but it won’t be her last. She loves the short story format as a vehicle for the voices in her head.

Kim is the Assistant Regional Advisor to SCBWI Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter. Through SCBWI, she met her writing group, Ink Sisters. The Sisters destruct plot and kill characters all the while cracking her up. Kim’s family gives her the courage to survive the crazy world of publishing.

Chat with her on Twitter: @KimBriggs_Write

Check her out at: http://kimbriggs.blogspot.com

http://about.me/kim.briggsolizarowicz

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Deadly Cocktail

 

The bar is quiet for a Wednesday night. Most of the regulars left to make nice with their plastic Barbie wives and maybe kick a ball around with junior instead of opting for another round of scotch, but there’s always a few that stay, always a few who want to take what isn’t theirs.

“Another?” the bartender asks, the very bartender who called a cab that night but never checked if I made it into said cab. He doesn’t recognize me. I’m just another pretty face. The bar is filled with pretty faces.

Friends and family ask if I’m okay. Their hawk eyes starved for tiny hairline fissures that will no doubt erupt into a massive crack they can patch together, but tears won’t fix what’s wrong with me.

I glance around the bar. Hungry eyes reach for mine, but I pass them over. Conversation distracts, and I cannot be distracted, not tonight.

I check my phone. No messages. I knew there wouldn’t be. I turned it off before I left my apartment.

The caramel liquid burns on the way down, but I like it. It’s the only heat I’ve felt in months. I slam the glass against the bar. The drink splashes across the twenty I left.

On my way out, I stumble into a table. Dramatic effect.

The cold air hits me like a shot of adrenaline. I feint to my right, then back pedal to my left, as if I’m unsure which direction I want to go, but I know exactly where I’m headed.

The tall buildings cast dark, sinister shadows across the alley. I wait at the threshold until I hear the jingle of the bar door. Just as I pass the second dumpster, my dumpster, I hear quiet footsteps behind me. My heart accelerates and for the first time all night, the poison of self doubt gives me pause. Then the hot, uninvited hand grabs my arm. Anger and hatred flood my veins.

Gripping the syringe, I lunge towards my attacker. He’s knocked off guard and stumbles, but he won’t get away. I’ve come too far to lose my prize now. My arms wrap around him, as if we are lovers. He is not the black-eyed beast from my nightmares but they are all the same. I plunge the needle into the soft tissue just above his collarbone and press down.

He staggers backward, clutching his neck. “What the—”

My free hand seizes the lapel of his wool jacket, and I draw him close to me. “You have sixty seconds to answer my questions.”

He tries to pull away. Red spittle already forms at the corners of his mouth. “Who the hell are you?”

My stomach lurches at the sound of his voice. Strong. Powerful. Arrogant. Even now, he speaks to me as if I owe him something. I clench my jaw and refuse to acknowledge the power he wields over me. “I WILL ask the questions.”

“If I don’t?”

A calmness spreads through me, and I embrace the certainty of death over life. I become acutely aware of my senses. The stink of his designer cologne. The mint candy he tossed in his mouth. The sheen of sweat on his skin. The frantic beating of his heart. “No 911 call, and you will be dead.”

A slight nod and he accepts his role.

“What were your intentions with me tonight?”

He yanks his head away, but I wrench it back. “Answer me.”

“I wanted to walk you home,” he replies. The lie rolls off his lips as easy as all his lies to coworkers, girlfriends, his wife . . .

“You wanted to rape me. Didn’t you?”

His bloodshot eyes fall away from mine. I stand on my tiptoes and whisper in his ear. “I will take that as a ‘Yes.’”

I shove him away. He collapses to the pavement. His fingers claw at his chest. “What’s in the needle?”

I pace around him, savoring the scene. “Ahhh, the million dollar question. Let’s just say that if I don’t call 911 in,” I glance at the jagged pink scar on my wrist, “the next thirty seconds . . . you WILL die.”

“You drugged me?” he asks. His pupils dilate as the deadly cocktail seeps through his veins. “You can’t do that.”

“And you can’t rape innocent women anymore.”

“You don’t look that innocent to me. Who the hell are you?” he asks.

“Your worst nightmare,” I purr in his ear and stalk away.

“You’re not calling 911?”

“Did you?”

***

What Kim Won:

  • $150.00 Cash Prize
  • $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:

Tarnation with Decorum! by Kathy Steinemann, Hinton, Alberta, CANADA

The Line by Rose Thoman, Troutdale, Oregon

Second Chance by Betty Nearing, Cape Coral, Florida

Twisted by Nichol Hines, Menifee, California

Charley by Bryan Mooney, Boynton Beach, Florida

Magic by Alana Agerbo, Surrey, British Columbia, CANADA

Lighthouses by Michelle Dwyer, Killeen, Texas

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 Fall Contest Honorable Mentions! Your stories stood out and are excellent in every way.

Forgotten Heroes by Wilma Hollander, Kato Gatzea, GREECE

Kokopelli by Jennifer James, Dutton, Virgina

Solitaire by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo, Tempe, Arizona

Hank’s Reveal by Linda McMann, Warren, Oregon

The Charlies by M. E. Wimberley, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Daisy Chain Plait by Natalie Hart, Stuttgart-Vaihingen, GERMANY

I am Mad at Devon by Jennifer Wiggins, Loganville, Georgia

The Plan by Kathryn J. Bain, Jacksonville, Florida

The Castout by Abbie Tingstad, Culver City, California

Full Price Frances by Lynn Nicholas, Tucson, Arizona

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings our Fall 2013 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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