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WOW! Spring 2016 Flash Fiction Contest Winners

   
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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 Leigh Eisenman

Literary Agent Leigh Eisenman

WOW! was honored to have guest judge, literary agent Leigh Eisenman choose the spring season’s top winners. Thank you, Leigh, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true!

Leigh Eisenman joined HSG Agency in the fall of 2015. Like so many English majors before her, Leigh answered the question of “what next?” upon graduating from college with “law school, of course!” She graduated from Dartmouth College and received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. After ten years of practicing law in the New York offices of several international firms, she decided to follow her dream of becoming part of the New York City literary landscape. She worked for a year at Folio Literary Management prior to moving to HSG. Leigh now combines her legal background with her love of books as a junior agent with HSG, actively building her own client list, and as an associate with the Salky Law Firm, providing legal counsel to authors and publishing professionals.

Leigh seeks submissions in the areas of literary and commercial fiction for adults, and is particularly drawn to: flawed protagonists she can’t help but fall in love with (Holden Caulfield was her first crush); stories that take place in contemporary New York, but also any well-defined, vivid setting; and given her background, novels set in law firms or involving lawyers (but not legal thrillers). On the nonfiction side, Leigh is interested in foodie/cookbooks (especially baking and – maybe conversely – healthy cooking), health and fitness, lifestyle, and select narrative nonfiction.

If you are interested in querying Leigh, please send a query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript (within the email—no attachments, please!) to leigh[at]hsgagency[dot]com.

Hannigan Salky Getzler (HSG) Agency: http://hsgagency.com/

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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 Winner
1st Place:  K. Alan Leitch
Surfer’s Paradise, QLD, AUSTRALIA
Congratulations, Keith!
K. Alan Leitch

Keith’s Bio:

K. Alan Leitch is the author of six novels (in addition to the embarrassing one that he wrote in his twenties, to which no writer should ever admit). He has studied Technology, Education and, most recently, English Literature at Oxford University. After twenty years of teaching in high schools, it is surprising that it took him so long to discover a passion for writing Young Adult fiction: passion that he hopes will be evident in his forthcoming novel, entitled Labels. Having also written Science Fiction, Mysteries and dozens of short stories, Leitch is currently learning the slippery ropes of the publishing industry, with the support of the amazing community here at WOW. Readers can sample one of his award-winning humorous thrillers at http://www.textnovel.com/story/Starlite-Lanes:-We-Bowl-for-Democracy/7398/, and will soon be able to access more samples of his work at k-alan-leitch-author.tk. Often an American at heart, he is actually a Canadian transplanted happily to Australia, where—along with his wife and several wild lorikeets—he watches a river that never freezes go by.

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Mixed Colors

 

Coarsely beneath my thumb, the ridges of paint on a single sheet of paper brought color back into the gray, lonesome prison around me. My son, barely six, had made this picture for me, with all the artistry a six-year-old could muster. Alongside a little stick-family, splashes of color unevenly striped their way toward the two-dimensional green grass he had painted. This was his idea of a rainbow: a simple image that brought me the hope that my son was still celebrating his world.

Beyond the many walls, the scattered loudspeakers of the Loa Phường spread their news about the war throughout Vietnam. The speakers preached, “Victory rests with the people,” and, “Hope is everywhere,” while my only hope radiated from my only people, smiling in caricature from beneath my son’s rainbow.

The picture would have been my most prized possession even outside the walls of this Communist re-education camp. Since losing Vietnam to my captors, though, it was also my only possession. It had been delivered to me by a man who should have been my enemy; one of the policemen guarding me had remembered the rice our boyhood families had shared when his parents were in need, before the days when he had fought for the Viêt Công—before the days when I had fought against them. Kiet alone, in this prison, knew that I had lied about being unmarried. He alone knew I had a wife and child outside, and he alone could have brought down upon them the punishing terrors I experienced every day.

But instead, he had only brought me this picture from my son.

My son was no artist, and no scientist, either. Not only did the colors of his rainbow bleed together where they met, but they were out of the order that nature’s spectrum demanded. Red mixed innocently with green, and green, in its ignorance, bled into purple to form a brown the color of dysentery.

Still, I cherished every error as much as every color. I knew that I could live without my ladle of water for days, and without my third-kilogram of rice for a week or more, but I could no longer live without my son’s rainbow. It was the single source of light in my world, and so precious that I risked those punishments and more by hiding it every day under a stone from the ring surrounding my fire pit.

The stone was heavy, though, and could not be replaced without a fair bit of scraping. That was the reason that I was so startled by two words one day, when I was trying to hide the picture.

Cho vay,” a policeman who was not Kiet demanded, causing the loose shale to drop from my grasp and shatter against the rocky ground. “Cho vay!” he repeated as I snatched the picture back into my grasp. Knowing that it might be my last moment with it, I did not even look up at the guard, but tried instead to infuse every detail of those mixed colors into the dreams I would have that night and the next.

Assuming, of course, that I lived through the day.

But the rainbow was already covered with grey soot that began to shake from the page in my trembling grip. This was the moment I remembered the danger to my family, should the communists learn that I had one.

So I threw my only and most prized possession into the fire.

Cho vay!” the policeman screeched again, knocking my hands onto those same flames with the butt of his rifle. Skin crackled, but he was too late; my son’s picture had already been consumed by one last surge of color.

Those words, “cho vay”—roughly, “give it”—rung through my erratic consciousness for weeks afterward, where the Communists hung me from my burned wrists to contemplate the grey Vietnamese sky. Even the Loa Phường urged Western Allies to, “Cho vay”: to give back the Công’s land and beliefs. But Kiet snuck me just enough water to keep me alive—and life, for me, was knowing that my family was safe.

I must have seen many rainbows throughout the coming years, but it was only when we had truly settled in California that I would take any notice of one. Even nature’s spectrum surprised me by still mixing its colors, and inspired me for the first time to accept the sound of similar words in English.

Show the Way.

 

***

What Keith 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 Winner
2nd Place:  Maureen Brooks
Tampa, Florida
Congratulations, Maureen!
Maureen Brooks

Maureen’s Bio:

Maureen has considered writing to be her special gift after being recognized as a strong writer by her second grade and high school teachers. After graduating college, she entered a few writing contests and then—like so many—put her dream aside to pursue a career.

After working in the insurance and telecommunications industries, Maureen is currently a High School English teacher. Her favorite class is Creative Writing. Believing that competition can bring out the best in us, she’s encouraged and coached her students to place or win many writing contests including earning the Silver Key Award in the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest. Following the advice she gives her students, last year Maureen began entering writing contests. This is her third entry to WOW and her first time being published. She’s an active member of the FanStory.com writing community and thanks them for helping her improve her craft.

Maureen is also the proud aunt of 13 nephews and 4 nieces and excited to show them that dreams do come true if you keep pursuing them.

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While She’s Sleeping

 

NCIS was a repeat leading up to the episode where Dinozzo would leave the cast. Michael Weatherly had become a familiar part of their week.

“Is she sleeping?”

“I think so. Help me load the dishwasher so we can watch NCIS together.”

Jill and Henry hadn’t had much time alone since their new arrival. Jill loved Irene. Unconditionally. Henry loved her—but with some conditions. Since Irene arrived, they’d been negotiating those conditions.

Jill would be the one to get up with Irene if she woke during the night. Changing diapers and giving baths fell on Jill as well. For his part, Henry assembled the furniture and painted Irene’s room in soft pastels.

“Do you think the show will work without Tony?”

“I don’t know. They’ve had a few cast changes and it’s still a popular show...” Hearing Irene stir, Henry paused. They kept one monitor in her room and the other moved to whatever room Jill was currently in. Jill froze and held her breath.

“It’s okay, I think she’s down for the night.”

Jill reached for the remote and lowered the volume two clicks, slowly letting out her breath.

“Who knew her hearing would be so sharp.”

Henry nodded.

After NCIS, they watched NCIS New Orleans and then began their nighttime routine of brushing teeth, laying out tomorrow’s clothes, and making lists of things they didn’t want to forget to do.

Coming home from work the next day, Henry thought about Irene. Since she arrived, he and Jill had less intimate time together.

Henry stopped at Wegman’s to surprise Jill with dinner. He filled a shopping basket with her favorites: twice-baked potatoes, green beans and almonds, and rib-eyes. At the bakery, Henry asked for two napoleons. Jill might complain they were too fattening, but he knew she loved them. He scanned the wine display and chose the $14 Riesling.

Opening the garage, he was relieved Irene’s boxes had been moved and there was room for his car once again.

“I’m home,” he called, unpacking the grocery bags. Henry had his back to Jill as she entered the kitchen. She was quiet; he turned to make sure she was there.

Jill stared at the empty bags; tears spilled down her cheeks.

“You forgot.”

“Did we have plans? I got your favorites....”

“You forgot,” she said again.

“What did I forget?”

“It was on your list. It’s the only thing I wrote. Diapers. You forgot the diapers. I know you hate buying them.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll go now.”

“She doesn’t like the cheap imitations. You have to get the brand name.”

He nodded.

Standing in line with the diapers, he imagined everyone staring at him.

Returning home, he parked in the driveway and put three cases of Depends in the garage to last his mother-in-law for a while. He no longer cared about his car; he cared that his wife’s face wouldn’t be tearful because of him.

 

***

What Maureen 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 Winner
3rd Place: Tara Moore
West Hartford, Connecticut
Congratulations, Tara!
Tara Moore

Tara’s Bio:

Tara Moore is a teacher who has spent the past year writing her first manuscript, An Unapologetic Love Story. It features a main character who stutters, and while researching, she met amazing people who remind us that when the world doesn’t slow down to really listen, we miss out on so much. She is a member of the National Stuttering Association, the West Hartford Fiction Writer’s Group, and the WOW! Women on Writing group. She holds a BA in Education and a BA in Dance from the University of Massachusetts, as well as a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. In her spare time, she can be found rooting for Triple Crown contenders with her son, binge-watching Gilmore Girls with her daughter, and following Springsteen with her husband anywhere along the eastern seaboard. She credits the supportive arms of the WOW! Women on Writing group for catching her as she made the leap from quietly clacking away at the keyboard to entering her first writing contest.

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My Child, The First

 

Three words. My father gave me three words, Ernest Michael George XIII. It wasn’t so much a name as a title, a title which had accumulated the weight of obligation with each generation that passed. Family. Tradition. Honor. When my son emerges, will I place the yoke of the fourteenth on his tiny shoulders?

My wife roars now with primal power, c-shaped and glistening under the fluorescent lights as she strains to bring our child into the world, our as-yet nameless “Baby-with-a-Capital-B.” I try to make my voice resonate with conviction as I count down from ten, but there is no jury here to be swayed, no approaching of the bench, and my voice falters. It is replaced with the voice of my father echoing through my head.

Ernest Michael George. It is the triplicate soundtrack to my life, accompanying the three firmly slung twists toward my throat of my first necktie, the three warning taps of the silver pen under the B on my report card, the three pumps of the handshake that sealed my fate as the new partner in his firm. I can imagine the voice of his father, and each of the fathers before him, all uttering the same three words, stretching accordion-like, in identical Stepford suits with carefully side-parted hair and meticulously groomed fingernails: Ernest Michael George.

My wife sets her jaw. She is determination incarnate as she bears down. She lets me count out loud, but I can see her own lips moving. The nurse nods and leans out into the hall, silently raising her arm to flag something down, as if hailing a taxi.

But, I think, someone had been the first. Someone’s father had looked into his son’s bright newborn eyes, and said, “Ernest. That’s a fine name for a fine boy.” Maybe he had considered the meaning of the homophone in the dictionary, Earnest: Showing depth or sincerity of feeling. That father had given his son a name that was fresh and elastic enough to allow him to grow into whatever kind of man he chose to be.

The doctor comes in now and pats my wife’s knee. “Hello, dear.” Her head snaps up, and I suppress a grin. I know that look, remember the fire in her eyes her first day at the firm when she was mistaken for a secretary. I fell in love with that look...

What if I button my son into the well-worn family uniform, and he isn’t a smaller version of me, an all-American baseball-playing, debate-team-winning, bar-passing, rule-following kid?

It won’t matter.

He will know that he is loved.

If he runs for President, I will say, May the best person win, and you are the best person.

If he wants to be a drummer, I will say, We all have dreams. Follow yours.

If he says, “Dad, I’m gay,” the words I have watched live in my brother’s mouth for a lifetime, I will say these words to him: Son, in a way, I always knew. Nothing could change my love for you.

I vow it then. Here in this hyper-illuminated hospital room with its Rorschach-stained ceiling and cracked tile floor, I vow that I will break the chain. Ernest Michael George, that stretched out, threadbare, hand-me-down name, will see its end here. My child will be the first.

My wife’s face goes slack as she drops her head forward. I recall an image of her inclining her head in just the same way when she crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I whisper to her, “You are amazing,” then silently curse every reality-show contestant who has drained the original power of this word, which should be reserved solely for moments and women such as this.

I turn now. The doctor must have played ball as a young man, because he catches the tiny, slick body with a slight retraction, a little give to his hands, the way you are taught so the baseball doesn’t bounce out of your glove. Then, he holds the shimmering, straining child slightly aloft, the way you would an academy award.

I want to say, Give it up. You’ve done your job, and I thank you. Well done. I’ll take it from here.

But the doctor isn’t done. He isn’t giving up the spotlight that easily. He still has an ace in the hole, and he pulls it now from his back pocket.

Three words. He gives me three words.

It’s a girl.

 

***

What Tara 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.

Click on their entries to read:

Justin’s Room by J.L. Delozier, State College, Pennsylvania

Fear of the Sentry by Tracy Maxwell, Seattle, Washington

Best Wishes, Melinda Rissmann by Allison Walters Luther, Bothell, Washington

We Dreamed by Jenna Moen, Portland, Oregon

The Priorities of Kathleen Curtis by Margaret Keating, Elgin, Illinois

Sargassum by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Things We Leave Behind by Erica Settino, Huntington, New York

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

Night Circus by Joy Baglio, Florence, Massachusetts

The Hardest Lesson by Julie Bloss Kelsey, Germantown, Maryland

The No Females Rule by Dianne Domey, Ladysmith, BC, CANADA

Defiance by Bettie Nebergall, Eustis, Florida

Northeast Corridor by Karen Senser, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Oblivion of Charlotte DuMont by Kelley Hicken, Highland, Utah

Four Days by Brenna Fender, Tampa, Florida

Foundations by Cheryl Fines, Brandon, MB, CANADA

The Right Moment by Cary Davis, Tucson, Arizona

Phone Call by Andrea Toews, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Spring 2016 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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