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WOW! Summer 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 Stephanie Fretwell-Hill

Literary Agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill

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

Stephanie started her publishing career in 2004 at Walker Books Ltd. in London, where she sold foreign language rights. Working in a design-led company with legendary artists such as Helen Oxenbury and Lucy Cousins sparked her love of illustration, while her sales role gave her an international perspective on children’s publishing.

In 2011, Stephanie moved back home to the United States, where she joined Peachtree Publishers as an editor. During her four years there, she acquired fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade, and young adult titles. Her acquisitions received such honors as YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year, Parents’ Choice Awards, and numerous starred reviews from major trade magazines.

As the newest agent to join Red Fox Literary, Stephanie represents both authors and illustrators of board books, picture books, middle grade, and young adult. She will consider stories in any genre, but looks for a strong voice, rich and multi-layered plots, and stylish, classic, or quirky illustrations. Most of all, she loves anything that really makes her laugh.

Stephanie lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her English husband, brand new baby girl, and a border collie named Rooney. When her nose isn’t in a book, she can often be found changing diapers, renovating a house, traveling someplace new, or cooking dinner.

Find out more about Stephanie by connecting with her on Twitter @sfretwellhill.

Red Fox Literary: www.redfoxliterary.com

-----

   

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:  Linda Peters
Long Beach, California
Congratulations, Linda!
Linda Peters

Linda’s Bio:

Linda Peters is a writer and speaker based in Long Beach, California. As an active blogger, Linda writes AndroidAfterForty.com, a collection of lifestyle articles that help people who didn’t grow up with computers to successfully navigate today’s technology and impress their grown children.

Linda’s first book of flash fiction, Somewhere to Turn: stories (written as Linda Courtland) is included in the Seaborne Library’s Flash Fiction Special Collection, which was compiled by the directors of the International Flash Fiction Association (IFFA) at the United Kingdom’s University of Chester. Linda is also the author of Way of the Whale: A Novel (2014), a story about finding peace from the point of view of a captive killer whale.

In 2016, Linda and her husband Tom Peters co-authored Our Socially Awkward Marriage: Stories from an Adult Relationship on the Asperger’s End of the Autism Spectrum, a collection of flash memoir stories about the effects of Asperger’s Syndrome on their relationship. Together, Linda and Tom write and lecture about relationships, health and disability issues. They also do business writing, strategic planning and grant consulting for nonprofits and arts organizations through their company, Peters Communications. Follow Linda on Twitter at @WayOfTheWhale.

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Difficult Relatives

 

Jimmy first heard the voice when he was six years old.

“Take care of me,” she said.

Jimmy looked around the sandbox and saw no one. He continued building his castle.

“I know you can hear me,” she said.

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“I’m not a stranger. I’m your mother.”

“You don’t sound like her.”

“I’m Mother Nature.”

Jimmy dropped his juice box and ran.

“Don’t leave that trash!” the voice said.

“Go pick on somebody else.”

“No one else will listen.”

***

During class, Jimmy couldn’t concentrate on his storybook.

“Do you know how long it takes cardboard to decompose?” Mother Nature whispered.

Jimmy ignored her.

“And that little plastic straw...” Mother Nature sighed. “All because you refuse to recycle.”

Jimmy felt the plight of the playground on his shoulders. He got a pass to the restroom and ran to the sandbox, then grabbed the juice box and shoved it into the school’s blue recycling bin.

“Now was that so hard?” the voice said.

***

In middle school, Jimmy started a “Save the Earth” movement.

“Why can’t you be more like Jimmy?” the other Moms would say to their sons.

Jimmy recycled his term papers and textbooks. He educated his peers about the proper disposal of e-waste. When everyone else was playing baseball, Jimmy walked along the highway, picking up styrofoam.

“We’re worried about Jimmy,” a teacher told his parents. “He seems tired.”

Jimmy tried to slow down but he was driven by an unstoppable voice that demanded more care, more attention, more time. And finally, he reached a breaking point.

***

“Command hallucinations,” the doctor told Jimmy’s parents. “Sign here.” And with an inky flourish, Jimmy was committed to an adolescent psych facility.

“Make her stop talking to me,” Jimmy said to the psychiatrist.

After taking medication for a week, Jimmy couldn’t hear anything. Mother Nature would scream about the need for compact fluorescent light bulbs in the day room, but Jimmy would just shuffle to his bed like he was slogging through wet sand.

“You just wait,” she said. “This isn’t the last time we’ll talk about energy efficiency.”

When Jimmy managed to keep from mentioning global warming for two straight weeks, he was discharged home.

“It was never real,” the doctor told him. “You have nothing to fear.”

But Jimmy knew better.

***

By the time Jimmy started high school, the medicine had stopped working. Jimmy tried to focus on trigonometry but Mother Nature had other ideas.

“What are you planning to do about the polar ice caps?” she demanded.

Haunted by the voice of a mother he could never please, Jimmy tried to drown her out with alcohol. After school he found a store that didn’t check ID. Every day he bought beer and recycled the empties. After a few weeks, he got caught.

“Underage drinking,” the police officer said. “Come with me.”

He was sentenced to 500 hours of community service.

***

Jimmy joined a group that combed the beaches for trash every weekend. At orientation, he met Sara.

“Tick tock,” she said.

“What?”

“Hurry, another minute’s passing.” She handed him a trash bag and ran along the surf.

***

Jimmy tried to do his homework but he couldn’t stop thinking of the girl from the beach.

“I think it’s time you start composting,” the voice said.

But with Sara in his thoughts, even Mother Nature couldn’t bring Jimmy down.

***

By noon, they’d filled all their trash bags.

“What now?” Sara said.

“The ozone layer needs some work,” Mother Nature said.

Jimmy grabbed Sara’s hand. “Sand castles?”

Together they gathered what was needed to build a strong and sturdy foundation. Sara finished the turrets in record time.

“In a few short hours, it will all be destroyed,” she said.

“But that’s the beauty of it,” Jimmy said. “Nature’s impermanence.”

And they walked down the beach holding hands.

***

After they’d been dating for six months, Jimmy told Sara about Mother Nature. “It’s this voice,” he said.

“I totally get it,” she said. “Father Time’s been bothering me since kindergarten.”

“Really?”

“We all have difficult relatives to deal with.”

“Maybe,” Jimmy said. “But I wish he’d let you rest sometimes.”

“And I wish she could appreciate all the work you’ve done,” Sara said.

They held each other then, full of that fiery first love that was oblivious to time and undeterred by the forces of nature.

And there was nothing impermanent about it.

 

***

What Linda 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:  Tara Lynne Groth
Raleigh, North Carolina
Congratulations, Tara Lynne!
Tara Lynne Groth

Tara Lynne’s Bio:

Tara Lynne Groth writes short fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in multiple journals and one of her poems was selected to inspire two community art sculptures in 2014. She received honorable mention in fiction in the 2015 Carolina Woman Writing Contest and was a semifinalist for the 2015 and 2016 James Applewhite Poetry Prize. She is an alumnus of the Southampton Writers Conference. Her blog Write Naked is a place where she breaks down the misconceptions people have about being a full-time freelancer. She tweets at @WriteNaked. More at www.taralynnegroth.com.

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Who Am I?

 

“How long has the metal been in your eye?” I asked the patient. At least the welder’s injury was not fatal. I had just delivered three stillbirths. Death generally does not bother me, but the multiple deaths compounded with travel exhaustion had taken its toll. I thought I was ready to leave the ER and move on after the last mother’s tragedy, but then one of the nurses had pulled me behind a curtain where the welder waited.

He sat with perfect posture on the edge of the ER bed. If it hadn’t been for the rusty tears involuntarily streaming from the corner of his right eye, he looked like he could be perched on a dock waiting for a fish to tap a line. “Eh, tree, maybe faw owahs,” he said. “I feel fine, doc. M’boss wanted me to come here. I gotta lotta woyk to do.”

“Eyes are delicate,” I said and pressed his cheek down with one hand and his eyebrow up with the other. “We don’t want to rush, and we don’t want to take our time either.” I squinted at his sclera, the white part of his eye. A small spot about half the size of a flea appeared hooked in the flesh. “Look to the left and try not to blink. I am going to use a high-strength magnet to try and release the metallic particle. If it doesn’t work we’ll need to use other tools to extract it. Fortunately, the piece did not damage your cornea. The only affected area will heal relatively quickly with the use of antibiotic drops and rest.”

He kept looking left, unblinking. “Rest? Whaddya mean? I can’t go to woyk? I gotta woyk. Money’s tight.” His eyes shifted right.

“Look left!” I said. “Workers’ comp laws are around for injuries like this. Even if you were supposed to wear protective eyewear and forgot—you’re still covered.” I opened the clasp on a shoe-box sized container. The container’s case was as thick as a dictionary, and fat dividers separated three powerful magnets.

“I don’t think that would be enough. Nurse said this is the first night of ya residency. Bet ya didn’t think you’d be doin’ this.”

“Just keep looking left.” I picked up the strongest magnet from the box. It was as heavy as a clam, but the force it could pull was two thousand times the weight of an average mollusk. I held it about a foot from his eye and slowly brought it closer. “No, I sure didn’t. You surprised everyone—and I thought I would be the one to do that.”

The spot didn’t move.

I held it closer.

“Ahh,” the patient whimpered. “I can feel it.”

“Just a bit more. You’re almost there.” I moved the magnet a half-inch closer.

“Ahhh!”

“You’re doing great. Almost there.”

The piece of metal flew out to the magnet so fast it seemed to teleport. The piece was five times larger than the original spot.

“Look at that. You’re lucky you’re able to see it!” I used a plastic tool to slide the object off the magnet, placed it in a vial, and handed it over.

“Whaddya know,” he said and held the vial up to the light. He smiled. “I gotta send you a gift, doc. What’s ya name again?” He looked down at my starched white lab coat, but he wouldn’t find a name tag there.

A nurse’s head poked through the curtain. “Doctor—we need you, another labor.”

I nodded and the nurse’s head disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

“You did well, sir. No gift necessary. A nurse will be in with your care instructions and prescriptions in a moment. Also—she’ll give you a tetanus vaccine just to be sure.” I patted him on the back as I imagined I would do for an old friend. I never stayed anywhere long enough to make a friend though.

As I slipped through the curtain, I placed my hands in my lab coat pockets and felt the hypodermic needle packages and various pills I had confiscated. I looked like a doctor. In the frenzy of ERs across the country, a nurse will trust anyone who looks like a doctor during an emergency. The same is true for patients. All I needed was a little fix, and if I could pretend to fix people for a little while, where’s the harm in that? Do no harm: Every doctor’s credo.

 

***

What Tara Lynne 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: Michelle Rene
Dallas, Texas
Congratulations, Michelle!
Michelle Rene

Michelle’s Bio:

Michelle grew up in Texas and spent as much of her time either in a museum or a book. History, art, music, writing, anything was fair game. While most girls were writing about boys in their eighth grade diaries, Michelle penned her very first two-hundred-page novel by hand. No one should ever read that novel. Really, it’s terrible.

She graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design with her BFA in Illustration. She grew her art career as a production artist, painter, sculptor, designer, and video game artist. All along, what she really wanted to do was write. It was her passion and the thing she felt she was destined to do, so she decided she would focus on that instead.

Since that epiphany, Michelle has had two novels, one novella, a novelette, and a short story published. Her historical fiction novel, I Once Knew Vincent, has won three different indie awards. Michelle didn’t stray too far from her video game days. Her game, Danielle’s Inferno, is set to release in November of 2016 with One More Story Games. Recently, she signed a contract with Amberjack Publishing to publish her novel, Hour Glass, in February of 2018.

Michelle now lives in Dallas with her husband, son, and ungrateful cat. To learn more about her and follow her on social media, check out her website www.michellereneauthor.com.

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Not Yet

 

Numbness came as a trickle. I shivered with the weight of sudden paralysis. My body jerked not from my doing but under the command of surgeons. A bright, sterile world surrounded my dissection, and the audience gawked unmoved at the main attraction.

Life poured from me in red waves.

Death, in all his splendor, perched on my chest. His bulk sat heavy and made breathing a daunting task. Occasionally, he’d peek over the curtain and return his steely gaze back to me with a solemn shake of his head. Pressing down on my lungs, the specter allowed hot tears, oceans of them, but not screams. Never any screams from me, but from someone else.

Please let me see him. Please, just once.

Then, he appeared at my side, holding our son. The baby was pink and new and alive. I clutched him to my chest, looking into those eyes that said he was here now. He breathed. He lived there among us. My boy stared up at Death with a glare that dared him to say otherwise. My son, he was defiant. My child, he was untouchable.

The doctors still pulled on me, but I struggled to hold that baby with what I had left. My body shook, fighting against the falling veil. Someone whisked him away from my faltering grip, and I trembled at what might happen next.

Whispers abounded. There was too much blood. Hushed urgency and slipping life. The pain was so heavy. The lie of anesthesia lifted, leaving only the reality of surgery.

Will I die? Now that I’ve seen him, will I die?

I could no longer see Death there beside me, but his presence lingered. The smell of some final denouement hovered despite the oxygen mask over my face. A tang that drifted both sour and sweet. Musk in the open air. There was a breath on my cheek—the only warm thing in the whole room.

A voice from no one whispered in my ear, “Not today. Not yet.”

 

***

What Michelle 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:

The Fox Coat by K. W. Oxnard, Savannah, Georgia

Touch of a Lie by Arlana Kurtz, Louisville, Kentucky

Mourners at the Grave of the Other Dr. Johansen by Shelley Wood, Kelowna, CANADA

Mr. Gold’s Toll by Tracy Maxwell, Seattle, Washington

Last Man Out by Rose Kleidon, Akron, Ohio

Release Mission by Emily Keener, Alton, Illinois

Lost and Found by Linda A. Rich, Mesquite, Nevada

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

Warrior Girl by Carrie Hatland, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA

Everton Boarding School, 1824 by Lora Orme, Kronenwetter, Wisconsin

I Thought It Less Like a Lake by Sabrina Savra DeCarlo, Northbrook, Illinois

Incident at the Mall by Pepper Hume, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Dress Blues by Marilyn Guggenheim, Bozeman, Montana

Abby No-Name by Shelley Jewell, Monroe, New Hampshire

Untimely by Adan Ramie, Nederland, Texas

The Value of Gold by Amara Luciano, Wood-Ridge, New Jersey

Uphill by Alana Agerbo, Surrey, BC, CANADA

Goin’ Home by Diane Siracusa, Hollister, Missouri

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Summer 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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