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WOW! Fall 2017 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 Hansen with Metamorphosis Literary Agency

Literary Agent Stephanie Hansen

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

Stephanie Hansen represents debut to New York Times bestselling authors. She’s signed authors with small presses to major publishing house distribution. She received her Master’s in 2008 and Creative Writing Specialization in 2017. Predominately she represents YA SF/F but has a secret addiction for romance. While these are her favorite, she handles everything fiction from children’s books to adult thrillers. Previously an editor for Mind’s Eye Literary Magazine, she became a part of Metamorphosis July 2016. Originally looking to help Midwest authors garner the attention of major publishing houses, despite residing in “flyover states,” she found camaraderie with multiple agents and editors. She’s seeking: YA series, adult SF/F, thrillers & romance. She is intrigued by prose that flows as smoothly as poetry, unforgettable plot twists & well-rounded characters.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @hansenwriter

Visit Metamorphosis Literary Agency: www.metamorphosisliteraryagency.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:  Jeaninne Escallier Kato
Rocklin, California
Congratulations, Jeaninne!
Jeaninne Escallier Kato

Jeaninne’s Bio:

As well as her writing history, Jeaninne is proud of her educational accomplishments. To support herself through college for a Bachelor of Science in Educational Psychology, three teaching credentials, and a Masters degree in Special Education, Jeaninne worked as a waitress, traffic school instructor, aerobics instructor, radio talk show disc jockey and acted in community theater. She is especially proud of receiving Teacher of the Year for California Continuation High School Association (1996-97); and, three separate awards for Teacher Who Makes a Difference (1989, 1992 and 2011). Jeaninne wrote and received grants for hiring a counselor for her Special Education Students (1991-92); and, she funded a Latino college scholarship program she created called “Lincoln Hermanos Mentors.” She raised enough college funds for 50 Latino college-bound young men (2005-2014) who mentored at-risk Latino elementary boys. Writing gives Jeaninne an outlet for her passions where she hopes to continue affecting others.

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A Desert Rose

 

The tattoo of his baby daughter’s name, recent and raw, is etched across his back. Jose Luis tries to shift his weight off of the truck bed to alleviate the pain, but he and eleven other men are packed in too tightly to move. It will be two days before they reach their coyote, human smuggler, in the desert town of Hermosillo, Mexico.

Jose Luis squeezes the lump of American money that his wife has sown into the lining of his fleece jacket and thinks about all of their sacrifices. It took them years to save this for his passage into The United States, and now he is desperate to provide for his growing family. Tourism in the state of Oaxaca has dwindled; no one is buying Jose Luis’s Barro Negro, black clay, pottery.

After two grueling days of travel over harsh terrain, the exhausted men are herded into a barn on the edge of the desert. The coyote takes their money then gives instructions, “Amigos, take only what you can carry. You will be given more food and water at the next checkpoint. Find shade during the day and walk at night. Never wander off alone.”

Jose Luis looks around at the men, those same boys with whom he learned to ride horses and shoot .22 rifles in the mountain pueblos of the Sierra Madres. He swallows hard to choke back the tears blocking his throat. Gerardo, Jose Luis’s oldest friend, catches his eye; together, they make the sign of the cross and kiss their thumbs.

The men have lost count of the sunrises and sunsets since they journeyed from the barn. The coyote made them leave their cell phones behind. He said that the light and the sound attract La Migra, the border patrol, from overhead helicopters. Jose Luis knows better. The night before they entered the Sonora Desert, he saw their coyote exchanging money for the phones with other smugglers when he thought the men were asleep. Now, as the sun comes up over the eastern horizon, Jose Luis shivers from a cold chill running through his bones.

He calls to Gerardo, “Pssst, hermano, are you awake?” Gerardo snakes his body on elbows and knees over to Jose Luis like an army commando on a mission.

Jose Luis continues, “Where is everyone?”

Gerardo looks around, “I don’t see any signs that we even camped here last night.”

Jose Luis furiously pats at his jacket and pants pockets for the rest of his money, and then dives into the sage brush that surrounds him. His bag of pork jerky and plastic water jug are gone. Gerardo frantically scurries back to his spot to find his provisions. Nothing. Gerardo and Jose Luis are left with the knowledge that they are lost in a vast desert with no food or water.

Jose Luis notices a desert rose bush growing in a thicket of sage at his feet, thinking one of his countrymen must have planted it there as a marker. He reaches down to pick a flower, thinking of his new daughter and family at home. He slumps down against a large rock next to his best friend, Gerardo, and then places the flower in his shirt pocket. The two men grasp the rosaries around their necks, blending their tears and prayers.

***

“Hey, sergeant, over here!” An Arizona border patrol officer kicks at a bundle of clothing and realizes it’s a body. The second officer runs up with a flashlight in one hand, resting the other hand on his holster. He spots another body under a scrub bush. They both recoil from the smell of death and decay.

As they begin to carefully remove the clothing for any form of identification, the sergeant says, “Poor hombres. I bet their coyote took off with all their stuff and left them here to die.” The deputy lifts back one of the body’s dirt matted shirts; and simultaneously, the officers exchange glances. Across its back, the words, tattooed in a fancy banner on a wooden cross, spell: “Mi Hija, Desert Rose.”

 

***

What Jeaninne Won:

  • $400.00 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:  Kat LeMay
Washington, DC
Congratulations, Kat!
Kat LeMay

Kat’s Bio:

Kat LeMay is a lifelong storyteller and aspiring novelist, who receives great pleasure in finding exactly the right word to express an emotion. After working in Human Resources for over twenty years, she recently reduced her work schedule to free up time to practice her writing craft. She completed and is now editing her first novel, and has started her second, a historical romance/thriller set in the Gilded Age. When not taking walkabouts around the neighborhood and writing in her tattered notebook, Kat enjoys reading cozy mysteries and researching her family genealogy (a great source of story ideas!) She splits her time between DC and New Mexico with her husband and lovingly-spoiled rescue dog.

A member of RWA and WFWA. Follow her on Twitter @Kat_LeMay

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The Question Mark

 

A group of neighbors gathered near the entrance of the Coco Palms community center. Sumiko saw them from her balcony as she was sipping her morning cappuccino. She was too far away to see or hear the reason for the commotion, so she put on her sneakers and went outside.

As Sumiko joined the crowd, she immediately saw the object of their attention: a giant question mark had been spray painted on the sidewalk, near the walkway leading to the pool. The paint glared florescent orange, its rough edges seeping into the cement.

“It’s a curious thing,” Sumiko stated to her friend, Walter, who was hovering over the offensive punctuation. He was a member of the board of directors of their condo association, and her primary source of news and gossip.

“Yes,” Walter responded, frowning. “The police will be coming later today, we hope. Vandalism is not on their list of top priorities.”

“Understandable.” Sumiko looked above, searching for the security cameras. “Do we have anything on tape?”

“No, we already checked. The cameras do not cover this point of view.”

Sumiko nodded grimly. She recalled the procedural shows she watched on television and—knowing the perpetrator may have returned to the scene of the crime—she searched her neighbors’ faces. But everyone wore the same expression of appalled shock. She decided next to search for clues, poking around the nearby landscaping with a foot. The hedges had been recently trimmed and the flowers along the pathway newly planted, the dirt around their roots a darker color. Beautiful purple-blue flowers bloomed on top of tall green stalks. Sumiko gently separated the flowers to get a clearer look on the ground, but all she found was a skittish lizard.

She sighed, giving up her search, and returned to her condo. She planned her day as she reheated her cappuccino in the microwave. First, Sumiko would visit the farmer’s market in town and then stop by the library for a friend. He had reserved a photography book about French gardens.

Sumiko smiled at the thought of her friend’s new fascination with botany, an interest developed during a recent European tour. He would like those new flowers...

“Wait! Could it be?” Sumiko asked aloud.

She rushed out and walked across the courtyard to the next building, stopping at a ground floor condo and knocking on the door. A gentile man with twinkling brown eyes answered. He was happy to see her. And normally, Sumiko would be happy to see him. Diego was a good neighbor and recent friend. Since Diego lost his wife a year ago, he and Sumiko he had grown closer in their shared experiences of widowhood.

Sumiko walked into Diego’s home, closing the door behind her. Skipping formalities, she said, “The question mark. It was you.”

“Yes,” Diego sighed, his eyes losing their cheer. “You saw the plants, didn’t you? They’re an invasive species. Wild petunia. They don’t belong in South Florida!”

“But why the graffiti? Why didn’t you just bring it to the attention of the Board, and have the landscaper remove it.”

“I protested giving the contract to the new landscaping company. Three of their four references mentioned the use of non-native species. That’s unacceptable! The Board should have known better but just ignored me, voting in a block like they always do. My question mark was meant as an anonymous but dramatic interpretation of my principles.”

“It’s definitely dramatic...” Sumiko said.

“You won’t tell?”

“No...,” Sumiko contemplated. “But you need to promise not to do this anymore. Find another way to express yourself. And I’ll talk to Walter, get him to back off on the police.”

Diego nodded in agreement and thanked Sumiko. Her heart warmed at seeing a sparkle in Diego’s eyes.

She went back to the community center and found Walter, pulling him aside to speak to him in private. “I was thinking...,” she said to him. “We need to call the police and tell them we don’t want to report a crime.”

“Why?” Walter raised a bushy white eyebrow.

“It will be bad for property values if there is a crime log entry associated with Coco Palms.” Sumiko knew what mattered most.

Concern flashed across Walter’s face. “Good point. I’m going to recommend to the Board we do that immediately. Excuse me,” he said, leaving Sumiko abruptly.

She smiled after him, deciding to wait a few days before asking for the removal of the wild petunias.

 

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What Kat Won:

  • $300.00 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: Frances Walsh
Leeds, England, UK
Congratulations, Frances!
Frances Walsh

Frances’s Bio:

Originally from the UK, I initially started to write in my free time as a way of relaxing and exploring my more creative side during my years at University. I have previously focused on writing poetry, but in recent years I have started to write short stories with a view to building up to a longer piece of work. I particularly enjoy writing character studies as I love creating detailed characters with complex but relatable personalities. One of my favourite authors as a child was Russell Hoban because although his stories involved elements of fantasy, his characters were so realistic and his work often focused on identity and introspection.

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Autumn Winds

 

Autumn winds have come to claim the summer. The marigolds droop, bowing their heads to the listless September sun and to the season of the golden leaf. I’m in the park. You used to collect conkers in this park, remember? Every year, folding your cotton handkerchief over those shiny brown pips.

“Well,” you’d say, “the children might want them.”

Today they are wanted only by the squirrels. Bushy tails which weave and duck through the greenery as the feisty creatures race to outlast the seasons.

You loved coming to this park. We spent so many of our mornings wandering through these trees, and yet my memory somehow blurs it all into one long day. How many times did you reach for my hand under these skies? Impossible to say. I wish I had counted them all. Now I come here and I try to love this park for you.

It is cold today. My scarf hangs on its hook at home; you’d always wrap it round me at the last moment as we left, laughing at your silly old husband. I think I’d cry now if I ever remembered it without you.

The cold has stolen quick to my bones, and my damned knees already ache from walking on the uneven earth. Aging is an exercise in endurance; slowly, everything bodily fails until eventually we lose the ability to keep up with the world. I should go home and rest, but I’m a foolish old man, and there is rare pleasure to be found in small rebellions.

One more moment in our park, and then I’ll head back. One more moment, and maybe just a couple more. My throat starts to ache and there is a sudden desperation squeezing my chest. I want to shred the autumn sky, to bring back the spring. I don’t want to go home.

But the first wisps of evening threaten, and I head back to the house. Susie’s car is in the driveway, and I can hear the soft murmur of the radio through an open window. I find her in the kitchen scrubbing furiously at a pan stained long past repair, years of Sunday roasts coming home to roost.

“Everything alright?”

Her back is taut, an exclamation point of tension, and she doesn’t reply. I should touch her, talk to her, anything, anything. Of all our children she misses you the most; she’s burying herself in everyday existence, grappling with tasks and projects and any tangible distraction. I don’t think she knows how to live this reality. I can scarcely breathe it myself.

She jerks her head towards the living room, and my feet are obedient to her dismissal. Coward. You’d be so disappointed. The plaintive melody of Moon River becomes audible and reaches a crescendo as I push open the living room door.

“Hello, darling.” My voice sounds like a prayer.

She’s sat you in the armchair, the blankets tucked around you too tightly to allow much movement. You’re still wearing your nightdress, and I feel a stab of impotent frustration. I crouch in front of you, searching your gaze for a hint of today. Are you there?

“Moon River.” The words are coarse but recognizable. Hope swells like pain in my chest.

“Yes, darling, yes. It’s Moon River,” I grasp your hand but you tense under my touch. Your eyes have gone hard and bright like a sick bird; and for a terrible second, I’ve lost you.

“Where did you go?”

Accusing, spiteful. I can’t recognize you in the cadence. Your words echo in my head for a second until I realize what you’re asking. You’re asking about today.

“I went to the park, my lovely. Here, I brought you something.”

My hands are clumsy in my pocket, stiff from cold and hope and desperation. I press the conkers into your palm like a memory and for a long time you simply stare at them, running your fingers over their glossy coats. Your eyes are unfathomable, caught between memory and absence. When you speak it is soft, almost a question.

“For the children.”

For a moment, I’ve found you.

 

***

What Frances Won:

  • $200.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin

RUNNERS UP:

Congratulations to the runners-up! It was very close, and these stories are excellent in every way.

Click on their entries to read:

Late Bloomers by Savannah Thomas, Montgomery, Alabama

The Naming by Tina R. Tippett, Eldersburg, Maryland

Hobgoblin by Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Oakland, California

The Beekeeper by Isabella Ronchetti, Charlottesville, Virginia

Gone by Rohana Chomick, Tampa, Florida

The Thief by Sarah Lucas, Norfolk, Virginia

Three Fingers by Mary Ellen Wall, Owensboro, Kentucky

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.

Back on the Island by Marion Thomas, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA

Contact by Cathy Cruise, Fairfax, Virginia

Passings by K. Alan Leitch, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, AUSTRALIA

Nancy Drew and the New Deal by Joy Givens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Away by Marjan Coester, Winston, Oregon

Engagement Lasagna by Jamie Richardson, Royse City, Texas

For the First Time by Stephanie Buck, Washington, DC

Lost Stiletto by Kristi Woods, Collinsville, Oklahoma

My Lorelei by Tina Tippett, Eldersburg, Maryland

The Night the Lilies Came by Rita Pomade, Westmount, Quebec, CANADA

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Fall 2017 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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