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WOW! Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners


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 Jennifer Chen Tran with Bradford Literary Agency

Literary Agent Jennifer Chen Tran

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

Jennifer Chen Tran is an agent at Bradford Literary, joining in September 2017. She represents both fiction and non-fiction. Originally from New York, Jennifer is a lifelong reader and experienced member of the publishing industry. Prior to joining Bradford Literary, she was an Associate Agent at Fuse Literary and served as Counsel at The New Press. She obtained her Juris Doctor from Northeastern School of Law in Boston, MA, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.

Jennifer understands the importance of negotiation in securing rights on behalf of her authors. She counsels her clients on how to expand their platforms, improve on craft, and works collaboratively with her clients throughout the editorial and publication process. Her ultimate goal is to work in concert with authors to shape books that will have a positive social impact on the world—books that also inform and entertain.

Select titles that Jennifer has represented: I Will Love You Forever by Cori Salchert (Barbour/ Shiloh Run Press); Breaking Up & Bouncing Back by Samantha Burns (Dover/ Ixia Press); The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan (Amberjack); Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer (Skyhorse); A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide by Jamey Stegmaier (Berrett-Koehler).

Jennifer is very interested in diverse writers and #ownvoices from underrepresented/ marginalized communities, strong and conflicted characters who are not afraid to take emotional risks, stories about multi-generational conflict, war and post-war fiction, and writing with a developed sense of place. In non-fiction, she loves books that broaden her world view or shed new light on ‘big ideas.’

Visit Bradford Literary Agency:

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @JenChenTran



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:  Courtney McDermott
Medford, Massachusetts
Congratulations, Courtney!
Courtney McDermott

Courtney’s Bio:

Courtney McDermott is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the MFA program at the University of Notre Dame. Her debut collection of short stories, How They Spend Their Sundays (Whitepoint Press 2013) was nominated for both the PEN/Hemingway Award and The Story Prize. Her short fiction has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Originally from Iowa, she currently lives in the greater Boston area. She works in the Film and Media Studies Program at Tufts University and teaches part-time in the online Master’s in English program at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow her on Twitter @courtmcdermott or find her on her website:

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Letting Go of Virginia Woolf


Long before I met her, I knew that she was out there. She was a stone skipping into a great wide lake, and I was the shore absorbing the tremors radiating from her presence. She made things happen, and then she happened to me.


I met her along the Gulf of Mexico. She was sitting where the water kisses the sand. She held a seashell up to her ear. Her eyes were closed and she held her breath.

She was the most curious woman I had ever seen.

“Do you hear the ocean?” I asked.

“No.” Her eyes remained closed. “Never. It’s always... something else.”

I crouched next to her. “I always hear a child blowing on dandelions in the springtime.”

She opened her brilliant gray eyes, a color I haven’t seen before or since. “Yes,” she said. “That’s exactly what it is.”


We sprinted off to St. Augustine. We wore shorts and walked barefoot in the sand. Fashion was for those who were uncertain about themselves, she told me. The man who married us wore a diving suit.

After we ate our cake and took photos in the sunset, I drove her to the harbor.

“Where are we going?” she asked, and I leaned over to whisper in her ear.

“I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise!” She laughed, rolling down the window, letting the salty wind invade the car, blowing our hair.


My therapist once told me that after two years, romantic passion dissipated to bittersweetness.

I was madly in love with her past the two year mark.

We worked out of the apartment in separate offices because she said, “We each need a room of our own.” But the walls were so thin we could still speak to one another at a normal volume.

“Lunch,” she would say, just at that moment when I was feeling hungry.

“Grilled chicken?” I’d respond.

“And salad with blue cheese.”

“Perfect,” I’d say.

And that’s how it always was.


One day she didn’t call out lunch. She went to the bathroom and when I was feeling hungry she still hadn’t returned.

Ten minutes passed. Then fifteen. I knocked on the door. “You okay?”

She coughed. I opened the door to see her kneeling over the toilet. Blood splattered on the toilet seat, on the floor, on her mouth.

“Fine,” she whispered.


How could you not love her?

She laughed at cat videos.

She whimpered when she killed a mosquito and it left blood on her skin.

At winter’s first snowfall, she’d bake cookies for the neighbors.

She sent homemade cards just because she was thinking of you.

She adopted a manatee named Calvin and hung its photo on our fridge.

When we went to karaoke (which I dreaded), she could get the whole bar singing.

She saw everyone. Loved everyone.

She saw me. She loved me.


“This has been undiagnosed for so long…” the doctors said.

“How much time?”

They cocked their heads like a flock of seagulls, wide-eyed from lack of sleep. “We can’t confidently say more than three months.”


“There, there,” the doctors said. “How about you go in and see her?”

I thought about not going in. About faking sick from the choking smell of Lysol in the hallway.

But she would know if I walked away.

The white of the hospital room scared me. She already looked like a corpse. Her cheeks dull like a doll’s, her breath so shallow that I couldn’t see the waves of her chest rising and falling.

“Should I bring you rocks?” I asked. “We can fill our pockets.” Her lips twitched. “We could walk into the ocean and forget this all.”

“Shh,” she whispered, but the silence drove me crazy.

I brought her favorite books: Jane Eyre, The Bell Jar, Mrs. Dalloway. I read aloud to fill the silence. I read to her when I couldn’t think of words to say.

I tried to make her laugh. I played cat video after cat video. Cats licking babies, cats falling off of chairs, cats dressed up like lobsters.

“Shh,” she whispered.

I placed seashells by her bedside, but she didn’t notice.

Tomorrow her sisters would arrive. Her nieces would crowd by the bed and her son from the unfortunate first marriage would stare at the floor. They’d push away the books and toss the seashells aside. They wouldn’t hear her laughter and she would listen only with her eyes closed. They would strive to remember the color of her eyes.



What Courtney Won:

  • $400.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place Winner
2nd Place:  Patricia Perry Donovan
Jersey Shore, New Jersey
Congratulations, Patricia!
Patricia Perry Donovan

Patricia’s Bio:

Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist and author of two novels of family drama, At Wave’s End (2017) and Deliver Her (2016) published by Lake Union. She is currently at work on a third. She began writing fiction on a lark in 2011; since that time, her stories have appeared in a number of literary journals. She enjoys travel and mentoring new writers, and relies on running and yoga for balance (literally). The mother of two grown daughters, Patricia and her family spent six years in Lyon, France in the nineties, an experience she plans to mine in a future novel. Today, Patricia and her husband live at the Jersey shore with their Yorkie Diesel. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit

Printable View



Still Life


What the hell were swish pants, Mia wondered, poring over the prison’s online dress code for visitors, and why did the jail forbid them?

She hadn’t decided whether to visit him. His caseworker first called a week ago, as Mia shopped for paintbrushes.

I’m looking for Felix Delgado’s daughter.

It was Mia she sought. After Delgado’s travesty years ago, committed in Mia’s presence, a childless couple had adopted her, offering a fresh canvas for her future. With their love, the nightmare’s hard edges softened.

“He’s dying, Maria,” said his caseworker.

“It’s Mia,” she corrected.

“He wants to see you. If he’s lucky, he has a few weeks.”


Back home, Mia’s father stood on their porch contemplating Mount Washington, her mother beside him, curled up in an Adirondack chair.

“What did you decide?” her mother asked.

How did they know? “About what?”

“About your paintbrushes, silly.”

“Right. Paintbrushes.” Sagging onto the porch steps, Mia offered her bag to her mother, who peeked inside before patting Mia’s hand.

“Exactly what I would have chosen.”

For days, Mia wrestled with Delgado’s request, imagining him stretched on a prison cot reading his bible. The model inmate even led a prayer group, his caseworker noted.

Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos. Her birth mother’s plea had gone unanswered.

* * *

One night, Mia prepared dinner with her mother while her father attended his Old Man of the Mountain preservation society meeting. The Old Man was in his blood. A decade earlier, his society labored to cleave the iconic rock profile to its base, but Great Stone Face ultimately crumbled. Undaunted, he drove ten-year-old Mia to the scenic overlook, angling the viewfinder at blue cotton sky toward the phantom Old Man. “Look. This lets you see him. Exactly like before.”

Mia pressed her face against icy steel and squinted at the living mountain overlaid with an artist’s rendering of The Old Man. She strained to reconcile the disparate images, but Great Stone Face eluded her.

Driving home, her father offered evidence the Old Man endured: his image etched on New Hampshire license plates, road signs, coins; literature inspired by his curt jaw.

Watching her mother chop carrots in her father’s absence, Mia blurted out her question. “Will God forgive Felix Delgado?”

The blade struck butcher block like gunshot. “Honey, even God has limits.”

After their meal, Mia retreated to her studio. She attempted a still life, but her ragged strokes bore no resemblance to the tranquil fruit bowl before her. At the knock, Mia’s brush skidded across canvas, leaving a crimson gash.

“It’s over,” her father said, once inside. His society had dissolved. “People can’t put faith in something they can’t see.” Cocking his head, he studied Mia’s painting. “Not your usual, honey.”

Mia shrugged.

He slung an arm around her. “Don’t worry. You’ll work it out.”

Mia’s throat thickened. “I can’t.”

“Can I help?”

Afterward, Mia wondered why she hadn’t unburdened herself sooner.

“The man wants to clear his conscience before he meets his maker,” he said. “It’s a selfish thing to ask a child.”

“I’m not a child.”

“You’re my child. And you don’t have to do this alone.”

The next afternoon, under a spring sky bruised purple, father and daughter passed through security to a windowless room. When the door opened, Mia jumped, startled by the man in black.

“I’ve been meeting with your—Mr. Delgado—for months,” the chaplain began. “Sadly, when I arrived at Felix’s cell today, he was...” He cleared his throat. “He had passed.”

Stricken, Mia faced her father.

“You should have let us know,” he chided the chaplain.

“You were already on your way. And rest assured: Felix didn’t suffer at the end.”

“Is that so?” Mia’s father rose to leave.

“Please, before you go: Felix wanted Maria to have this.”

As Mia accepted the bible he offered, yellowed papers fluttered to the floor: the Serenity Prayer, a photo of Mia as a toddler, a motherly arm encircling her waist.

On the ride home, it began to snow—an unseasonable blanket threatening fragile blooms. Mia opened the bible to an underlined passage: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

She swallowed, then asked her father to detour.

This time at the scenic overlook, Mia took her time, squinting hard into the viewfinder until her eyes burned, until the real and the imagined Old Man coalesced, exactly as her father had foreseen.



What Patricia Won:

  • $300.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place Winner
3rd Place: Elizabeth Eidlitz
Concord, Massachusetts
Congratulations, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Eidlitz

Elizabeth’s Bio:

Elizabeth Eidlitz is a retired independent school English teacher, a writing workshop facilitator, and newspaper columnist who recently became intrigued by the demands of flash fiction. She has coedited a textbook, published a few short stories and many feature articles.

She is amazed at what writers have created with only 26 alphabet letters.

In her own work she tries to define both factual and emotional truths.

She loves E.B. White, animals, laughter, French onion soup with lots of melted cheese, and unvarnished people.

She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Printable View


Our Day


She’s doing it again. Stage whispering, in front of everybody in Best & Company’s elevator, “Isn’t it time for some grown-up underwear, too, Daughter?”

I’m Victoria. Her name for the child she finally had at 40 after two miscarriages. In the Junior Miss viewing section, arms locked against my chest, I slump against couch cushions. She tells the saleslady, “We’d like to see some nice dresses. Daughter goes to boarding school next week.”

Mother calls this New York City shopping expedition “Our Day”—with lunch at her favorite Japanese restaurant if I’m not snippy. It’s her effort to try to like her child better by pretending closeness, hoping it might catch on.

I’ve run out of polite ways to reject “smart little frocks” meant for May Queens when the saleswoman returns from the stockroom with a morning glory blue dress that startles me forward. Mother’s half smile curls upward. “Why don’t you try it on, Daughter?”

How can I? She’ll tell me to stand up straight so I don’t spoil the lines of the dress, then ask me turn slowly, so she can wink with the saleslady about how I am ‘developing.’

“Well the color’s nice, but it’s too sophisticated,” I say.

The beautiful dress swings on the rack in diminishing blue arcs.

“Sorry,” Mother shrugs to the saleswoman. “Have to let it go. No pleasing her today.”

We cross Fifth Avenue tandem. The back slash in Mother’s straight skirt moves like sharp scissors.

She suddenly turns: “You have two choices: Pull yourself together for a nice Our Day, or—if you have to ruin it” (—another unfinished threat, like “If you chew the ends of your glasses...if you loosen your retainer...if you play that music so loud...if you squeeze your blemish...if, at nearly 14, you still haven’t learned...”)—“forget our Miyako lunch and go straight home.”

The thought of Sukiyaki’s razored beef simmering with onion pearls is mouthwatering. I swallow hard before I hear myself say, “I think I’d like to go straight home.”

At the 53rd street corner, a gray-haired woman hails my mother. College classmates exchange greetings. “That’s right, Ruth!” Mother exclaims. “Almost thirty years! And this is Daughter.”

The stranger clasps her hands. Her glance shifts from her classmate’s designer suit and French roll to my messy bangs and stained raincoat. “But she doesn’t look at all like you, Amanda, does she?”

“No,” I announce. “I’m adopted.”

“Oh, Vic-tor-ia!”

My lie has embarrassed and divided them, leaving a thrilling dividend of doubt.

Heading for the car, I avoid looking at mother. She pulls a hankie from her purse, blows her nose. Throat clearings, the metronome of windshield wipers, and jangling toll coins punctuate the silent drive home.

Rejecting my mother in front of her friend was a terrible thing to do.

My mind practices “I’m sorry,” yet my words, though true, never slide out easily like hers. I resolve to say them before the 79th Street boat basin, but Mother drives too fast. 96th street then. We pass Grant’s Tomb. What if she dies without knowing how sorry I am? The cloisters. It’s foolish to apologize. Mother’s stony face proves she doesn’t expect one. Probably wouldn’t even want it.

I hunch into my soiled raincoat while the rearview mirror shrinks the span of the George Washington Bridge. Its lights, outlining connections across dark blue space, are fading to mere pinpricks.



What Elizabeth Won:

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


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

Click on their entries to read:

Leopard by Rachelle Allen, East Rochester, New York

The Fire by Pam Maddin Baker, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA

Ribbon by Tara Lynne Groth, Pittsboro, North Carolina

Because I Had No Shoes by Tina R. Tippett, Eldersburg, Maryland

The Followers by Susan McKelvy, Dallas, Texas

Statistics by Tal Valante, Haifa, ISRAEL

Afternoon Tea with Jacqueline Kennedy by Terry Cobb, Harris, Missouri

What the Runners Up Won:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on 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.

Eula Dare Hampton Agrees to Edit the Quaker Ladies’ Cookbook by Ashley Memory, Asheboro, North Carolina

Monkey See by Meg O’Connor, Slidell, Louisiana

The Sniper by Margaret Kowalski, Delmar, New York

A Good Speech Spoiled by Katie Flanagan, Sunnyside, New York

Hammerhead by Susan Moffson, Boulder, Colorado

Pen Pals by Abbie Tingstad, Providence, Rode Island

MaMa’s Place by Jamie Richardson, Royse City, Texas

Razing Iowa by Gay Degani, Pasadena, California

Sorry, Sugar by Julia Holland, Henrico, Virginia

Broken by India Taylor, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Winter 2018 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!

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