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WOW! Summer 2020 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 Erica Christensen

Literary Agent Erica Christensen

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

Erica’s bio:

Erica Christensen has been in the publishing industry since 2014, holding various positions. She was born and raised in the Heartland of America and now resides near the beautiful Emerald Coast with her family of five and her sassy, spunky lab-pit mix named Kali.

In book-length manuscripts, she is seeking: Upper YA/NA and Adult Romance in most subgenres, ranging from Clean/Sweet to High Heat in any pairings. Mysteries and Thrillers (bonus points for Cozy Mysteries and Psychological Thrillers). Picture books with diverse characters that bring valuable lessons to children in an entertaining and lighthearted way. Erica is not a fit for Historical Romances, High Fantasy, or Science Fiction.

To find out what Erica’s looking for, check out her Metamorphosis Literary Agency Page. Connect with her on Twitter @LiteraryErica.

Visit the 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 8+ 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:  Kimberly Bella
Winchester, Massachusetts
Congratulations, Kimberly!
Kimberly Bella

Kimberly’s Bio:

Kimberly Bella is a writer and an entrepreneur currently working on launching a proofreading business, Final Steps Proofreading. She is in the process of developing a website and is thrilled with this new chapter in her life. Writing has always been a passion and one that has truly bloomed since she left her 20-year career in healthcare a year ago. She is an avid reader and loves British television shows. Miranda is a particular favorite as well as anything by Jennifer Saunders. She lives outside of Boston with her husband of 21 years and her 17-year-old twins. Her brood also includes two frisky dogs, two spunky guinea pigs and a cat who rules the roost. She has edited several books for the author L.M. Brown, including her latest novel, Hinterland. She holds an M.B.A. in Finance from Suffolk University. At the moment, Kim is working on several short stories and looks forward to getting them published. She is the sister of Romance novelist, Christina James.

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The Value of Time

 

He was accustomed to waiting until 4 p.m. to crack open a beer. 4 p.m. became 3 p.m. 3 p.m. became noon, a sliding scale that helped him cope.

As hours ticked by, he would putter in his garden. Sweat would bead on his brow and run down his back, pooling in his socks and underwear. He would feel time passing, bringing him closer to the numbness he craved. His anticipation would grow like a building orgasm and would cause him to walk the dog impatiently, not wanting to get off schedule because then he’d have to think.

For the first time in years, he had a suntan. Hours in the blazing sun turned him a light shade of brown like the fingerling potatoes he had planted that were just starting to poke through the soil around the carrots. No one would notice the golden hue of his skin except him and then, only when he took his socks off and could see the stripe across his ankle—white against a potato colored line. Even at his darkest he wouldn’t come anywhere near her normal complexion of toasted almond. But he would still be proud.

He would wonder why talking with people, even strangers or the occasional passing neighbor, was so much easier and enjoyable in the afternoon when he would avoid it like the plague any other time of day, jumping behind a bush to avoid detection and the inevitable chit-chat that he detested.

He would expand his garden each year, extending his time spent outdoors and away from responsibility, and would wait as the glow slowly took over each time he reached into the cooler. He would play his music louder, smoke incessantly, and drink the world away. He would swing at imaginary foes and shout at invisible gods who had let him down. He would take chances that he never thought he’d take. Packie runs after four, six, eight beers because the night must continue or there’d be another day.

He would become a skilled liar, a master at subterfuge. He would buy a cold 12 pack and a warm one so he could replace beers as he drank them. He would hide the warm ones in the cellar, behind Christmas decorations and wrapping paper, amidst cobwebs with vigilant spiders waiting for their unsuspecting prey. He would hide his morning beers in a travel mug and chuckle to himself for being clever, for having a secret.

Every other week, his days would not belong to him but to the endless needs, wants and disputes of cantankerous children. Over the roar of video games, slamming doors, and the occasional tantrum, he would stare at blank pages and wonder why he couldn’t write. The sink would be filled with dishes and the floors covered in dog fur which would provoke his allergies.

He’d will himself to move and would be pissed off that the dishwasher hadn’t been run and he would have to wash the dishes by hand. He would long for the snap of the can and the fizzing sound that would escape and the rush of bubbles that would tickle his nose on his first sip.

At dinnertime, he wouldn’t be hungry. His belly would be bloated, and he would be in need of a nap. He wouldn’t want to fill up any space in his stomach with food and would choose to derive nourishment from a fizzy brown liquid that made him need to pee frequently like a pregnant woman with a baby sitting on her bladder.

Every day would be the same. He would be dictated to by the clock and an imaginary schedule of his own creation, both a reprieve from and a reprisal of his life.

Every night, he would stumble through the garden with a weaving walk, stomping seedlings into soft mulch, knocking over planters, and then continue up the stairs to roam unsteadily around the house. His blurry eyes would not focus and he would slur his speech.

He would wonder the next day where the bruises came from, where his cigarettes and cell phone were, and if he’d let the dog out. Only then would he realize that time had stood still.

 

***

What Kimberly 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:  Myna Chang
Potomac, Maryland
Congratulations, Myna!
Myna Chang

Myna’s Bio:

Myna Chang writes flash and short stories. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, New World Writing, Reflex Fiction, FlashFlood, Atlas & Alice, Writers Resist, and Daily Science Fiction. Anthologies featuring her stories include the Grace & Gravity collection Furious Gravity IX; and the forthcoming This is What America Looks Like anthology by Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Her story “Air So Thick” won 1st place in the WOW Summer 2019 flash fiction contest, and “Good Deal” received an honorable mention in the WOW Fall 2018 flash fiction contest. Myna lives in Potomac, MD, with her husband and teenage son. Read more at MynaChang.com or on Twitter at @MynaChang.


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The Frame of a Life

 

Grandmother’s life is layered into a neat six-inch square, contained by glass and tarnished metal.

Her vintage picture frame has displayed a baby photo—my fuzzy head and goblin-flap ears—for as long as I can remember. I brush the edge with my thumb.

Parting with her possessions is harder than I’d expected, but we have to pare it down before Grandpa Charles can move in with us. If Grandma were here, she’d remind me that, sometimes, we have to let things go.

Pillows rustle in the next room and Grandpa begins to snore, his afternoon nap deepening.

I decide the old picture frame should go in the donation box, but I’ll keep the image of ugly little me. The frame’s back panel is wedged in tight, plumped in the center like it wants to burst. I shimmy it, in tiny increments, and a hoard of photos tumbles into my lap. A handwritten note sticks to the top of the hidden trove:

Miss you.
—J.

Whisper thin, the scrap of paper is yellowed and ragged, except for one razor-sharp edge that shimmers gold. I don’t recognize the handwriting, so I set it aside and turn my attention to the photos.

Under my baby picture is Mom’s college graduation photo. Tiny embossed letters announce “Betty Jean Dowd, B.A., 1972.” The smooth line of her hair is broken by the tops of her ears.

The next layer back in time holds Uncle Chuck’s army photo, then his high school graduation announcement.

Under that is a raffle ticket. “Meet me?” is scrawled along the top, signed “J.

Black and white baby pictures follow. Uncle Chuck, scrawny, like a plucked chicken. But Mom’s picture could be mine—round and serious, despite those silly ears. I wonder why Chuck got so lucky, inheriting Grandpa’s thin frame and respectable-sized facial features.

I peel mom’s birth announcement from the gummy front of Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding photo. Even in cloudy monochrome, Grandpa’s ever-present grin shines. It has dimmed only recently, with Grandma’s passing.

The last item in the frame is a worn photo of Grandma with her arms around a young man’s shoulders, a stranger. This man is stout, bold and sexy. I imagine his smoulder must have scorched the camera lens. On the back: “Love ya —J.

I blink. Though I’ve never seen this man, I’d recognize his ears anywhere. I see them mirrored every day.

Grandpa stirs. “Need some help in there, hon?”

My heart stutters, and I slap my hands over my traitorous cartilage, hiding the undeniable evidence. “No!” I sputter-bark. Deep breath. Try again. “No thanks, Grandpa. I’m almost done.”

I shove the incriminating items into my purse and zip it shut. I stand and one final item flutters to the floor: a faded photo of Grandma, her teenage gaze sharp and clear, fearless, like she’s ready to tackle the world. She winks and sashays away; or at least, I imagine that’s what she’d do if she were here, freed from the frame of her life.

I pillow her image in my hand and present it to Grandpa. He brushes his finger across her cheek, soft as a kiss, and I glimpse, through layers of years, the smile of a lovestruck boy consumed. “She was really something, wasn’t she?”

 

***

What Myna 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: Lorin Fries
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Congratulations, Lorin!
Lorin Fries

Lorin’s Bio:

Lorin Fries integrates writing alongside an international career in food access and climate change. She placed 4th out of nearly 5,000 participants in the 2019 New York Midnight Short Story Contest. She is finishing a first literary fiction novel in which two stories intertwine, across generations, in Brooklyn: a beloved magician struggles to heal a heartbroken girl during WWII while his granddaughter, a hardened human rights journalist, fights to evacuate a dear colleague from the Syrian war.

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You Carry Our Story

 

If only you knew the story of that sparkling stone. It came from my village. From a mine 80 stories under the red-dust ground where Thado and I once played as schoolboys, kicking a ball of tied fabric scraps. The rock came off under my pickaxe as it bit into the wall like a snake. My fingers picked up the rough rock. I blinked in the dim light to make out the glittering edge, buried in the grey stone.

Up, up the mining shaft and into the yellow light of dawn, where the morning shift waited, dust heavy in the folds of their clothes and the lines of unwashed faces. They barely glanced at us before taking our place to be swallowed by the earth.

Your stone came up, up, too, in the rusted cart they watched over with rifles.

*

The last day my axe bit into the wall was the first I heard the English name of our mine. Kimberley. When the lift spit us into the sunshine, an Afrikaner strode in pressed linen pants down the line of us, sweeping his hand as he juttered in his language. After a 4 by 4 roared him away, we gathered around Thado, who—even through his dizziness over these months—had the sharpest mind among us. He translated from Afrikaans. The message thinned as it trickled across the men into Zulu and Xhosa, to Venda and Tswana, bent sideways through translation: foreign people were asking questions about South Africa and its mines. Money flows were drying up from American universities. Only half of us could work tomorrow.

So Thado and I walked to town. He had to stop many times along the way. The sun was high when we arrived and stood in the shortest of the work-for-hire lines. We reported that evening to the new plant. Its sign said Lafarge Concrete: Building South Africa’s Future.

Day by day, we poured ingredients into mixers to become something strong, to construct new buildings in Joburg. Thado and I took our daily ten-minute break in the junk room. He lay on the ground, eyes closed. His body became weaker. I put my palms on the rashes that spread across his torso and his forehead that blazed like fire.

Thado was breaking. His skin blistered and his limbs grew thin as sticks. I raced to mix his buckets when his head lolled during shift. One night he slept in the junk room instead of walking home.

The day he died was cold. The morning supervisor demanded where he was, saliva hitting my cheek, jabbing Afrikaans jostling with the whir of the concrete mixer. When I could check on Thado, he was scarcely breathing.

“I’ll be gone before sundown,” he said. His lips were chapped. “Just in time.”

I waited.

“The Afrikaners are talking about it. Tomorrow Kimberley will close. Other mines probably soon after, then plants like this. The money is stopping. The Americans don’t want our gems.”

In the feeble light, he smiled. His hand found his pocket and pulled out a jagged rock.

“This is yours.” He closed my fingers around it.

It was the stone I pried loose in the stomach of the earth. Sharp. Dark except for the glint of diamond.

“How—”

“Only thing I’ve ever stolen. This one is special, somehow.”

Outside our room, machines thrashed water against rock against cement—a violent churn of unlike things, crushed together.

“This will end.” His voice, like his body, was fading. “Apartheid will die. I know it. I would have liked to see the next South Africa.”

And then he was still.

*

Thado was right, of course. But before apartheid’s seizing fits, before they gave Tutu the Nobel, before Madiba shook his jailer’s hand, foreign investment dried and South Africa’s businesses fired us all. The piles of potatoes grew low. The porridge thinned.

In the worst of my hunger, when my stomach felt like the mines we had scraped clean, I sold the rock. It bought me enough to live on for many years. I could devote myself to healing. By then we had more bodies broken; a nation to mend.

Every stone has a story. Wear your ring. Stow devotion and belonging in it. But honor and know us, too: the men who pried the glint from the earth’s belly. The disease that ravaged my continent. Our country whose shimmer, in those dark days, only Thado could see.

 

***

What Lorin 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:

Our World is Not Normal by Karen Barr, Warrensburg, Missouri

Dear Victor by Eva W, Edinburgh, Scotland

Tammy by Lolita Pierce, Southern California

Amsterdam by Stephanie Buesinger, South Florida

All the Blue Ties by Seetha Nambiar Dodd, Sydney, Australia

Lockdown in Congo by Susan Moffson, Boulder, Colorado

Out by Natalie Beisner, Los Angeles, California

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 2020 Contest Honorable Mentions! Your stories stood out and are excellent in every way.

The Cabin by Cassandra Crossing, Des Plaines, Illinois

The New Soul Mate by Alboricah Rathupetsane, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Dusty’s Drawings by Adrienne Losh, Ann Arbor, Michigan

White by Jennifer Lynn Curran, Granby, Massachusetts

The Space Between by Jeanie Ransom, O’Fallon, Missouri

Margaret’s Lie by Sharon Gerger, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Vanishing Point by Amy O’Neil, Brighton, UK

They Say a Picture by Heather Baver, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Don’t Tell by Kim Lehnhoff, St. Louis, Missouri

Beneath the Brambles by Alexandra Pennell, Fort Steward, Georgia

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Contest officially to a close. Although we’re not able to provide a 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. We hope to read more of your work. Write on!

Check out the latest Contest:

https://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


 

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