Issue 45 - Girls Just Want to Have Fun ... Writing - Elin Hilderbrand, Claire Cook and Lisa Jackson


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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, Sarah Lapolla

WOW! was honored to have Guest Judge Sarah Lapolla choose the Spring season’s top winners. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true.

Bio: Sarah Lapolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes email submissions at sl[at]cbltd[dot]com.

Find out more about Curtis Brown, Ltd. by visiting http://www.curtisbrown.com.

Find out more about Sarah by visiting her blog, Glass Cases: http://bigglasscases.blogspot.com/

Read Sarah’s 20 Questions interview on WOW! Women On Writing:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/43-20Questions-SarahLapolla.html

   

Special 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 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 25 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:  Michael Throne
Ashburn, Virginia
Congratulations Mike!

Mike’s Bio:

Mike Throne lives in North Virginia with his wife and three daughters. A graduate of Goshen College, Mike spent twenty-five years building a wind chime company from a one man show to a factory that sells wind chimes to thousands of stores across the country. In 2006, Mike sold the business to begin working on his new passion, fiction writing. He has been learning his new craft through a course at Northern Virginia Community College, a supportive writers’ group, and Faithwriters.com, a Christian-based online writers’ resource. Mike feels that writing is his calling. Other stories written by Mike can be seen at http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=50794. Mike is currently working on a book of interrelated short stories, and when he’s not writing, he enjoys camping with his family.

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Stress Fracture

 

I run. I jog down alleys. I run through parks.

I run whenever things get too tense.

It’s what I do.

I started running when I was twelve, the year my father lost his job.

My father, always so big and brash and bold, began sinking. He’d go out applying in the morning and then sit by the phone for hours. I joined the Run Club, in part, just to stay out of the house.

My mother, God bless her, she put our family above everything. Mom encouraged my running. Just do your best, she said, and I did.

The change in my father from brash and bold to quietly morose was gradual, but heartbreaking. The change in my mother, two years later, was abrupt and much harder to bear.

It was on a Saturday morning; she picked me up after a slumber party. She was wearing a red chiffon skirt, a plaid long-sleeved blouse and a glittery black and red vest. Her face was made up with a sparkly rouge and thick, exaggerated red eye shadow. She looked like a clown. Her voice was a mirthful British.

I was mortified.

My friends, on the other hand, loved it. She was, admittedly, quite witty with the English idioms rolling casually off her tongue, but I was not in the least bit amused.

In the car, I confronted her.

“Mom, what is this?”

“This?” she asked, nonchalantly. “I’m just having some fun, love. Don’t you like it?”

“No.”

“Oh. Well, I do.”

And she spent the rest of the week chattering away in her thick English accent, with each day’s outfit more outlandish than the one before. She’d somehow become this new, carefree, absurdly happy Englishwoman.

The following week, she was back to normal, as if nothing had happened.

Mom began waitressing when Dad’s unemployment ran out. Conversations at dinner were frequently about money, with Dad’s sullen sarcasm bouncing off Mom’s impenetrable devotion to paying the bills.

I worried about her. Mom would become increasingly anxious until the day she’d abruptly show up wearing one of her costumes. Then she was once again suddenly brightly British. She even wore her costumes to work, much to my dismay.

I ran. I ran early in the morning; I didn’t want to see what she’d be wearing. I ran into the night, to avoid spending time with them. I ran until I was fast, faster than anyone.

I tried to talk to my father, to tell him to get her help, but he was in denial; he wouldn’t accept that anything was wrong.

“She’ll get better, I promise.”

Looking back, I should have seen what was happening. Months, even years, it continued. Dad’s promises came too easy; he seemed almost willfully oblivious.

I tried helping her myself.

One night when I was nearly asleep, she leaned over to kiss me goodnight. I reached up and gently touched the bright red rouge on her cheek. For just a moment, I thought I might, somehow, break through that strange persona.

She recoiled as if in pain. “Don’t touch me makeup,” she said in her best Welsh.

“I just want things back the way they were.”

She hesitated. “So do I, love. So do I.”

I went to Regionals that year. I ran the eight-eighty, alone, though in a pack of other runners with my parents out in the stands.

It happened halfway through. My foot began hurting, throbbing. I kept going. I fell behind, hopelessly behind, but I wouldn’t stop. By the end of the race, I was in agony; tears were streaming down my face, but I finished.

Mom met me on the track and held me in her arms, comforting me. “Chip off me old block,” she whispered.

A stress fracture. I was off ten wonderful weeks. Mom was normal, and Dad, well, he was all he could be.

It was soon after I’d begun running again that things fell apart. I came home early one night and heard shouting from the porch. When I opened the door, they froze in stunned, guilty silence; my father, huge, standing over her; my mother with her arms raised like toothpicks, futilely trying to shield herself.

I didn’t know these people. I didn’t know them at all.

I turned and ran. I ran down streets and alleys. I ran through parks.

I ran as the makeup, the outfits, the act, they all fell into place.

I ran, to keep from thinking.

I ran.

And I never stopped.

***

What Mike Won:

  • $300.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • An eBook pack
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place:  Holly Bauer-Ping
Chicago, Illinois
Congratulations Holly!

Holly’s Bio:

Holly Bauer-Ping grew up in Berwick, Maine, and currently works as a lawyer in Chicago. She lives with her boyfriend and three beloved cats. This is her very first writing contest entry.

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Winifred told herself she did not care if people thought she’d had a nervous breakdown, whatever that meant. She took an extended leave from work, sublet her apartment, left her cat with a friend, and flew to Montreal. She was rooming with a beautiful Ukranian woman who made smoothies in a health food store for a living and traveled exclusively by bike, and the Ukranian woman’s French boyfriend, a Breton who liked to walk around with his shirt off.

Winnie spent her days climbing the hilly streets of the bilingual city, drinking coffee after coffee in cafe after cafe. Her favorite was Chez Louise, because of Louise, or the woman she took to be. Louise was about 45, petite and tan, but not deliberately; the kind of tan you get just from walking around outside. She wore long black skirts and sneakers, her wavy hair loose and unkempt on her freckled shoulders. Louise appeared to have no idea that she was 45 or that this should bother her. In New York she’d be a fading beauty; here, she would always be the exact same beautifulness. She ignored age in the same lovely way the Quebecois managed to ignore so many troubling things, and just go on about their business, enjoy getting together for beer and cards, and feel perfectly fine to be alive, as if simply by choosing to.

Winnie never spoke to Louise, but considered her a kind of therapist. Winnie sat for hours chez her, with journal and pen, chronicling her dreams, her weight gain, the anxiety of being 38 and childless, the annoying habits of the Ukranian and the Breton, but mostly, tirelessly, George. She revised their conversations, explicating finer and finer details of what went wrong, how she could have been so in love with him, intoxicated to the point of debilitation, and yet so distant, so aloof and moody that he’d finally had to leave. She became convinced that everyone has only two relationships, at the most: one with their mother, and one with their father. And that was true even for one’s mother and father—each of them only had the two. Everyone else who comes into one’s world, everyone who really comes in, whose image comes to spend the night drifting in and out of dreams and darkness or to interrupt one’s work relentlessly, everyone who is anyone above the blur of faces on the street and the train and the grocery store, is only, ever, either one’s mother or one’s father. Winnie’s father was loving and good but dead. Winnie’s mother was living. Winnie and her mother hardly ever spoke, since Winnie left home. They were not angry; nothing like that. They just had nothing to say, or nothing they could say.

It was July 22, Winnie wrote. It was a beautiful day. Instead of telling George he was her mother, today, and explaining how that caused her to lose her mind and become unbearable, she drafted a letter to Grace, George’s now ex-wife. “Dear Grace,” she wrote. “I have been struggling for many months with the urge to write to you. I’ve dismissed the idea countless times because I couldn’t help thinking it was only selfish, about what I need, and not for you at all. I don’t know whether it’s possible that hearing from me would be anything but awful for you. I won’t send this letter if I decide it’s not. Is it possible that forgiving helps the person who is forgiving as much as the forgiven person? I believe, when someone is trying to forgive, it helps to know that the person who did wrong is sorry. Truly and in fact sorry, like they reject what they have done in a constant dry heave; that the thing, the wrong thing, sits in them like a cancer that eats and eats their healthy flesh away; or a stone, it’s a toxic stone that sits in their stomach and gathers pus, is surrounded by pus and acid but it never dissolves, it remains a foreign, appalling, solid pollution that never stops poisoning and irritating and hurting.” She put down the pen and looked out the window into the sunny street, the punk rock students arguing in French as they passed, the old man smoking a pipe on the corner, the babies with ice cream all over their faces. If only she could stay here.

She would not send Grace a letter.

***

What Holly Won:

  • $200.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook pack
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place:  Lauri Griffin
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Congratulations Lauri!

Lauri’s Bio:

Lauri Griffin is a mother of three boys and the instructional coordinator for a non-profit literacy program. She loves to write flash fiction, and is currently seeking representation for a novel. She blogs about life, writing, parenting, gardening, and anything that catches her attention at www.laurireflections.blogspot.com.

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The Universe’s Weird Sense of Humor

 

He was real. Lily stopped walking—afraid the dizziness would make her fall. Part of her had never stopped believing. But most of her couldn’t believe her eyes.

As a little girl she drew pictures of him—a curly haired boy with a mischievous smile. Sometimes she drew him with a dog, or sitting in a tree, or digging in the sand. Her mother called him her imaginary friend. I.F. for short. Sometimes Lily pretended he was with her as she played pirates, or built castles in the sand. But most of the time, she just drew him.

By middle school she’d gotten quite good with art. She struggled with the exact golden shade of his brown eyes. But his nose, his high cheekbones and slightly crooked eye teeth—she drew in a way that matched her image.

But an image wasn’t real. And she knew he was—somewhere, somehow. Lily searched newspapers, yearbooks, every face in every crowd. She asked to see other people’s photo albums. When other girls began dating, she already felt spoken for. She imagined herself kissing those lips, walking hand in hand while the waves ran against their ankles. She went to every parade and party and concert—searching for his face.

By college she’d read everything on past lives, visions, soul-mates, and reincarnation, and nothing made sense. Maybe, like her roommate said, maybe she’d seen this boy on TV, or at playground, and had just imagined the rest. It was time to grow up.

Still, she found a job that involved traveling. And she searched through airports, and city streets, and tiny coffee shops. She only quit looking for him when a handsome, funny, sweet man charmed her off her feet and into his bed, and then down the aisle.

Only occasionally did she think of her imaginary friend now, only when the wind smelled wild, or on nights when she was too tired and lonely to sleep. Sometimes during meetings her hand started to draw. She’d stop herself before the image was completed. She was grownup now, married. And after twenty years together she believed more in compromise, in working as a team, in the love that was supporting each other through a lifetime of changes and challenges than in a magical soul mate.

And now here, across the schoolyard, he came with a somehow familiar stride. His face bore a smile of amazed recognition that pulled at her insides, one that left her wondering what he’d drawn as a child. Traces of silver ran through his hair, cropped short now, almost hiding the curl. He was older, but she’d know that face anywhere.

Lily shook her head, anger washing away the amazement. Why now? She had a marriage, better than most. She had a family.

She glared at him. What weird joke of the universe would send him now? Her expression didn’t stop him though, he just kept coming closer.

What was she supposed to say? Where have you been? Are you always late? Do I know you from somewhere?

Any minute now the bell would ring and her children would come bounding out of the school, papers in their hands. Any minute now she would blink and he would fade back into memory and images.

She opened her eyes, expecting to see no one, just grass and trees. But he stood in front of her.

“You too?” he asked.

She gave a slow nod.

He shook his head in disbelief. “The drawings?”

She nodded again.

He let out a slow breath. He shifted to stand beside her, watching the school door. “What does it mean?”

“I have no idea.”

He tilted his head, studying her.  “I always drew you smiling.”

Lily scowled. “I like my life.”

“I’ll try not to mess it up.”

She gave a laugh.

“And there’s that smile.”

His eyes were soft, that golden she’d never captured. How could you share a past with someone you’d just met?

The bell shrilled; children streamed out of the school.

“You’ll be here tomorrow?” she asked, searching the crowd for her children.

I’ll be here. Early.

Did he have a wife? How many children called him ‘dad’? Tomorrow she’d find out. But for now Lily took hold of her childrens’ hands, and shared another smile with this man who was still nameless, but somehow her friend.

***

What Laurie Won:

  • $100.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook Pack
  • 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. Enjoy each one’s story!

Click on their entries to read:

Lucille’s Shoes by Susan DuMond, Ashland, Oregon

Love in a Snow Globe by Jacinda Little, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania

Destiny Darjeeling by Cheryl Fines, Brandon, Manitoba CANADA

Slave Hands by Jody Rathgeb, Richmond, Virginia

Sunday in the Dark with Dad by Victoria Wright, Housatonic, Massachusetts

The Little Red Riding Hood Complex by Philip Murray-Lawson, Paris, FRANCE

Smoke Rings by Liz Tucker, Truckee, California

What the Runners Up Won:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook Pack
  • 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.

100 Words: Death in West Texas by Deborah Brock, Oakland, California

Soft Noises by Nancy Luisi, Poinciana, Florida

Aunt Eva’s Diary by Shirley Valencia, Dayton, Ohio

The Committee by Natalie Bright, Canyon, Texas

Bookshop Confessions by Kara Parlin, Enfield, Connecticut

Ghost Girl by Lisa Frischhertz, Metairie, Louisiana

Salvation by Marlene Moss, Penrose, Colorado

Breakfast by Bryan Mooney, Timonium, Maryland

The Butterfly House by Nancy Elizabeth, Stettler, Alberta, CANADA

A Love Letter by Peggy Saunders, Portsmouth, Virginia

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card
  • An eBook pack

IN CLOSING:

This brings our Spring 2011 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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