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, Andrea Hurst
WOW! was honored to have guest judge Andrea Hurst choose the summer season’s top winners. Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true.
Bio: Andrea Hurst, President of Andrea Hurst Literary Management, works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well-crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network, and in the New York Times.
In addition to working in the publishing field for over 25 years, Andrea is a published author, skilled developmental editor, keynote speaker, and educator. She recently started the AUTHORNOMICS Series on her site to help writers learn about the ever-changing publishing industry. The series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know. She enjoys working with authors who have something meaningful to share and are driven by their enthusiasm and desire to create books that touch lives and make a difference. Andrea is the author of The Lazy Dog’s Guide to Enlightenment and Everybody’s Natural Food Cookbook.
With years of experience in all areas of publishing, Andrea offers professional insight into the business, and works with motivated authors to edit, polish, and perfect their proposal and manuscript. Andrea’s passion for books drives her quest to find stories that have the power to change—stories that will take her on a journey to another place, and leave her with an unforgettable impression.
If your work is accepted by Andrea Hurst it is because she believes in your book, your purpose in sharing it, and your career as a writer. She will invest her time and expertise to guide and support your writing career and establish a satisfying and productive long-term relationship.
Find out more about Andrea Hurst and Andrea Hurst Literary Management by visiting her website http://www.andreahurst.com/.
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 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: Suki Michelle
Round Lake Beach, Illinois
Suki Michelle is the co-author of the young adult urban fantasy, The Apocalypse Gene (Parker Publishing, Inc. 2011), on which she collaborated with her husband, Carlyle Clark. Their current co-project is a collection of speculative fiction stories set in the town of Redemption, Arkansas in the 1930s. Suki has two novels in progress and is a published poet. She owns a medical transcription company and works as a ghost-blogger for a Chicago celebrity. Suki is most proud of her beautiful daughter, Bree, who will soon complete her nursing training. Her passions include people-watching and chocolate.
Learn more about Suki’s co-written debut novel at: http://www.TheApocalypseGene.com
The Apocalypse Gene Fan Page: http://www.Facebook.com/TheApocalypseGene
Visit Suki’s blog: http://storymavens.wordpress.com/
Follow Suki on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Suki_Michelle
No One Told Me Stories
My father knew all of Shakespeare’s soliloquies by heart and the poems of Robert Frost. A busy surgeon, rarely home, he suffered occasional fits of sociability and invited people to dinner. The maid served while my mother held court. Strangers filled the smoky dining room. I sneaked down the stairs, crouched behind the sofa, and listened to clinking glasses and mysterious adult murmurings. Sometimes my father would recite poetry. Though I understood nothing, I felt the pull of those rhythms, heard magic in the syllables. He never recited poetry just for me. He never told me stories. That task was left to my mother.
My mother, once an actress and singer, gave up her artistic dreams for marriage. Delicate, nervous, and preoccupied, she often left me in the care of the live-in nanny, a thick woman named Bertha who pinched my toes when helping with my socks. Bertha left when my mother discovered the silver candelabra she’d gotten as a wedding gift and two Wedgwood ashtrays squirreled away in Bertha’s closet.
Sometimes when I heard my mother’s car in the driveway, I’d peek out the window to watch her leave. She was often in disguise, with wigs of many colors and scarves tied low to shade her face, eyes hidden behind dark movie star sunglasses. Much later, I learned the nature of those excursions. It seems my father had a penchant for young nurses and rented apartments. My mother, hell bent on catching him in the act, never told me stories either. That task was left to Sesame Street and Loony-Tunes cartoons.
I didn’t trust the vastness outside that swallowed Daddy up and spit him back out, sometimes days later, or where Mommy disappeared in a jagged haze, unrecognizable, already lost. I stayed inside. When my Tiny Tears doll cried with loneliness, I wiped her rubber cheeks and made her laugh with stories of a wise-cracking two-legged cat on a quest for dumb canaries. When Barbie was too hungry to live, I told her not to worry and dressed her in cotton slacks and sporty caps. In elegant alphabet-block cafes, we dined on tempera paint delicacies sipped from Q-tip spoons.
But the real adventures came from my hands.
The left was a horse named Horsie, the bold and steadfast steed. He snorted and bucked, raked the ground with fingernail hooves, and widened his ballpoint penned eyes to search for danger. When a breeze passed, he swiveled his index-finger head to sniff.
My right hand was a little girl named Joan. She skipped across the coverlet meadows with Horsie by her side. Sometimes she sat upon his five-knuckled back and cantered through Quilt Canyons and Valleys of the Sheet. They scaled the Headboard Cliffs and jumped the streams of Lamp-to-Lamp with deadly grace. Brave and intrepid, they fought the Monster Feet, foraged for hidden cookies, and rested in the Cave of Bent Knee.
When at last I discovered the Magic Portal of the Written Word, Tiny Tears was laid to rest in a corner of the toy chest, Barbie stalked away, indignant on bare high-heeled feet, but Horsie and Joan remained. Sometimes they rode beneath a gloaming sky, the wind cool against their necks, but they served a higher purpose.
They became the hands that hold the book.
What Suki Won:
- $350.00 Cash Prize
- 1 Year VIP Account to AngiesDiary.com ($99.95 value)
- $25 Amazon Gift Card
- Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
- Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place: Laura Pelner McCarthy
Laura Pelner McCarthy, who holds a PhD in mass communication, has been a radio announcer, a college professor, and a weekly newspaper columnist, as well as an editor and publisher. In 2000, she opened a storefront writers’ center in upstate New York; the core group of novelists still meets weekly. More recently, she has been a sometime blogger (http://stardustbed.blogspot.com) and has just completed her first book (http://www.silkpurse.net).
She lives in Miami, Florida.
You have imagined this moment every day for six months. In the past six days, you have imagined this moment for each of 3,427 miles.
Or rather, you have imagined one version or another of this moment. He opens his door, or he knocks on your door. He smiles, or he does not. You kiss him . . . or he does not let you kiss him.
The moment arrives or it doesn’t.
You are not the same lovers you were fifteen years ago, when it ended. You cannot recall how it ended. You feel as if you could be the same lover you were thirty years ago, when it began (and you will never forget how it began), but you know he cannot be. The chemo and the radiation have taken him away and left this puzzle: a stranger in a photo, the misshapen face of a stranger, a skinny and frail stranger for whom you feel a love so fierce you forget to breathe.
You wonder: Will he think you look old? Will he be bored by the story of your life? How do you make love to a man with an implanted feeding tube? How do you kiss a man who has only half a tongue?
You will love this strange new body of his because it is the body of the person you have always loved. You hope he will let you make love to that body, not with your body of now but with the body in your memory, young, hungry. You remember that he never called it making love.
You try to recall how close you were, how close you became. Didn’t he once tell you: If you’re there, I’m there. Didn’t he always know your feelings, your thoughts? Don’t say a word, he would whisper.
You remember he never once called it love.
And so you sit in the impersonal concavity of the hotel room’s armchair and tap on your laptop and wonder and wait until finally you hear a tap that is not your fingers . . .
. . . The woman moves the computer off her lap and walks to the door. The man stands quietly, a man who does not fill a doorway. The woman moves to embrace him, the man moves to shake her hand; they collide, catching his bent elbow between them. She pats his back, which is not only visibly bony but bowed and uneven under the thin dress shirt. She smiles at him, the left side of his face smiles at her. She makes a gesture toward the chair with the depression, silently, as one does in a foreign country.
"So," he says, or seems to say.
"So," she replies . . .
You converse for twenty-five minutes, misunderstanding much of what he says. Sometimes you ask him to repeat the words and maybe then it becomes clear and you answer him and you find out something about his life. He does not ask about yours.
Once you stroke his thigh, or rather the soft flannel of his trousers. Once, in a rush of tenderness, you put the palm of your hand against his damaged cheek. The tenderness remains but finally the hand feels foolish, inert and unacknowledged, and you pull it back to straighten your own hair.
He looks at his watch and slowly pushes himself out of the chair. “This has been good,” he says, or seems to say. “Food penalty,” he says, or maybe “Good energy.”
At the door he doesn’t hold out his hand again, and your arms hang at your sides.
As you close the door you remember that even then, you never kissed.
What Laura Won:
- $250.00 Cash Prize
- 3 month VIP Account to AngiesDiary.com ($27.50 value)
- $25 Amazon Gift Card
- Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place: Linnea Dayton
Solana Beach, California
Linnea Dayton has authored or edited numerous articles and books, many of them how-to books for graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators who use the computer in their work. Having retired from this 20-plus-year endeavor in 2010, she has now loosened the reins on her imagination and is writing other kinds of nonfiction and several kinds of fiction. Her short story “3BR, 2BA House on Ridgeview” was a finalist in a Glimmer Train Family Matters competition. Projects in the works include other short fiction, a novella, four children’s picture books/e-books, and a natural history book with a twist.
She lives in the perfect place, a small coastal city somewhere in Southern California.
The scream arrived on the balcony of the house on the corner after.
After three-year-old William Logan, his arms rubbery from trying, gave up struggling for the surface and breathed in water for the first time—that part was nearly silent, no one heard.
After the drowning had completed itself. After the grandparents, missing William suddenly, found him lifeless in their backyard pool. After the grandfather, hardly comprehending in his panic, had pulled Will’s toddler body from the water, sealed his own trembling lips around the chill and cyanotic mouth and nose, and breathed, forcing puffs of air. After the grandmother, frantic, phoned the fire department, less than half a mile away, and carried the unspeakable news, the heaviest burden of her life, next door to William’s father, her own son.
After the paramedics had tried and failed to bring William back. After the captain had finally looked William’s father in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry . . .” as he gently wrapped a blanket round the boy.
And just after William’s mother pulled her car into the driveway of the corner house, home from grocery shopping, saw the ambulance and ran, with growing dread, to see why people gathered at one corner of the pool at her in-laws’ house next door.
Before it became sound, the scream manifested itself as frenzy, as fight and desperate flight together, the mother wrenching free of her husband’s arms and fleeing up the wooden outdoor staircase of her own house and onto the balcony. And at the top of the stairs the scream, finally, emerged—a roaring, rending, three-second monotonic wail, followed by a one-second pause. Three seconds on, one second off, over and over and over. It sounded like—it sounded exactly like—a mother whose tiny boy had been ripped forever from her life, a woman whose life had never interrupted her to say, “Prepare yourself for this,” so she was unprepared.
Her pain was bottomless and raw, the scream continued, the neighbors heard it but she didn’t, she was somewhere else.
When the awful sound subsided, when the sedative took hold, the scream did what screams do under such circumstances—it went inside her and waited quietly, in a dark corner. Later, exhausted, begging God, she relived it, this time with harmonics—why wasn’t I here? How could they have let this happen? How can this be? How will I live?
She did live. She lived right through the service and the burial. She survived her own guilt and somehow made peace with the guilt of the others.
The scream inside subsided, divided, bits of it taking up residence in the hearts and minds of neighbors who had heard it, who were more than willing to carry parts of it, if that would help, as they had carried casseroles and flowers.
The pool was filled with concrete. William’s parents and their new child moved away in time, and so did William’s grandparents, of course. Now, years later, the scream has mostly left the neighborhood, coalesced again no doubt and moved on, somewhere else.
What Linnea Won:
- $150.00 Cash Prize
- 1 month VIP Account to AngiesDiary.com ($9.95 value)
- $25 Amazon Gift Card
- 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:
Autumn Spring Together by L.E. Grabowski-Cotton, Memphis, Tennessee
I Began Baking a Cake by Tearra Rhodes, Buffalo, New York
The R Wurd by Debbi Straight, Brazil, Indiana
Metamorphosis by Kira Plummer, Lansdowne, Virginia
Last Letter by Shannon Norland, Raleigh, North Carolina
Reflection by Julianne Pierce, New York, New York
Molting by Stacey Tarpley, Chantilly, Virginia
What the Runners Up Won:
- $25 Amazon Gift Card
- 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.
Hush by Jan Ackerson, Three Oaks, Michigan
The Big Picture by Michael Throne, Ashburn, Virginia
Mr. Lover by Jessica Hitchens, Washington, DC
Fixation by Debbi Straight, Brazil, Indiana
Love Outside the Box by Sheila Brenda Stevens, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Knowledge and Plans of Mother Nature by Cheryl Kula, Hinton, West Virginia
The Giant by Catina Tanner, Hamer, South Carolina
The Waiting Place by Alexis Peters, Union, New Jersey
The Dead Butterfly Collector by Carolyn Kisler, Nortonville, Kentucky
The Lesson by Balana Jones, West Chester, Pennsylvania
What the Honorable Mentions Won:
This brings our Fall 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: