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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, Elaine Spencer

WOW! was honored to have guest judge Elaine Spencer choose the winter season’s top winners. Thank you, Elaine, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true. We always love having you as our honorable guest judge!

Elaine Spencer entered the publishing industry after realizing she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life as an Economist. After studying Economics and Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia, she joined the TKA team in 2005 and assumed a variety of roles including submissions coordinator and sub rights manager before settling in her current position as VP of Operations and Associate Agent.

Elaine keeps a focused client list as it is most important to her to work closely with her clients through each step of the publishing process, from a manuscript’s inception all the way through publication, promotion and beyond. She enjoys seeing her clients grow as authors, and one of her favorite parts of the job is working side by side with her clients to educate them about not only the process but also the business at large. Elaine is a member of RWA and AAR and is interested in a wide-variety of subgenres including but not limited to romance, women’s fiction, young adult and middle grade material. She loves stories that include dogs, cooking, fashion, secret societies or clubs, southern flair, wit and humor, heart-tugging conclusions that will bring her to tears and smart sassy characters that stay with you long after the final pages. In addition to channeling her inner Martha Stewart and flexing her Pinterest-inspired muscles, Elaine spends her spare time traveling, cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs, and enjoying the great outdoors with her husband and four-legged child, Claude.

Find out more about Elaine by visiting her websites:

The Knight Agency: http://www.knightagency.net/  

Follow Elaine on Twitter! http://twitter.com/ElaineSpencer

Check out Elaine’s 20 Questions interview with WOW! Women On Writing:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/45-20questions-ElaineSpencer.html

 

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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:  Donna L. Turello
Staten Island, New York
Congratulations Donna !

Donna ’s Bio:

Donna is the quintessential Walter Mitty type: she lives vicariously through her characters. None of whom are her. She pinky-swears.

Okay, maybe a little.

Having earned an M.A. in English Lit with a concentration in Medieval/Renaissance Lit, you’d think she would write Medieval fantasies, but she’s actually more into contemporary women’s fiction and MG/YA novels.

Nevertheless, she enjoys veering off-road into the short fiction forms, creative nonfiction, even the occasional attempt at a picture book. Recently she’s begun dipping a toe into the screenwriting sea. It’s all about the story. And some stories are flashes of light, while others are a long and very winding road.

Publication credits, such as in The Verb, The Binnacle, Patchwork Path anthologies, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution, and now WOW!, provide the encouragement to keep going, as well as honorable mentions in contests such as Soulmaking Literary, The Binnacle, Writer’s Digest, and yes, WOW! But she’s ready to shed the bubblegum pink bridesmaid dress and grab a bridal bouquet!

A member of RWA until it finally dawned on her that despite the romantic elements, she’s not writing romances; she’s now a member of SCBWI. Her stories are all about the journey. And what a journey it’s been.

Currently making the contest rounds is a novel which recently garnered an honorable mention in the 2013 Abilene Writer’s Guild annual contest. It’s her love letter to her dad: a YA about a girl, her dad, a boy, and a baking competition.

Thrilled and honored, she would like to thank the WOW! judges for this shot of confidence, and hopes that someday soon, when her mother tells her to “Just get a real job, already” she’ll be able to reply, “Mom, writing is my real job.”

Visit her at www.donnaturello.com

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Ivy

 

1954

“Grows like wildfire.” That’s Momma’s sweet way of sayin’ the ivy ain’t goin’ nowhere. That no matter how hard I try, the ivy will always win.

The vines curl so tight around the steel diamonds of the fence that I scrape my knuckles pulling them loose.

“Whatcha doin’, nigga?”

Momma moves in close as the words float over my head, wipes the rust clinging like cinnamon to my palms. “Pulling weeds.” That’s Momma’s way of sayin’ Ignore him.

“She’s the weed.” The old man flicks a match, cups his hand close around his cigarette till it lights. A little explosion of amber. Like a bomb going off, only without the sound.

Was that the last thing Poppa saw?

Momma’s hand slides down my back as she kneels beside me. Her fingertips press into my ribs, snug me close. Honeysuckle, roses, and sunshine mingle on her dress. Her head bent over mine, she whispers in my ear, “A change is gonna come.”

“Your mother—” The old man spits but it doesn’t shoot very far. “Rollin’ over in her grave. A white girl, and a black man.”

Momma throttles the ivy. Yanks from the base, dirt crumbling all around her. And I realize I’ve been doing it all wrong, pulling the ivy by the leaves. “Why does it keep coming back, Momma?”

What I really want to ask is, Why does he keep coming back? The old man creeps in close, right up to the fence. 

“Just does, honey.” Momma keeps lookin’ down. Either at the earth, or the old man’s black patent leathers, scuffed from the garden or work or God knew what, or the cuffs of his khaki trousers caked with dirt.

Keep your head down, Poppa always said, walkin’ around town.

Momma grew up in this house. That’s why we came back, after the war. Poppa wanted us to. Said so in his last letter.

Momma mounted Poppa’s Purple Heart on black velvet, hung it right over the fireplace, where everybody can see it. Only nobody ever comes. But that’s alright. We have each other. That’s what Momma always says: It’s just you and me, baby.

Spiny fingers grip the top rail. The old man stoops forward, canvas sun hat threatening to topple right into my lap. He points a finger at Momma. “You shoulda known better.” When he shakes his head, the cigarette twitches between his fingers.

The pink azaleas wilt from the hatred on his stale breath.

Momma’s right hand inches up her skirt, slides into that hidden pocket she stitched from Poppa’s old shirt. It disappears, Momma whispered, ironing the seam of the green gingham flat. As if it were our own special secret.

Wrapping my fingers around her wrist, I squeeze as hard as I can. Don't, Momma. The house is old, and the floorboards creak under me when I run, but it feels like home. Room to spread out, Momma says. The old apartment too cramped and cold, the only window facing down a brick wall. Here, the sunlight streams through every room. And in the evening, when the sun sets, the place almost catches fire.

And then the stars come out to dance.

“Just cleaning up,” Momma croaks, as if the old man is strangling her, over the fence. Holding her right by the throat.

Her fingers tremble against my skin. The way they did at Poppa’s funeral.

I can't lose Momma too. “We ain’t botherin’ you, so go back to your business.” The words sluice up me. Like water tunneling through the shoots of ivy. Giving them life.

Momma clamps me to her body. So tight I can barely breathe.

I swear that gun in her pocket has a heartbeat all its own.

The shriveling tobacco drifts down, stings my scalp.

Curling my fingers around the chain link, I pull myself up. Right out of Momma’s grip. Our heads, the old man’s and mine, almost touch. “And my name is Ivy.”

A queer little grin sweeps into Momma’s face. Her fingers unclench. Around me, and the pistol. 

When her eyes trace the curve of my lips, I understand.

A change has already come. Within me.

***

What Donna Won:

  • $350.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place:  Shermie Rayne
Midlothian, Virginia
Congratulations Shermie!

Shermie’s Bio:

Shermie Rayne, a native of Kentucky, currently resides in Virginia with her husband and four children. Other than a futile attempt at penning a True Confessions inspired story at the age of eleven, she is a recent newcomer to the wondrous world of writing. A graduate of Bellarmine University, and a former registered nurse, when Rayne was confronted with the angst of middle age, she decided to try her hand at writing, instead of returning to hospital scrubs.

Although she still reads more than she writes, Rayne has completed a couple short stories and has several novels in various stages of development brewing, including her current project, Faye, a young-adult fantasy novel. If you’d like to follow Rayne along on her writing journey, please visit her blog: http://shermierayne.wordpress.com/.

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Revolution

 

The air is bitter with smoke, so I take shallow breaths. I must see her. Deeper I huddle into the dense thicket, ignoring the prickling thorns that snare at my face. A twig snaps beneath my weight as I crouch forward at the wood’s edge. I do not dare even to wiggle my toes, caked thickly in late-spring mud; nor do I wipe the trickling mix of salty blood from my eyes. Frozen I am, like an unsure doe on the verge of flight. I know not whether to run or hide.

The red coats seem unaware of my presence. Their shiny black boots plod up the back porch, indifferent to the smoldering barn or my dog lying near the steps, silent and unmoving. Returning with armloads of blankets, pans, food, the hidden silver and mother’s dwindling fineries—they claim their bounty. A stream of ants these soldiers are, devouring and decomposing what lies in their wake.

Mother sits upright, unflinching in the wagon bed, as all of our possessions are piled on and around her. She does not even wince as my father’s reading slippers are flung at her head. Male laughter erupts in tandem. Why does she not refute them, rebut them? I wish my father were home. I wish there was no need for a word called war.

A white-wigged soldier grins widely as he walks up behind her. He has no affable features just the hardness of an ugly pitted stone. He grabs mother by her loose hair bun, hoisting her body upwards so high that her back arches over the wagon’s edge. Her trembling, free hand maintains its grip on her open blouse, as the other fettered arm is stretched precariously taut. She screams. Birds scatter from the trees above me. I cannot look at her, but I must.

She still looks beautiful, even now. Her best burgundy skirt, we had spent a week darting and mending it during the last cold and hungry days of winter, is now ripped in a vertical jag, revealing her underskirts, which bellow out torn and soiled above her kicking feet. He towers over her, staring down into her face, mumbling words I cannot hear as his fist comes down hard upon her nose. He releases her and she slumps forward.

My jaw spreads wide; a thunderous roar is on the verge of indignant release. But I cannot. Instead I swallow the pain and fear, along with my tears. I promised her.

Hours ago we had heard the dog baying. My mother’s eyes were a piercing jade-green and bright with apprehension, as she pleaded, “Hurry, into the house cellar. If you hear me scream your father’s name, you will go. This you will promise me. Sneak out through the escape tunnel, be furtive and quick. Make your way to the woods, then go directly to the base of the mountains, where Widow Koch lives. She will understand what you do not my love.” Her eyes began to pool with tears as she gently held my chin within her calloused palm. “You are just a girl of twelve, but to these men you are as comely as a new rose bud, not a child, merely a flower to be plucked from the garden too soon.” The clopping of many horse feet grew close as she led me to the cellar door. “My child no matter what, promise you will not return . . . only . . . ”

The stone faced man speaks: his imperial voice, loud and authoritative cuts the distance with his English snarl. “Where are the women?” he demands. “You will answer me.”

Mother does not answer, her posture is resolute. His meaty hand backhands her across the face, causing the wagon to sway and creak on its axes. The horses neigh and readjust their footing. She looks up, and straight towards the woods that hide me. Perhaps it is merely the waning light, with its long shadows and beguiling golden longing, but I see her clearly. I feel my knees go soft, and my tongue feels heavy and numb. Drops of blood drip from her swollen nose, ringed in a swirl of cream, pinks and red, like her precious peonies when blooming. There is no fear, no sorrow upon her battered face. I see only revolution in her eyes, as her lips purse tight, locked in defiance.

Cradling her strength within my own fledgling spirit, I know what I must do. I recall her last word to me: run. I run.

***

What Shermie Won:

  • $250.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place: Clare Thompson-Ostrander
Amesbury, Massachusetts
Congratulations Clare!

Clare’s Bio:

In eighth grade, Clare wrote her first short story featuring a baby bird caught inside a chimney. She’s written many stories since then and completed a novel, but was never bold enough to share them until this year. As part of her work in Gila Green’s Flash Fiction course, she entered the WOW Spring ‘13 Flash Fiction Contest. She’s grateful and amazed her story’s been chosen.

She’s currently a full-time professor of developmental writing at a community college. She feels privileged working and writing alongside her students. Her students and colleagues are her greatest inspiration. Last spring, her colleagues dared her to write a six-word memoir. Clare wrote: Write, breathe, write; tomorrow, again, write.

Her most supportive and loving readers are her six sisters, her brother and her parents. Without them, Clare’s stories would still be stuffed inside boxes.

She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter and her puppy. She loves them all deeply and appreciates their patience as she spends most nights tapping keys and building word worlds.

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Mercy

 

I’d seen the man on campus, but the day he showed me his round of bullets was the first time we met. I sat next to him in B216. We were the first to arrive for math tutoring, but math meant nothing to me. I was just filling space to stop thinking of my dead son. It had been five years. My marriage counselor told me she’d quit me for good unless I did something to move on, so I signed up for the math class.

The young man told me his name was Lenny. He wore enough leather to make a couch and carried a motorcycle helmet. A round of bullets snaked around the ankle of his boot. Real bullets, I would know. My husband, Vanya, hunted. He knew about bullets and chambers and cleaning the damn things with the safety on, but I knew nothing of guns. I told Vanya I’d quit him for good unless he rid the house of them. Now he keeps them in the shed a small distance from our house and set against a river of melting snow.

***

“Wonder if we’ve got the right day?”

“We’ll give ‘em all a few,” Lenny said.

I couldn’t stop myself. I added ten years to Benjamin’s eight and prayed as if he was still alive. I asked God to raise my boy up high so he’d never end up like Lenny, adrift in bullets. Then, I remembered. God had no mercy. Most of my days went like this; me angry at God and sneering at men like Lenny who did nothing with their lives.

I took out the math book in case the tutor showed.

“Where do you want to start?” Lenny asked.

You’re the tutor?”

The surprise in my voice pulled his lips to a smile, but then I remembered Benjamin. I looked away from Lenny and saw only the bullets on his boots.

I did this to Vanya, too. I hardly made eye contact with my husband. When we talked, I’d look out the window, watch the pines sway behind the shed and listen to the river roar. I did this to stop myself from blaming him or to stop myself from putting on my overcoat, filling the pockets with heavy stones, and walking into the river to quit my life for good.

Our marriage counselor said to manage my grief or be swallowed by it. You’d think I was the one who took Benjamin out to mercy-kill a buck that day. A little old boy didn’t need to learn about mercy or killing, but Vanya told me hunting made a boy come alive, filled him with the scent of mud and manhood.

“At age eight?” I asked.

Vanya packed up the guns and Benjamin sent me kisses through the back seat window.

***

“You keep looking at my boot,” Lenny said.

 “I’m sorry. I guess I just didn’t expect a tutor to wear those boots.”

“It’s even worse. I run the program.” He reached for my hand, “Professor Woolf.”

“Ginny.” I took his hand. “You said your name was Lenny. Listen, I’m not sure why I’m here. I’m sorry.”

“No apologies. Sometimes, just showing up is enough of a first step. I go by Lenny. Dr. Woolf sounds too much like an old man, or a perverted dentist.” He made a funny face, pulling his lips over his teeth, snarling like a wolf, and I laughed.

But my laughter leaned against the image of Vanya leading my son through the tall grass. Benjamin was a dead-eye, could hit the paper targets they hung on trees. But when a sudden gust of wind rose above their heads and snapped the arms of a tree, a thundering crack shot through my boy’s fingers. He pulled the trigger out of fear, and fear has no aim, so my boy became his own target. And there I was alive and talking to Professor Woolf, a man I had judged with no mercy, a man who made me smile against my will.

Lenny followed my eyes to his bulleted boot.

“Those bullets,” I asked, “Have you ever shot a gun?”

“No, have you?”

“My son shot a rifle. Once.” 

***

What Clare Won:

  • $150.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on WOW-WomenOnWriting.com website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin

RUNNERS UP (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:

Writer’s Block by Deirdre Woytek, Houston, Texas

The Favorite by Diana Manley, Eugene, Oregon

Birds of North America by Margaret Wimberley, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Deficiency by AC Macdonald, Sunrise Beach, Queensland, AUSTRALIA

The Dead Boy and the Lavender Suit by Suzie Lockhart, North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

Lyrics of Life by Lynn Nicholas, Tucson, Arizona

Finders, Keepers by Jayne Martin, Santa Ynez, 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 Spring Contest Honorable Mentions! Your stories stood out and are excellent in every way.

Blonde Curls and Scurvy Pirates by Janet L. Cannon, Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Heads or Tails by Kristen Schroeder, Maple Grove, Minnesota

It’s Just a Dream by Mashal Wakilpoor, Fairfax, Virginia

Modesty About a Proposal by Nicole Guynes, Wilmington, Delaware

No Return Address by Layne Fleming, Sherwood, Arkansas

The Real Ending to “She’s All That” by Lee-Anne Joseph, Ferndale, Washington

The Room by Miriam Lyle, Madrid, SPAIN

What She’ll Do to Stay Away by Gisèle Lewis, Temple Terrace, Florida

Grandmas and Cell Phones by Shari lee Shamus, Orlando, Florida

Pierced by Carmel Lillis, Yarraville, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings our Spring 2013 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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