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WOW! Summer 2017 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 Quressa Robinson with Nelson Literary

Literary Agent Quressa Robinson

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

Quressa Robinson joined the Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 after working at a previous agency and as an editor for five years. She is originally from San Francisco, but has been living in New York City for over a decade. As a New York based agent, she is eager to build her YA and Adult lists. When not curled on her couch reading, she plays video games, enjoys too much TV—mostly Sailor Moon and Harry Potter (Slytherin!), eats delicious things, drinks champagne, hangs out with her very clever husband, and adds another “dramatic” color to her lipstick collection. So, give her stories that will make her geek out. If you can make her have an epic fangirl squee—have stories featuring fairies and warrior princesses with afros and rainbow dreads or envision winter elves inspired by an Asian or Latinx culture—then you are definitely a match. She’s also looking for stories with best friends like Molly and Issa on Insecure, enemies to lovers, coming-of-age stories, The Breakfast Club with a twist, family drama and witches (!), and alpha heroes paired with witty heroines. If you have bold, fresh, or quirky stories they will be right up her alley. She’s also looking for stories that feel timeless and timely despite the current climate or when they were originally written. Or give her something she didn’t know she desperately needed. Above all, give her stories she can become deeply passionate about.

Follow Quressa on Twitter: @qnrisawesome

Check out her website: www.quressa.com

Visit Nelson Literary Agency: www.nelsonagency.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 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:  Ezzy G. Languzzi
Boston, Massachusetts
Congratulations, Ezzy!
Ezzy G. Languzzi

Ezzy’s Bio:

Ezzy Languzzi is a Latinx writer of speculative short fiction and contemporary MG/YA. Her fantasy short story “Naranjas Inmortales” appeared in Strange California: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction. Her second story to be accepted for publication, ‘Viva La Muñeca,’ will appear in the Upper Rubber Boot Books anthology titled Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up to No Good. She’s an MFA candidate in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing at Emerson College and a 2017 Las Dos Brujas Writers Workshop participant. Her contemporary MG novel Where Hazard Meets Newhope was chosen as a finalist in the 2016 Pitch América competition. Ezzy holds a M.Ed. in School Counseling and B.S. in Public Administration. She lives in MA with her husband, son, and two crazy Labradoodles. Only her mother calls her Esmeralda.

Connect with her online:
Twitter: @EzzyLanguzzi
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ezzylanguzzi
Instagram: @ezzylanguzzi
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ezzylanguzzi

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Los Espantos

 

Murky water pooled every day in the potholes near my home. I was eight-years-old when Brijeda, the dusty, old woman who lived in the duplex behind ours—the neighborhood elotera—made me look.

Don’t step in them.

“¡Espantos! Son espantos de liquido,” she’d warn, pointing a crooked finger at the sludge, residing in asphalt. It didn’t matter how often the city patched them over because they would inevitably crumble by nightfall. We existed in a permanent state of decay.

“See how they rise!” she’d add. “They don’t want you to leave. Don’t let your guard down, Mi'jita. Si no, te van a comer.”

I only ever saw nasty water. And though the threat of being consumed by a ghost—however real—did frighten me, there were monsters of flesh and bone living around us, equally dangerous.

Satisfied in her delivery, Brijeda would limp away, guiding her rusted shopping cart, wobbly wheels dancing, contents clattering down the buckled and uneven sidewalk. We always knew when she was nearby; a cloud of sweet smelling corn and butter preceded her arrival. Covered pots, shaker jars filled with powdered cheese and chili, baggies of sliced limes, and a brick-size slab of butter, were the tools of her trade. Her uniform a lemon print moumou and droopy hat fringed by silk flowers.

Bittersweet memories.

Light filtering from the streetlamp overhead gave the greasy water-filled pockmarks in the street a ghastly appearance.

“Stop that,” Alex whispered in my ear.

“Alejandro! When are you going to stop sneaking up on me?”

“Never.” He brushed a strand of hair behind my ear. His touch sent a jolt straight through me. He smiled. “Don’t dwell on that Old Bat’s scare tactics.”

Why did everything have to be so complicated? Death, especially.

“She meant well,” I said, finally. “Wishing I’d been nicer to her.”

“I know.” His shoulder touched mine. “Me, too.”

We leaned against the brick wall between our homes where we’d once played Post Office under the shade of a giant, sparrow-filled sycamore, occasionally pelted by falling pinecones. The wall’s honeycomb pattern had concealed notes we’d exchanged over the years, secret wishes, and dreams scribbled on tiny scraps of paper. We were going to go be the first in our families to attend college—make our families proud. I’d pursue my dream. Become a geneticist. He a surgeon. We’d marry. Travel the world. Buy each our mamás her own casita. Start a familia.

We’d had our lives planned from the day I’d brought over a pot of menudo to welcome his family to the neighborhood. He’d found in me his match at marbles. Though I played for keepsies, I think that’s when he fell in love.

“You can still come with me.” I ran my fingertips down his arm, took his hand in mine, and laced my fingers in his, where they fit, seamlessly.

He held me in his gaze. His brown eyes were dark as coal. “I’d only get in the way,” he said, stating the obvious truth I avoided.

“You got in, too.”

“Always an idealist. That’s my Teena. Not sure how crazy your roomie would be having me hanging around.”

“She wouldn’t have to know you were there! We’d find a way to keep you hidden—”

His lips met mine, light as a feather. He’d kissed me for the first time in the spot where we stood. He nestled closer to me and held my hand in both of his.

“I remember,” he said, reading my mind. “It was one of the happiest days of my life, kissing you, here.” He chuckled. “Your ma wanted to kill me. She chased me back home waving that secret weapon of hers in the air.”

Mamá’s fuzzy chancla.

“She did want to kill you.” My laugh turned into a sob.

Six months have passed since a stray bullet pierced Alex’s heart, as he got out of his car in the driveway. He came to me that night, pale and barefoot. Recounted the violent heat that had spread across his chest like a wildfire; how time had slowed as he seeped into the cracks in the asphalt. Had he not gone willingly, the spirits would’ve come to collect him, putting others in danger.

What he didn’t tell me, what I know because of Brijeda, is that he’s joined them. Our paths have diverged. My love can never leave.

Alex can never stray far from the potholes in front of my home.

 

***

What Ezzy 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:  Michelle Hsu
Los Angeles, California
Congratulations, Michelle!
Michelle Hsu

Michelle’s Bio:

Originally from the sleepy suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, Michelle spent her childhood writing stories to keep herself entertained. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2016 with a double major in Environmental Science and Film, she packed her belongings into a small car and made the time-honored trek to LA to pursue a career in entertainment; she is currently working at NBC.

As a queer POC female writer, Michelle likes to think that she’s the true triple threat Hollywood is scared of. Michelle is particularly interested in writing strong, female characters in the genres of drama, grounded sci-fi, and magical realism. As a child, her role model was Mulan—today, Michelle writes female-oriented stories in the hopes that she will create empowering characters for younger generations to look up to.

Connect with Michelle through her website or Twitter.

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Venus, from the Sea

 

I didn’t believe in God until I saw her.

It was summer, hot enough that any residual self-consciousness from the scars on my exposed legs was burned away in the hundred-degree weather. The cloying coconut smell of sunblock made me a freshly broiled lobster, all red skin and tender sweet flesh.

With my feet stuck in the sand, I watched as she dove fearlessly from a rock along the shore, toes en pointe as they entered the water.

I was 21, a virgin, and much too aware of the fact that I was gay. I spent every conscious moment trying to blend in with all the other Southern Belles living in our small coastal town—pretty, blonde, and pure. Mama and Papa were proud of my newfound vanity; every Christmas home from college was spent dodging questions about when I was going to start dating, when I’d finally find myself a nice Georgia boy to settle down with and have babies. Mama was much more invested in the idea of having grandchildren than she was in me.

We sat through countless hours of prayers at night, Mama and I kneeling at the foot of my bed as if it were an altar, asking God for forgiveness and begging him to chase away the sickness in me. If I’m going to Hell when I die, the eyes of the Devil will be my Mama’s, red-rimmed with tears and filled with vile disgust.

But the wounds I carved into my thighs during the height of my self-hatred didn’t get rid of it. And, like the scars, I learned to live with them in secret, concealing them in quiet shame and layers of makeup.

Hiding in a closet large enough to fit my burgeoning sexuality, right next to my dusty old hunting knives, was a stack of Playboy magazines I stole from Papa, carefully stacked in a cardboard shoebox.

But she, with hair as dark as seaweed, wasn’t a photo in a magazine, or someone on TV. She was real.

In her black one-piece swimsuit, she cut through the waters like a shark that owned the ocean. That was the first thing I noticed. A natural born swimmer, built with broad, powerful shoulders and narrow slender hips.

When she came out of the water, she saw me looking. She smiled.

I don’t think I’d ever blushed that hard in my life.

And the next thing I knew was a pair of feet standing in front of the patch of sand I was staring at, and a slender hand stuck in front of my face.

“What’s your name?”

“Kelsey,” I managed, through my cotton stuffed mouth. “Nice to meet you.”

I stared back up and looked at her eyebrows, too intimidated to look directly into her eyes. I thought I might go blind if I did. Even her eyebrows were nice, arched and dark black.

“Jen,” she said. And that was that.

I think about that day a lot. That maybe if I hadn’t met her, hadn’t stared at her so openly, I could have gone on living the life I was supposed to live.

“Want to go for a swim?”

“Um,” I said, intelligently. I decided it wasn’t worth mentioning that my fear of large bodies of water was second only to my Mama’s wrath.

“Come on,” she said. Her hand was warm in mine as she pulled me to my feet. The salt water lapped up to my ankles, then my shins, my hips, and then my chest.

“Don’t you know how to swim?”

I shrugged. “Not really. Teach me?”

I gave away a piece of my soul to a girl that was so lovely that the Devil himself couldn’t bear to steal from her.

Had I known she would be dead within the year, I would have swam as fast as I could with her back to shore, and never returned to the ocean.

She was Venus, reborn from the sea, and in the end, I could do nothing but watch as it reclaimed her into its dark and endless depths. That no matter how strong of a swimmer she was, even she couldn’t win against a riptide.

But at the peak of August, with white-tipped waves stretching out to the ends of the Earth, we knew nothing but the push and pull of the ocean, the sun hot on our backs, and the taste of salt on each others’ lips.

 

***

What Michelle 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: Elizabeth Jones Hanley
Cochranville, Pennsylvania
Congratulations, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Jones Hanley

Elizabeth’s Bio:

Elizabeth Jones Hanley learned almost everything she knows about writing from her father, who was an English professor and poet. Together they started a quarterly poetry journal, The Mid-America Poetry Review, in 2000, and she was associate editor for ten years before the journal folded. She has two published chapbooks of poems: The Art of Making Tea and The Last Winter. Currently, she works in the children’s department of her local public library, writes fiction and poetry, and has successfully survived NaNoWriMo four times. Elizabeth enjoys science fiction, Hitchcock movies, 50’s doo-wop, knitting, and sailing, especially in the British Virgin Islands. Her son has also introduced her to some pretty cool anime. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and two dogs, one of whom knows to the minute when it’s his dinner time and never fails to alert them each day at five o’clock.

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Feeding the Witch

 

Hurry, we’ll miss it, Mama tells me. She puts sprouting onions and softening tomatoes into a basket, tests the bread to see how stale it is. I have the sack on the table. Carrots? I ask. The look she gives me makes me want to cry. It’s a hardship to throw our food at the witch, but what else can we do? Yes, one or two. Come along, child.

We join our neighbors along the road, sacks and baskets of their own. No one speaks. It’s a chilly morning, mist rising from the grass. We don’t have long to wait till the carts squeak into view. Three of them, this time, making their way through the village. The witches are in their cages, hands wrapped around the bars, staring out at us, and we put our hands around the food, ready to throw.

Hedy is there, in the middle wagon. She looks cold in her thin shift. Her feet are bare. She sags against the cage until the sweep of her gaze moves over us. Then she comes to life, hands reaching through the bars, trying to squeeze her way through to us.

Mama! Calyn! It’s more than I can bear and I turn away. Mama’s hand clamps down on my neck and she turns me back to face the road, the wagon. We must! She hisses. For her sake as well as ours. Be strong.

All along the road our neighbors, our good neighbors, lift their vegetables and throw with all their might. Most hit the cages and bounce off, or fall apart when they hit: soft and squelchy, rotting food. But some make it through. One girl cowers in the corner, pelted by sad, brown lettuce and a tomato more juice than solid now. But Hedy reaches out, snatches a few and pulls them in with her, stuffing them down her shift. She bites into a carrot tearing it apart with her teeth.

We yell as they pass, voices raised in howls. Nila can’t help herself, lunges at a cart, reaches for her mother, who clings desperately back. A soldier prods her away from the cage with his staff. Get back, you! She falls against Mama, still crying, still reaching out, but Mama holds her tight. Hush, now. You’ll only make it worse.

And then they are gone, up the road to the Keep for their imprisonment, their trial, which will only end—can only end—one way: on a cold, grey morning on Hangman’s Hill. We aimed the best we could. Rotten food on the ground, edible food into the cages. Into the hands of our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. With luck it’s enough to keep them from starving, to see them through to the end. It’s all we can do for them now.

 

***

What Elizabeth 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:

Mazes by Tracy Maxwell, Seattle, Washington

Half-Way by Anne Andersen, Des Plaines, Illinois

Disposition by Anne Andersen, Des Plaines, Illinois

A Touching Compromise by Elizabeth Maggio, Clifton, Virginia

Million-Dollar Burrito by Joy Givens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Good News by Elle Marr, Portland, Oregon

Secrets of an Old Maid by Kathy Joyce, Bloomfield, Michigan

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

A Toast by Carol Gavhane, Redmond, Washington

Echolocation by Gail A. Webber, Boonsboro, Maryland

The Camping Trip by Jeaninne Escallier Kato, Rocklin, California

Fragments by Diana Manley, Taylors, South Carolina

Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed into People by Ashley Memory, Asheboro, North Carolina

Eos by Tia Tomlinson, Henderson, Colorado

What Might Have Been by Elizabeth Eidlitz, Concord, Massachusetts

Viral by Susie Foster Hale, Friday Harbor, Washington

Gathered by Lauren Tetrick, Homer Glen, Illinois

The Four Seasons of Sarah Chickalele by Allen Stevenson, Easley, South Carolina

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Summer 2017 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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