WOW! Women On Writing Flash Fiction Contest Winners!


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WOW! Winter 2022 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 Hannah Andrade

Literary Agent Hannah Andrade

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

Hannah’s bio:

Hannah started as an agency assistant before moving on to acquire her own clients. She’s been with Bradford Literary Agency since 2017 and has had the privilege to work with a number of bestselling authors across a variety of genres. She likes to think of herself as an editorial-focused agent and is particularly eager to acquire BIPOC/underrepresented voices. She is prioritizing stories of joy where identity isn’t the focus and is especially excited about stories rooted in history, mythology, and legends, particularly those that are lesser-known or underrepresented in traditional publishing.

As someone who’s spent a large portion of their life outside of America, Hannah is very interested in stories that explore the intricacies of multicultural identities. She loves stories of immigration (not relegated to America) and of first/second generation Americans who struggle balancing the values of their country with the culture and heritage of their parents (as in the TV shows Ramy or Gentefied). As a Mexican-American, she would particularly love to see the stories that she grew up with showcased in new and creative ways.

Hannah loves strong characters and voice-driven stories that break out of the typical tropes of their genres. She’s a huge fan of expansive world building and atmospheric settings, dark and transporting fantasy in YAs, and MGs with macabre elements and dark humor. One of her favorite tropes is the “found family”—especially if the family is found through crime. She has a soft spot for any kind of retelling or spin off of “classic lit” or fairy tales (like Lauren Blackwood’s WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS or Lilliam Rivera’s NEVER LOOK BACK). She’s looking for stories with quirky characters/voices and love ones that feature dysfunctional families (like SAFFY’S ANGEL by Hilary McKay). If your story involves ghosts, riddles/puzzles, and/or whimsy, Hannah would love to see it! She loves mysteries for readers of all ages, and is particularly looking for an Only Murders in the Building-esque story.

In nonfiction, she is looking for something that takes the mystery out of everyday life/occurrences (a lá Malcolm Gladwell or Atul Gawande) and investigative journalism-esque stories with a strong narrative hook.

Hannah’s page at Bradford Literary Agency: bradfordlit.com/hannah-andrade-agent/

Follow her on Twitter: @hhandrade93

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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 12+ 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, they receive 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:  Sumitra Singam
Naarm/Melbourne
Congratulations, Sumitra!
Sumitra Singam

Sumitra’s Bio:

Sumitra writes in Naarm/Melbourne on unceded Wurundjeri land. She travelled there through many other spaces, real, metaphorical and transitional; and likes to write about those experiences pretending that it is all fiction. She works in mental health when she inhabits the real world and realises there are bills to pay. Find her on twitter: @pleomorphic2.

 

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The Garden of The Masseuse Noi Is Fed on The Sorrows and Resentments of Her Clients

 

She can tell before she lays a hand on them, what they will give her. The smiling women with the bent shoulders are full of red, hot anger that pulses along their spines. The overweight men who can’t look her in the eye always have an ice-cold vein of shame running along the crest of their hip bones.

She has magic hands, Noi. She knows that these grey people need her tropical help. She came three years ago to make a better life, to fold colourful Australian dollars into her Thai silk purse. She takes their fears, their squashed dreams, and she feeds them to herself, and it feels like love. It feels like it could take the place of the chubby wrists and thighs of her baby. Well, not a baby anymore; four years old now.

When she showers at the end of her long day, she works the feelings that she has sequestered into a lather at the top of her head. Then she wrings them out over the plants. The sorrows always come first—heavy, dangling on her split ends. Anger, light and heady, comes last and needs to be coaxed with gentle milking. The vegetables drink it in, becoming crisp, full-flavoured.

Noi handles the little eggplants. Green-tinged white, a spongy give to them; they are ready to be picked. She cooks them with a paste of lemongrass, chilli, galangal, turmeric, shrimp. She adds coconut milk, drinking in the creamy smell. The yellow curry fills her mouth, whole, luscious, pungent. She imagines popping the same mouthful into the bright cherry of her little girl’s mouth. Thuktha is fed by her grandmother, in the very same way Noi was when she was four. It is the fate of poor Thai mothers to be separated from their children. The mothering skips a generation.

Noi thinks of her work, of her sacrifice so that this will not be her daughter’s life. Thuktha will be able to hold her children, and feed them from her own hand.

Noi takes these berries fed on the unshed tears of her clients back into her, and she smiles at her capacity, at her ability to provide, as she views the latest video of Thuktha, making namaste hands at the portrait of the King.

But one Thai person cannot hold all this pain and resentment without consequence. In the garden of Noi’s body, a different nodule grows, fertilised with the tears and heat of her clients. An Australian shoot, voracious and greedy, eating up all the cells of her left breast, even as she says, “Sawasdee Kha,” to her clients. The weed grows and pulses, and drops its seeds through her lungs, liver, bones.

Noi will make it back, and she will see her beautiful daughter, who will eye her warily, as she might a stranger. And Thuktha will watch in bewilderment as her kun yaai wails at this emaciated shadow who returns from Sydney with a suitcase full of stuffed koalas for a baby who doesn’t exist anymore.

Years from now, Thuktha will think, how silly, to leave all this—the vast sprawling madness of Bangkok, with smells of jasmine, durian, excrement, diesel. How careless to leave all this for a sterile grey country, and return without yourself.

As for Noi, she cannot think of anything except the pain that is in her, concentrated in her chest, where she imagines her heart might be.

She turns from this little girl who won’t succumb to a kiss, or a hug; who would rather speak to her friends, or play on her tablet, bought with the money her absent mother sent in place of herself.

Noi lets the berry take root, and her body collapses back into the soft, green Earth.

 

***

What Sumitra 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:  Abbie Barker
Concord, New Hampshire
Congratulations, Abbie!
Abbie Barker

Abbie’s Bio:

Abbie Barker is a creative writing instructor living with her husband and two kids in New Hampshire. Her flash fiction is featured or forthcoming in several publications including, Berkeley Fiction Review, Cutbank, Cincinnati Review, Superstition Review, Pithead Chapel, Atlas and Alice, and Best Microfiction 2022. She earned a degree in fiction from the Mountainview MFA and an MA in literature from Fordham University. She loves the ocean, large dogs, and coffee shops. Read more of her work at abbiebarker.com or connect with her on Twitter.


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Store Aisles I Passed Through Before Leaving Town

 

Cosmetics

Mom crouched beside the lipsticks, a plum tube pressed against her freckled cheek. She asked what I thought, and I shrugged because she smelled different. Like citrus or melon. Like a store in the mall we used to pass on our way to SuperCuts. She never had a smell before. She assumed the odor of the house—cinnamon or seasoned beef or the mildewy dampness rising from the basement. That afternoon, she smelled fruity, almost tropical, like a beach vacation.

Mom pushed the plum aside and grabbed another shade, a deep red-brown. This! This is perfect, she said, and I asked, what for? She smiled—all lip, no teeth. I squinted at the gold lettering stuck to the black lacquered lid: Touch of Spice.

Tile

Dad dragged me to one of those warehouse home improvement stores. A surprise for Mom, he said. Every surface sparkled beneath domed lights. Mosaic, subway, porcelain. Small hexagons. Bigger rectangles. I ran my finger along the glass tiles, those that were translucent and the color of oceans. Those shaped like mermaid scales.

“Which would Mom like best?” Dad asked.

Touch of Spice,” I whispered.

Frozen Foods

Dad fogged up freezer doors, comparing ingredients on the back of pizza boxes. Clouds of cold leaked into the aisle. Dad only cooked pancakes and eggs, bacon. For weeks we ate nothing but breakfast. Some nights, only toast. For weeks we waited for Mom to return with pale lips, so she could soak up the smell of sausage, and dinner could taste like dinner again.

Before she left, Mom told Dad she was drowning.

I ate soggy pizza on the floor of the half-tiled bathroom. The marine blue tile curved around the room then tapered off, like a tidal wave breaking. Like a storm that came, but would not pass.

 

***

“Store Aisles I Passed Through Before Leaving Town” first appeared in Trampset.

What Abbie 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: Chiu Yin Wong Hempel
Palm Beach, Florida
Congratulations, Chiu Yin!
Chiu Yin Wong Hempel

Chiu Yin’s Bio:

Chiu Yin has held senior management positions at Pearson Education and The Economist Group. She is the author of an award-winning trilogy of illustrated books on the architecture, founders and landscape of Tuxedo Park, a historical community in the Hudson Valley, New York. The flash fiction Shanghai Tango is extracted from her debut novel about the struggle for love and survival of the fifteen-year-old, illegitimate daughter of a powerful general and a former prostitute. The story takes place in war-torn Shanghai in 1948, on the eve of the Communists’ final victory in the bloody civil war against the Kuomintang, forcing the latter to retreat to the island of Taiwan and setting the stage for the geopolitical tensions today. The narrative draws upon extensive historical research as well as stories Chiu Yin’s grandmother told her about China during the war years.

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Shanghai Tango

 

I finally saw him naked. Jack Prenn looked as I had imagined: his body slender, his muscles lean, golden hair curled on his sheet-white chest. I remembered rippling forearms, too, but now they weren’t visible because his limbs were tied behind his back, his neck and spine bent backwards in a painful-looking arch. His bare knees dug into the gravel, only the thin mist of his breath hinting he was alive. The loose cloth wrapped around his groin was soaked in blood. To his left were two men similarly stripped and restrained, but they were both Chinese, and left intact.

The man I know as “Uncle Zhang” emerged from the darkness of the brick mansion, the headquarters of the Kuomintang in Shanghai. He entered the glare of the sunlit courtyard.

I almost did not recognize the General in civilian attire. I looked for my mother, but Siu Jing was nowhere in sight. I watched as the General stopped several feet in front of the prisoners, removed his sunglasses and studied the men.

Then, without a word, the General waved his left hand as if to swat a fly; the diamond in his class ring caught the early morning sun. He returned to the shadows.

The soldiers snapped to attention. They fired their pistols in unison and in uncanny synchronization with distant machine gun fire from the Communist troops advancing on the outskirts of Shanghai.

In that moment, everything changed—for China, for my mother...and me.

From my vantage point three stories above the courtyard, I saw and heard the fatal gun blasts. I watched Jack Prenn’s final spasms, as his body rose and fell in response to the shots. I suffered a synchronized series of shudders, and fell back, from shock, upon the mattress on the floor. I could see the windowpanes were smeared where my face had pressed against the glass. My heart pounded, my thoughts raced. I lay rigid, my arm outstretched, as if to reach for him.

I had not comprehended until now. I had anticipated a final reversal, a trial, a reprieve.

Whatever Jack Prenn had done, how could the Chinese Army execute an American national? How could the General kill a man he’d called a friend? How could my mother not intervene to save Prenn? Weren’t she and Prenn lovers?

Where was Siu Jing? Why was she not there to try to save him, or at least witness his end? How did it all come to this? And most agonizing question of all: Was I to blame for Prenn’s death?

Scenes from the past year returned to me, sharp as the slash of a scythe, and stabbed at my memory. As the events struck, they assumed a sequence. I began to see their meaning, understand the secrets; I played a role, but the circumstances of Prenn’s death were much more intricate than my simple guilt. We were all caught in an inexorable rhythm, a tragic dance that had been choreographed from the start by forces much bigger than any of us.

Was I hearing that fatal tempo again, punctuated by a new staccato sound?

I remained sitting on the mattress. I was trembling, but no tears or sobs came from me. I folded myself into a tight ball, rocked back and forth.

Suddenly, I became aware of the sound of thumping boots, not from the courtyard below but from somewhere deep in the building... coming closer...racing fast... now right below me. All too late, I recognized the pounding of heavy footsteps up the stairs. Men’s voices, loud and agitated, reverberated like thunder.

“In here!” The door burst open, hit the wall with a crashing bang, sending dust dancing like sand in a whirlwind. Nowhere to hide—they had come to arrest me. I felt myself collapse. I did not cry out my innocence or fight for my life.

I bowed to my fate: Take me.

 

***

What Chiu Yin 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 (In no particular order):

Congratulations to the runners-up! It was very close, and these stories are excellent in every way.

Click on their entries to read:

Letting Go by Kathryn A. Brackett, South Carolina

A Convenient Curse by Leila Murton Poole, Queenstown, New Zealand

Split Loyalties by Yvonne Clarke, Chichester, West Sussex, UK

Lucinda Rising by Joanne Emilia Timmins, Rockland County, New York

The Lighthouse Point by Monique Franz, Rochester, New York

The Holiday Slayer by Janet K. Shawgo, Galveston, Texas

Do I? by Samantha Ryan, Austin, Texas

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 Winter 2022 Contest Honorable Mentions! Your stories stood out and are excellent in every way.

Conversations with a Genius by Melissa Maize, Hong Kong

The Kiss by Laura Ruth Loomis, Pittsburg, California

Cairn by Laura Mahal, Fort Collins, Colorado

The Spectacular Sparrow Lady by Jeaninne Escallier Kato, Rocklin, California

Cat and Mouse and Monkey by Karen McGoldrick, Canton, Georgia

The Birthday Party by Nicole Lopes, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dragonspeak by Jennifer Theoret, Vermont

Let Down Your Hair by Tess Lydon, Minnesota

No Crying Matter by Jennifer Chan, Manila, Philippines

Passenger by Marie Holmes, New York City, New York

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Winter 2022 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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