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WOW! Spring 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 Sharon Pelletier

Literary Agent Sharon Pelletier

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

Sharon’s bio:

Sharon Pelletier joined DG&B in 2013 after working for Europa Editions, Vantage Press, and Barnes & Noble. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Sharon moved to New York in 2009 and now can’t imagine ever living anywhere else. In addition to growing her own list, Sharon oversees digital projects and social media for the agency. While her interests are broad, Sharon is especially seeking upmarket fiction, including unexpected suspense fiction; smart, complex women’s fiction; and hearty, unforgettable book club fiction. On the nonfiction side Sharon is eager for compelling, fierce narrative nonfiction by journalists and experts, and emerging voices with a growing platform who can speak to pop culture, feminism, sports, social justice, and/or religion.

Sharon’s page at DG&B Literary Agency: www.dystel.com/sharon-pelletier

Follow her on Twitter: @sharongracepjs

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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:  Karen Arnold
Worcestershire, England
Congratulations, Karen!
Karen Arnold

Karen’s Bio:

Karen Arnold is a writer, child psychotherapist and visiting lecturer in psychoanalytic theory. She has worked in the field of child and adolescent mental health for over 35 years retiring from full time clinical work 2 years ago. She is fascinated by the many ways in which we use story, symbol and metaphor to understand and communicate our experience of internal and external worlds.

 

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This Women’s Work

 

The dead sigh when you move them. Poetry and the physics of mortality in one action. As we move my mother’s body it sighs, and the hairs rise on the back of my neck. A neighbour puts a rough hand on my arm. No words are needed. Outside the sky is bruised and gilded as the sun sets below the Atlantic. She loved this island, and that sigh contains seabirds and salt, tangles of kelp and fishing net, old songs and burning stars. Salty wind rattles the windows and creeps under the door as we work, carrying messages from America.

We have washed her with the pink soap she kept for best, the one scented with geraniums. Closed her eyes, sealed all the exits. I washed her face as gently as she used to wash mine. Her skin is waxy and smooth, a clay pale cast to her weathered brown face. Death has left her younger somehow. The light is growing dim as my aunt combs her sister’s hair. Worn long her whole life, plaited now into a faded red and silver braid, draped over her thin shoulder. We have dressed her in the summer dress she chose. Deep blue, cotton. It does not matter now that it will not keep out the autumn wind. Another woman asks if we shouldn’t put a bit of colour on her cheeks? Another neighbour calls back that Brigid would come back and haunt us if we sent her to her grave painted like a jezebel. The thought of my mother’s austere beauty stabs at me like a gannet’s beak.

I thread jet and silver rosary beads through her fingers, each touch of her cold hands brings a bright flash of memory, like a dark room filled by lightening. Those hands kneading bread, sewing, digging. Delivering babies, wiping away tears, cleaning cut knees. We light candles and lanterns, open the door to the rest of the house. It is busy out there. Neighbours are bringing food, cooking more. Life makes you hungry, but death makes you ravenous. The house smells of vanilla and bread, cigarette smoke, and the peaty tang of the whisky that has just been poured. The men have spent the afternoon digging the grave, and someone is complaining that their back is almost broken with the rocks in the soil. Tomorrow they will carry her coffin; it will weigh no more than a basket of shells and bird feathers, all the substance of her weathered away by this woman’s work.

Hearing the murmuring voices, my aunt rolls her eyes and rubs at a knot in the back of her neck. She shares her opinion that these men think they do the heavy lifting, but it’s we who bring them into the world and see them out again. At this, the women’s laughter rises, dark and powerful as raven’s wings. It is set free into the room and out into the night.

 

***

What Karen 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:  Nancy Robie
Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire
Congratulations, Nancy!
Nancy Robie

Nancy’s Bio:

Nancy lives in New Hampshire with her husband and 5-year-old rescue dog, Laney. She is the mother of three and the grandmother of eleven. She has been married to her best friend for the last 49 years and together they have traveled to many places but always find their way home.

Nancy recently retired from the insurance industry and is now enjoying a new life where there is not an 8-4 office day. She has been able to do much more reading in retirement and is particularly drawn to mysteries and psychological thrillers. Freedom from the five-day work week has allowed Nancy to spend more time volunteering with a local clothing resource for women, join a bowling league, take a course at the local college and plant more flowers in her garden.

Nancy’s stories are often about women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and are able to find strength they never knew they possessed. She believes a good story allows you to identify on some level with the protagonist and travel with them as they explore difficult situations. In the end, you should feel as though you have grown with them during their journey and also glimpse the world through a crisper lens.

Now that Nancy has time to focus on writing, she hopes to pull out many of the stories she has started and stashed in drawers over the years and finally finish them.


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Buried Things

 

Holly placed her suitcase on the bed and began to unpack. Every summer, Holly left the apartment she shared with her mother in New York City and stayed at her grandparent’s farm in New Hampshire. She placed her hairbrush on the bureau next to a picture frame holding a photo of an elegant woman wrapped in a long mink coat holding a gold cigarette holder. She knew it was a photo of her grandmother’s younger sister, Gabriel, who had run away from home back in 1931. Holly couldn’t imagine Aunt Gabe as anyone but the old, crazy lady who lived by herself in a little log cabin across town. The fur coat and high heels had long been replaced with denim overalls, a wide brimmed straw hat and unlaced tennis shoes. Her long white hair was tied back with a red bandanna and around her neck she wore a rust-colored string tie like cowboys used to wear.

The last item in the suitcase was a pack of Marlboros which Holly decided to hide in the attic where her grandmother wouldn’t find them. Holly tiptoed down the hall and unlatched the little green door which opened to the crawl space under the eaves. Hot air pressed against Holly’s skin as she crept on hands and knees to the farthest corner of the cluttered attic. She eyed a loose floorboard behind a musty cardboard box. She lifted the corner of the board and the entire foot long plank came free. Under the floorboard a spider scurried across a yellowed envelope and disappeared into the shadows. Holly tucked the pack of cigarettes in the corner and pulled the envelope out.

“Now, come along, Holly, I promised my sister I would bring her some eggs.”

Holly shoved the envelope in her back pocket and joined her grandmother in the old pick-up truck.

“Grammie, what happened to Aunt Gabe? Why is she so different from the photo in her old bedroom?”

“Well, Holly, nobody knows for sure. Gabriel ran away to Boston when she was sixteen. We didn’t see her for ten years. She wrote me that she had fallen in love with an older man who was married. He promised my sister he was going to divorce his wife. Then one day, a Boston taxi delivered Gabe to our front door. She asked to borrow our father’s Buick and the key to his log hunting cabin. She said her man friend had been dropped off at the cabin already. They had some things to discuss and once they worked things out Gabe and he would join us for Sunday dinner with a big announcement.”

“So what was the big announcement?” Holly asked.

“There wasn’t one. Gabe came home that Sunday with a split lip and black eye. She said her boyfriend had gone back to Boston and she didn’t want to talk about it. She hid away in her old bedroom for a couple weeks. She asked our father if she could settle down in the cabin, he agreed and that is where she has been ever since.”

They pulled in front of the post office. When her grandmother left the truck, Holly opened the envelope she had found in the attic. A newspaper clipping fell onto her lap. Holly began to read:

Delmore Jackson, owner of the popular restaurant, The Boston House, has not been seen since last Saturday. Mrs. Jackson reported he left for work Saturday morning but never returned that evening.

If anyone has any information, please contact the Boston police department.

Below the article was a picture of Delmore Jackson sporting a Stetson cowboy hat and a bolo string tie. Holly shoved the article back into her pocket when her grandmother returned.

Gabe was sitting on her porch when they arrived.

“Gabe, I brought you eggs and mail. And look who else I brought! You remember Holly? Margaret’s girl?”

“Well, howdy do, Holly! Come see my garden! I do love being in the garden.” Aunt Gabe trudged down a cobblestone path muttering along the way.

The garden was lush with each row neatly tilled and weed-free. In the far corner of the garden, a weathered Stetson hat hung on a hook under a lean-to. Holly had seen this hat every summer since she was big enough to walk but never knew what it meant until now.

Headstones aren’t always made from stone and some things just need to stay buried.

 

***

What Nancy 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: Jordan Drewitt Smith
Brisbane, Australia
Congratulations, Jordan!
Jordan Drewitt Smith

Jordan’s Bio:

Jordan is a writer originally from Jamaica, who relocated to New Zealand when she was young before permanently moving to Australia. When she is not writing, she works as a highly caffeinated Audiologist who spends her breaks daydreaming about becoming a full-time author. Jordan currently lives in Brisbane with her husband and their puggle. If she isn’t spending time with her family, you can find her curled up with a good book, enjoying nature, or obsessing over Harry Potter. She is currently working on her debut novel.

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For Better Or Worse

 

There is a dead body in my hallway.

I arrive home late from work to find a man lying face down on the grey-tiled floor. Blood runs from the concave hole in his head, seeping into the grout and coagulating beneath him. My husband of twenty-years stands over the body. He grips a baseball bat with bone-white knuckles. His white linen shirt is covered in speckles of blood. My heart races and my eyesight blurs. I blink and force my brain to focus, tuning into the haze of my nightmare like a radio finding a station.”

“Robin, I—”

“What the hell, Keith?” I hiss. My voice is low, despite living in the country where there is no risk of small-talk over fence lines.

“I can explain—”

“We have a dead body in our home.” I swallow the lump of bile climbing up my throat. My body is burning from within, but I can’t blame menopause for once.

“He—he just came in.”

“So, you killed him?”

“He was going to rob us!”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“It happened too fast and then—” Keith gulps. “It was too late.” He drops the bat with a clang that echoes throughout the house. “You have to help me. Please.” Tears roll down his reddened cheeks and a primal part of me aches to help the man I share my life with.

My eyes travel to our wedding photo hanging askew on the wall, barely supported by a rusty hook that neither of us has time to replace. For better or worse, we said. I straighten the photo.

“We need to get rid of him,” I say.

“We could bury him?”

I shake my head. “David borrowed the shovel last weekend.”

“What about the freezer?”

“How do we make him fit? You can’t even chop raw meat!”

“This is not my fault. It was self-defence!”

“Let’s just focus on what we need to do.”

“I’m not the enemy here.”

“No,” I scoff, “you’re the man who has given me another mess to clean up.”

Silence engulfs the air around us, mixing with the iron-stench of blood.

“Are you ever going to forgive me for that?” Keith whispers.

Two years ago, I came home early to find him with another woman. She was young and blonde. I still see her wide-eyed stare when I close my eyes at night, how it reflected embarrassment with a smidge of youthful rebellion. For better or worse, we said.

“We could burn him?” I offer, discarding the memories.

Keith places his hands over his face and rubs his eyes before he nods.

We move the body outside in determined silence. Keith holds the torso while I hold the legs. I’m panting by the time we are done, my muscles screaming in protest. I go inside to clean while Keith gets the fuel can to finish the deed. When inside I notice a small black wallet against the hallway wall. I open it to find a photo of a woman whose face I’ve become as familiar with as my own. She is smiling, her blonde hair in a relaxed top bun while she leans into a side-embrace with the dead man in my backyard. Keith, knew him. The thought pierces my conscious, sending an electric jolt to my heart. I scramble to find my mobile and dial a number I should have dialed thirty minutes ago.

Our wedding photo falls, sending pieces of glass through the pool of blood. I stare at the finality of the scene as my heartbeat subsides. Keith comes behind me and places a hand on my shoulder with a firm squeeze. I flinch.

Sirens start singing in the distance.

For better, not worse.

 

***

What Jordan 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:

The Loveliest Thing by Tara Campbell, Washington, DC

A Glimmer of Long-Necked Hope by Taria Karillion, Chester, England

Goldilocks by Jessica Holly, Wilton, Connecticut

Division of Assets by Lisa Mahoney, St. Augustine, Florida

At Night She Dances by Victoria Mascord, London, UK

Peacekeeper by Deborah Ritchie, Australia

Today is Different by Sally O’Grady, Lake Country, British Columbia, Canada

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

The Figure in the Charpoy by Smita Das Jain, Gurugram, India

Phew! by Joy Allen, Wilmington, North Carolina

Things by Kimberly Bella, Winchester, Massachusetts

Visiting the Caves of Lascaux by Beth Evans, Brooklyn, New York

An Unexpected Horror Story by Jade Ruby, Devon, UK

Chicken for Dinner by Susan Moffson, Boulder, Colorado

Wood by Carrie Beckwith, Warwickshire, England

Yurushi by Erica Ward, Hope, BC, Canada

The Sadness of Black Kittens by Geraldine Ann Marshall, Paducah, Kentucky

The World’s Largest Paul Bunyan by Annie Lindenberg, Mankato, Minnesota

 

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card

IN CLOSING:

This brings the Spring 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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