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Winter 2012 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, Regina Brooks

WOW! was honored to have guest judge Regina Brooks choose the winter season’s top winners. Thank you, Regina, for sharing your time and efforts to make these contestants’ dreams come true.

Ms. Regina Brooks is the founder and President of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC. Equally at home in the technical world of engineering as in the literary world of writing and editing, Ms. Brooks has over a decade of experience in senior positions at major publishing houses including John Wiley & Sons Inc. and the McGraw-Hill Companies. She is a graduate of the Howard University Publishing Institute in Washington DC. Prior to her publishing career she worked as an aerospace engineer for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and made history as the first African American woman to receive a Bachelors of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Ohio State University. She is also a graduate of The School of the Arts High School in Rochester, NY.

Brooks is the Co-Executive Director of the Y. B. Literary Foundation, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the reading of literature as a meaningful, lifelong activity and transformative experience for youth. She was named 2010 Woman of the Year by The National Association of Professional Women. A New York Urban League Rising Star Award winner and a 2004 finalist for the StevieTM Award for Women Entrepreneurs. Regina Brooks is featured in books such as The Guide to Literary Agents and the NAACP nominated Down to Business 10 steps for Women Entrepreneurs. She is also listed in International Who's Who under the categories of Professional Management, Technology, Entrepreneurs, and Engineering.

Ms. Brooks is a member of the Association of Author Representatives AAR, has edited over 100 published books, and is the author of Writing Great Books For Young Adults (Sourcebooks) the Essence Magazine 2004 Quick Pick children’s book Never Finished! Never Done!, published by Scholastic Inc. and soon to be published You Should Really Write A Book: How to Write, Sell and Market Your Memoir (St. Martin's Press). She has been highlighted in several national and international magazines and periodicals, including Forbes, Media Bistro, Writers and Poets, Essence Magazine, Writers Digest Magazine, The Writer, Sister2Sister magazine, Ebony Magazine, The Writer, Jet Magazine, Rolling Out and Publisher’s Weekly.

Find out more about Regina by visiting her websites:

Serendipity Literary Agency, LLC:


Twitter: @serendipitylit


Twitter: @teaforcreatives

Find out more about Regina by reading her interview on WOW! Women On Writing:


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:  Dale Sakamoto
Mission Viejo, California
Congratulations Dale!

Dale’s Bio:

Dale Sakamoto is a writer, composer, and arranger native to Orange County, California. He graduated from Vanguard University, Summa Cum Laude, with a double BA in Music Composition and English Literature. As a writer he enjoys creating unique worlds in short stories and plays, and as a composer he has written many pieces ranging in style from a Czech art song to a symphonic tone poem.

As a former resident composer of Vanguard University, Dale has won several university awards along with 3rd place in the San Jose Choral Productions Composition Competition and an International Music Prize for his choral piece The Western Shore along with the Hatz Recognition Award for the NFMC Student/Collegiate Competition for his piano piece Fleur de L’ Hiver. He aspires to continue onward through graduate school and complete his Ph.D. and eventually to take his musical and creative writing talents to Broadway and write the book and score for an original Broadway Musical.  

Visit him online at:

Printable View


Just a Number


27” He’s got a pair of torn blue jeans and a plaid shirt complemented with some wiry, slitted glasses that make his face look like a mouse. As the bed creaks under me he doesn’t even look at my face. He’s done and out in less than 5 minutes.

“28” His Negro’d face and Hawaiian collared shirt with the flamboyant, floral print perfectly complement his blue swim shorts which are filled with colorful sailboats gently drifting in the breeze. I stare up at the ceiling and think about my father who was a fisherman back home. As the bed rocks back and forth, I think of the waves gently caressing our boat as we sailed out to sea and I darted from side to side looking for the shadow of a skipjack tuna.

“29” His skin color is lighter brown, about the same as mine. His robe, filled with winding vines that creep around the yellow fiber as if they are growing and reaching out of the fabric, is at his feet in a matter of seconds. It reminds me of a story one of the foreign teachers who had come to our village to teach us English had told me once about Jack and a Beanstalk. I hope the money Taiko is sending home to my family is enough for them to buy a cow.

“30” The holes in his ears are filled with some kind of pegs that look like wooden fishing hooks. He has a green dragon that swirls around his back, its claws crawling up his arms. He asks me to say something in English as he slithers on top of me. I don’t know what it means, but I do my best. The missionaries that came to our village brought me a small doll, which would say things I didn’t understand either whenever I squeezed it. I used to giggle when I heard the strange phrases. But it’s starting to hurt now as it always does. I see a grayish gleam begin to spread all over the blank white walls of my room. The dawn is approaching. Maybe Taiko will give me the day off since I’ve done so well tonight.

“31” I know it’s going to be painful now. He must be the heaviest man I have ever seen. He stretches out his sweatpants and stained sweatshirt like a swollen watermelon. Not only does it hurt, but it’s getting harder to breathe. I think I may suffocate. I remember that doll again. Mama always used to yell at me, “Don’t break that doll. It’s fragile. You’ll never have another like it.”

But I knew it was strong. I dropped it once, but it didn’t break. I knew it wouldn’t break. At least I hoped it wouldn’t. As he begins to breathe heavier I’m able to synchronize my breaths with his. This makes his weight less unbearable. If not for his rotten fish smell it wouldn’t be so terrible. My stomach used to hurt worse than this, before the old lady brought things to my family. She promised my parents food and clothing and said I’d have a better life. Taiko says they are doing much better now because of me, and maybe someday soon I’ll be able to return to them. The overweight, sweaty man finally rolls off of me and slips back into his clothes. As the door closes I notice the room is now brightly lit with the relief of sunlight that dances through the curtains and around the room with swirling gleams and flickers.

As I stare up at the blank ceiling drifting off into the haze, I suddenly realize something: today’s my birthday. I’ll be 14. But mama never let us celebrate birthdays like the missionary children. She’d say, “That’s nothing to celebrate; it’s just a number.”

She was right. It’s just a number.


What Dale Won:

  • $350.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place:  Lindsey Dryden
Greenville, South Carolina
Congratulations Lindsey!

Lindsey’s Bio:

Lindsey Dryden graduated college with a degree in studio art and an unanticipated longing to write. After returning to her home state of South Carolina, she took a job with the SC Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville ( and found the creative community amongst her students to be unforgettable. This along with a small band of friends, also aspiring writers, bloggers, poets, and comics, helped push Lindsey over the edge. She began to write consistently and plans to continue being schooled by short fiction until she is ready to take on a novel. This is Lindsey’s first published story. Thanks, Regina and WOW!

Printable View


The Burden of Living


There was a time I didn’t think so much about it. When you get to be my age, though, there are only so many things to look forward to. Movie ticket discounts, Wheel of Fortune, dessert. Death is the one milestone left to plan, but, as the particulars are out of my hands, I focus on avoiding ways I don’t want to die: careless jaywalking, snakebite. (Snakes are attracted to warm pavement, so I sweep my cane across the blacktop in the parking lot.) And of course, fire. I check my oven twice before I leave my apartment. But usually, by the time I reach the door I’m tempted to go back and check again. It’s that danged Halloween store.

See, I share a welcome mat with Howls and Horrors. My landlady’s slacker son opened it this past July. (Who opens a Halloween shop in the middle of the summer?) Soundtracks of psychotic laughter and women screaming float up through my open window on the wings of second-hand cigarette smoke. Sometimes I think I’ll have a cardiac right on the toilet and that is not how I’m gonna go, so help me God. My ideal death would be to go to sleep and wake up dead. No pain. No awareness of losing everything.

One day I’m in the alley taking out trash (and sweeping my cane for snakes), when I spot one of those brain-tumor-inducing flat screen phones resting on the edge of the dumpster. What idiot left their phone out here? Clearly, I have to look and see. I’m holding it upside down, apparently, but I catch “I’ll burn the dump, make some cash and pay them off.”

This dump? My dump? With me inside? Death by fire. Can you imagine the pain of your flesh melting over your muscles? The intolerable pain while your brain stays unscathed until the last? I devour the brief conversation implying the slacker-son’s plans to torch Howls and Horrors with himself inside, escaping with just enough damage done to survive and collect insurance money. The uncreative bastard. 

I start to dial 911. The only thing is, when you’re right outside his shop, the idiot son can see your fingers flailing like fish on the shore as you attempt a call on his phone. 

His pitted face is suddenly inches from mine. He grabs me by the collar with his foul, smoke-smelling hands, pulls me inside Howls and Horrors, and thrusts me toward a row of capes. I recover quickly. “Oh, this must be yours, thank G–”

“Shut up, you blind schizo.” He locks the door, snatches the phone and my cane from my outstretched hands and sends them skidding down the princess aisle. Rows of devil and witch masks leer at nothing behind the counter. The store is dark behind blacked out windows and heavy with the scent of gas. 

“I was going to wait until you left.” He thumbs a lighter.

“Good for you!”


Flames radiate away from the spark. He registers surprise at the violence of the blue light that fills the room, but there is a trace of amusement. I lurch backwards, scrambling, hands groping for a covering. I hear a scream. My own voice. I pull a thick black cape down around my shoulders and whisper a plea for help.

Another scream. Not me. Now there are hands pulling at the cloak around me. Is it possible? I feel pain but not near enough. I push the murderer away, but he tackles me. Flames lick at the ceiling above me.

Again he screams and pushes off the floor. He tries to fight against the heat that this thick, black cloak is resisting. His face, illuminated in blue light, is twisted, unrecognizable. I can’t take it, seeing him. But the tongues dull in an instant. Sunlight pours through the shattered front window. A fireman stares at us in shock for a moment before lunging toward us. We are carried out in the arms of men who aren’t afraid.

I’m in a house now, at least fifty yards away from anything. I have my lawn taken care of by a gentleman who says he doesn’t mind snakes. I don’t go anywhere without my cane, because it’s all terrifying. Especially going to help Alex, the man who tried to kill me, with his physical therapy every Wednesday. Horrific. But this is how I practice dying. We both improve as the days pass.


What Lindsey Won:

  • $250.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place: Sarah Welty
Calhoun, Georgia
Congratulations Sarah!

Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah recently began her senior year as an English major at Davidson College. She first began writing when, as a young, avid reader, she felt compelled to re-write the endings of classic novels. Even as an eight-year-old, Sarah knew Jo March should end up with Laurie. Today, she writes mostly flash fiction, plays, and essays for law school applications. When not reading, writing, and avoiding ‘rithmetic, Sarah is an amateur stand-up comedian. For more of Sarah's work, check out, or follow her on Twitter @weltywhat.

Printable View


The Event


“Mrs. Thomas, I called this conference because . . . shit.”

There was no way to say it, really. He adjusted the frayed lapel of his corduroy blazer. The blazer was practically new, a gift from his mother on his first day of teaching, but various habits—picking at the seams, wiping the dry-erase board with his sleeves—had aged it prematurely.

He checked the clock. She would be here in fifteen minutes.

“Mrs. Thomas, I’ve had some trouble with your son recently . . .”

No, that made it sound like the kid was a troublemaker. This wasn’t true, though. The boy, Lloyd, had been well-behaved. Quiet, but a new teacher quickly realizes that quiet is a blessing and not a behavioral problem.

“Mrs. Thomas, Lloyd had a bit of an incident last Friday.”

But the term “incident” smacked of “your son peed in a place that was not a bathroom.” He almost wished it had been an “incident.” First grade teachers are prepared for incidents.

“Mrs. Thomas, I’ve very much enjoyed having Lloyd in my class. But last Friday he was involved in an . . . event that I found troubling.”

Would she interrupt here? He had no idea how she would react. His research in preparation for the conference—“Lloyd Thomas: 6. Parents: John and Sylvia Thomas. No known medical conditions or allergies”—had not been helpful in that respect.

He checked the clock again. 7 minutes. Fuck. He just needed to get all the way through it.

“During recess on Friday, I noticed that Lloyd wasn’t with the other kids. I had another teacher watch the class and when I came back in to the classroom, Lloyd was in here, alone, and he was . . . shit.”

He should have gone to law school.

“Lloyd was naked and he was eating my cactus.”

The cactus, before the event, had stood taller than most of the students. In just a few minutes, Lloyd had reduced it by at least a foot. It, too, had been a gift. A girlfriend in college had given it to him for Valentine’s Day. Like so many Valentine’s Day gifts, it had outlived the relationship it represented. Cacti survive drought, distracted plant-owners and bad relationships, but not Lloyd.

He cleared his throat. 2 minutes.

“Mrs. Thomas . . .” What? What follows “your nude kid ate my cactus?”

“Does your family often ingest cacti?”

“Has Lloyd considered eating plants that might be easier on the digestive system?”

“Why was he naked? Are you one of those families?”

He buried his face in his hands, breathing in the dry-erase dust on his sleeves.

“Mrs. Thomas, I have no idea what I’m doing,” he said, his words muffled by the corduroy. “But I know naked cactus-eating is not normal, and I think your son might need help.”

Her soft knock rattled the flimsy classroom door. He stood to open it for her.

“Mrs. Thomas, thank you for coming.”


What Sarah Won:

  • $150.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on 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:

Blood on Gardenias by Courtney Towery Tucker, Madison, Mississippi

The Tetsubin by Linda Chubbuck, West Palm Beach, Florida

Mara Cranberry by Lindsey Dryden, Greenville South Carolina

Rousseau by Amanda Linsmeier, Reedville, Wisconsin

Daddy’s List by Harriet Parke, Apollo, Pennsylvania

Faceless by Jennifer Baker, Jamaica Estates, New York

Dirty Laundry by Patti Cavaliere, East Haven, Connecticut

What the Runners Up Won:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on 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.

Tomatoes for Dinner by Juliann Sullivan, Worcester, Massachusetts

Helen of Troy by Joan Koster, Whitney Point, New York

The Old Red Barn by k. j. w. wilyums, Hempstead, New York

Illusions by Elizah Flores, Austin, Texas

Instructor Biography by Emily Einolander, Lompoc, California

Promenade by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo, Tempe, Arizona

Lula Moss by Rebecca Rose (Mooradian) Moody, Nantes, FRANCE

Styx and Stones by Eugenia A. Parrish, Lake Elsinore, CA

Noon by Susanne Petito-Egielski, Little Neck, New York

On Fire by Barbara Baker, Calgary, Alberta, CANADA

What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings our Spring 2012 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:


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