WOW! Women On Writing Flash Fiction Contest Winners!

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WOW! Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners


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 Heather Flaherty

Literary Agent Heather Flaherty

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

Heather’s bio:

I grew up in Massachusetts, and worked in New York City as a playwright during college. After a lot of country-hopping in my early twenties, I began my publishing career in the editorial department at Random House UK. I then became a literary scout, advising foreign publishers and Hollywood on the next big books. Now, as an agent, I’m thrilled to focus on helping authors find that same success.

For YA fiction, I’m looking across the board in all genres. I especially love my YA Fantasy—whether epic and sweeping, or dark and gritty. I also adore good issue-related YA with humor and heart, and punchy contemporary YA that doesn’t hesitate when it comes to crazy. I’m a sucker for clever retellings of classic fairytales, myths, and folklore, as well as really good horror—not gory for gory’s sake, but dark, twisted, complicated, and even lovely.

As for Middle-Grade, I want it stark, honest, and even dark; contemporary or historical, as long as it’s accessible. Coming-of-age stories, dealing-with-difficulty stories, witness stories about adult issues seen through a child’s eyes, anything that makes you want to hold the narrator’s hand. These stories can have magical or fantasy elements as well.

On the Adult side, I’m looking for complex female-centric Thrillers and Commercial Women’s Fiction with solid storytelling and strong voices, both contemporary and historical. I’m also always on the lookout for fantastic Upmarket projects that bridge the gap between commercial and literary lists. And, I have a sweet-spot for good Horror; stories that are deep, dark, and disturbingly intricate.

In Nonfiction, I’m looking for Humor and Pop-Culture projects that are funny, quirky, gritty, different, relevant, needed, and/or social-media-based. I’m also eager for deep, dark True Crime projects that speak to the heart, and Memoir about overcoming crushing situations.

Visit Heather’s website:

Follow her on Twitter: @HeddaFlaherty

The Bent Agency:

The Bent Agency on Facebook:



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:  Linda Petrucelli
Hawi, Hawaii
Congratulations, Linda!
Linda Petrucelli

Linda’s Bio:

For most of her adult life, Linda Petrucelli has lived on islands—Taiwan, Manhattan and Hawaii. Her article, “Listening for the Tao in Eight Tones,” a personal essay about learning how to speak Taiwanese, appeared in the book, Language Crossings: Negotiating the Self in a Multicultural World. A feminist theologian and ordained minister, Linda holds theological degrees from Yale Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary; she believes the best fiction is revelatory. Her writer’s mantra is—Bad Choices Make The Best Stories. Linda writes from her home on the Kohala Coast in Hawi, Hawaii. She posts her flash fiction at

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Figure Eight on the Waves


In 1919, Yoko Hara arrived in Honolulu carrying all her belongings inside a paper carton tied with string she made herself. Inside was a photo of the husband she was going to meet and a bolt of indigo-dyed fabric stenciled in a pattern of repeating waves. Her mother had handed Yoko the material without saying a word and wept silent tears when they said goodbye.

But Yoko’s groom, years older than the matchmaker’s photo, died cutting cane just days before her steamer arrived from Japan. She had no choice but to return home.

Before she left on the Omi Maru, she gifted the bolt of fabric to Satsuki Katayama, a picture bride like herself. Satsuki, embarrassed by extravagance, insisted on cutting off a piece to give to Yoko. The makeshift handkerchief swallowed Yoko’s tears in its repeating waves all the way back to Fukuoka.

Satsuki married a tiny man who was mercilessly teased by the other workers because of his bald head. When he put on the blue and white yukata his wife made for him, he puffed out his chest and called for sake. He was certain the robe, with its rolling blue waves, made him look taller.

When daughter Miyeko was born, Satsuki secretly admired the infant’s copious head of black hair. As the new mother nursed her baby, they floated like a figure eight on a futon covered with a patchwork of endless waves.

Miyeko turned three and Satsuki discovered there was just enough fabric to make her a tiny jacket. After she stitched the sash by hand, she folded up the remaining pieces of blue and white material and stored them inside a cardboard box in the carport.

There the fabric remained in its protective casing, hidden and forgotten during the war, surviving the death of Satsuki’s husband and outlasting her daughter’s two failed marriages on the Mainland.

It was not until Miyeko fell ill many years later and she moved into a nursing home that she sold the house she inherited from her mother to a wealthy couple from California. Before the house went into escrow, Miyeko asked her cousin to clean out the house and do whatever she wished with its contents. One of the items, a dilapidated cardboard box, was removed from a shelf in the carport and donated along with everything else to the Thrift Store in Waimea.

Leslie Richards, part of the volunteer crew who tagged donated items on Wednesdays whistled through her teeth when she opened the crumbling cardboard box. The faint odor of mothballs rose as she removed a panel of cotton fabric—its vibrant pattern of repeating blue waves appeared almost like new.

She held up a swath to a woman pushing a stroller, “What do you think?”

“Placemats. Coasters,” the young woman suggested. “Maybe a bib? How much?” she asked.

“Here,” Leslie said, offering her the folded remnants, their stenciled blue waves seemed ceaseless. “You can have it for free.”



What Linda Won:

  • $400.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
2nd Place Winner
2nd Place:  Kristin Bartley Lenz
Detroit, Michigan
Congratulations, Kristin!
Krstin Bartley Lenz

Kristin’s Bio:

Kristin Bartley Lenz is a writer and social worker in metro-Detroit. Her debut young adult novel, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go, was the 2016 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize winner, a 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection, and an honor book for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books statewide literature program. Her fiction, essays, and articles have been published by Hunger Mountain, Great Lakes Review, The ALAN Review, Literary Mama, and Writer’s Digest. She writes freelance for Detroit-area non-profits and social service agencies, and manages the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Michigan Chapter blog. Learn more and connect at

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No one else heard the shuddering of earth underfoot. Mama hadn’t heard anything since Jack died. She didn’t hear Darren slap his girlfriend across the face. She didn’t hear Theresa throwing up every morning. She didn’t hear the deep grumble gnawing my gut.

She didn’t see Darren’s red-rimmed eyes. She didn’t see the growing swell of Theresa’s belly. She didn’t see my toes bursting out of my sneakers.

Mama only saw Jack. Her hazel eyes grew green, and sometimes she would smile, even laugh; that’s how I knew she saw him alive. She didn’t see him like I saw him, dragged out of the pond, fish grey and choked with seaweed.

Jack and I had planted the beans that summer. We dug fingertip holes, watered, and sure enough they began to sprout. Jack’s six-year-old brain thought that pond water would be better for our seedlings—chockfull of vitamins. He hauled a bucket back and forth, and it kept him busy, which was always a good thing, until the day he waded too deep, trying to skim the green algae I can only guess, and the muck sucked at his feet; I can’t even bear to think of his struggle.

The bean seedlings withered to ashes, but the earth writhes beneath my feet near the neglected garden. I feel the shifting inside the house too, the floorboards groaning. All night long I feel the churning, a pressure building from below.

When I awake the next morning, the air crackles like an electrical current. I stumble out of bed, my foot twisted in a vine. Slender stalks have sprouted between the cracks in the wood planks. I follow a trail of green shoots. They weave through sockets, bloom in light bulbs, spiral from the kitchen sink.


She sits at the scarred table, staring out the grimy window. Does she see the pond through the dense forest? Does she hear the squelch of feet sinking into muck?

She doesn’t see our house erupting with green growth all around her. She doesn’t see me walking down the dirt road, thumb extended. She doesn’t see me hop into the back of the pickup, the cloud of dust for miles and miles that parches my skin and crunches between my teeth.

I fall hard into slumber the first night, but still I dream of creatures tunneling through the ground beneath me. Moles and snakes. When I open my swollen eyes the motel room is intact, no holes, no tunnels. The only burst of green is a dandelion stem in the sidewalk crack. Too late to make a wish.

My apartment across the state line in Tennessee has wall-to-wall beige carpeting. At the end of summer, tiny sprouts erupt like mushrooms through the carpet fibers. The manager blames the humidity and moves me to the third floor. At night the pipes tremble, and I move out when a green stalk springs out of the shower drain.

In the cool fall on a Wyoming ranch, the rolling hills rustle. I think it’s the wavy grass, the rambling cows, the canter of horses, but one day I awake to see a leafy vine encircling the beam above my bed. A tiny green pod dangles, dust motes dancing around it.

In Arizona, I relax into the rust-soaked landscape. The morning sun turns my tent into an oven, raising me from a sweaty sleep. A single sprout pokes through the zippered door. A trail of green slithers across the hard-baked earth to an abandoned car. A leaf pokes out of the ignition.

By the time I drive back to Virginia, the vine encircles the steering wheel. It tugs the car toward the dirt road that leads to our holler. A surge of chlorophyll plumps the veins at my wrists, shoots through my palms, and stains my fingernails.

Where is our house?

A maze of vines, lush and verdant, scarlet flowers suckling sunlight, bulging bean pods, curved and dangling. I dig through the jungle, ripping through stalks, petals showering my shoulders, the smell sweet like freshly cut grass. Bees buzz, bean pods beg to be picked. I muscle through, until the smell turns to swamp scum, words unspoken.

Mama sits in the kitchen shelling the heap of beans covering the table. She scoops the nuggets from the opened pods and drops them into a large pot at her feet. She turns to me, her eyes blazing emerald. Her voice is as soft as moss, “I sure could use your help.”



What Kristin Won:

  • $300.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin
3rd Place Winner
3rd Place: Joy Givens
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Congratulations, Joy!
Joy Givens

Joy’s Bio:

Joy Givens mostly writes fiction for young adults and children. She is currently working on young adult fairy tale adaptations that explore classic stories through lenses of empowered female heroism. Her previously published works include the novel Ugly Stick, the short story collection April’s Roots, the nonfiction guide The New SAT Handbook (co-authored with Andrew Cole), and several pieces of award-winning short fiction, most recently published in WOW! Women on Writing and the anthologies Beach Life (2017) and Beach Fun (2018) from Cat & Mouse Press.

Joy resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her terrific husband, their two remarkable sons, and an impossibly lovable dog. In addition to her writing, Joy is the owner and lead tutor of GAP Tutoring, a company serving the greater Pittsburgh area. When not writing, tutoring, or freelance editing, she enjoys singing and listening to most genres of music, cooking for family and friends, volunteering in her church and neighborhood, and curling up with a good book and good coffee. Please catch up with Joy on social media!

Twitter: @JoyEilene
Instagram: @JoyEilene

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Smoke, Blood, Fog


The scent of smoke curled through the moonlit fog. It wouldn’t be long now.

Watching Grandmother’s window, Ro pulled the hooded cloak tighter around herself. The shivers weren’t from cold, but the cloak still helped a little. If Mother had left behind any warmth in this world, it would be in these folds of blood-red fabric.

Ro could almost imagine Mother’s embrace as she waited in the silent garden. Almost.

“Nobody’s taking in a dead harlot’s daughter around here,” the neighbor lady had spat, tying the old cloak on, thrusting a basket of stale bread into Ro’s hands. “Get yourself through the woods to your grandmother’s house and let her make something of you. Take a knife, child, for heaven’s sake. Whatever befalls you from here shan’t be on my head.”

The kingdom’s forest had sidled darkly around Ro during the journey, with spidery tree limbs and deep shadows. But the familiar forest was not unkind.

For two nights Ro had slept on the ground, her knuckles tight around the knife handle. Even through her dreams, she had listened for wolves. The scarlet cloak, too long, had dragged on the ground. By the time she reached Grandmother’s, Ro would have gladly slept on the bare floor if it meant the relative safety of four walls.

But by the time she reached Grandmother’s, the house had been sealed. Sealed to contain the Plague of Ash. Sealed with Grandmother inside.

There was nothing to do but wait. Once Grandmother succumbed, the house would be cleared of anything that could carry the Plague, and Ro would live there. Alone.

She was too young to keep house by herself—but she had always been too young. Being too young hadn’t stopped things from happening. Four walls would be scant protection against the wolves of the kingdom. Her knife would help.

The smoky smell grew intolerable. Ro pulled the last of the bread from the basket and gnawed it down. From behind a cloud, the moon emerged and cast a glow over Grandmother’s window. Ro nearly choked.

It was time.

The Plague always turned its victims’ bodies first to embers, then to ashes, until they flaked away on the wind and disappeared. Grandmother’s ashes swirled over the sill. Then, like a gust of ghostly snow, they dissipated into the fog.

Ro closed her eyes, knocking cold tears down her face. Blood pounded through her ears. Mother was gone. Grandmother was gone. She was alone—

A rude hand slithered over her shoulder. “I knew I’d find you here, my girl.”

Ro stiffened.

Not him. Not the huntsman who had tracked mud on their floor, paid in royal gold, left Mother with bruises and scars, more than once. That was how he treated his girls.

Ro wrenched from his grasp. “No realm exists where I would be your girl.”

His teeth glinted like ice as he chuckled. “Poor child. Insensible with grief. But since I knew your mother personally, I do feel obliged to see to your keeping.”

“You’re not.” Ro picked up the basket. Scarlet anger heated her insides. She didn’t need the Plague of Ash to turn her to embers.

The huntsman grabbed her arm. “Don’t be a fool,” he growled. “Everyone knows by this hood what your mother was. What you’re certain to become. You’ll never survive alone.”

Ro seized the handle inside the basket, fire in her veins. If there was one thing she knew how to do, it was survive. And she was through being hunted by wolves.

The knife flashed.

Ro sliced the side of his face. He recoiled, dropping her arm with a curse.

She took off across the barren ground. The mist stung her eyes. The cloak rippled behind her like a sail. At the edge of the forest, she dared to look back.

The huntsman staggered forward, yelling for his men, gripping his cheek. Dark blood leaked through his fingers.

It was long past time that someone left him with a scar.

Ro sprinted into the forest. The branches sprang back into place behind her. She kept running. Darting. Slinking. Slowing.


The air was cool and mossy. The fog grew thicker, the shadows darker, the trees ghostlier.

But the forest was not unkind. It would hide her for the night. She would wipe her knife clean, keep it close while she slept under her cloak. Tomorrow, she would find somewhere new.

She was too young to survive alone. But she would do it anyway.



What Joy Won:

  • $200.00 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.

Click on their entries to read:

Phoenix by Carie Juettner, Austin, Texas

Gratitude by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo, Tempe, Arizona

Weak as Tissue by K. Alan Leitch, Surfers Paradise, Australia

Blueberry Bonds by Melanie Bell, Houston, Texas

The Oak and the Boomerang Daughter by Lisa Bodenheim, Hastings, Minnesota

Exposed by Maja Scheler, Willamette Valley, Oregon

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

Aunt Zelia’s Untested Wild Cherry Love Potion by Ashley Memory, Asheboro, North Carolina

Moneybags by Valerie Burton, Sterling, Virginia

Resilience by Jo Mularczyk, Kings Langley, Australia

Poetry Lessons by Heather Ballmer, Largo, Florida

Invisible Love by E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander, Des Plaines, Illinois

Good Deal by Myna Chang, Potomac, Maryland

The Crossing by Christine Venzon, Peoria, Illinois

Arnaaluk by Abbie Tingstad, Culver City, California

The Nostalgia Effect by Alexandra O’Sullivan, Seaford, Australia

Tater Dictator by Mary Ellen Wall, Owensboro, Kentucky

The Apology by Dina Afkhampour, San Francisco, California / Stockholm, Sweden


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Fall 2018 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!

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