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WOW! Winter 2019 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 Kari Sutherland

Literary Agent Kari Sutherland

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

Kari’s bio:

Kari Sutherland joined the Bradford Literary Agency in 2017 after a decade of experience in publishing from the editorial side. Previously a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, she has worked with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors on projects such as the #1 New York Times bestselling Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. She graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in English and Psychology, which she considers the perfect combination for working with authors on character and plot development. With her editorial insight and experience with the entire publishing process, Kari is passionate about helping to polish each manuscript and equip her clients for success.

Open to genres from picture books through adult, Kari is most interested in finding stories full of heart; ones that carry readers to faraway places or deep into a character’s mind; action-packed page-turners that surprise her; dark dramas with touches of humor; and, above all, a voice that leaps off the page. She is actively seeking diverse voices across all genres.

In children’s books, Kari is interested in character-driven stories, new twists on classic tales, empowering themes, epic fantasy, fresh voices and experiences, inventive mysteries, humor, and magical realism.

In YA, which is near and dear to her heart, Kari is drawn to compelling voices, tight pacing, and clear world-building regardless of whether it’s a space drama, an underground dystopia, a small town, or a big city contemporary. She is open to any genre within YA.

Kari is interested in adult fiction including general fiction; upmarket women’s fiction; intergenerational tales; magical realism; historical dramas; and light-hearted contemporary fiction.

A firm believer that truth can be stranger than fiction, Kari is seeking nonfiction in the following categories: quirky topics; history and biography; pop science and psychology; humor; and parenting. Most important to her are a concrete platform, an engaging voice, and well-researched material that will broaden readers’ understanding of themselves, the past, and the world around them.

Kari is not seeking: horror, romance, erotica, memoir, adult sci-fi/fantasy, thrillers, cookbooks, business, spiritual/religious, poetry, or screenplays.

For fiction and nonfiction, see our agency submission guidelines.

Twitter: @KariSutherland

Bradford Literary Agency:



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:  Laura Ruth Loomis
Pittsburg, California
Congratulations, Laura!
Laura Ruth Loomis

Laura’s Bio:

Laura Ruth Loomis is a social worker in the San Francisco area, where she lives with her wife and an assortment of pets.

Laura’s chapbook of linked short stories, Lost in Translation, was published in 2016 by Wordrunner Press, and she is currently working on expanding it into a novel. Her most recent short story, “In the Flesh,” appears in the current issue of On the Premises. She has had nonfiction published in Prime Number, poetry in Nasty Women Poets, and fiction in Writer Advice, and Many Mountains Moving.

Her short story, “Notes to Self: One Week Out,” was a runner-up in the Winter 2016 issue of Women on Writing. Coincidentally, it deals with themes similar to those in Repetition Compulsion.

When social work and the real world become overwhelming, Laura writes humor, including a piece in Writer’s Digest, and her continuing quest to someday win the Bulwer-Lytton “It was a dark and stormy night” Award.

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Repetition Compulsion


Eight months from now, when you’re on the witness stand, his lawyer will ask why you went back to the apartment. You’ll say it was for your purse. By then you’ll understand that wasn’t really the reason. But you can’t explain, when you don’t understand it yourself. It’s easier to say that you needed the purse, your car keys were in it, the campus was too far to walk back at night. You couldn’t focus on anything except getting your purse and getting home safe. Safe.

Six years from now, your therapist will put a name on it: repetition compulsion. Returning to a traumatic event in order to fix it, trying to make it end differently. You will not be comforted to learn that this is common enough to have a name. It wouldn’t have made a difference with the lawyer.

Fifteen hours from now, after your roommate insists on driving you to the police station, the cops will circle back again and again to this moment, to your tentative knock on the same door that you’d run out of earlier. You’ll try to explain that none of it felt real, that you expected him to answer the door and tell you that the man who was there earlier was an imposter, a hallucination. That the four months you’d been friends were not just a long con leading up to this night. You want it to turn out that he hadn’t held you down with his arm across your neck, yelling at you to quit ruining it with your crying. That somehow, because of the alcohol or some terrible misunderstanding, what happened here was not what your roommate will call it when you dump the whole grimy story on her.

Twenty minutes from now, you’ll sit in your car crying, clutching the purse on your lap, unable to stop shaking long enough to start the car, telling yourself things like this don’t happen to girls like you, you were careful, he wasn’t a stranger, this must be something else, not what it looks like.

Eight months from now, when his lawyer convinces the jury that it was something else, not what it looks like, your mind will keep coming back to this moment, wondering if the outcome would have been different if you hadn’t come back. It’s a question you’ll never get to answer. Your knock on his door will be held up as proof of your complicity, that you couldn’t possibly have been afraid, that you deserve every obscene message from his friends on social media, every snicker from classmates until you finally drop out.

But all of that will come later. Right now there’s only this moment, you knocking until he opens the door, you saying I need my purse, trying to act like nothing happened, like nothing could have happened, trying to make it un-happen, accepting his hug and saying goodnight before running, throat burning where he kissed you, to your car.



What Laura 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:  Charity Tahmaseb
Minnetonka, Minnesota
Congratulations, Charity!
Charity Tahmaseb

Charity’s Bio:

Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green.

These days, she writes fiction and works as a technical writer for a software company in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Her short fiction credits include stories in Deep Magic, Escape Pod, Cicada, and Pulp Literature. She’s been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize Award, and her first novel, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, was a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback pick in the Get Your Geek On category. She has a fondness for coffee, ghosts, and things fantastical.

She blogs (at least) once a week at

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Poppy fell the moment Carlos showed her his feet. She’d never met a man—or rather, a civilian man—with feet uglier than her own. But ballet slippers weren’t any kinder to toes than combat boots were.

Before she saw him, she’d planned on making a tactical retreat from the reception. It’d been a mistake to take leave for this wedding, an even bigger one to wear her dress uniform. Coming home never worked. Hadn’t she learned that by now? Too many awkward questions, too many thank yous.

What made her pause at the ballroom’s entrance, Poppy couldn’t say. She didn’t see the groom twirling his bride or the bridesmaids in clouds of chiffon floating across the parquet.

Only Carlos.

With uncommon grace, he crossed the room. He navigated the maze of chairs, tables, and guests like a man intimately familiar with each muscle of his body. When he landed in front of her, he didn’t speak but merely held out his hand.

“I don’t dance,” she said.

“Everybody dances.”

“Not me. I march.”

He tipped his head back and laughed. “I can dance well enough for both of us.”

And yes, he could. Demanding to see his feet came several glasses of champagne later.

“Stay,” he whispered the next morning. “Spend the week with me. You can come to rehearsal. I’m dancing the role of the steadfast tin soldier.”

She laughed at the audacity of it, of burning a week’s worth of leave in New York City, with this beautiful man whose world was so different from her own.

“Do you know anything about being a soldier?” she asked.

“That’s why I need you. You can be my technical advisor.”

“No one will believe that.”

Everyone did. Or, rather, they indulged their principal dancer. She taught Carlos how to drill with a wooden rifle. During breaks, he taught her how to hold herself so he could lift and spin her around.

With Carlos, she could dance. With Carlos, she was weightless.

At the airport, he tucked a necklace into the palm of her hand, the pendant an exquisitely engraved poppy.

“We both have demanding mistresses.” His words were so soft she barely heard them above the clamor of traffic and travelers. “You don’t need to come home to me. Just come home.”

She wore the necklace every day in Afghanistan. Poppy no longer regretted attending the wedding, or even wearing her uniform. Her only regret was never seeing Carlos dance on stage.

They wrote letters, the old-fashioned kind, hers torn from a notebook, the paper encrusted with sand and dotted with dirty fingerprints, his on the back of paper placemats, or cleverly crafted in the margins of playbills.

Then her world erupted in fire. When the burn subsided to mere embers, it was too late and Walter Reed a world away from New York City. Still, Poppy vowed: she would see Carlos dance.

Sleeping Beauty gave her the chance.

She had flowers delivered to his dressing room—white roses laced with red poppies. That way he’d know. That way, if he didn’t want to see her, he could hide until she abandoned her vigil at the stage door.

Poppy waited there, her head still buzzing from his performance, her weight sagging into the crutches, her foot heavy in its cast.

Her cheeks flamed when she caught sight of him emerging from the door, her skin hot against the December air. He scanned the alleyway behind the theater. The moment his gaze met hers, he froze.

“Bet my feet are uglier than yours now,” she said.

He exhaled and laughed. It was only then she saw the poppy tucked in his lapel. He took in her crutches, her foot in its cumbersome cast. His eyes grew somber.

“My steadfast soldier.”

“I’m home,” she said.

He moved close, fluid and graceful, and cupped her cheek with his palm. “So am I.”

All at once she was weightless.



What Charity 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: Isabella Kestermann
Los Angeles, California
Congratulations, Isabella!
Isabella Kestermann

Isabella’s Bio:

Isabella Kestermann is a recent graduate from Emerson College with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. She is currently working at Free the Bid as a website auditor. Isabella is a nerd who enjoys creepy, bizarre stories that don’t scare her but leave her with lots of questions. Maybe that’s why her stories are so strange. In her free time, Isabella likes to paint, make doll furniture, and read manga. She is currently working on two short stories, one about vampires and the other about skin whitening cream.

She lives in Los Angeles with her cat Serendipity and her two very awesome parents. You can read more of her work at or follow her on Instagram @isabella_asura.

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There had always been WHITE BOY. He was sometimes short, sometimes tall, but always young with brown hair and brown eyes. He was what MY BRAIN called, “normal.” My Brain didn’t know why he was called that. My Brain didn’t know where White Boy came from. All she knew was that White Boy had been around for a loooooong time. Maybe for as long as My Brain had been around. White Boy went on many adventures in My Brain. A lot of them were sad and usually had a family member dying. But for some reason that was ok because that made White Boy the Hero. My Brain didn’t know why White Boy’s parents always had to die for him to become the Hero. But White Boy couldn’t do anything if there were parents. White Boy sometimes had friends, sometimes even a love interest, which was always a girl.

LOVE INTEREST didn’t do much, at least not without White Boy. When they were together, she just mumbled and hid behind White Boy’s arms. When they were separate, which was most of the time—Love Interest was always getting kidnapped—she would whisper White Boy’s name over and over until he rescued her.

Sometimes White Boy had a best friend. My Brain always had a hard time describing BEST FRIEND. Sometimes Best Friend was a girl, or a boy, or even someone in-between, but they were always supportive of White Boy. If White Boy was ever down on his luck, or he needed some help, Best Friend was always there to pull White Boy up, usually with a witty joke or words of wisdom. Best Friend never asked for compensation, even when helping White Boy was detrimental to him. That’s what made him Best Friend.

White Boy had a lot of names. Steve or Steven or Daniel or Chris or Greg or James or Michael or Edward. My Brain didn’t understand why White Boy used different names even though he was the same person. But My Brain knew she didn't understand a lot of things, so she happily followed White Boy around on his adventures. Not as a character, of course. My Brain had heard of other brains that took the position of a character but not My Brain. Oh no, that was too much for her. My Brain was the camera, the floating eyeball to White Boy’s adventures. White Boy and his friends could’ve fought a giant wizarding battle in a castle and My Brain would’ve cruised through the chaos. Taking in each moment as every white character fought tooth and nail for their lives. It was all very exciting.

Of course, when My Brain was old enough to write stories of her own, White Boy just had to show up.

“I have been the main character in every story you’ve read,” he said, smiling as though he owned the world. “It’s only natural that I’m in yours.”

My Brain couldn’t help but agree so she wrote a dozen or so stories of White Boy. White Boy being crucified, White Boy killing Love Interest, White Boy living with his family. White Boy didn’t really like the roles My Brain gave him but he let it slide, he was still the main character after all. But then My Brain began to wonder about herself, about her skin and all the books she had read. She tried to learn how to write, like really learn how to write, and in came BROWN GIRL.



What Isabella 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:

The Long Road by Rachel Slack, London, United Kingdom

They Aren’t Listening Anymore by Heather Baver, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Wherever You Go by Julie Watson, St. Louis, Missouri

The Prank by Densie Webb, Austin, Texas

The Ugly Stepsister by Dawn Rae, Cape Town, South Africa

Demons in Paradise by Charlotte McElroy, Sequim, Washington

Shared Calendars by Lynn H. Powers, Brooklyn, New York

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

The Origami Girl by Shannon Michal Dow, Morris, Connecticut

Namaste by Tita Kyrtsakas, Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada

Over the Edge by Lynn Radford, New Brighton, Pennsylvania

Mo by Yara Kareem, London, United Kingdom

Wildflowers by Michelle Upton, Brisbane, Australia

The Cliff by Wendy Lombardi, Marlborough, Massachusetts

Two, Too Raw by Marie Davis and Margaret Hultz, Louisville, Kentucky

The Good Girl by Anne Craughwell, Cork, Ireland

The Little Pebble by Sandra Blair, Austin, Texas

The Hollow Woman by Beth Greenfeld, Silver Spring, Maryland


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Winter 2019 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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