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WOW! Fall 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 Cari Lamba

Literary Agent Cari Lamba

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

Cari’s bio:

Prior to officially joining the team of agents, Cari Lamba interned for The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for eight years. It wasn’t long into her internship before she knew she wanted to join the publishing world and help writers bring their books to life. Cari graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She also studied literature at The Advanced Studies in England Program. She has experience as a bookseller and in publicity and content writing for online publications. Cari has been published in Writer’s Digest Magazine and has taught webinars for Writer’s Digest as well.

To find out what Cari’s looking for, check out her JD Lit Page. Connect with her on Twitter @CariLamba.

Visit The Jennifer De Chiara 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 8+ 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:  Afsoon Hansia
Santa Barbara, California
Congratulations, Afsoon!
Afsoon Hansia

Afsoon’s Bio:

Afsoon is a current doctoral student in Communication researching interpersonal relationships at the University of California Santa Barbara. She has been a writer since as early as she can remember. In fact, she found her kindergarten journal recently while rummaging through her mother’s home where she chronicled her many five-year-old adventures. Although, she often replaced what she wanted to say with “you know” every time she didn’t know how to spell something. Every story ended, well, you know.

From there, she wrote numerous short fiction pieces in elementary and middle school for which she received several Young Author awards. She has only recently been inspired to return to her creative writing roots to take a break from academic writing every once and awhile.

Afsoon is the daughter and granddaughter of Afghan immigrants who migrated during the Cold War to the US. She grew up hearing the stories of her family’s life and escape from Afghanistan, often recounted while collectively mincing, stuffing, and folding various Afghan foods.

Food has always been a way for her to bond with others and has, importantly, always bridged the inter-generational and intercultural divide between her and her grandmother. It continually inspires her to teach her own two young sons about their multi-faceted heritage. Plus, she’s hoping that she can use food to lure her kids back home when they are older.

When Afsoon is not writing or parenting, she loves to go hiking or read a good novel.

Printable View



Sunday Dinner


In Afghan folklore, they say when you bury a newborn’s fallen belly button somewhere, that child will always have a deep connection with the land. They got it wrong. It is the mother who buries a piece of her soul in the land. A part of her body forever tethered by an invisible cord. And I have buried more pieces of my body than most. Always near our lovely coral rose bush, I would dig a small hole, one of seven, where I buried fallen umbilical cords.

Sometimes I wonder if that rosebush still stands. A token of a life long passed. Our lovely home with its vibrant lapis blue door is now a shell of itself. Like the entire country. But in my fragmented dreams, I can still hear the laughing children running with reckless abandon and taste again the fresh-water fish from the rushing river near our home. The same river where I watched my son Yusuf’s tear streaked face as he threw our precious home key into the roaring current moments before we fled forever.

I shut off the stove and examine my mantu. Ravioli my five-year-old granddaughter, Layla, calls them. But it is different. Mantu is fragrant, steaming and stuffed with lightly spiced meat. It pairs perfectly with the acidity of the thick sauced lentils, the cool creaminess of the yogurt and the freshness of the mint. It is even folded in a way to entice the pallet, its creases always catching the perfect amount of sauce. It stimulates the senses and warms the stomach on the coldest of days.

As I begin loading the serving trays, an old familiar tune plays on my lips. Come, for this world is not worth its solitude, give up for a moment of joy; this illusion of existence. I smile as I recall the sad, Afghan love ballads often crooning through the old radios of street vendors in Kabul.

You don’t realize what makes a place home until you leave it. How can I tell my grandchildren about me without telling them about Afghanistan? How do you explain the sweet musk after a sudden downpour, when you can feel the earth sigh in splendid relief or the way the very ground pulses with history from the warriors and poets of our distant past? Even our mountains are different; a fearsome thing. They leave you breathless with their trembling majesty, stretching deep into the sky like a tribute to God himself. I remember feeling their ancient presence many moons ago when I pleaded silently with them to shroud my children’s fragile bodies away from the evils of humanity, unaware still of the small thread that continues to unspool no matter how many oceans I cross.

We escaped, my children tell me, we traded Soviet occupied Afghanistan for beautiful, warm California. Indeed, my burnt orange sunsets are now soft, cotton candy ones. I have shimmering water and warm sunny days to chase away my cold, haunting dreams. I have seen my grandchildren happily play along the shore, letting the water lap at their feet. But I can’t help but remember my grandmother’s nightly prayer, Allah protect us from the fire and sea. The sea remains mysterious to me and I still cannot allow myself to get close, even after all these years.

The Afghanistan I once loved and knew no longer exists in this world. It only lives on through me, perfectly encapsulated with a bright-eyed younger version of myself that, too, no longer exists. Before my shaking and spotted hands, I remember the smooth, soft ones that would hold my children close to my chest as we rocked peacefully to sleep. When I am no more, and those like me pass, Afghanistan, the one I knew, will die too. But, perhaps, through my aged hands and humble ingredients, I can keep it alive just a bit longer to re-awaken memories of a home my children no longer love and one my grandchildren can never know.

Insistently, I serve everyone their plates before taking my own.

“Bibi jaan, this is really good ravioli!” Layla says as she lumps two of them into her mouth at a time.

“Thank you, my child,” I say, following her lead.

The world slows as I close my eyes and take my first bite. Somewhere in the distance, I hope my family also hears the faint, gentle strumming of the Rubab and, if even for a moment, comes with me to visit home.



What Afsoon 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:  Courtney Harler
Las Vegas, Nevada
Congratulations, Courtney!
Courtney Harler

Courtney’s Bio:

Courtney Harler lives, writes, and teaches in Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada College, where she received the Two Pines Award for Outstanding Creative Work. She has been honored to receive additional support from Writing By Writers, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and the Nevada Arts Council. Courtney’s work has been published by many fine literary magazines around the world. A full list of Courtney’s publications and awards can be found at

Printable View





We were supposed to meet friends at a casino for drinks but drove to the desert instead. We parked the old truck and hiked up Gass Peak in the early dusk. Hours later, at the summit, we squatted beneath the communication towers to rest. We had pilfered energy bars from our stash in the glove box, had hauled water and flashlights in a backpack missing a shoulder strap.

“He’d be ten today,” he said, dried nuts and grains muffling his clacking molars.

“I am aware,” I said.

I didn’t want to talk about today’s date.

I wanted to sit, and to be silent.

“We should try again,” he said. “It’s been too long.”

I tried not to think about surgical staples or pain-laden condolences or leaking nipples. We had declined the autopsy, had taken him home in an urn, had loosed his ashes at sea.

Now, I sat on a mountain in the desert at night, with all his little things strewn about me.

“I still have that box of blue baby clothes,” I said, surprised to find I’d spoken aloud.

“We may have a girl this time.” His face was a mask of patience and hope, but when I looked into his eyes, I saw nothing there for me, except an old smothering sympathy.

I tried to breathe.

No, not again, I thought.

I said, “I don’t want a girl.”

I paused and he waited.

“I don’t want another baby,” I said.

“Don’t you?”

“No. I don’t,” I said.

“What do you want?”

“I want him.”

“Still?” he asked.

“Still,” I said.

We stopped talking.

To the south, Las Vegas wallowed in its neon haze. The Stratosphere poked the sky, insistent. The High Roller went round and round, a wheel of flash, and the lone beam of the Luxor cut the darkness into halves.



What Courtney 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: Anastasia Kirchoff
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Congratulations, Anastasia!
Anastasia Kirchoff

Anastasia’s Bio:

If you want to say hi to Anastasia, you may find her meandering the skyways of downtown Minneapolis to avoid going out in the snow. When she isn’t reading, she likes to daydream or craft plant based recipes. She is currently writing an urban fantasy novel, but often procrastinates by writing flash fiction.

In 2019, she took third in a flash fiction contest put on by Brilliant Flash Fiction. Her stories have appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Thunderbird Studios, Psychopomp Magazine, Bending Genres, The Molotov Cocktail, and Ink In Thirds. You can also find her work at

Printable View


High Heels


I used to despise the sound of heels. I hated that staccato clatter, that sound like dice spilling to the floor, slipping from some gambler’s slackened fingers. They were always unlucky dice in my mind—snake eyes staring upwards—black and mean.

I’d hear the sound of the back door banging opening and slamming closed downstairs. I’d feel my muscles tense at the snap-snap of stilettos over cheap linoleum, I’d bar my door against the ensuing laughter, ruckus and viral in their drunkenness. My mother sounded so happy at those times, a sloppy kind of joy she could only seem to access when the rest of her turned to water, when she needed to be mopped up off the floor by whatever eager volunteer she’d latched onto that week. If she’d been interested in any other kind of happiness, I hadn’t known what it was, hadn’t been able to give it to her.

I’d steel myself for sounds through the bedroom wall, gibbering and sighs that rose and crested and crashed like waves, and I knew to harden myself for her foul mood the next morning. All her energy and life and grace were used up in bright, brief flashes during her nights with Tim-Dan-Javier-Justin. There was never any patience left over for me.

Dan had been decent enough, made me pancakes and eggs a couple times. He’d had a chipped front tooth when he smiled. I don’t remember much about Javier, except that he’d had a smoky voice and topaz eyes, and my mother had slapped him once when he’d been late picking her up, slapped him hard, and she’d nearly toppled over from the force of her own blow.

Justin would never take a hit like that. He’d been bad; I try not to remember Justin.

Mom kept her heels in a neat line by the back door—not a scuff or nick marring them despite the lurching gait she affected during her nighttime excursions. They were sleek and sharp as a broken tooth next to my faded and patched Sketchers. I’d marvel at them much as I might’ve marveled at a jewel-skinned snake at the zoo, just a little bit of glass encasing all that coiled death.

Now as I click-clack across LAX—late for meeting my assistant at terminal nine—I think of her. I think about times she was in a good mood, how she would dance, naked footed, to Shania Twain crooning from the CD changer. Her toes were as strong as a ballerina’s, and callused, the nails yellowing from drink and misuse. Once I’d helped her paint them rose petal pink. I remember when the alimony came in, how she would burst in with a tower of takeout pizza. How those pizza boxes smelled, three weeks later, moldering in the overflowing kitchen trash, fetid cheese congealing and turning rancid. How she would herself turn rancid, something broken inside her metastasizing in endless cycles as sure as the pull of a fertile moon.

I shoulder my Kate Spade clutch higher under my arm, check my gleaming watch and walk faster, my footsteps like the report of a well-disciplined cavalry. I round the corner, and my assistant is waiting with my itinerary and our tickets clutched smartly in her hands. My manicured fingers reach out to receive both as she takes my carry-on.

Thoughts of my mother do not belong in this gleaming place. They are like the heat that had clung to me outside—dispelled by the terminal’s chilly flood of air, aside for a granular sheen of sweat that remains under my arms and between my breasts. I hope she’s learned to ration some of herself, that she’s hiding a little bit of light inside, enough levity to dance to Shania Twain. I hope she’s learned to be happy. And if she hasn’t, that she’s at least mastered walking in flats.



What Anastasia Won:

  • $200.00 Cash Prize
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Publication of winning story on website
  • Interview on WOW!’s blog The Muffin


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

Click on their entries to read:

The Red Velvet Dress by Jean Tomlinson, Atlanta, Georgia

What Father Knows by Kara Weeks, New York, New York

Funeral Sister by Delaine Smith, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

The Forager and the Fool by Susan Griner, Seattle, Washington

Northwest Coast by Anna Chapman, Vermont

Sorry by Margo Daly, Fremantle, Western Australia

Red by Kristina Neihouse, Stock Island, Florida

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.

Cerebral Pulse by C.L. Cook, Springdale, Arkansas

Blue by Nancy Graham Holm, Denmark

John of God by Susan Moffson, Boulder, Colorado

Burnt by Joy Givens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Yellow Carnations by E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander, Des Plaines, Illinois

The Prom/ise by Susan Payne, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Twin Hearts by Rachel Meade, Surrey, United Kingdom

Soul Connection by H.R. Conklin, San Diego, California

Drowning Under Pressure by E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander, Des Plaines, Illinois

Always There—A Story of Two Newspaper Clippings by Laura Conner Kestner, Texas


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Fall 2019 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. 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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