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WOW! Winter 2020 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 Marlo Berliner

Literary Agent Marlo Berliner

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

Marlo’s bio:

Marlo Berliner is an award-winning young adult author, freelance editor, and bookseller. She joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in March 2018 as an editorial intern after having completed a previous internship with The Bent Agency. Now, she is actively building her list as an associate agent. She is a member of SCBWI, RWA, NJ-RWA, and YA-RWA. Prior to her career in the publishing world, Marlo was an accounting manager for a Fortune 500 company. She holds B.S. degrees in Economics and Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

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

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:  Joy Givens
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Congratulations, Joy!
Joy Givens

Joy’s Bio:

Joy Givens is an educating, caffeinating writer of stories and the lucky mother of two tiny superheroes. By day, she runs a tutoring company, volunteers with several writing and advocacy organizations, sings in church, dreams up new recipes for her hungry loved ones, and occasionally conquers Laundry Mountain. By night, Joy writes “fresh, fierce, fantastic” fairy tales and other fiction for children and young adults... and occasionally stays up too late laughing with her husband. By morning, she’s usually quite tired but excited to do it all again. Joy’s most recent works include several pieces of award-winning short fiction, published in WOW! Women on Writing, the anthologies Beach Life and Beach Fun (Cat & Mouse Press, 2017; 2018), the anthology Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (Atthis Arts, 2019), and the forthcoming anthology Community of Magic Pens (Atthis Arts, 2020).

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The witch’s final, terrible scream still rang in Gretel’s ears.

Huddled beside the door, she buried her nose in her ragged apron as the fire raged. Her arms ached from the loads of firewood, heaved into the oven all afternoon at the witch’s command. Tears boiled over, dripping onto her lap.

Why was she crying? The witch was dead. They were alive. They were free.

“Gretel,” Hansel pleaded from the cage. “Let me out, and we can flee.”

Gretel inspected her bruised, blistered hands. Those hands had pushed the witch into her own fiery trap. Were they the hands of a killer, then?

Sickening odors of charred meat and burnt sugar kicked her nose. Gretel retched onto the gingerbread floor. It would only grow worse.

Gretel ran to the woodpile and lifted the axe with both hands. When she staggered back into the house, she nearly choked on the stench.

“Stand back,” she ordered Hansel.

With three clanging whacks, the old lock cracked. Dropping the axe, Gretel sucked on a blister.

Hansel stepped carefully over the bones that lined the cage floor. He threw his arms around her.

“You did it,” he whispered. “Sister, you’ve saved us. It’s over. We can go home!”

Another wave of nausea rocked Gretel. How would it ever be over?

She looked down at her tattered smock. “The witch must have put our clothing and shoes somewhere.” She spat on the floor. “We should find them before we leave.”

In the other room, the witch’s barbed peppermint stick still rested in a corner. The scars on Gretel’s back tingled at the sight.

“Look here.” Hansel pulled a wooden casket from beneath the bed and lifted the lid.

“How fine,” he gasped. Beneath what they had worn when the witch trapped them, rich clothes and leather shoes filled the casket.

Hansel withdrew a pair of pants, a thick shirt and socks, and sturdy boots. “These shall fit me.” He ripped off the rags he had worn in the cage and began pulling on the new garments. “Choose what suits you.”

Gretel snatched out her own dress and worn shoes. She slipped them on as quickly as her shaking limbs could manage. The rest had probably belonged to other victims.

“There’s something else here...” Hansel dragged another casket from underneath the bed and opened it.

Gretel gasped. Blazing gemstones and shining coins dazzled light on the walls. She dug a hand into the wondrous coldness.

“We’ll take it with us,” Hansel exclaimed. “All we can carry! Can you imagine Father’s face? Our family shall never be in want again.”

Gretel said nothing but filled a satchel. Hansel strode from the stinking gingerbread house in his newfound finery, pockets stuffed with treasure. “Come, Gretel!”

With her insides simmering, Gretel followed. She shook cinnamon dust from her feet as the door banged behind her.

Hansel led the way to the river, the witch’s lantern in his hand. The glow of early dusk lit their faces.

Stepping onto the decrepit wooden bridge, he turned to Gretel. “Just imagine the celebration when we return.”

Gretel stopped short, her heart pounding. “I’m not going back.”

Hansel’s face changed. “What do you mean?”

“Everything we have endured happened because he left us for dead.”

“But, Gretel—”

“No.” She planted her feet. “Since Father abandoned us in that forest, I’ve been beaten, bound, forced to build a fire intended to cook us. The blood on my hands is the only reason we’re still alive. And I refuse to carry a treasure home so that he can pretend it all never happened.”

Hansel hesitated. He kneaded his hands together. “Where will you go?”

Gretel shrugged, scanning the horizon. That smoke to the south meant another village. “Nowhere I’ve already been... Somewhere with good.”

Tears spilled down Hansel’s face, and he set down the lantern. “Everywhere I’ve been is somewhere with good. You have always been there.”

He stepped off the bridge. “Sister, wherever you go is my home.”

Gretel’s heart leaped. “You mean—you’ll come with me?”

Hansel threw his arms around her. “We’ll survive together.” Letting her go, he offered a crooked smile. “We always do.”

The lantern’s flame transferred easily. Hansel held a small branch to the dry old bridge and set it alight.

Gretel studied her battered palms. These were not the hands of a killer.

They were the hands of a survivor.

Under the blazing sunset, she walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Hansel. The bridge crackled behind them. Home waited somewhere ahead.



What Joy 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:  Reanna Montgomery
Birmingham, Alabama
Congratulations, Reanna!
Reanna Montgomery

Reanna’s Bio:

Reanna is a Birmingham, Alabama based gal with a flair for the arts and an enthusiast of anything related to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before graduating college with her degree in history, she spent her time bartending to make money and then spent that money traveling the world. After all, opportunity is a wonderful thing to take. Reanna is an avid reader. From the clever wit of Jane Austen to the fantastical mind of JK Rowling, some of her greatest role models have been found in the rewarding world of literature. She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has always had a deep passion and love for storytelling. The grit and beauty of life have influenced her and is reflected in much of her writing. At a young age she recalls being deeply moved by a quote from the Great Gatsby, “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” Her dream is to one day write something that impacts others in a similar fashion. Today, Reanna lives with her sweet husband and their 3 adorable pets. Together, they look forward to all of life’s adventures.

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Pinky Promise



When I was eleven-years-old, I stole six dollars out of your purse. You loved me and I stole from you, but I felt exhilarated. I rode my bicycle down to the drug store and bought the pinkest shade of lipstick that I could find. It was called “Pinky Promise” and I put it on every single night before I went to bed. I fell asleep smiling and would dream that I won the high school beauty pageant. It was glamorous and I felt beautiful. My dress flowed behind me like water and I floated across the stage. I was elegant and graceful. You’d be in the audience, tears of happiness pricking at your eyes as they placed the winner’s tiara on my head. You and Dad gave me a bouquet of pink roses, the same color as my lipstick. Dad told me I was beautiful, and I knew he meant it.

That’s why I painted my room pink. It wasn’t Sophia’s fault. She only helped me because she loves me and my happiness matters to her. She taught me how to do my makeup and even bought me my first pair of high heels. It was one of the happiest days of my life. She saved her babysitting money for months just to buy them for me. Sophia is my best friend and the greatest sister in the world. “Keep your head, your heels, and your standards high,” she told me. I’ll never forget that. On the weekdays after school, before you and Dad got home from work, we’d strut down the hallway in our heels pretending like we were on the runway for Chanel. Sophia has always had an inexhaustible pizzazz about her. It’s her superpower.

Dad left after he caught me and Jim in my room. I heard you arguing over it every night. You always took up for me, but I know you blame me for him leaving. I wish you both could understand. Jim made me feel special and loved, but most importantly, he made me feel understood. In a room full of people, Jim saw me. We went to the grocery store like normal people. We strolled down the aisles flirting and laughing while we shopped. Deciding what we wanted for dinner was the most fun I’d ever had. We ate at fancy restaurants over candlelit dinners and fed each other dessert. We saw the world through rose colored glasses, moving from day to day in blissful harmony. It was the first time in my life I went to sleep smiling and woke up with the same smile. Jim wasn’t a dream.

You see, I spent my whole life living as my true self only in my dreams. I woke up every morning to a collapsible world. A house made of cardboard, with a paper mache yard in a plastic community. The walls were pewter, the door was blue, and the fence was white. The flowerbeds folded over the sod just perfectly. A world that looked so well put together, but was paper thin. I can’t live like that, Mom. I can’t make myself care about “what the neighbors might think” or “what they’ll say about us at church.” I’m sorry that Dad left, and I’m sorry that I can’t be who you want me to be. Sometimes I wish I could be, but most times, I wish that you could learn to find happiness in the luxury of indifference. The variety of life is so beautiful.

When you kicked me out I only packed one thing, my pink lipstick. I only tell you that because I want you to know why it has always been so important to me. I found myself that day at the drugstore. The “Pinky Promise” shade gave me a reason to smile. It taught me how to be myself. To live fearlessly in the color and charisma of who I am. To proudly strut the runway of life, and to always find a reason to wake up smiling. I’ve found happiness and acceptance in a world I thought I could never belong in. Your pewter walls were never enough for me, but I will always love you, and I hope that one day you can accept me for who I am, and maybe find a way to love me too.

Your son,



What Reanna 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: Sally Basmajian
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Congratulations, Sally!
Sally Basmajian

Sally’s Bio:

Sally Basmajian is an escapee from the corporate broadcasting world. Before fleeing the business, she was Bell Media’s Vice President and General Manager, Comedy and Drama.

She is currently polishing a women’s thriller and sketching a number of short memoir and fiction pieces. In February 2020, she was awarded first prize in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Ontario’s Rising Spirits contest. She completed her Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Humber College in 2019 and holds a Master of Arts in Musicology from the University of Toronto.

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War Baby


Monique put her hand in her pocket and pulled out the last thing Paul had ever given her. She glanced down at the smudged bit of paper. Yes, this was the right restaurant. A glowing light in the window promised food and warmth and, she hoped, a friendly welcome.

According to the painted sign on the door, this was the home of France’s finest andouillette. Paul had laughed when she’d made a face, and told him that as much as she loved him, she had no desire to try his mother’s sausages. In addition to shallots, parsley and mustard, the essential ingredient was pig intestines.

Inside, the place smelled as bad as she’d feared. While pleasant hints of spice hung in the air, they didn’t conceal the pigsty reek. It didn’t seem to deter the clutch of diners who were downing the bloated white sausages, but it made Monique gag.

Bonsoir, madame,” an elderly waiter said, closing the door behind her.

She handed her coat over reluctantly. It was a patched wool affair, too thin for the wintry wind that blew misery across northern France and the Belgian trenches that were only miles away—the trenches where Paul had died last month, falling in muck and blood, lost in the horror of war.

Monique smiled apologetically, as the old man asked, apparently for the second time, “Table for two?”

Non. Seulement moi.”

His eyes traveled from her battered velveteen hat to her outmoded peplum jacket that she could barely button anymore. Shaking his head, he seated her in a corner and swept away a place setting.

“Could I please see Mme. Robillard?” Monique hated that her voice shook.

“I shall inquire.” He bustled away.

She studied the blackboard. Anything but andouillette. She didn’t care how hungry she was.

Mademoiselle?” The woman who’d materialized as if by magic had steely hair and matching eyes.

Monique gripped the table’s edge. “Paul said to come, if anything happened to him ...”

Perhaps it was a trick of the lighting, but for an instant the older woman’s face seemed to crumple. Then, “Non.” The flintiness was back, full force. “How dare you come here?” The woman looked right and left, then bent so close Monique could smell the garlic on her breath. “Get out. You have no claim on me.”

Even though it was cold and she was far from home, Monique lifted her chin, put on her threadbare coat, and left. As she walked without knowing where she was going or how she’d survive, distant gunfire boomed.


The young man grimaced. “For gosh sakes, mom, say you’re joking.”

Monique adjusted her smart pillbox hat. “Come, Andre, it’s time you sampled a real French delicacy.” She gently pushed him into the restaurant.

“I can’t wait to get back to hamburgers and French fries,” he muttered.

They took a seat near the window. Rays from the setting sun lit Andre’s cheekbones and created a sparkle in his brown eyes, so like his father’s. For a moment, Monique could barely breathe.

A young waiter with pomaded hair and a bored expression approached. “Are you here to enjoy our famous andouillette?”

“First we’d like to meet the famous chef. Is this possible?” Monique smiled at the waiter, as she slipped him a crisp American fiver.

His eyebrows shot up, but he made the bill disappear with the dexterity of a skilled conjurer. “Of course.” He bustled off.

Andre was shifting in his chair. “Is this really necessary? And by the way, it stinks in here.”

Monique gazed at her boy. He was American, through and through. And yet, here, with the sound of French being spoken all around them ...

Oui? You asked for me, madame?” The face was wrinkled, but the eyes still scorched.

“Yes. I was wondering if you could tell my son about your special sausages.” Monique focused twenty years of hurt on the old woman.

“Mom, really. I have no—”

“Quiet, Andre.” Monique turned her attention back to Mme. Robillard. “Go ahead. Tell him.”

The woman looked at the boy, then retreated a pace. Andre pushed back his chair and tried to rise, but Monique held his arm, stopping him.

“Is this possible?” Mme. Robillard’s face was grey. She stretched a trembling hand out to Andre.

“Perhaps.” Monique rose, keeping her body between Mme. Robillard and Andre, as she shepherded him out of the restaurant. “And I forgive you, but let me make this clear: you have no claim on him.”



What Sally 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:

Silence by Alice Benson, Wisconsin

Spontaneous Combustion by Kristin Bartley Lenz, Detroit, Michigan

Fourth of July by Marti Leimbach, West Berkshire, England

The Keeper of Keys by Dawn Rae, Cape Town, South Africa

Under the Stars by Teri Liptak, Tyler, Texas

Turning Tides by Annie Lindenberg, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Lime Cordial by Alicia Starr Cook, Lisbon, Portugal

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 2020 Contest Honorable Mentions! Your stories stood out and are excellent in every way.

Holden Caulfield Went Skiing by Ellen Heron Howell, Toronto, Canada

The Journey by Magdalene Chan, Melbourne, Australia

The Fit by Hannah Sprawls, Shreveport, Louisiana

Love From Kelly by Alicia Ruskin, Valley Village, California

The Boy in the Black River by Anne M. Kelley, Cary, North Carolina

The Shooting Star Trail by Candace Iveson, Columbia, Missouri

Water Bodies by Anam Sufi, USA/Pakistan

New-Star Button by V. E. Rogers, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Love and Loathing by Caroline Grobler Tanner, Washington DC

The City that Stole his Daughter by Rhonda Wiley-Jones, Kerrville, Texas


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Winter 2020 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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