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WOW! Spring 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 Quressa Robinson

Literary Agent Quressa Robinson

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

Quressa’s bio:

Quressa Robinson joined the Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 after working at a previous agency and as an editor for five years. She is originally from San Francisco, but has been living in New York City for over a decade. As a New York based agent, she is eager to build her MG, YA, and Adult lists. When not curled on her couch reading, she plays video games, enjoys too much TV—mostly Sailor Moon and Harry Potter (Slytherin!), eats delicious things, drinks champagne, hangs out with her very clever husband, and adds another “dramatic” color to her lipstick collection. Quressa is also a member of the 2017-2019 WNDB Walter Grant Committee and holds an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction from Columbia University.

To find out what Marlo’s looking for, check out her Nelson Literary Page.

Connect with her on Twitter @qnrisawesome.

Visit Nelson 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:  Rochelle Williams
Tularosa, New Mexico
Congratulations, Rochelle!
Rochelle Williams

Rochelle’s Bio:

Rochelle Williams lives in southern New Mexico. Her fiction, poetry and visual art have appeared in Lunarosity, Chokecherries, Desert Exposure, Lifeboat: A Journal of Memoir, Earthships: A New Mecca Poetry Collection, and Menacing Hedge. Her fiction has won a number of awards, including two Southwest Writers Workshop competitions and Recursos de Santa Fe’s Discovery Reading Series. She holds an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is working on a novel about the French early modernist painter, Pierre Bonnard.

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That Day


In the house at the top of the hill, Maggie stands with her hands in the dishwater, and she is suddenly hollowed out with sorrow. It comes upon her like this, without preamble, without rhyme or reason, and she has no defense against it. She is looking out the window, down the hill, toward the green disk of the pond, bits of it flashing like a broken mirror in the evening light. It’s a wet place, this. There’s always the smell of water in the air, a smell full of contradictions—musty and clean, zinging with fresh life and a rich undertone of decay. There is the pond, and the stream that feeds and drains it; there is the lake only a mile away; the land is pocked and dented and dissected everywhere with water.

An image of her son’s body in death flashes into her mind, and instead of pushing it away, as she always does, she lets it come, lets it unfold, lets the memory open completely. She knows there are things Anne doesn’t remember about that day. In those first minutes and hours, when everything shook loose from its moorings, when Maggie had come back up the hill to this house without her son, whose body was invisible in the weeds and darkness at the bottom of the pond, she had found Anne rooted to the same spot where she’d left her to run in uncontained panic down to the water; Anne shivering and bleeding and moaning inarticulately but alive. Alive. This is one thing she knows Anne doesn’t remember: Maggie had pulled the tablecloth off the table, spilling salt and pepper shakers, bills, pens, all the clutter that accumulates on a kitchen table, and had wrapped Anne tightly in it, enclosing her daughter with her body, holding her in that clutch until, perhaps hours later—time had become a huge, lumbering animal, staggering and falling as they were—she felt her go slack. And they stayed that way, in that one spot in the kitchen, as if they were frozen, until Tom came whistling through the door, unaware of the disaster that had befallen his family.

Of course that’s not really how it happened at all. It’s what Maggie’s memory has done with those events over the years since they occurred. There were the other children, out playing in the yard, or upstairs in the house. It was a weekday and Tom was at work, not out in the fields, not coming through the door, looking for lunch and a quick squeeze from Maggie. She must have called neighbors, the police; someone would have gone for Tom, knowing he could not be trusted to drive under the circumstances. But this is what Maggie remembers when she is standing at her kitchen sink ten years later: wrapping her daughter in her arms to keep them both from flying apart, in an empty white space outside of time, which had collapsed and fallen like an injured animal.

By early afternoon, someone had driven the tractor down to the pond. The Harris boys, stripped to their shorts, had already tried and failed to budge the stone that had knocked Jacob down and crushed his leg. Someone had gone to the barn for a cable and the boys had fastened it around the stone and signaled to whoever was driving the tractor. Someone—the police officer, one of the neighbors, a friend from work—had held Tom back from diving into the pond while the stone was pulled away. The Harris boys, one older, one younger than Jacob, had kept diving down, coming up for air, diving back down, streaming bright arcs of water as they surfaced, sleek and dark and determined, guiding the huge block of granite away from Jacob’s body. It was they who, when the stone had been dragged away, pulled Jacob to the surface, and Tom, unable to wait any longer, had waded in and lifted Jacob from them into his arms as if Jacob were a small child and not almost a man.

And some time in that endless afternoon, or in the disastrously long night that followed it, Maggie had released her daughter, had passed her into other enveloping arms, had gone into the living room where Jacob lay, his flesh an unearthly blue-white, on a blanket someone had snatched from the sofa, and she had washed her son’s body, beginning with his hands.



What Rochelle 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:  Amy Sampson-Cutler
Warwick, New York
Congratulations, Amy!
Amy Sampson-Cutler

Amy’s Bio:

Amy Sampson-Cutler is a fiction writer who recently earned her master’s degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. She has been published twice in the Pitkin Review, as well as the Wellness Universe, Elephant Journal, and was a Community News Writer for the Times-Herald-Record. She is the Executive Manager at Mount Peter Ski Area. She can be contacted through

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Clean Slate


My sister is the kind of person who, when she is mad at you—for even the slightest infraction—makes you feel like you don’t exist. Like you would do anything to make her like you again, because existing in a world where you are bending to please other people is still better than not existing at all.

My sister is the kind of person who could be taken in off the streets by strangers, and still find that their taste in decorating is terrible, and she would wash the stall before taking a shower, even if her own body was covered in filth.

My sister is the kind of person who refuses to go to church on Sundays, not because she doesn’t believe in God, but because she can’t stand someone else telling her how to believe.

My sister is selfish, and arrogant, and narcissistic, but if you tell her any of these things, you would have to throw yourself in front of a train because the thought of getting run over by a train—having your body ripped to shreds and your shoes found in a mangled mess in the woods somewhere—is somehow less frightening than telling someone what you think they most need to hear.

Because my sister thinks that she is kind and caring, if perhaps a bit smarter than some.

This is not how I think of my sister at all, but it is what she thought of me. Those words are the words she spoke to me, holding her head high as we walked through the city streets, having what was our last, and final, major fight.

After my sister spoke those words to me, she stepped out in front of a moving bus, the tiny silver elephant charm I got her for her 17th birthday torn from her ankle and crunched under squealing tires. While her pink converse shoes were not found in the woods, they were definitely missing when traffic was finally stopped, and I sank to my knees beside her body.

I wondered after if the bus was a fill-in for the train, if she stepped out into the street on purpose, or if she was just upset and not paying attention.

The converse, the bus, the blood on the sidewalk and in the street, and on my hands as I held her crumbled body, all meant one thing.

I was not a sister anymore.

I was none of the things that she thought I was, because something can’t exist if there is not someone to think it.



What Amy 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: Chris Lytwynec
Phoenix, Arizona
Congratulations, Chris!
Chris Lytwynec

Chris’s Bio:

Chris Lytwynec is a former software developer who works at the intersection of technology and society—whether building a database to investigate foreign money in congressional testimonies, reporting on tech regulation, or writing science fiction. She holds a BA in Psychology from University of Rochester and an MS in Journalism from Boston University. Recently relocated to Phoenix, AZ, Chris enjoys hiking, learning, and playing music. Visit her website at

Printable View


The Places that Aren’t


Two nights ago, I found myself in my hometown. I shouldn’t be here, I thought. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. They told me I would only be transported to places that aren’t, weren’t, won’t.

“Ever had a lucid dream?” the researcher asked, jotting something on his notepad.

“I don’t think so,” I guessed.

“Well, we’ve seen this in a few other people who are lucid dreamers. The seeds we plant in your mind don’t grow if you're shining light elsewhere, and lucid dreamers tend to wander off with their flashlights too early in the dream. You may have just gone looking for something more familiar.”

“But I wasn’t in control. I didn’t want to go back to that place, but there I was standing outside my childhood home.”

“Well, let’s try the same seed tonight and see what happens. We’ll check the readout tomorrow and see if we can figure out what’s going on.”

The doctors updated my implant and I went home. The Bluetooth monitor by my bed pulsed a pale blue light, indicating it was ready to record. I tried to imagine the scientists that would eventually use this to explore their unconscious minds, hoping to illuminate an avenue to long-term survival for our threatened species. What seeds would their dreams grow from? What sheep would they count? The researchers assured me that I was playing a critical role in the development of this species-saving technology. I can't say I fully understand, but I need the money and sleep studies pay well.

And so, I fell to sleep, fearful of what I may find.

The crunchy clam shell path winding around the flower garden to the squeaky side door. The putrid sea breeze swallowing the salty cedar-sided house. The fishing poles hanging on the side of the garage, longing toward the quiet inlet.

My arm stretched toward the door, by no accord of mine, and pushed it open.

My mother and father sat at the table placidly drinking coffee. There were no busted bottles, no feeble pleas, no frying pans in violent hands. My older brother sat on the floor in the living room with a half-complete jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table. I sat down near him and poked at a few pieces of oddly shaped cardboard. His head was whole, without the bloody crater he had when I abandoned him and fled the house like he told me to.

Dad looked in from the kitchen and asked if we’d like to go fishing on the inlet with him and mom.

That’s when I understood.



What Chris 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 Quiet that Follows by Chloe Grech, Sydney, Australia

The Devil You Know by Angelica R. Jackson, Shingle Springs, California

Black July by Abby, London

I Decided to Jump off a Bridge by Kelley Hicken, Meridian, Idaho

Batman and Crunchy Nuts by Sally Keeble, Northampton, UK

Silver Linings by Amy Hupe, Concord, Massachusetts

The Disposables by Victoria Lorrekovich-Miller, Pleasanton, California

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

Unbridled by Sanober Bukhari, Canada/Pakistan

A Piano Lesson by Eleanor Adams, New York, New York

Shortages by K. Alan Leitch, Surfers Paradise, QLD, Australia

Love and Loathing by Caroline Grobler-Tanner, Washington DC

Death and Dominoes by Smitha Tallapragada, Naperville, Illinois

Baited Lines by Alexandra Otto, Kodiak, Alaska

The Good Cups by Vivian Rosemarie Hanich, Sydney, Australia

Strong at the Seams by Christine Venzon, Peoria, Illinois

Through a Window by Christa Fairfield, Concord, California

Meeting Robert by Jennifer Wang, Mountain View, California


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Spring 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!

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