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WOW! Fall 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 Kristina Perez

Literary Agent Kristina Pérez

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

Kristina’s bio:

Kristina Pérez is a half-Argentine/half-Norwegian native New Yorker who has spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. Before joining the Zeno Literary Agency in London at the end of 2019, she worked as a journalist, academic, and author. This breadth of experience enables her to serve her clients in a variety of fields and she is a very editorial agent.

Kristina holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge and has taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. As a journalist, she’s written for many international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal Asia, Condé Nast Traveler, and CNN.

She is the author of the YA Fantasy Sweet Black Waves trilogy (Imprint/Macmillan), the YA Sci-Fi, The Tesla Legacy (Tor Teen), and the academic monograph, The Myth of Morgan la Fey (Palgrave Macmillan).

To find out what Kristina’s looking for, check out her Zeno Literary Agency Page. Connect with her on Twitter @kperezagent.



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:  Jean Li Spencer
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Congratulations, Jean!
Jean Li Spencer

Jean’s Bio:

Jean Li Spencer was raised in New York City and is receiving her BA in English and Education Studies at Wellesley College. She is currently interning at a literary agency and plans to move back to her hometown after finishing school this spring, where she will continue working in the publishing industry. She enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories, and was recently published on Bowery Gothic (Edition III: Summer 2020). A once aspiring middle school teacher, Jean Li is happiest when she is reading books with children.


Printable View



Breaking Silence


The beach was the same as she remembered, starchy and fresh. Nowadays Li-Wen more acutely noticed the golden yolk of the sun dipping into the ocean, and what the dehydrated shells of horseshoe crabs smelled like in the vaporous evening. She let the ocean lap over her bare feet until her toenails shone brighter than sea glass. Her chosen name (she was previously “Lauren”), the date, celestial orientations, and her menstrual cycle were different. Li-Wen stopped and considered these changes, her lips compressed, and looked for something beautiful she could tell people at home about.

Summers long past were spent on this beach. Back then, she came with Taiwanese relatives who cowered from the sunlight under paper parasols and ate food out of thermoses using washable metal chopsticks. Jellyfish skin and seaweed salad. Pig’s feet. Stinking tofu. Some of them were dead. Others, like her mother, had become a constant but faraway memory.

Later, after she stopped going there, she walked the beach in her dreams. It was at the beach that she saw herself most clearly: a dependable woman in her early twenties wearing professional pumps in the city, who had the comfort of tipping cab drivers and buying rounds of after-work cocktails; someone who fell asleep in front of the television alone. She could be this woman or any woman—her life had turned into something interchangeable, a disposable object.

Li-Wen was tremendously moved by the Technicolor vivacity of the landscape, which presented itself to her with great determination: a sloping valley of sand, half buried in long grass and broken pebbles. Down the painted boardwalk, she saw a thin line of bobbing brown dots—a doe and her small fawn. The young one was so spirited and bold. They were dark spots drawn up against a lighter background, their animal desire to live catching bright as glossy embers against the immovable sky. Li-Wen’s blood burned in her veins. The whole scene before her, besides the deer, was as still as the course of the afternoon. The doe and her fawn moved but left no decisive trace of moving.

Deer were treated like parasites in the beach development because they ate up flower gardens, trash, and sometimes, they even nibbled delicately on people’s babies, leaving curious tooth marks along the fresh, downy skin. People wailed as if these curious animals would bring about the end of things. It is easy to believe what you want, even about harmless and hallowed things.

Between one drag of the tide and the next, Li-Wen wished she had someone with her who appreciated the pleasure of the beach. She could talk about how nice it would be to go on more outdoor walks, to bring about a blanket and lie down in the lunar-kissed sand with that person's arms wrapped around her waist. She stared at the coastline, thinking and remembering and missing.

The doe was unable to leave her fawn.

The animals were now on an excursion into someone’s backyard and the little one was obstructed by a high wire fence. Li-Wen did not notice their distress for some time, the deer struggling on in constipated silence as she looked meditatively at the water.

The effect of this scene on Li-Wen was inescapably astounding. Having witnessed their struggle, she moved closer, stopping short several times to show the animals she was not a threat. She had no clear intentions except to better crystallize the picture of them she would sustain in her mind. After five minutes of no progress, the fawn tipped back its head and let out a piercing scream.

The noise was so shattering, so inexplicable, that the doe jumped with fright and plunged over the grass, straight into the carefully clipped hedges and onwards into the wild undergrowth, gathering burs and raw scratches along her pelt, as the fawn gazed on with wide eyes. You will lose the ones you love. They will leave you. Even the earth—the first mother of us all—will depart, one day.

Li-Wen recalled a line from her favorite haiku then, by the poet Basho. Spring is passing. Yes, that is what she would tell people back home about.



What Jean 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:  Jeaninne Escallier Kato
Rocklin, California
Congratulations, Jeaninne!
Jeaninne Escallier Kato

Jeaninne’s Bio:

Once Jeaninne Escallier Kato found the history of her Hispanic/indigenous roots, her writing muse found its soul. She is Spanish on her mother’s side, Pechanga Indian on her father’s side with a smattering of European blood. She began her Spanish studies in 1999; whereupon, she switched teaching positions to teach in mostly Latino populated schools. From there, she discovered her love of Mexico. Her children’s book Manuel’s Murals is a love letter to her Mexican students and the culture from which they came. Jeaninne also developed the Latino mentoring program “Lincoln Hermanos Mentors” where she raised college scholarship funds for the Latino high school students who tutored her at-risk Latino elementary students from 2005 to 2014.

Jeaninne devoted 36 years of her life to teaching in grades K-12 throughout California. She is currently a teacher coach for Placer County in Northern California. Writing is not only a passion, like teaching, it’s what she was born to do. Aside from her children’s book, Jeaninne has been published in anthologies and online literary magazines for her flash fiction and non-fiction work. She is featured in two Chicken Soup for the Soul series and has won, or placed in the top ten, of various writing contests. Jeaninne explains her writing philosophy, “I write for me. Publishing is a by-product of my craft, like icing on a cake. I’m thrilled if others feel anything from my work, but I’m a winner whenever I sit down to the computer and write the first word of a story.” You can find Jeaninne on her website:

Printable View





Clutching her milagro, the tin cross her husband made before he left for El Otro Lado, Nayeli whispers the same prayer over and over. She and her four-year-old son, Ediberto, haven’t eaten since yesterday. Desperately hoping to sell a few of her embroidered blouses in Oaxaca’s town square, Nayeli makes the sign of the cross over her child, hugging him into her bosom. Nayeli hurries her child out of the shared taxi to get to the next corner before another vendor takes her favorite tourist spot. The intense Oaxacan sun exacts no mercy. If she doesn’t find a shady corner, they may have to forfeit a full day’s work.

Jose Luis left for the United States a year ago to make enough money to provide for his family. Nayeli hasn’t heard from him since. Her husband made the milagro to protect his wife and child in case he did not survive the harsh desert journey. Nayeli is so lost in her thoughts, she doesn’t notice Ediberto slip out of her hand.

Mi’jo!” she screams, accidentally dropping the charm into a storm drain as she runs around the corner. Nayeli sees her child staring at his reflection in the candy shop window. He is remembering his father, the good man who used to throw him into the air in front of the same window before he bought Ediberto a chocolate bar. Papa ended their reflected window play in a simple ritual—he swiped his finger through the chocolate, smearing it on Ediberto’s chin. Papa always said, “Un beso de los angeles.” Kissed by the angels.

The adjacent jewelry shop owner, Manuel Garcia, looks down at Ediberto’s dirty bare feet. A stunning young woman in long black braids wraps this child cocoon-like in her purple shawl. This symbolic gesture of love and protection is not lost on Manuel.

Senora, perdoneme, pero debo preguntarle. Que hay en su bolso negro?” Manuel Garcia asks about the contents in her black bag.

Too shy to look the shop owner in the eyes, Nayeli opens the bag and carefully displays her colorful blouses. Ediberto watches how gently Manuel’s hands caress his mother’s meticulous work.

Manuel Garcia disappears into the store and comes back with peso bills equivalent to two hundred dollars. When he hands Nayeli the money in exchange for her bag of blouses, she crumbles to her knees in gratitude. Realizing that she has lost Jose Luis’s milagro, Nayeli’s tears fall freely. Manuel Garcia lifts her to her feet. He is honored to own her blouses as gifts for his family.

Ediberto wipes at the tears on his mother’s face and says, “No te preocupas, mama, papa siempre esta con nosostros.” Nayeli’s child assures her that papa is always with them.

Nayeli bends down and hugs her son, grateful for his presence in her life.

When she releases him from her embrace, she notices a smudge of something on Ediberto’s chin.

Que es esto?” Nayeli can’t imagine where her son found this chocolate.

Ediberto grabs his mother’s hand and leads her back to the chocolate shop. He stands in front of the closed store and stares at their reflection. Nayeli is confused. She tells Ediberto, “La tiendita esta cerrada, mi’jo.” The store is closed.

Si mama, pero papa esta aqui. El siempre estara aqui.” Ediberto insists that his father is always around them, especially on this very spot.

Ediberto reaches into his back pocket and swipes his finger through the gooey chocolate. He smears it on his mother’s chin and says, “Un beso de los angeles.”

Nayeli demands to know from where he obtained the chocolate bar. Ediberto points to the jewelry store and says, “De Senor Garcia, mama.”

Nayeli sighs. She hustles her son back to the bus stop as she has nothing more to sell today, thanks to Senor Garcia. Nayeli is focused on buying food in el Mercado, the marketplace in her neighborhood, relieved to be able to pay the rent on their cinderblock hut situated on a chicken farm.

Ediberto slips out of her grip and runs back to the chocolate shop before they turn the corner. He smashes his face into the window and sees his father standing on the other side with the lost milagro in his hand. Ediberto pushes his chin into the glass in order to leave his chocolate print. He says, “Un beso de los angeles, papa, y gracias por el chocolate.”

Nayeli stomps back to retrieve her headstrong son, her true milagro.



What Jeaninne 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: Teresa Boardman
Palatine, Illinois
Congratulations, Teresa!
Teresa Boardman

Teresa’s Bio:

Teresa Boardman’s writing background has largely consisted of legal documents and summaries, policy and procedure manuals, and codes and rules. She started entering flash fiction contests in 2018 to break up the monotony of anything-but-creative writing. She enjoys flash fiction as it gives a vignette in time and often leaves just a bit of uncertainty for the reader to interpret.

Teresa is a French Classically trained chef, plus holds a B.S. in Accounting and spent eight years as a Tax Auditor. She describes this transition as going from “cookbooks to cooked books.” She considers herself a multimedia artist who sometimes paints with words and hopes to add published books to her list. Teresa has lived outside the Chicago area since 2019, but considers the Oregon Coast her home.

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They had exchanged messages for years, never able to reconnect. Then, tonight’s sparse message “Tonight. It is the night” broadcast through a regular radio channel. “Tonight, this is the night; tonight, this is the night,” Martian chanted as he pedaled rapidly to the appliance repair shop once owned by his adoptive parents.

His small behind wiggled side to side as arms flailed throwing items off the shelves. A toaster, a rice cooker. No, no, no! It had to be here. He kept digging, then turned and looked back at the discarded rice cooker. That was it! He lifted the lid and there it was, nestled inside. A small plastic radio named “Fisher Price”. It was his from “childhood” on this planet. His family never suspected the whisperings it occasionally emanated were real. And they didn’t mind him “playing” with it behind the closed door of his room. The annoying refrain of “There Was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe” hid his true purpose. Martian signaled once a year, every year, from the tower they called The Lighthouse with his child’s plaything.

Now, his adopted parents’ voices kept echoing in his head “When we found you, we figured someone would come looking for you. Unless they abandoned you. I mean that makes sense, really. You—you are just—different.”

Different enough to survive the final pandemic that swept across the continents. Of course, that was part of their mission, his and Amaya’s, planting a virus that would give the planet a fresh start. He was relieved the standard vaccination worked on him, so he could sit on this planet for a cycle, hoping, waiting, being alone.

The Lighthouse was the spot of the first alien sighting on this planet. Martian was gathering samples over the surface of the planet when he had become distracted and wandered into the lighthouse. How anything survived the toxicity of the surface and air was beyond his imagination. Their release of a viral toxin to finish the job was probably unneeded. The samples of living specimens hopefully could teach them a lot about survival.

That’s when the local dominant species, the humans, had spotted him. He ducked around a corner and transformed, but the damage had been done. What they saw was a little green man. Then reports started of little green men, aliens, babies from outer space. For all his knowledge and all his education, Martian was no bigger than a native toddler. But now, he looked like them—a baby them. He had followed the first step of protocol (Transform, Distress Signal, Wait, Levitate) but had misconstrued its outcome. He was being taken to “Social Services,” while Amaya had no choice but to leave to preserve the mission. Martian was not the mission. However, he knew the follow up mission would bring her back to him.

“Tonight’s the night,” he repeated, arriving at his destination. The Lighthouse was now built up with an oval shaped addition that wrapped around the lighthouse at an angle that approximated the humans’ impression of a space vessel. The lens of the lighthouse was transformed into a high-powered telescope. Every year Martian secretly climbed the tower and signaled the only home he truly knew using a small radio.

He outlasted most of the native life on the planet, still every year he signaled. He had lived in the observatory far longer than he wanted to admit, as his family and adoptive species were long gone. He climbed the steps, somewhat forlornly this year, as he was slowly losing hope.

He repeated again, “Tonight’s the night,” yet his radio remained silent.

He made his way to the center of the obelisk, past displays of his arrival to earth. Through the gift shops full of completely erroneous depictions of his mothership. Glorifying the arrival of their unexpected demise. And his likeness? Renditions of little green men abounded. Stuffed dolls, keychains, license plate frames.

Up the stairs, hopefully one last time. At the top, he tuned the radio again. He heard her, Amaya. He heard her!

“Levitate!” she said.



What Teresa 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 Elephant in the Tomb by Gwen Gardner, San Diego, California

Three Wishes by Caroline Michalicki, Lexington, Georgia

Be Not Angry by Sally Basmajian, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada

Sylvia and Me in 1963 by Victoria Lorrekovich-Miller, Pleasanton, California

Fishing for Fingers by Shala Alert, Jamaica

Now We Are Seven by Deborah Tomkins, Bristol, United Kingdom

The Winter the Moose Moved In by Vicki Sutherland Horton, Port Townsend, Washington

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

The Question by Tara Moore, Simsbury, Connecticut

Reality Check by Yolanda Renée, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Vines Like Me by Taylor Kemper, Kentucky

Poor Fool by Jennifer Wick, Woodinville, Washington

#OntheBus by Jacqueline Goodwin, Fort Edward, New York

Boxed by Aubrey Binder, Warrensburg, Missouri

Lemon Relief by Lauren Teller, Dorchester, Massachusetts

Challenging Dragons by Julia Sherwood, Toronto, ON, Canada

Age of Innocence by Evelyn Krieger, Sharon, Massachusetts

Never Enough by TJ Bingham, Germany


What the Honorable Mentions Won:

  • $20 Amazon Gift Card


This brings the Fall 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. We hope to read more of your work. Write on!

Check out the latest Contest:


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