Tag Archives: Nancy Chenier

Week One Winners!

Judge’s confession time: I sort of hate the notion of a writing contest. Why do you sponsor one then? you might ask. The answer is that I’m a story junkie. I like to find prompts that move me and to see what writers make of them, so the line prompt for this week, the opening line from my book, The Gantean–“Tell me a tale”– was particularly apt for my judging week. All you participants did not disappoint. Every story I read this week had merit (that’s why I don’t like contests! How to judge something as personal, varying, and multifaceted as STORIES?) Whittling them down to a short list was a difficult task. Of the four stories I had on the final list, I truly felt any could have been the winner. I am including a line or two of feedback for every story, in no particular order, until the final three placers:

Grandpa’s Trees, by Stephen Shirres: This story offers a striking contrast between its past and its present, full of a melancholy yearning for (simpler?) better times. Solid and authentic.

The Bone Tree Copse, by Mark A. King: An elegiac tale with vertical and horizontal layers! It earned extra points for an evocative title. Clever, moody, and full of wordsmithery.

The Trespasser, by Sean Fraser: A lovely, smooth meditation on confronting the world beyond this one. The Trespasser no longer trespasses. Atmospheric and vivid.

The Cat in the Woods, by Voima Oy: This had a crafty narrative set up— by starting in second person and moving into first, the author offered a coy, cat-like invitation to the reader, while also forcing complicity. The ending lended a perfect tightness to the story. Well-designed.

The bit left over, by Liz Hedgecock: A sweet, sad, simple tale, grounded in realism and emotion. Well-rounded and told with restraint and delicacy. Memorable.

Jem’s Not-Wish, by Holly Geely: Rich characterization drives this story—overtly, with the old woman and Jem, and covertly, with the traveler-charlatan lurking behind it all. Solidly constructed and enjoyable.

Where There Is Willing, by Catherine Connolly: Mythic and eerie, this is a true fairytale of the dark and discomfiting variety. The shadowy, arcane tone and the Eastern European flavor suited the prompts.

Errors, by Foy S. Iver: With a world that explodes off the page, this story should be tagged by the author for development into something longer. (I’d be happy to beta read!) Reveals a unique imagination. Stirring and exciting.

The Darkside, by Anita Harkess: A tight, psychological tale that might be a parable showing the difficulties of maturing, or might be something darker. Nice layering.

Formalities, by Holly Geely: A sweet story with strong characterizations of mother and son. Well-written and realistic.

Song of the Muse, by MT Decker: A skillful personification of that elusive and abstract concept, the artistic muse. Shows a love of language and a subtly poetic voice.

Where She Belongs, by Sal Page: A well-structured story with a startling but graceful twist. The narrator has a strong and distinctive voice. Smart plotting shows an expert’s deft hand.

Third Place! Wolf, by AV Laidlaw: Ripe with vivid images and cinematic details, this clever play on Little Red Riding Hood hooked me from the start. Oh, the poor, weary character tropes of fairytales, forced to replay the same conflicts over and over again! I feel for them! The author chose hard-working verbs and wove in description with sprezzatura.

Second Place! A Mother’s Plea, by Nancy Chenier:  A dark and dangerous tale, full of beautiful, evocative images. This story does a great job of showing itself through a small aperture; a vast, tantalizing world exists beyond the parameters written here. I want to know more, but I’m also satisfied with the possibilities presented. A lovely interplay of imagination and language.

AND OUR WEEK ONE WINNER IS:

The Return, by Steph Ellis: A confident, clear voice and solid writing craft rounded out this inspired reframing of a traditional legend with an unexpected twist. The author juggled action, description, dialogue, exposition, and revelation of information adroitly, keeping a perfect balance from start to finish. A work of polish and panache!

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Congratulations Steph, Nancy, and AV! Steph’s winning story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who participated and shared. We will be back this Thursday with Week Two prompts, and we hope you will be, too! Week Two’s judge is Tiffany Aldrich MacBain, maven of English and essays.

 

 

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Seven Winners

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We saved this image for Week Seven because it was so magical, and everyone knows that seven is the most magical number. We also knew Christian’s photo of Barrio Alto in Lisbon would inspire great stories—and we were not disappointed. This week might have been the best yet! It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of submissions over the course of this contest—it seems like you regular submitters began to notice our judging preference for a novelistic style and adjusted your writing accordingly.

This was one of the reasons we wanted to do an anthology contest (we didn’t tell you): we wanted to honor tightly crafted stories that followed a true narrative arc. This means we did not weigh some other elements so highly—though next time around we might be looking for a different secret approach, so keep your toolboxes open and don’t toss away your descriptive poetics too quickly.

We plan to host three competitions next year—Spring, Summer, and Fall—each one with different parameters and outcomes. We’ll keep you posted as our spring contest approaches.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted a story in any week. It has been a pleasure to read the fruits of your imaginations. Keep it up!

First off, we have an exciting announcement:

We decided to include Catherine Connolly’s story from last week, Their Guardian Generals, into our anthology. Catherine did a great revision on this story, and we think you’ll love to read it in its latest incarnation. It will be the fourth story associated with the image Totem in the collection. Welcome, Catherine!

And this week’s anthology winners:

Similitude by David Shakes

This dark story sat with us for a while after reading. Beginning with a splash of vibrant colors, David painted a scene in vivid detail. Against the cracked blues and radiant golds, he gives us a moment of beautiful simplicity: “A last shopper stares hopefully at some overpriced antiquities but her husband has buried his hands in his pockets and is heading back to their hotel.” His last line chills us to the bone.

The Jeweled City by Holly Geely

Holly offered a fresh take on the theme of magic, opting to explore the metaphorical nature of belief and hope rather than the more overt fantasy genre story. The result was a meaningful meditation on the power of one’s choices. Nothing is easy in this story, and the final line beautifully sums up an uneasy truth about magic.

Torrent of Gold by Nancy Chenier

We pretty much knew this story belonged to Nancy Chenier even though we were reading blind. Her distinctive polished style is easy to recognize, and we always know she’s going to give as a good story, complete with plot elements and characters we care about. In this case, she also gives us a fair dose of language as exciting as the colors in the photo. Delicious verbs describe the action–legs wobble, grips gnarl, and golden ichor oozes. Striking images abound: a wild-haired mermaid of a girl swimming in a supernatural sea. The twist at the story’s end startles and horrifies.

Colourful Talents by Catherine Connolly

Catherine surprised us with this fantasy tale evoking Czarist Russia. We felt deeply for her heroine set to work on a magical task that would sap her—the Creatures love a female protagonist brought in to save the world’s colors, not to mention the time-honored fantasy theme that every magic has a cost. We think Catherine should use this idea to create a story of longer length. A novella, perhaps?

This concludes our winter flash fiction session. Join us again in 2015 for more. Thank you to everyone for making the contest so much fun. Stay tuned for details about the release of Five Hundred Words of Magic, the anthology collected from this contest.

–In appreciation, The Creatures.

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Five Winners

What a long busy weekend it has been! What with the Flashdogs and Flashversary excitement, we’re surprised anyone managed to turn in stories. Our prompt photo this week showed one of Emily’s flying trapeze teachers falling to the net after releasing the trapeze bar. Enjoy this video of LCP’s own Emily June flying on a rig (yes, in a tutu) and fortunately NOT falling into the net:

 

And without further ado, our three anthology picks of the week are:

Salty Embrace, by Holly Geely:

Great character development lends humor to Holly Geely’s story—especially in the non-human Blue Moon as a mechanical Jeeves to Stewart’s alcoholic Wooster. Though the story has a clear arc and resolution, Geely gives us a revealing but open end, suggesting that perhaps Blue Moon’s wishes will come true.

Sideways, by A.J. Walker:

In A.J’s fine story, details such as the green and red walking socks, the fluttering jeans, and the yellow mustard stain work as close-ups, bringing us right into Samuel’s confusing world. Walker feeds us only as much information as Samuel has, so we share his disorientation. The clever conclusion gives us a satisfying but still surprising explanation for the story’s mysteries.

 Portents and Eventualities, by Nancy Chenier:

In her richly layered story, Nancy hints at a larger narrative, giving us a glimpse into a well-drawn world. She paints lovely images with delicious language: “apathetic stars,” “the earth shuddered with eventuality,” “eyes wide enough to reflect the moon.” Strong character motivations ground this story and give it meaning and complexity.

Congratulations to all and thanks again to all participants for giving us your stories week after week.

Winter Of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Two Winners

Our prompt picture this week was a film still from a movie called Recurrence, which is currently showing in the Lucerne International Film Fest. Directed by Marc Schicili and Brady Wedman, the movie is an abstracted, modern retelling of an early flash fiction, An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in 1890 and weighing in at less than 4000 words, the Bierce story was flash before flash was popular. Not to mention the story contains the mother of all plot twists.

Side note: wouldn’t many flash fiction stories make great short films?

Our image shows the National Cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, which holds the graves of American veterans and their family members.

It was a tough week for judging. So many of the stories had great concepts. Emily had to get out the rubric again.

Honorable Mention: For Mittens, Holly Geely

Here we have a classic example of strong flash: a clear story arc with a central conflict, a single well-described scene with economy of language, and of course, the creep factor: “Jeff always gave them a last chance.” Add a zombie cat and what’s not to like? Perfectly balancing darkness and humor, Geely staged this story expertly, displaying authorial confidence and panache. This one wins the sprezzatura prize of the week. Read it on our blog tomorrow.

Anthology Winners:

Growing Pains, David Borrowdale: David offered a vivid and memorable interpretation on this week’s prompt—seeing teeth instead of gravestones in this tale of the tooth fairy’s origins. We love a story that drops a reader right into its action and doesn’t give away all its secrets at once. Little details like Alice’s dancing pigtails and the predatory canines paint a clear picture of the setting. Written with a light hand, this story hints instead of shows, leaving room for the imagination to fill in the gaps between teeth.

Nothing Personal, Nancy Chenier: Nancy’s first line brought us fully into the story—enticing our senses with beautiful descriptions of the alchemist’s art. In the way of a true storyteller, she doles out information bit by bit, keeping us hooked until the very end. The complexity of the idea suggests that this could be the seed of a larger work. We expected disturbing stories from the graveyard picture, and this one took the cake for wyrdness. We’re still pondering the ramifications of multiple selves in parallel universes.

Potential Energy, AJ Walker: This story pushed edges in many ways: subject matter, characterizations, imagery. There is an art to developing characters in only five hundred words, and AJ managed that beautifully here, not only with the grave robbers but also with the off-stage characters of the wytches (love the spelling!). Balancing sweet imagery with dark creepiness, the story sticks in the mind. We remain worried about the potential of those Gaimanesque wytches.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mark A. King: What bold choices Mark used: second person, multiple eras, balancing repetition with advancing story-line, painting in broad strokes that nonetheless locate us in time. Mark’s story straddles the line between prose and poetry with startling poise. We especially appreciated the depth of thematic layers in this one—religion, war, god, beliefs. A truly unique take on the prompt.

If you are a new anthology winner, please email: emily at luminouscreaturespress dot com

Thanks to all who participated and gave us such a wealth of stories to read!

 

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Wone Winners!

Happy Sunday! We spent the day deliberating over the brilliant entries we received this week. Christian Miller’s striking photo prompt inspired a lovely variety of stories, all with special touches of magic.

If you are interested in seeing more of Christian’s work you can follow him on instagram, call sign “bookworm7219.” The prompt photograph was taken, as some of you may have guessed, at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Musée building began its life as a railway station; Emily’s story for this picture, which you will see in the anthology, involves the clock in its actual habitat at the Musée.

We are happy to report that we selected three stories for the anthology this week, as well as one honorable mention that will be posted on our blog tomorrow. Anthology winners, please send Emily an email so she has your contact information for publishing logistics:

emily at luminouscreaturespress dot com

 

Honorable Mention: Hands of a Charlatan, by Chris Milam @Blukris

This piece captivates with its lush language, rich imagery, and a compelling opening premise. The voice of the protagonist shines and brings us down to the intimate and bittersweet end.

Anthology Winning Stories, in no particular order:

The Mistress of Neglected Time by Nancy Chenier @rowdy_phantom

We fell in love with this story and it’s endearing protagonist, 8:43. Well-crafted and satisfying like cool butter on warm bread, it pulled out all the stops. Nancy used such dynamic verbs, clear details, and evocative images; we were helplessly pulled under her bittersweet spell. The blending of the ordinary with the magical echoed a desire to find magic in a mundane world. Highlights of the gorgeous imagery: a gibbous moon peering through the clock face, 8:43 getting his toes tangled in a lace tablecloth, and the Mistress wearing a floral housecoat. And the ending’s poignancy will linger with readers long after they finish the story.

The Almanac of Kinks in Reality by Jacki Donnellan @Donnellanjacki

From the title to the last line, we adored this story, and we defy anyone to resist that delicious first line. We were roped in with Jacki’s full bodied characters and fast pacing, enchanted by verisimilitude amidst a magical storyline. This story also exemplifies great flash fiction: it has a clear arc, well-developed characters, a conflict, and a resolution—all in only 500 well-chosen words. True sprezzatura.

The Collector by David Borrowdale @MicroBookends

With undertones of horror, this story snuck inside our heads and took root like that dangerous first rule, leaving us thinking about it long after our multiple readings. Just enough foreshadowing enticed the reader and led to a satisfying conclusion structured with the tightness of fitted gears. The story concept was well-executed, and the clever structure really made the piece. We always love to see a strong villain.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated. We hope to see you again next week!