Hello everyone! I’m so pleased that Emily and Beth asked me to judge the contest again this summer. As a proud member of the flash-fiction community, I am always happy to lend my support to this wonderful craft. As most #flashdogs know, writing micro-fiction is no joke. We’ve got a tiny space to say a lot of big things. And those of us who have been doing it for a while know that there is a certain power in that. Who among us hasn’t found our longer works improving tenfold due to the mad editing skills needed for flash?
Anyway, this summer has been a whole lot of heavy-duty novel revisions for me, so I haven’t been able to be as active a member of the flash community as in years past, but I’ve been with you in spirit. And that’s why judging week seven of Luminous Creatures Press Summer of Super Short Stories has been such a treat. I loved reading everyone’s varied and unique takes on the prompt. I appreciated the use of symbolism, imagery, irony, quirky dialogue and mythological allusions. I read some lines that made me, well, pretty damn jealous of many of you.
Good work, everyone! Just a reminder that all stories were judged by blind reading to preserve the purity of the contest. First, a word or two about each story:
The Blue Bird by F E Clark:
A small ceramic blue bird becomes a symbol for a woman enveloped in an abusive relationship. I grieved for her short-lived lightheartedness and the shattered bird that became part of her temporary celebration. But I also took small comfort in the bird’s final message to his bereaved owner. We can only hope she takes heed.
A God’s Justice by Steph Ellis:
“Why do you tell me my own story?”
“Because you do not yet know its end.”
I knew as soon as I read those two lines between the Raven and Sibyl in “A God’s Justice” that Sibyl was going to get it, and big time. And boy, did the Raven deliver. A tale of hubris and swift eye-gouging, heart-ripping justice for crimes committed against gods. Even if the perpetrator herself had the blood of the gods running through her veins.
Harpies by A V Laidlaw:
Love the imagery in this woeful tale of one man’s nightly hell. The protagonist must pay for his sins through attacks to his flesh by harpies who (shudder) wear the faces of the wife and daughters he neglected in favor of adultery and drugs. And like all nods to Greek mythology, he’d surely like to die, but nope, death doesn’t come for him, just those vicious reminders of his transgressions.
To Everything Its Season by M T Decker:
“Someone has to drive.” Indeed. And even Death needs a driver. In this take on the afterlife, Ember, the protagonist must wipe away her tears and try to avoid sentimentality as she drives Death from place to place.
The Half-Life of Bats and Cats by Mark A. King:
The turmoil of a post-apocalyptic society sets the backdrop for the shattered relationship between a predatory mother and the daughter she tormented. As we near the mother’s demise, we wonder what will now become of the protagonist who admits, even as she says goodbye to the woman who once stalked her like a cat, “I will be lonely without her.”
The First Kiss Between Death and Everything by Mark A. King:
A very clever take on the prompt indeed! An office romance is born at a drunken costume party. The grim reaper makes a move on a girl who quite confidently tells him her costume represents “everything.” (Dibs on that costume for next Halloween by the way) And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least until they sober up and put on their street clothes.
Little Bird Fly by Pattyann McCarthy:
My heart grieves for the mother who watches her daughter embracing life, even as her daughter’s young life is slipping away. The beauty of a sunny day of kite flying and the joy she feels watching her daughter laugh and run with her older brother provide a perfect ironic backdrop for the terrible truth this mom must hold inside. It’s a tale that teaches that valuable lesson: cherish every day.
Flighty by Sonya:
This short tale runs the gamut from the height of happiness to a final goodbye. The protagonist seems to be haunted by a woman (a former love, I imagine) who sits, almost translucent in a coffee shop. Her last words are cut short, as is the protagonist’s happiness.
The City Under The Clouds by Ophelia Leong:
Adam, the protagonist of “The City Under the Clouds” takes an arduous journey to Below, the city he wondered about since his childhood. It isn’t until he reaches manhood that he finds – described with stunning imagery – Below. There, in the graveyard of the city, he learns the truth: Below is no more, just a once great empire turned to ruin.
Raven Girl by Catherine Connolly:
The image of a raven-haired teenaged girl swallowing birds from the sky won’t soon leave me, nor will the line, “We are what we must be, in the end.” Some strong description here, and a tale that won’t end well for Bran or the birds she’s devoured.
Beneath the Not Quite Dead Tree by A J Walker:
“Sometimes deaths are needed to save a life,” Elizabeth says to her sister Alison before giving her a first lesson in life and death. This story covers the thought-provoking theme of the balance of life; one life ends and another is saved. In this case, Elizabeth uses magic to revive a dead bird, thus preserving the balance.
Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold by Nancy Chenier:
A migrating bird confronts the “foundling from the sea” who has magically stopped summer from exiting. Why the aversion to autumn? She’s trying to preserve the life of a woman she holds dear. Another story that made me think about the balance of life and death. Save one life, but hold the seasons captive? A provocative concept.
A Phoenix Denied Its Fire by Foy S. Iver:
At first I thought this story was going to be magical in nature. I visualized a prince or princess, frozen as a statue hoping for someone to break the spell. But then I realized the protagonist is a patient in a coma or perhaps someone suffering from a disease like locked-in syndrome. It touched me, this very powerful take on mercy killing from the point of view of the patient.
Memory Wife by Voima Oy:
“The chair in the living room was filled with her absence.” A powerful line from “Memory Wife,” a tale of loss filled with such vivid imagery – the sights and sounds of the missing other half – I felt true sorrow for the widower protagonist. Nicely done.
Without further ado, I present the week seven (drum roll, flourish of trumpets, marching band playing “Firework”…) the winner and runners up!
Third Place: The Blue Bird F E Clark:
I’m a sucker for a good symbol. It would’ve been nice if our protagonist threw the bird at her abusive partner’s head, but alas, no. But I didn’t see the tale as hopeless, because though she lost her brilliant blue ceramic bird, she gained something. In that tiny piece of paper, like the words inside a fortune cookie, she could see the possibility of freedom. Great imagery here to create the shifting mood of the story. Well done!
Second Place: Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold by Nancy Chenier:
Again, a story that made me think ‘deep thoughts’. In my mind, this story transcended its basic premise of a girl-creature who used magic to preserve the life of her ‘grandmother,’ while single-handedly stopping the seasons from changing. For me it became about the bigger picture: the balance of nature, of life and death. The idea of playing god (or goddess), yet disturbing the balance with possible dire consequences.
AND OUR WEEK SEVEN WINNER IS:
A Phoenix Denied Its Fire by Foy S. Iver:
I chose this story for two reasons: First, I loved the premise. I personally like a story that makes me think about the big life questions. I couldn’t get the image of this person, imprisoned inside his/her own body, out of my mind. The second reason was the writing was expertly crafted. Lines like “I’m a husk yearning to be thrown to compost,” or the title line “a phoenix denied its fire,” formed amazing metaphors for the protagonist’s desire to be freed.
Congratulations FE, Nancy, and Foy! Foy’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Kristen for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Eight, judged by yours truly, Beth Deitchman!