Water Themed Flash Winners

Water Themed Flash Competition Results

As the slight delay in announcing these winners indicates, it’s been an agonising decision this time. So an extra big well done to everyone who reached the shortlist stage! As always thank you to everyone that entered too and I’d also like to shout-out everyone that has shared comments and well-wishes across social media throughout the year. Now, drumroll…

Winner: The Oxbow Parenthesis by Anne Howkins

Why Amanda chose it: Great voice for this troubled young girl with excellent use of language. Loved how the descriptions of the river in her geography lesson were used to reveal so much more about her life. Excellent take on the theme.

Read it here

 

 

Runner-up: The Fairytale Ending by Jan Kaneen

Why Amanda chose it: This epic flash tale covers such a huge span of time to tell a personal story of a family and also of the climate change issue the world is facing. Really clever writing.

Read it here

 

 

Runner-up: Climate Change by Epiphany Ferrell

Why Amanda chose it: Fantastic voice and a real sense of mystery set up around the narrator and what she’s up to right from the offset. Lovely imagery and like how the title misleads you so the real meaning of the story is slowly uncovered.

Read it here

 

 

Highly commended: The Absolution by Jude Hayland and The Last Piece of the Puzzle by Stephanie Percival

Both serious contenders and it was a tough decision to make.

 

 

The final themed comp deadline for the year (EARTH) is nearly here, 29th December 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here. If you’re regularly entering our Flash Fiction comps and interested in other flashy things, check out our new Flash Fiction Memberships, tailored to suit the flashing enthusiast.

 

Sept 2019 Micro Fiction Results

Sept 2019 Micro Fiction Results

We’ve had another great response to the latest stories and received just under 200 votes this month. The two winning stories were so close and swapped positions in the top spots repeatedly and were neck and neck a lot of the time. In the end, the first place story won by just 2 votes. So huge congratulations to both our winning authors and to all who were shortlisted.

 

Winner: Falling In. Falling Out by Dettra Rose

Read it here

 

Runner-Up: A Sweet Mistake by Denise Telford

Read it here

 

***

The next Monthly Micro comp opens on 7th October and from now on the prompts are coming from authors published with Retreat West Books. The October prompt will be from Sophie Jonas-Hill whose brilliant novel, Unprotected, is coming out with us in November 2019. We’ll be revealing the cover very soon!

For slightly longer flashes up to 500 words, the WATER-themed flash fiction competition closes on 29th September and there’s up to £400 in cash prizes available. Plus the annual RW Flash Fiction Prize closes in October and there’s cash prizes for all 10 shortlisted authors, with publication in the paperback and ebook anthology.

We look forward to reading your stories soon!

The Perfect Word by Bev Morris

The Perfect Word

Bev Morris

 

It was the day of the perfect word: psithurism.

Go on, say it out loud. Hmm, doesn’t that sound glorious? And how does it feel in your mouth? Soft, slight and almost not there? Such a pleasure to say, don’t you think?

I can’t take all the credit. The autumnal weather and strange light of the ebbing season made me more restless than usual. You know, the kind of day where even your skin doesn’t quite fit. I headed out to Taf Fechan Forest, taking the rain as a sign of the cleansing to come. Crunching through the yellowing leaf debris on the sodden ground, I listened as the trees lifted their voices to sing to me, their sighing whispers bringing ghosts of seasons past to caress my cheek. Their language ancient and urgent, telling me a secret. Telling me the final word to offer up to her.

Taking out my phone I photographed my hand against the bark of a grey willow tree and sent the image to her together with the word. Like every day since we’d met, she was waiting for my message. Don’t you love it when you know someone is that hungry for you? The message was read instantly, the acknowledgement simple: ‘Yes’. I had found a word that sated her desire and I would be rewarded.

The first file arrived and was a stark silver-tone photograph. I could see our poem etched on her skin, starting at her belly button and curving outwards:

Words weave webs of bewitching wonder
teasing, tempting, tattooing our tongues.
Broken back Brecons beckoning beneath our
silky sibilance: singing strange songs…

The alliteration had been our initial conceit, the thing that had drawn us together in the chat room. Intelligence is sexy, don’t you think? Engage the mind and the genitals will follow. The poem spooled out: word by word, line by line, stanza by stanza, blooming like a dog rose in untended hedgerow. I swallowed hard at the anticipation of seeing the final word in the promised place and pressed my back against the tree, letting the rain drip from its branches onto my face, while I waited.

Then the film downloaded and I shuddered at the beauty of what we’d created.

Each ripple of our passion played out on her flesh for our world premiere. We didn’t need a red carpet, did we? The audience was all around us. I read the poem on the breeze rustling through the faltering canopy: every syllable and comma lifting off her body as she turned and swayed in front of the camera. Her face, her name, still a mystery to me but her soul was mine and the poem was the prison we had crafted for her. As the last word edged through my lips and she reached her hand towards the lens, I knew I had lost everything to the whisper of the wind.

 

***

About the author: Bev’s short stories have been published in literary anthologies and women’s magazines and she was a finalist in the Write Here Write Now 2019 playwriting competition. Her poetry has appeared in the last three Beautiful Dragons Collaborations and was part of a community project on buses in Harlow. A short collection of her poetry is due to be published Rugged Rocks Running Rascals in October exploring a relationship with a soldier. Alongside creative fiction, Bev supervises academic writers and has written for academic journals and conferences (SCUTREA, BERA, The Skills Journal). Bev also coaches other creative writers to ‘get that darned thing written’ and to experiment with multi-media approaches. She is currently ghost writing a special forces autobiography, editing the second draft of her feminist dystopian novel and trying to invent time travel as there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Twitter: @MarvellousMinds
FaceBook: Marvellous Minds Ltd

If you’ve enjoyed Nicola’s story, please leave a comment below letting her know!

Zephyr Zefferelli by Nicola Ashbrook

Zephyr Zefferelli

Nicola Ashbrook

 

I have always felt ridiculous. Always that fraction too tall so I loomed over boys. Always doughier of stomach and thigh, as if Mama hadn’t only fed me pasta for every meal but suffused it, glutinous and swollen, to my skin. My too big hair – its own unruly entity writhing from my scalp; my buck teeth locked in battle with impossible to conceal braces; my too many to count freckles, spilt clumsily across my cheeks.

Too everything. Too visible, for sure.

Genes are one thing, but a name? She could have called me anything – Sophie or Anna or Jane. Any name would have been better. You can’t blend in when you’re called Zephyr Zefferelli. You can only be ridiculous.

*

I almost didn’t ask before it was too late.

Her baby bird breaths wounding my heart; the mustard tinge of her skin nauseating. It was a diminishing I couldn’t, wouldn’t, accept. I was compelled to stop it, whilst wishing it never to stop. I knew this time was precious – I should conserve it, eek it out, explore every corner of every nanosecond. I mustn’t waste those laboured gulps of oxygen.

“Why did you call me Zephyr?” I blurted, immediately regretting it. There were so many other things I could have asked.

*

It was burn your feet hot, like the whole of that June. Kneading the pasta sent beads of mercury-like sweat down the funnel of your spine, the tomatoes shrivelled and water grew scarce. It was oppressive, as though the temperature had stolen the air. Desperate for the feel of a breeze to soothe my skin, I went at night to the olive groves, up the only hill, seeking relief.

This night, I wasn’t alone. He was dark; exotic.

“What are you doing up here?” he asked.

“Hoping for a little wind,” I said.

“Me too,” he replied, “but, in my country, we call it a zephyr.”

The way his tongue curled around the word, rolling the ‘r’, elongating it, playing with it; his teeth grazing his plentiful lips; the gentle caress of the breeze we both desired; the moonlight; his eyes, penetrating mine.

Your Papa.

*

I’m glad I asked.

Why should I blend in? I’m Zephyr Zefferelli, exotic goddess, carved of Italian soil, smouldering desire and a gentle breeze.

 

***

About the author: Nicola is a new writer of flash fiction, with pieces at Reflex Fiction and Clover & White. She is seeking representation for her first novel. She tweets @NicolaAWrites and blogs about trying to find her way in the writing world at www.nicolalostinnarration.weebly.com/blog

If you’ve enjoyed Nicola’s story, please leave a comment below letting her know!

Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks by Sharon Boyle

Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks

Sharon Boyle

 

The bank sits a half mile out, as if it doesn’t want anything to do with the rock-bottom town it serves. Emmylou is the only customer.

‘I am robbing this bank,’ she says. She is pointing a gun to prove it.

The bank teller sheeshes. ‘First railroads, now women raiders.’

‘I am progress, old timer. Quit yammering, get filling.’ She throws him a bag.

‘The swing of a rope don’t scare ya, miss?’

‘Hunger scares me.’

The teller grins, showing baccy-blackened teeth. ‘You know you’re goin’ to hell?’

Memories flash: her ma working till sick; brothers and sisters dead; the small hands she held as the owners started their celestial journeys. The teller is right, she is going the other way.

She nods to the window. ‘Is that town of goddamn dullness as desperate as it looks?’

The teller cackles. ‘Sure is.’

It’s true. The minster on the other side of town is praying that progress will come – he doesn’t use words like goddamn though. He wipes his neck, the air warm like the breath of a grizzly bear, and studies the funeral party before him, wondering again how he ended up among these woeful folks.

A sudden wind shakes the church.

Emmylou and the teller glance up at the bank’s rafters shaken by that very same gust, before Emmylou grabs the half-filled bag and bolts. The teller waits till she crosses the threshold and lifts his gun from under the counter. The bullet gets her in the leg.

Emmylou’s mouth spits curses. She hears the teller rip-skitter toward her and twists round, pistol up. One shot zips out. She doesn’t know who is hit till she crumples to the ground. Her other leg. Groaning, she drops the bag. It splits open like a crooked grin.

‘I ain’t going to hell yet,’ she wheezes.

‘Good,’ cackles the teller, ‘cos, I can’t get frisky with a dead woman, can I?’

He pauses to ponder the notion that perhaps he can – a dearth of affection makes a man hee-haw crazy. Pondering over, he steps toward Emmylou just as the wind whorls up dollar notes in front of his face. A playful wind. He intends to be playful too.

He undoes his britches, then stops. Indignation dents his face. A crimson circle spreads on his chest. Smoke wisps from Emmylou’s gun. His lips part.
‘Goddamn.’

The congregation leaves church: hearts heavy, stomachs light.

A flit. A flap. A burring of wings.

Folks look up, wide-eyed, at the flock of green-tinged angels swooping above.

The minister knows they have flown from the bank and if he hadn’t been taught not to question he would wonder how. Instead, he blesses the soul responsible. A saint, surely.

Two souls, a half mile out, are caught on the wind. One is sucked down, way down. The other is buffeted upwards, as if tugged along by small hands.

 

***

About the author: Sharon has had short stories and flash pieces published on-line and in magazines, including Writers’ Forum, The Moth and Sentinel Literary, and won first prizes in the HISSAC short story award and the Exeter’s Writers comps.

If you’ve enjoyed Sharon’s story, please leave a comment below letting her know!

Wind Themed Flash Winners

Wind Themed Flash Competition Results

Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry in our latest themed comp! We had a great selection of stories to choose from, so well done if you made it to the shortlist stage and congratulations to our winners.

Winner: Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks by Sharon Boyle

Why Amanda chose it: This feels epic for a flash. The poor hungry town and the people within it were so vividly portrayed that I was completely swept away by Emmy-Lou’s tale and loved the ambiguity of the ending. But I know who I think was going up rather than down.

Read it here

 

 

Runner-up: Zephyr Zefferelli by Nicola Ashbrook

Why Amanda chose it: Fantastic imagery and use of language and a huge life and world in so few words. Switching POV in a flash doesn’t often work but in this case, it really does. Love the last paragraph and the narrator’s realisation that she can be whatever she wants.

Read it here

 

 

Runner-up: The Perfect Word by Bev Morris

Why Amanda chose it: Sensuality and lust oozes from every carefully chosen word here. I loved how it wasn’t initially clear what kind of story this would turn out to be and I had no idea what was going to happen.

Read it here

 

 

The deadline for the next theme comp (WATER) is nearly here, 29th September 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here. If you’re regularly entering our Flash Fiction comps and interested in other flashy things, check out our new Flash Fiction Memberships, tailored to suit the flashing enthusiast.