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oloughlinCongratulations to Jim O’Loughlin for his story “Choices Made.” 

 He placed third in The Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 Contest held in August.  The challenge was to write a piece of short fiction, 250 words or less, using at least four of the following prompt words: 

 STRING OF TEN: BLOW BACK-STORM-JAUNDICE-STEAM-TATTOO-SENSE OF FUN-CANTALOUPE-STREAKED-UMBER-DRIPPING SWEAT

 QUOTATION: And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total? –Tillie Olsen * 

 

CHOICES MADE
by Jim O’Loughlin

Later, he would be able to consider all that he had left behind and never saw again: the wedding album, the birth certificates, the kids’ favorite toys, even the laptop.  In the moment though, with the storm surging and blow back peeling off the roof like masking tape, he only had time to grab what he could on the way out.  

Still, even as he ran to the car, dripping sweat and bleeding from the gash in his forehead, with the river already up to the wheel wells, he realized that the choices he had just made said something about who he was.  In his arms, he held a phone book, the cantaloupe that had just turned ripe, and a gallon of milk. And he had made sure to lock the front door.

 

Jim O’Loughlin’s flash fiction has appeared in Quick Fiction, The Pedestal Magazine, and North American Review.  He is the publisher of Final Thursday Press  at http://www.finalthursdaypress.com.

 

Second Place will be published here at Flash Fiction Chronicles on Friday, October 23, 2009 and First Place will be published at Every Day Fiction on Sunday, October 25, 2009.

 

 *The quotation was also part of the prompt, but there was no requirement to use it in the story.

Sharon E TrotterSharon E. Trotter (pictured) won First Place in our 1st String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, The Haircut, to be published in Every Day Fiction in the month of October.
And congrats also to all of the winners, including Second Place Winner, Mary J. Daley for The Forever Summer, and Jim O’Loughlin for Choices Made.  These two stories will be published here at Flash Fiction Chronicles also in October. The complete list of finalists can be found at the end of the post. 

 This is the first time Flash Fiction Chronicles has sponsored a flash fiction contest, and for being a first-time thing,  it went fairly smoothly.  We had 49 entries from about 42 different authors.  So cool to have such variety and participation first time out.

What I did to make certain I came fresh to reading the entries was to set up a system so that I would not know who the authors.  I did this by assigning each submission with an entry number and then, copying and pasting each story without author names into a Word document .  I then set the stories aside and didn’t read any of them for a week.

Once I started, I read every piece twice.  First making comments about what worked for me and what struck me either as unclear or awkward or trite, etc.  Then I read the stories again to select my favorite 23 and a third time to narrow it down to 10.  I decided there really were 11 that I wanted to have on the short list. 

At this point I asked for help judging to winners.  They were Camille Gooderham Campbell,Managing Editor of Every Day Fiction; Sarah Hilary, distinguished short story writer and frequent EDF contributor; KC Ball, Editor of 10Flash and slush reader for EDF, and distinguished short story writer, Robert Swartwood, editor of  W.W. Norton’s Hint Fiction Anthology, distinguished short story writer, and EDF contributer; Hillary Degani, slush reader for EDF, and myself, editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles. Thank you, judges for all your time and effort.

The judges received the anonymous entries and a work sheet on which they ranked each story from 1 to 11.  From these rankings, I was able to determine each story’s RANK, the lowest score resulting in the highest ranking, The Haircut, The Forever Summer, and Choices receiving the three lowest scores and therefore the rank of 1st, 2nd, 3rd.  (I’ve been told Future Writers of America and Football rankings are similarly determined).

It was interesting to see how all the writers incorporated the prompt words into their stories.  They had to use at least four of the prompt words in their stories.  Many people were able to use the words so skillfully that it was not evident which prompts were used.  Kudos to you.  I also gave them a quotation.  This was to serve as more inspiration than anything else, but several were able to imply in their subs something related to the quotation.  Here is the String-of-10 Flash Fiction Prompt.

STRING OF TEN: BLOW BACK-STORM-JAUNDICE-STEAM-TATTOO-SENSE OF FUN-CANTALOUPE-STREAKED-UMBER-DRIPPING SWEAT

QUOTATION: And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total?Tillie Olsen  

Actually KUDOS to all of you who entered.  There were some fabulous openings that drew me right in, voices that felt unique, and many characters that I enjoyed meeting.  I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with next time.

Here are some of the comments offered by the judges on Sharon’s submission.

From Camille Gooderham-Campbell, Managing Editor of Every Day Fiction & Writer. Website: Copy. Edit. Proof.

Nice sparse prose and a pair of excellently drawn characters. The prompts were well blended in, and the last paragraph wrapped the piece up perfectly. Terminal illness makes a fairly direct interpretation of the prompt quote, but the tattoos and the subtle delivery take it to the next level for me.

From Sarah Hilary, Award-winning Writer. Website: Crawl Space.

I felt as if I’d known these ladies all my life, just excellently done. The obligatory words (umber etc) didn’t yell out at me at all here, the only story where they didn’t, but mostly it was the character dynamic that grabbed me from the first sentence and held me to the last. Head and shoulders above the others, for my money.

From Gay Degani, Editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles and Writer. Website: Words in Place.

Smooth, excellent writing with a good opening and strong voice.  The last paragraph is excellent. There is growth shown in the narrator.  My favorite.  Definitely.  Thoroughly professional.

 

THE WINNERS

1st Place The Haircut Sharon E. Trotter
2nd Place The Forever Summer Mary J. Daley
3rd Place Choices Made Jim O’Loughlin

 

 HONORABLE MENTION

4th Place Tithing JA Mathews
5th Place Mission Accomplished KJ Smith
6 Place Cantaloupe’s Crisis Oonah Joslin

 

 THE FINALISTS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

Escape   TL Schofield
Arrival TL Schofield
Moments BC Bass
The Delivery Room Kathleen Ryan
Hunter Peta Anderson