String-of-10


by Jim Harrington

string-of-10-logo7Congratulations to Jack Cooper, whose story, “Options,” was selected by Guest Judge Meg Tuite as the First Place Winner in Flash Fiction Chronicles’ String-of-10 SEVEN Flash Fiction Contest.

Below is the complete list of winners and finalists.

Winners

1st Place: “Options” by Jack Cooper
2nd Place: “The Handkerchief Tree” by Martin Chandler
3rd Place: “Roots” by Suzan Palumbo
Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize: “The Handkerchief” by Denise Beck-Clark

Honorable Mention

“Astronomy of the Heart” by Ozzie Nogg

Other Finalists (in alphabetical order by title)

“Exiled From Existence” by Joan Koster
“Here the Magic Must Be” by Dr. Suzanne Conboy-Hill
“No Time for Grief” by David Beavers
“Paradigm Shift” in C by Stewart Baker
“Passing Through” by Jayne Martin
“Ricky” by Lisa Finch
“Success Story of a Fish Out of Water” by Donna Sunblad
“The Handkerchief Harvest” by Daniel Ausema
“The Taste of Love” by Sarah LoCascio

***The first place story will appear at Every Day Fiction in early April, accompanied by an author interview at Flash Fiction Chronicles on the same day. The other winning stories will appear at Flash Fiction Chronicles in subsequent weeks, along with author interviews. Winning authors will be contacted by members of the FFC staff shortly to distribute the prizes and begin the interview process.

Thanks to all our participants for sharing your stories with us. With over 130 submissions, choosing four winners was a challenge.

 

string-of-10-logo7

The String-of-10 contest runs from February 8, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST to February 15, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. The winning entry will be the best 250 (or fewer)-word story written from a randomly selected string of ten words.

NOTE: Stories are read blind. Do not include your name with the story.

GUEST JUDGE

I am pleased to announce that this year’s Guest Judge will be Meg Tuite. Meg’s writing has appeared in over 300 journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, Epiphany, Superstition Review, JMWW, One, the Journal, Prick of the Spindle, Monkeybicycle and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize and has been a finalist in the Glimmer Train short story writer’s contest twice.

GUIDELINES (Please read carefully)

The contest is open for eight days only. Anyone may enter. All entries must be in English and submitted through our Submission Manager. Our regular daily prompts will be suspended during the length of the contest.

FURTHER DETAILS

  • The prompt for String-of-10 SEVEN will be available at 12:01 A.M. on Sunday, February 8, 2015, here at FFC.
  • There is no entry fee.
  • Submit stories up to 250 words. The title is not counted in the 250 words.
  • Submit only one story per author.
  • All stories must contain a minimum of four words from the String-of-10.
  • You can use any tense of the words and any recognizable form. For example, if the word is “jar,” “jarring” and “jar-like” qualify, while “jargon” does not.
  • You can use a prompt word in the title.
  • Seamless integration of any four of the prompt words is the goal.
  • The quotation is given for thematic inspiration but is not required to be part of the story.
  • As we have done for the past three contests, we will give out a special prize, The Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize, for the story that best incorporates the theme. Any submitted story is eligible for this prize, including the first, second, and third place winners.
  • Entries must be received by 11:59 P.M. PST Sunday, February 15, 2015.
  • All decisions made by the FFC staff and our guest judge are final.

CONTEST SCHEDULE

2/08 Contest begins
2/15 Last day for submissions
3/15 Winners announced
4/02 Interview with Meg Tuite posted at FFC
4/07 Winning story posted at EDF / Author interview posted at FFC
4/09 Second place story and interview published at FFC
4/14 Third place story and interview published at FFC
4/16 Patricia McFarland winning story and interview published at FFC

(With the exception of the submission dates, the schedule may change without notice.)

STRING-OF-10 SEVEN FLASH FICTION CONTEST PRIZES

1st Place: Winner will have his or her story published at Every Day Fiction and be paid the standard payment of $3.00. In addition, the winner will receive a $50 Cash Prize from Flash Fiction Chronicles, a choice from Every Day Publishing’s Book List, a copy of a book written by Guest Judge Meg Tuite, and a copy of What Came Before by Gay Degani, Managing Editor Emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles.

2nd Place: Winner will have his or her story published at Flash Fiction Chronicles in April. (There is no payment for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles). A $20.00 cash prize will be awarded as well as a copy of a book written by Guest Judge Meg Tuite and What Came Before by Gay Degani.

3rd Place: Winner will have his or her story published at Flash Fiction Chronicles in April. (There is no payment for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles.) A $20.00 cash prize will be awarded as well as a copy of What Came Before by Gay Degani.

The Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize: Winner will have his or her story published at Flash Fiction Chronicles in April (there is no payment for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles) and will receive a cash prize of $25.00

STRING-OF-10 SEVEN PROMPT

SCRAGGLY-PECAN-ROUTE-SUCCINCT-ACCUMULATE-HANDLE-BIAS-EXIST-COAST-HANDKERCHIEF

We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.
Galileo Galilei

SUBMIT YOUR STRING-OF-10 SEVEN ENTRY HERE.

We wish you all good writing and good luck.

Jim Harrington
Managing Editor
Flash Fiction Chronicles
jpharrin@gmail.com

by Jim Harrington

string-of-10-logo7

FFC’s annual String-of-10 Contest begins Sunday, February 8, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends on Sunday, February 15, at 11:59 P.M. PST. The winning entry will be the best 250 (or fewer)-word story written from a randomly selected string of ten words.

GUEST JUDGE

Meg-Tuite_bio-photo_april-2012

I am pleased to announce that this year’s Guest Judge will be Meg Tuite. Meg’s writing has appeared in over 300 journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, Epiphany, Superstition Review, JMWW, One, the Journal, Prick of the Spindle, Monkeybicycle and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize and has been a finalist in the Glimmer Train short story writer’s contest twice.

She is fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press, author of Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, Disparate Pathos (2012) Monkey Puzzle Press, Reverberations (2012) Deadly Chaps Press, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books, Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry Award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging, (2014), written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College, lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of animals. [from Meg’s website – http://megtuite.com/]

GUIDELINES

The contest is open for eight days only. Anyone may enter. All entries must be in English and submitted through our submission manager. Our regular daily prompts will be suspended during the length of the contest. The complete guidelines will be published with the prompt on February 8.

CONTEST SCHEDULE

2/08 – Contest begins
2/15 – Last day for submissions
3/15 – Winners announced
4/02 – Interview with Meg Tuite posted at FFC
4/07 – Winning story posted at EDF / Author interview posted at FFC
4/09 – Second place story and interview published at FFC
4/14 – Third place story and interview published at FFC
4/16 – Patricia McFarland Award winning story and interview published at FFC

(With the exception of the submission dates, the schedule may change without notice.)

STRING-OF-10 SEVEN FLASH FICTION CONTEST PRIZES

Multiple prizes will be awarded for each place, including free books, publication and $50 for first place, free books, publication and $20 for second place, publication and $20 for third place, and publication and $25 for the Patricia McFarland Prize winner. The complete list of prizes will be included with the official announcement.

Below are the winning stories from the last two contests to give you an idea of what we like.

Winning stories from String-of-10 SIX

1st Place—Snowman Suicide by Caroline Hall
2nd Place—Private Lessons by John Towler
3rd Place—Foreigner by Alexi Lerner
Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize—The Maybe Baby by Alison McBain

Winning stories from String-of-10 FIVE

1st Place—After the Tsunami by Linda Simoni-Wastila
2nd Place—A Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim by Robert Vaughan
3rd Place—Before the Fireworks by Folly Blaine
Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize—Jump by Stephen Ramey

 

by Susan Tepperif

Alison McBain lives in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters. She has short stories forthcoming or published in SpeckLit, On the Premises, and the anthology Fundamentally Challenged. You can find out more about work and read her blog at alisonmcbain.com.

The Maybe Baby
by Alison McBain

The fetus is abnormal, they told Katie. No blame on you, the doctors reassured her. Faulty wiring, some problem with connection.

She sat there, blank, as they rambled on with praise for her one healthy child. Not safe at her age to conceive, of course. With eyes dripping sympathy, the words they did not say out loud: her problem, not theirs. Ultimately, when she didn’t respond, they used the “A” word.

“No,” she told them. “Thank you,” belatedly.

Tom wouldn’t be bothered, she thought as she drove home. Sad voice, but transparent with a lack of catastrophe. What was one person’s end-of-the world meant nothing to another. “Bills to pay,” he’d tell her. “Mistakes are expensive.”

Feelings marked out in cash. Just like the doctor: nothing wrong with him. It was her complication, her fault.

She pulled into the driveway through a litter of unraked leaves, the tires crunching them like small bones. The babysitter was waiting for her. The girl popped gum and checked her black fingernails as Katie counted out bills. “Thanks, Mrs. J,” she said.

Katie’s daughter sat on the floor, playing quietly with puzzle pieces as the teenager left. None of the puzzles were complete anymore–they were all missing something vital.

She sat on the couch and looked outside the window at the grey clouds rushing towards culmination. Sometimes, she wished for thunder and lighting, not just the peace of rain. A simple lapse. Maybe the storm tonight would wash the air clean again.

***

Susan Tepper:  Your story ‘The Maybe Baby’ asks more questions than it answers, which is a sign of compelling fiction. Do you think the husband will at some point come to understand his wife’s feelings?

Alison McBane: Through no fault of his own, I believe it would be hard for the husband to empathize with his wife’s feelings. Understanding has become a casualty of their long relationship, of lives lived side by side for so many years without much overlap.  If a tragedy overwhelmed her husband, would she be able to support him how he needed?  I think the answer might be the same.

ST:  Do you picture the husband capable of loving the baby, assuming it does arrive into this world?

A.M.B.:  If the baby survived, I think there would be love on Tom’s part.  In the story, there is no indication that his wife thinks he is a bad father, just that his problem – and his wife’s – might be in expressing love in a healthy way towards each other.  They can’t empathize with each other, and part of the fault seems to be communication.  Katie imagines how a conversation with Tom might play out, but she doesn’t actually have the conversation.  It stays internal, and thus remains wholly in her control.

ST: In this story you’ve created an immediate dramatic conflict, and also, in such a short writing space, you’ve created a strong sense of place. I feel her ‘aloneness’ as a physical space within and surrounding her. For me, it becomes the essential ‘place’ in the story. Do you think the husband has this alone space, too, or does he fill it up with ‘male things’ to escape what is pending?

A.M.B.: They approach the same situation from opposite perspectives, so while the husband is aware of a lack in their relationship, he probably wouldn’t see it as coming from within.  Whereas Katie has created a complete internal landscape, her husband occupies a more practical world, where a problem is only a problem because one hasn’t looked hard enough for a solution.  Problems to him aren’t internal, but external, and so can be solved with external things.

S.T.: Thank you, Alison, for your clear and frank answers about your story plot.  It’s a subject that carries a lot of heat both politically and morally. And probably will continue to do so for some time to come.

____________

 Susan-Tepper200wSusan Tepper has authored 5 published books. The latest is a novel in stories called The Merrill Diaries, from Pure Slush Books (http://pureslush.webs.com/store.htm#916515853). She is a named finalist in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2013, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction (2010), and nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the interview series UNCOV/rd.  www.susantepper.com

by Susan Tepper

Lexi Lerner

Alexis Hope Lerner is a violinist, composer, and biology nerd from New Jersey. A student at the Manhattan School of Music, she has been a prizewinner in multiple national and international competitions. When Lexi is not practicing or composing, she can be found in her high school’s Environmental Science Center (where she hangs out with the turtles) or watching movies with her cat Marie Antoinette. Lexi dreams of becoming a virologist, a film composer, an explorer, or some wonderful combination of all three. Next year, she will be attending Brown University as part of the 8-year Program for Liberal Medical Education.

Foreigner
by Alexis Lerner

Twenty feet from the left entrance of the Port Authority was where the man called home.

Around him was a semicircular buffer zone enclosed in broken bottles, shielding him from Manhattan’s noisy sea of taxis and commuters.

In his coat pocket: a blunt razor, half a comb and 87¢. No cardboard sign. He didn’t want pity.

He was more a grizzly bear than a man. A mother of four walked by–a swan with trailing cygnets. She huddled them into her arms’ nest. -Don’t get too close, children, or he might bite.

Through cataract-riddled eyes, the man saw the smallest break from the group and skip towards him through the snow. A six-year-old princess with Mary Janes and a mink hat. She accidentally kicked over a bottle.

“Excusez-moi. Voulez-vous un ami?”

Is she talking to me?- He grimaced, sinking deeper into himself. Only his bulbous nose and coarse beard showed between his hat and scarf.

She smelled like sugar cookies. Warmth. Safety. Protected by youth, innocence and socioeconomic status.

He hated her.

He heard a zipper; then the mother’s boots quickly clacking against the sidewalk. She snatched her daughter’s hand, hissing in a foreign tongue as they retreated.

The man lifted his gaze. In the child’s open knapsack was a teddy bear just as grizzly as he was–beady eyes yearning, disappointed.

He sighed and looked up past the Port Authority overhang, past the Times Square skyscrapers, and into the endless grey space, hoping to see some ultimate good there.

 ***

Susan Tepper: Your story takes place outside of a somewhat controversial NYC landmark. How do you feel when you enter it, or walk by it?

Alexis Hope Lerner: On Wednesdays, I intern at a recording studio in the city; to get there, I take a bus in from New Jersey to the Port Authority. Usually I have my headphones on and am planning out the long work day ahead as I go down all of the escalators and pass the various shops and cafes on the first floor: Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, Hudson News, etc. The Port Authority entrance is almost completely glass, and what I see – every week, without fail – rocks me from my complacent state. People with untrimmed beards and dirty faces, wrapped up in wooly, musty blankets, create little islands for themselves on the thick sidewalk in front of the building. To me, it is astounding how many commuters – including myself – look past them as if they were part of the urban landscape itself. It is unfortunately too common a sight in the city – especially at the Port Authority – to see the homeless in public places in broad daylight. We become numb to what is around us, and that is what I am most afraid of. The distraction of daily life allows us to look past the hunger and pain that is often right before our eyes.

ST:  In a surreal sense, the homeless, the grifters, the addicts that populate the area around Port Authority are ‘foreigners’ as compared with the lives of the day-to-day people who use the terminal strictly for transit.  Interestingly, you have given real ‘foreigners’ entry into this story.  Why not just some average Americans?

AHL: I agree with you in that the homeless are certainly “foreigners” within the Port Authority environment. But the other foreigners there are not the people whom we might expect. The fact that the French family is not native to the area does not necessarily render them “foreign” to the Manhattan sentiment towards the homeless. Actually, the only true outlier in the story – at least to me –  is the little girl, and that is for reasons other than her nationality. The point is that callousness towards the homeless is an international epidemic. Even the people we would expect to be foreigners in this story’s microenvironment – those who live across the world from the Port Authority – fit in all too well.

ST:  All too true. Did you know ahead of time that you would make them French (or other than Americans), or did this just strike you as you moved along the keyboard (or paper) writing?

AHL: I always knew there should be a language barrier between the little girl and the vagrant because I wanted her intentions and character to be clear beyond her words. The idea of making the family French, specifically, struck me as I was writing; it stemmed from the fact that our perception of French culture is often tagged with a romanticized view of its “poshness”. Consider how we view Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton… or even how we idealize the concept of being a “starving artist” in a beautiful Parisian flat, eating baguettes and sipping on hot cocoa in cafes and boutiques.

ST:  As in the famous opera La Boheme.  Which didn’t end well either.

AHL:  There is a certain sense of unattainable charm and glamour associated with French culture, which many Americans covet. But when I visited Paris six years ago, I saw firsthand a surprising number of homeless men and women sitting on steps outside of bakeries and museums. Even if Paris is the “city of love”, it is not exempt from the cruelties of reality. That realization affected me deeply and was integral to this story. Although the vagrant views the family as swan-like and elite, the mother’s ugly feathers show when she huddles her children away from him and turns a cold shoulder – a behavior that breaks our romanticized view of foreign culture. Even the most posh and beautiful of us can be ugly on the inside.

____________

Susan-Tepper200w

Susan Tepper has authored 5 published books. The latest is a novel in stories called The Merrill Diaries, from Pure Slush Books. She is a named finalist in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2013, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction (2010), and nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the interview series UNCOV/rd.  www.susantepper.com

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