Sun 11 Mar 2012
You’ll find a complete list of Winners and Semi-Finalists (in alphabetical order) plus an interview with Robert Swartwood below.
Top Three Winners:
The Winner of the Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize
Most effective use of all ten prompt words and incorporation of the theme of freedom.
The Cost by JP Reese
Congratulations to all who entered the String-of-10 FOUR Flash Fiction Contest.
FFC chats with Guest Judge Robert Swartwood
Robert Swartwood was born in 1981. His work has appeared in such venues as The Los Angeles Review, TheDailyBeast, Postscripts, ChiZine, Space and Time,Wigleaf, and PANK. He is the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, which was chosen by The Nervous Breakdown as one of their favorite books of 2010, and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.
Flash Fiction Chronicles: As a contest judge, what criteria did you use to choose the winner?
Robert Swartwood: Basically I read through all of the stories once, just to get a feel for them. Then I let a day pass and read through the stories again, this time placing stars beside the stories I really liked, pluses beside the stories I liked, and minuses beside the stories I didn’t like. Then I continued narrowing down from there, reading the stories which were starred and plussed again. In the end, it just came down to which stories left a lasting impression on me.
FFC: You read hundreds of entries for your Hint Fiction Anthology. How did reading and judging stories 250 words versus 25 word hint stories?
RS: Actually, it was more like thousands of entries, and even though the stories were all 25 words or fewer, it was still a lot to digest. In the end, though, the process was basically the same. With the anthology, I read the stories as they came in, and the ones I liked I set aside. Once the anthology was closed for submissions, I read through the stories I set aside, and began narrowing them down. The difference here, of course, was you and the rest of your staff narrowed down the contest submissions for me, so I only had to run through a handful.
FFC: Do you have any tips for writers who enter contests? What do they need to do to stand out?
RS: Just write the very best story you can. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style, either. As cheesy as it sounds, be your own writer.
FFC: Tell us a little about your collection Phantom Energy. What process did you go through to get it pulled together?
RS: Phantom Energy is a collection of very short fiction, ranging from the real to the surreal. I’ve published over 50 short stories in the past three years, the majority of them less than 1,000 words, and I put together what I felt were my very best in this collection (three of the stories, in fact, were finalists for the Micro Award; one was even a runner-up for the prize). I also included my eight “hint fiction” stories, which actually serves as a bridge between the real and the surreal.
FFC: You have a full-time job; how do you fit in your writing?
RS: Actually, in the past several months I switched day jobs so I’m not working as many hours as I did before, but still it’s difficult to get in writing time. Like many writers, I’m a great procrastinator, so I have to always force myself to sit down in front of the computer and write. Sometimes I get there. Sometimes, unfortunately, I don’t.
FFC: What motivates you to write, what gets your juices going?
RS: I write because I have a lot of stories to tell. While I see no problem creating stories and novels that are “art,” my goal is mostly to create stories and novels that entertain. With today’s digital marketplace, I’m able to make my work available to practically anyone. Before, I would write a novel and send it to my agent and then wait forever to hear back from publishers. There was a lot of uncertainty.
Now when I write I know exactly what the endgame is going to be, I’m going to put it out there myself, and in many ways it’s scary. But every time I hear from a new reader who really enjoyed my stuff, it makes this whole writing/publishing game all worthwhile.
FFC: What’s next on your busy schedule? Any more “Hints” in your future?
RS: I’m currently wrapping up my thriller The Inner Circle, which is the second book in the Man of Wax trilogy. Then once that’s released, I plan to dive headfirst into the third book. Right now I’m not working on any flash, but I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll revisit it. That happened a long time ago, where I was busy working on novels and decided to take a break, and ended up writing a lot of short stuff. Here’s hoping the same thing happens again.