Jul 092015
 

Happy Thursday. Ready to write? First an announcement:

After this round we’ll be voting for our favourite stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. If you haven’t been a winner yet, this is your last roll of the dice for this quarter. Good luck!

Six degrees of separation is a theory first put forward in 1929 by Austrian author Frigyes Karinthy, that everyone in the world is connected to each other through six or fewer ‘friend of a friend’ connections. The theory was first published in Karinthy’s short story, Chain-Links, where the characters propose an experiment:

We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.

By far the most important (read fun) application of the theory is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, where the aim is to connect any movie actor to Kevin Bacon (who celebrated his 57th birthday yesterday) with as few connections as possible. Julie Andrews, for example, has a Bacon Number of 2:

  1. Julie Andrews and Steve Carell appeared in Despicable Me.
  2. Steve Carell and Kevin Bacon appeared in Crazy, Stupid, Love

Even Google have joined in. Enter any actors name followed by ‘bacon number’ and it returns the shortest connection. Try it, it’s fun. And very addictive. Bacon has said that he initially disliked the game as he thought it was mocking him, but he has since embraced it and has launched the charity, SixDegrees.org, described as social networking with a social conscience.

Let’s wish Kevin Bacon a very happy (and belated) birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Iskandar Haggarty, winner of MB1.38. Read his winning story and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with SIX and ending with DEGREES and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘Who is the author?’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Who is Iskandar Haggarty?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Iskandar Haggarty?
Jul 072015
 

Iskandar HaggartyOur most recent winner is Iskandar Haggarty. Follow him on Twitter. If you enjoyed Iskandar’s MB1.38winning story, you might like to check out his poem Bubblegum Lipstick at Inktrap Magazine. Iskandar has kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself:

Iskandar is an upcoming writer of prose and poetry alike. He is influenced greatly by Edward Gorey, Neil Gaiman, and Edgar Allan Poe, and writes dark/macabre tales himself. He likes tea, good books that get him thinking, good music that gets him dancing, and anything even remotely fluffy.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? Well, I had just read a great article on authors that killed themselves, including Hemingway (who did himself in with his favorite shotgun), and I wanted to incorporate that somehow. The idea of the age snapshots came a little later, after I realized I wanted to show snippets that could constitute a whole childhood instead of just one moment in it, and then it just all came together on its own!

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? What I do is read the bookends and then stare at the picture while letting the words marinate in my head. After about 5 minutes the words and the picture click, and I have my topic. After that it’s just writing it out and editing; cutting it down, making it fit the boundaries without losing any of its punch.

Why do you like flash fiction? I discovered it this year and I fell in love with the idea of it; short and succinct. It’s the epitome of “show, don’t tell”, and I think it’s wonderful!

Been writing long? Since I was 8. In third grade we had a “creative writing” assessment; we had to write a page on whatever we liked. I got too carried away with an epic on lizard-warrior people and ended up with 26 pages. That’s when I knew. P.S: I also got some strange looks when I read it out to the class. Apparently you don’t read “Lord of the Rings” spin-offs to 8 year olds. It’s a bit too much for them.

You write anything else? I just had a poem published over at Inktrap Magazine this past week. Give it a look if you’re interested!

Any advice for other flash writers? Don’t stop writing. The best practice you can get to better your style and voice is continuous writing and re-writing. You’ll notice that each time, your drafts look and sound a bit better than the last.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’m halfway through a novel/novella (not sure which one yet) which draws inspiration from Edward Gorey/Coraline/A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’m also putting together a chapbook of poetry, which I hope to have published soon.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Oh Gosh. Can I recommend more than one? The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig tied in first place with The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman for my “best book read in 2014”. The best book I’ve read this year so far (hands down!) is The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. These books are all weirdly wonderful, and that’s just how I like it.

Micro Bookends 1.38 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.38 – Results
Jul 052015
 
Photo Credit: via CC.

Photo Credit: Cliff via CC.

Welcome to the results show. First, an announcement:

On Monday the 13th of July, voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. There will be prizes! The top three stories will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held in October. Remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it, so if you haven’t had a winning story yet, this week’s contest is your last chance for this quarter.

Okay, back to business. I’d like to say a huge thanks to this week’s judge, Foy S. Iver, who was not only judging here, but is also doing her first stint as judge at Flash! Friday. Thanks, Foy! Here’s what she thought of it all:

I absolutely adored the picture prompt this week. So much to work with! And can we always have the asterisk? What isn’t more fun with a wild card? Okay, enough envying you the prompts. Micro Bookends 1.38 saw everything from lost children to lost opportunities. My emotions swung. Pity at seeing an aged Peter Pan trying to convince himself there’s still a Neverland for him. Fear for those living under a terrifying movie director (Please stab him with that rusty nail!). Nostalgia for dusty days when my younger self knew the enchantment of “ground overrun by ragwort and ghostly dandelion heads.” All of them beautiful in their own way. And those that made the cut? A feast of world building and imagery to make your soul bleed.

Honourable Mentions

Lengthening Shadows by Kelly Turner

Unfolding in slow turns, Lengthening Shadows explores the terrors of abandonment through glimpses of the setting. We learn that “the ice cream van had been and gone,”that the “water had been turned off this week” and “the only sustenance” the protagonist has is the melancholic drip, drip from a stingy faucet. It isn’t until the final line that we see whom our protagonist is, a boy alone, wishing “again for his mum’s return.” Tragic but brilliant work.

Silhouette Shift by Catherine Connolly

I’d love to know the inspiration behind this! Such gorgeous imagery throughout. I imagined that the sylphs’ could represent the wandering spirit of children rob of childhood. While they sleep, their childlike natures gather in the street, running, playing, “tagging others ‘It.’” The “Night is their playground” and as day awakens, we watch as “the sylphs’ skipping slows, as they tire” and return to their bounded form. And that final bookend (“save for a pinprick star”) delighted my poetic soul! Lovely, lovely tale.

A Second Life by Steph Ellis

With an eeriness that grew into the fully terrifying, A Second Life demonstrates riveting world building. Each read-through gives greater detail. We see “unsuspecting ‘children’” (chilling punctuation there!), happy to have “escaped the misery of the sweatshops forever,” while their “mysterious benefactor” smiles on with his own plans. A rich undervein is bled in the line “life had become recyclable” and we’re left watching in horror as they’re recycled back into the very place they hate, the children “only realising their mistake as the doors locked.” Bonus points for using such a delicious word as “Decrepitude”! Well done.

Pencilled by Marie McKay

From that first line “Childhood shapes haunt the landscape as if a 4-year-old god had sketched the world,” my mind sprang to Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline,” and the connection only grew stronger. On reading of the “grey stickmen and grey stickwomen” who “can barely hold their grey stickbabies with their bobble heads” (Other Mother, anyone?), I felt trapped in a crayon picture, bleached of all color.  The phrase “sketchy people living sketchy lives” tickled my brain, while the light welcoming the stickpeople to join the “fleshed out world where children play, and laughter beats, and colour breathes” felt like a lungful of air. A highly original concept that deserves at the least an Honorable Mention.

3rd Place

Memento by Rebekah Postupak

This story has it all. Starkly defined characters, crisp dialogue, conflict, resolution, and back-story. The world is revealed in periphery: emotions and imagination gone (“Haven’t you seen what emotions do?”), human-life extinguished (They’ve been extinct, what, a hundred years?”), and a voice still yearning for things of the past (“yet you’d spend your one wish on human childbirth”). Images of those “mechanical fingers rubbing, rubbing, rubbing” won’t soon leave me, nor will the thought that we could one day miss one of the most painful and gratifying human experiences life has to offer, childbirth.

2nd Place

Indigo Mourning by Pattyann McCarthy

This piece took the idea of a lost childhood and peered at it from a fresh angle. That of a mother, her “dreams disappearing into vapor,” dealing with a childless reality as it forms. That originality alone clinched a spot on the winner’s podium. Through stunning imagery, the author captures the soul-shredding pain of a miscarriage (“I’m learning how to breathe, how to exist”), and the irrational guilt that often follows (“my uterus couldn’t sustain him, killing my son”). Life begins as a blinding joy, friends and family singing with you, only to dim, singing silenced, as the heavens appear indigo “through mourning eyes.” Personally it was difficult to read and I was grateful that the final line held so much truth: “In the midnight beyond, my baby’s the brightest star.”

Winner

Dull Silver by Iskandar Haggarty

So many things I loved about this one! The title seemed a subtle nod toward the silver screen and how many child stars have “dulled” in its light, a clever tie-in with the prompt. There’s something incredibly powerful about juxtaposition. We see what should have been, a father waking “bright and early” to make breakfast, and what was, “Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger” and instantly the act is more heart shattering. Mama, who should’ve been tucking her child in every night, instead cries “tears of salt and cigarettes” and never visits. The tangible tick upward of time (6, 8, 10, 12) marked years stolen from this child’s youth until that sun faded into the “dull silver of a dying star.” A worthy winner.

Dull Silver

Iskandar Haggarty

Childhood is supposed to be golden.
6.
Fathers are supposed to wake up, bright and early, and make breakfast.
Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
8.
Mothers are supposed to tuck their kids in at night.
Mama cried tears of salt and cigarettes when the judge found me a new home, but she never visited.
Not even once.
10.
Friends are supposed to stick up for you.
The whole baseball team disappeared the day the bigger kids came for me.
12.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Mine was the dull silver of a dying star.

Jul 022015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.38. I’m introducing a new feature this week – the wildcard:

You’ll notice an asterisk after CHILD in this week’s bookends. This symbolises a wildcard character. Feel free to replace it to form another word – CHILDREN, CHILDHOOD, CHILDCARE etc. Of course you can still use CHILD as it stands. The usual rules on punctuation still apply.

A child star is someone who achieves celebrity status, usually through acting or singing, during their childhood. Some child stars struggle to adapt to adulthood due to their early fame. Another difficulty they often face is dispute over ownership of earnings. Jackie Coogan (who went on to play Uncle Fester in the Addams Family TV show) earned millions of dollars as a child actor but saw almost none of it as it was squandered by his parents on their luxury lifestyle. This prompted the 1939 California Child Actor’s Bill (also called the Coogan Law), which states that all earnings by a minor are the sole property of the minor and 15% of earnings must be placed in a trust fund.

Lindsay Lohan, who celebrates her 29th birthday today, began her career with Ford Modelling Agency at the age of three. Lohan made her first television appearance age 10 as Alli Fowler in Another World and made her breakthrough performance alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday. Unfortunately the curse of the child star struck Lohan, and today she is just as famous for her frequent run-ins with the law as she is for her award-winning film performances.

Let’s wish Lindsay a happy birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: via CC.

Photo Credit: Cliff via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Foy S. Iver, winner of MB1.18, MB1.23 and MB1.37. Read her winning stories and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with CHILD* and ending with STAR and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘Who is the author?’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.