Micro Bookends 1.49 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.49 – Results
Sep 272015
 
Photo Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius via CC.

Photo Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Karl A. Russell, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

Hey, you hip and happening cats! I have cast my sweet peepers over your words and now I’m ready to lay some truth on you all.

Honourable Mentions

Blowing Smoke by Bill Engleson

Jazz is the soundtrack of choice for the film noir, the hard-bitten gumshoe its eternal anti-hero. Here we get an intriguing glimpse into a noir tale – how did he come by that scar? – before crashing headlong into a modern world of corner boys and dead ends.

Equinoxically Yours by F. E. Clark

A mixture of heady scents and evocative images, rhythmic and startling. Read this one aloud to truly appreciate it, preferably in a basement cafe while wearing a black turtleneck sweater.

Signed, Sealed, Awaiting Delivery by David Shakes

I’m a sucker for a good soul-selling tale, but too often in flash, the urge is to throw in a twist ending. Here we get a nice change, trading on the inevitable outcome of such a deal to make great use of the closing bookend, and the trick with the last / first word of most of the paragraphs was neat too.

3rd Place

Generation 1 by Brian S. Creek

I was never a fan of Transformers, but otherwise, I recognise everything in this piece – the need, the rationalisation, the attempts to bully yourself into growing up – and I’d bet good money that there’s an element of autobiography in here. I’d also bet that he went ahead and bought it anyway…

2nd Place

Scott Free by Bill Engleson

This came closest to the free-flowing improvisation of great jazz, with a slightly unusual format that catches the eye, made up of words to captivate the ear and a seemingly random association of discordant phrases and images that create something that’s part poem, part story and more than either combined.

Winner

Mother Knows Bert by Ed Broom

Miles Davis famously said that jazz is as much about the notes you aren’t playing. Fittingly, this week’s winner is all about the words that aren’t being written. The auto-corrected text is a delight, and a wonderfully original way to incorporate the bookends without having to actually use them in the story at all.

Mother Knows Bert

Ed Broom

JAZZ COMES!

Mum’s right, of course, in her own unpredictable Nokia text speak. Lazy bones is exactly what I am. I should have popped round today to say hello and to talk about Col’s birthday. Unlucky lad had his Raleigh nicked last week and she wants me to find him a replacement on eBay.

THIS BILE. WHAT SHOULD I SAX?

Pay what you like, Mum. This 18 speed hybrid looks good, though. Auction ends later tonight and the current price is £40. I think it would be a steal at twice that.

OK. NAY 100 POUND. INCREASE MY AGE.

Sep 242015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.49 and part two of an unplanned great-American-authors series. Enjoy:

The Jazz Age was a time period in the 1920s when jazz music became popular. The period is mainly associated with the United States but there were also significant jazz ages in the United Kingdom and France. Jazz music originated in African-American communities, particularly that of New Orleans. Critics of jazz music labelled it the music of unskilled or untrained musicians. Eventually jazz was picked up by the white middle classes and large cities such as New York and Chicago became cultural centres for the style. The jazz age coincided with prohibition in the United States and illicit speakeasies became synonymous with the style. The jazz age ended in 1929 with the beginning of the great depression.

American author F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on this day in 1896 in Minnesota. He is most famous for his 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald spent a lot of time during the jazz age in Paris with his friend Ernest Hemingway. Like many authors of that time, Fitzgerald supplemented his income by writing short stories for magazines such as Esquire, a practice both he and Hemingway referred to this as ‘whoring.’ Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since leaving college and by his late thirties suffered from ill-health, including recurring tuberculosis. He died of a heart attack in 1940 aged just forty-four. The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and moderate sales on publication and Fitzgerald died believing his work would be forgotten. Today it is recognised as one of the great American novels and has sold over 25 million copies.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius via CC.

Photo Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Karl A. Russell, winner of MB1.42 and MB1.48. 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 JAZZ and ending with AGE 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.

Sep 202015
 
Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Steven O. Young Jr., for sorting right from wrong. Here’s what he thought:

I feel it may be necessary to admit that I haven’t acted as a judge since screening entrants in my elementary school’s talent show. It’s never easy to hold one’s work against another, but it was a fairly simple process back then; we were only kids, most of whom weren’t especially skilled yet. The field practically came together on its own—I can’t recall having to make any tough cuts.

This, however, was nowhere near as elementary.

There’s a tad bit more talent this time around, which took the prompts in incredibly varying directions. Your pieces ran the gamut from the psychedelic to the subdued; from using Shakespeare and Tolkien while establishing contemporary settings, to having Grateful Dead lyrics outline a couple’s relationship; from works of utter playfulness to stories of subtle despair. It made for some difficult decisions that required multiple readings of each piece to even be able to trim the list down whatsoever.

Still, decisions had to be made and they’re surely a matter of subjectivity. Well, that’s fairly obvious, but what I mean to say is that there were plenty of worthy stories that could have very easily gotten the nod with someone else reading. At any rate, thank you all for making my part in this process a struggle, and congratulations to our winners!

Honourable Mentions

Desperately Seeking by Marie McKay

The quiet façade of this story hardly hides its viciousness. “Desperately Seeking” is an incredibly apt title; its message is not guardedly veiled, from the immediate admission of a “soon-to-be single” seeking a “man who takes care of people” to the bold print spelling it out a bit more explicitly.

Destination by Marie McKay

The use of synesthesia determined a sort of bodily-detached reading for me. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it certainly fit the diagramming of constellations and the “long distance souls skirting the edge of places”—lives told in the forever unobtainable, where the characters were all too eager to cast their dreams in the “empty track.”

3rd Place

Almost Fooled by Jacki Donnellan

With the vivid descriptions, it seems dangerously easy to be fooled by the illusionistic majesty of the scenery that surrounds the speaker. However, the curt sentences set a distinct rhythm that embodies the speaker’s fatigue. Her punctuated narration dismisses the possibility of allowing herself to become too attached to any of the potential delights after having suffered once. That realization is made all the more tragic when the speaker expresses the rigidity of her sense of solitude after feeling her baby kick.

2nd Place

Schoolboy Error by Sonya

This piece has such an innocent and genuine feel to it. Sure, there may be some sense of mild malice at the heart of the events, but Benny seems like such a gentle and earnest character that the reader’s attention is wholly diverted to Benny. While that may be an incredulous statement seeing as Benny only says two words—though “Chrimbo” certainly adds definition to him—the narration of the last paragraph sealed it for me with the pranksters set as the foil to Benny’s kind-hearted naïveté.

Winner

Merry Andrew by Karl A Russell

I’m jealous of more than a few pieces provided this week—more than just those that made this list—but this reads so naturally I’m almost annoyed to know it was written in a day! The lilting cadence carries throughout, dictated by a consistent syllabic patterning and rhyme scheme that molds each stanza. The use of “fayre” hints at the poem being a folktale of considerable age, which only goes to amplify its mythos. Plus, it practically demanded that I read the poem with my poor rendition of a Middle English accent. This isn’t as bawdy as many poems of that age, but it’s delightful nonetheless.

Merry Andrew

Karl A Russell

Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
Deflower maids
And tug their flowered hair.

In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.

A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.

For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.

And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.

Sep 172015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.48. Something a little psychedelic for you this week. Have fun:

The Merry Pranksters were a group of people, with American author Ken Kesey as their figurehead, who came together in the 1960s to experiment with psychedelic drugs. The group lived communally in Kesey’s California home and are best known for their 1964 road-trip across the United States in a psychedelic-patterned school bus called Further. The Merry Pranksters were the forerunners of the hippie subculture and were recognisable by their strange clothes, long hair, odd behaviour and their renunciation of normal society.

Ken Kesey, would-be leader of the Merry Pranksters, was born on this day in 1935 in Colorado, USA. In between his road-trips and acid-trips he wrote some extremely influential work, the most famous of which is the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which was inspired by his time working at the Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital. The novel was later adapted into a movie starring Jack Nicholson which was only the second in history to win all of the big five academy awards. Kesey himself was not a fan of the movie, claiming never to have seen it but that he disliked what he knew of it. Kesey began suffering ill-health in his sixties, first being diagnosed with diabetes, then suffering a stroke, then undergoing an operation to remove a tumour from his liver, a procedure from which he did not recover.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Steven O. Young Jr., winner of MB1.47. 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 MERRY and ending with PRANKSTER(S) 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 Steven O. Young Jr.?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Steven O. Young Jr.?
Sep 152015
 

Steven O Young JrOur most recent winner is Steven O. Young Jr. Check out his blog here and go read his MB1.47winning story again. Steven has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

Steven holds no titles outside of the familial inherited without his initial efforts (brother, son, uncle), but tends to point toward his BA and MA in English as a superficial and inefficient indication of who he might have been, currently is, and may become.

He also wants to apologize for the photo. He doesn’t belong on either side of a camera, and consequently settled for evidence of the grief that is being left-handed, preferring pencil, and inexplicably writing lines on top of one another, over and over again.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? The image prompt first led to ideas about a character lacking in its mental capacities, but an effective breaking down of the brain seemed a tad impossible in this space, especially without knowing enough about it. A turn toward investigating who might have caused such an injury made for a more interesting direction anyway.

As for the bookends, I scrolled through a dictionary looking for a unique starting point with the flexibility provided this week. After failing to find one I wanted to use, referring to something without an established name in our language seemed necessary. The closing bookend lent itself well to using a cigarette as a symbol of chronic repetition and a general measurement of time, which aided in determining the pace.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Relying on implied relationships and actions seems most effective for me. I tend to get allusive when trying to develop settings, but that’s perilous as readers rarely share reading experiences.

Oh, and editing helps. A lot. I try to edit each sentence and paragraph before moving on, then continue editing several times over once the story’s “complete.” I’m already meticulous when it comes to grammar (not necessarily for what is “proper,” but for glaring errors), but it’s most beneficial towards coaxing out concise, yet rhythmic, language.

Why do you like flash fiction? I have an utter lack of interest in most novels. Or at least popular novelists. Flash fiction can make for equally rich readings analytically (a symptom that plagues my reading) with greater attention to each word and punctuation.

Been writing long? Not publicly, but I’ve scribbled my share of poetry — mostly bad, though a few moderately decent pieces found their way out — throughout college that, for the most part, never offended others’ eyes. Drabbles, by some now-unknown happenstance, became a private practice somewhere during that time as well. At any rate, I’ve only recently begun to submit pieces with any frequency whatsoever.

You write anything else? Job applications and cover letters for the time being, but it hasn’t been a year since I graduated (yet), so it’s too early to lament that too much.

Otherwise, poetry is my primary interest, though it seems to evade my pen of late.

Any advice for other flash writers? Examining how others write certainly helps develop effective stylings, but there’s virtually no point in writing if the author is only a mimic. Study and experiment to develop your own comfort zone, but resist settling into any one style.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Not particularly, though I’ve recently taken to experimenting with haiku, fracturing the previously standardized 5/7/5 form to encourage multiple (divided?) readings. Strange? Absolutely, but it’s an intriguing challenge to make them work.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The only novel I ever recommend is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. As for poetry, Li-Young Lee’s Rose is my absolute favorite collection, particularly “Persimmons” and “The Weepers.”

Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, we must think this week’s judge, Brian S Creek, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I’m a big fan of Formula 1. One of the things that’s interesting, especially this year, is how close some drivers can be on the qualifying, and still be lagging on the back row. Twenty drivers give it their best and end up being separated over just two seconds. It’s the milliseconds that decide the order that they line up on the grid for the race. And I’m talking thousandths of a second between 5th and 15th.

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

When judging these contests, the results show you the top picks, and it can look like the remaining bunch were just left by the wayside. But, for me, that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories were hanging around the top bunch that there basically wasn’t a bottom bunch. My order changed and changed and changed; sometimes a story that I’d written off early on would suddenly jump up and challenge the podium.

Unfortunately I can’t pick 36 stories for 1st place. So below are my top 7.  For those of you not listed here, I know you’ll all be back again this Thursday to try again. See you there.

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

There were several mental health stories this week and this was one of my favourites. The piece stood out with some very beautiful lines early on (‘dandelion seeds blown away in the breeze’ to describe fragile memories, and ‘The sense that reality is nothing more than an early draft’).

Jacked In by FE Clark

It’s a playful piece, but darker underneath. With everything we do going digital, how long until we do too?

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

One of the stories that had me laughing out loud, I really like the use, mid story, of the two characters breathing in. And the brutal honesty of the dentist when letting our guy know that he’s a dentist, not a miracle worker.

Test Run by Colin Smith

So many stories went with words beginning with the opening bookend, that I liked this story for starting with a spelling mistake, an error that builds into the plot.

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

I laughed at several stories this week, but this was the funniest. Perhaps because I’m British, trained from birth to understand the basic protocol for standing in line with a bunch of strangers. It might seem plot-lite, but the journey contained within this piece of Flash Fiction is as epic as the one taken by Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom. Our main character travels from point to point, overcoming obstacles, until he finally reaches his goal; a place in Britopia.

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

A simple story, that of predator versus prey, and beautifully written. It’s feels like it’s taking too much time for a piece with a 100 word limit, but the ending is far from rushed. Despite the violence of the finale, I found the piece to be quite relaxing.

Winner

Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

There were a couple of entries this week that went for the mental illness angle, but this one was the most subtle. I’ll be honest and say I struggled through my first reading (the thoughts within the speech confused me), but when I got to the end, it clicked.

And what an ending. I thought this was a simple story of an elderly man with fading memories and a vivid imagination, while the main character is forced to sit through tall tales. But that repetition of the opening line packs way more punch than if the author had simply wrapped the story up with a simple explanation of the older man’s ailments.

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.

Sep 102015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.47. Here, have a wild card. You can start your stories with any word beginning with BRIT (British, brittle, britzka etc.) Have fun.

In a 1987 edition of The Face magazine, several British actors featured in an interview with journalist Elissa Van Poznak. The title of the interview was The Brit Pack, a play on words based on the group of American actors, the Brat Pack who were popular around the same time. The original Brit Pack included Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Paul McGann and Tim Roth. Unlike the Brat Pack, the Brit Pack actors didn’t associate with each other either on film or socially. The term Brit Pack is still used occasionally to describe a group of disparate British actors backed by the media to achieve Hollywood stardom simultaneously. However, no group of actors has emerged as readily identifiable as the original Brit Pack.

Brit Pack member Colin Firth celebrates his fifty-fifth birthday today. Firth first received widespread attention for his role as Mr. Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. He received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the stuttering King George VI in The King’s Speech and received a nomination for his role in A Single Man. Firth is also an activist for causes such as the rights of tribal peoples, the rights of refugees, and fair trade. In 2010 Firth commissioned research to analyse the brain structures of people of different political orientations. It was found that conservatives have greater amygdala volume and liberals have greater volume in their anterior cingulate cortex.

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

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Brian S Creek, winner of MB1.46. 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 BRIT* and ending with PACK 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.