From June 4 to July 5, we received an amazing number of entries for our Flash 405 contest (our largest yet!). They spanned every genre: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, stage, and screen. Some stories even blurred the boundaries of genre—fitting, given this month’s theme of “Metamorphosis,” chosen by guest judge and acclaimed novelist, critic, and essayist Judith Freeman.
Judith posed the theme of Metamorphosis “for the rich associations and possibilities inherent in the idea of profound change,” and that’s exactly what these winning entries embody: stories that explore the stages of life, from the beautiful to the grotesque.
What an extraordinary group of submissions I discovered, as the judge of this round of the FLASH 405 contest. I encountered such a varied, rich, and surprising experience in the world of flash. I liked so many stories—so very many—and then of course I was told I must pick winners, a terrible task and one I indulged by taking it all perfectly seriously, and reading every story, every single one, and some rather many times.
About the contest let me say: I hope it goes on and on, not just for the benefit of those who might continue to enter, hoping their little pup will be chosen, but those of us who will be asked to judge. It’s such a blast of short beauty, and it came at me like strong gusts of sirocco blowing in from many lands, tales evoked so swiftly that the transportation felt like a sudden, lifting rush.
I didn’t expect my theme of metamorphosis to be taken literally, but perhaps slipped in slyly, if one cared to try. If a tale was sparked by the theme, fine: But the truth is this idea of one thing becoming another emerged in all my winning picks, sometimes as a radical particle, some times as a whiff. The other thing that unified all my favorites was the strong voice in each story. My editor (so very good at what he does) once said to me that what he looks for in a work, whether fiction or non-fiction, is voice: it is often, he said, the hardest thing to find. I found it in all the pieces I chose and, although I didn’t notice it until after the fact, it just happened to be that (often) winning siren of the first-person, calling my mind to her shores.
– Judith Freeman
Congratulations to the winners! Read their work (and individual notes from Judith) below:
Thrift Store China by Melissa Secola (Nonfiction)
When He Lived With Us by Olivia Parkes (Fiction)
Our last round of Flash 405 for 2016 will run from August 4-September 5, before we open for submissions for Vol. II on September 15. We’ll announce more details soon. Follow us on social or sign up for our email list to get updates and calls for submissions straight to your inbox!