Flash 405, August 2023: “Secret” Winners

The winners of “Secret” are secret no more!

We ended this season of Flash 405 with a flourish—a final round judged by Vol. VIII: “Lines” contributor L Mari Harris. Her call for submissions asked for secrets—positive, negative, happy, peaceful, sad, angry. No topic was taboo, but each word had to count.

We received many wonderful entries, and are excited to reveal the winners of “Secret”:

Judge’s Comments:

L Mari HarrisI was so excited to receive the shortlist folder for this last Flash 405 contest of 2023, and I was not disappointed. I knew I was asking writers to bare themselves when I selected “Secret” as my theme. But what is writing, if not laying ourselves bare on the page? Even if we’re more furtive, choosing to expose ourselves in a more clandestine manner, we’re still announcing to the reader: Pay attention.

And pay attention I did. Each day, I reread the finalists, letting layers rise to the surface, letting the bigger picture unfurl. I wanted to exist within each of these pieces, until I felt I fully understood them. I saw beauty in each piece I read. I saw strength and heartbreak, hunger and perception.

Narrowing down the pieces was hard, but what kept rising to the top for me were two questions: (1) Did the piece maintain its promise introduced in the first sentence or line until the end? And (2) did the ending open up a whole new layer of meaning and purpose for the reader? I hope you’ll agree these selected pieces affirmatively answer both of those questions.

– L Mari Harris

1st Place:
When the Light Is Just Right by Tommy Dean (Fiction)

2nd Place:
The Dolls by J. Annie MacLeod (Fiction)

Honorable Mentions:
It Is by Sarah Freligh (Fiction)
There Is No Advice I’d Give to My 16-Year-Old Self by Sabrina Hicks (Experimental)
Cookie Stash by Elena Zhang (Fiction)

Congratulations again to the winners!

Check out past contests and winners here.

Want to know more about our next contest? Submissions are open for our ninth issue, but that’s bittersweet news for Flash 405our last contest of 2023 closed in September and won’t reopen until February 2024. In the meantime, follow us on social media (we’re on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram), and/or sign up for the Expo Extra newsletter for more submission opportunities, publication news, events, reading recommendations, and more.

Photo by ethan