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The 2014 Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction

For the past few weeks author, raconteur, and stylish man-about-town JJ Lee has been reading through the longlist of flash fiction stories for the Hummingbird Prize.  That list, compiled by a panel of three readers was:

  • ‘WFF – Worst Friends Forever’ by  Ace Baker
  • ‘The Importance of Documentation’ by  William Masters
  • ‘Beauty Takes Care of Itself’ by  Bob Thurber
  • ‘Mermaid Hunt’ by  Holly Walrath
  • ‘Waiting for Twilight ‘ by  Daniela Elza
  • ‘Testing the Waters’ by  Ryan Seifert
  • ‘Last Train to Strasbourg’ by  Alexis Larkin
  • ‘Here I Lay Down My Heart’ by  Rob Taylor
  • ‘Canoeing in the Tropics’ by  Hannah van Didde
  • ‘The Fundamental Clarity of Light’ by  Michael Patrick Eltrich
  • ‘Not All Magic is Nice’ by  Ev Bishop
  • ’3D Monarch’ by  Katherine Wagner

Of the finalists, contest judge JJ had this to say:

“Short short stories demand much of writers: concision; commitment to a single, sometimes simple, idea or image that can resonate in a reader long after reading is done; and a willingness to somehow find space to bow the arc of narrative in the tightest of spaces. It is hard to get it right. The form is unforgiving.  So congratulations to all the finalists for their stories.”

Editors’ Choice

The variety of tone, genre and style in all these well-written stories makes picking favourites like choosing between apples and helicopters.  Once we editors read all the finalists we realized we wanted to publish more than two, so we each picked an honourable mention from the remainder of the longlist that we would like to place in a future issue of Pulp Literature  at our regular rates.  We’ll be contacting these authors directly.  The editors’ picks in no particular order are:

  • ‘WFF – Worst Friends Forever’ by  Ace Baker
  • ‘Beauty Takes Care of Itself’ by  Bob Thurber
  • ‘Mermaid Hunt’ by  Holly Walrath

Runner-up

‘Waiting for Twilight ‘ by  Daniela Elza
These contests are judged blind, so JJ had no way of knowing that the author of his runner up for the Hummingbird was also runner up for the Magpie Award.  Daniela will receive $75 for her story, which will be published in our Winter 2015 issue.

Hummingbird Prize Winner

‘Here I Lay Down My Heart’ by  Rob Taylor
Rob wins the $300 prize and publication in the Winter 2015 issue of Pulp Literature.  Here’s what judge JJ Lee has to say about this poignant story:

“On the strength of its setting, naturalism, and the pleasure it takes in the search for language, ‘Here I Lay Down My Heart’ wins the Hummingbird Flash Fiction contest.  Its author has created a small gem about a nighttime boat trip and a missing child. The author avoids sloppy dialogue and needless back story and, in less than 600 words, crafts a compelling tale which readers will rush to reach to the end.”

Congratulations to all the contestants who made the job of judging so difficult, but of reading so enjoyable!

The Raven Cover Story Contest opens today, so sharpen your quills and delight us with more of your work!

To read some of JJ Lee’s own short fiction, pick up issue 2 of Pulp Literature, featuring ‘Built to Love’, the story of a girl her bear, and the rise of the appliances.

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Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest Winners TBA Monday

 We can’t see them yet, but the winning stories of the Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest are all set to make an appearance tomorrow.

The entries were wonderful, and I enjoyed every read.  I’m always impressed by Flash Fiction writers.  I write novellas and novels and I’m gobsmacked at the way you Flash Fiction Genii get

1. so many amazing ideas and

2. a fully satisfying story in a couple of pages.

I can’t wait to learn who won.   Again, the announcement will be on Monday September 15.

Pesky Summer Jobs by Tais Teng

Pesky Summer Jobs by Tais Teng

Our next contest is for a cover story. And what a cover! Tais Teng, you leave me … breathless.

 

Writers’ Time Management and Kindness to Strangers

What’s the best way to get time to write?

I believe that you do so by treating yourself with as much caring and respect as you’d offer a total stranger.

Here’s the scenario. You’re waiting for an appointment, and a woman beside you has struck up a conversation. “What do you do?” she asks.

You’ve been practicing the answer, so you don’t hesitate or apologize: “I’m a writer.”

“How wonderful,” she says. “I so admire you. I’ve always longed to be a writer, but I can never get the time to do it. There are just so many things in life you have to do first.”

“That’s true,” you say. “You’ve got to really want to write…”

“Oh, I want to,” she says. “My life doesn’t want me to, but I do.”

“There’s a time for everything,” you say. “You’ll find the time now or someday. Don’t worry.”

Notice that you didn’t tell that woman that she was wasting too much time, ask her whether she was lazy or maybe just untalented or easily distracted or addicted to television or internet surfing—all things that we accuse ourselves of being.  Relax and look for the hour for yourself. We’ve all got them at least once or twice a week: in a coffee shop, in a library. While everybody’s watching a movie.

You can write about a thousand words in a quiet hour.  You can outline in a noisy ten minutes anywhere, if you bring a notebook, so that those thousand words will move the plot forward.

And if you can’t find time for a thousand words, maybe you do five hundred. And you know what? If you can’t do that this month or next, it’s okay. It’s just fine. You will do it someday. And your work will be wonderful because dreaming is good. Loving the thought of being a writer is fantastic training for loving writing.

 

Black and White

Pencils for page 5 of 'The Wolf'

Pencils for page 5 of ‘The Wolf’

When I was a student at the Cartoon Centre in London, David Lloyd would sometimes take a fat marker to a student’s lovingly finished pencils and obliterate half the panel in solid black to illustrate the power of ink.  He did it to me more than once.  And while inside you scream as black envelopes your precious work, with luck you absorb the lesson.  You learn bravery, and balance, and the value of black.  And with time you realize that those precious pencils weren’t worth saving after all.

The page partially inked

A partially inked page

Ink frightens me.  It’s so black, so solid, so permanent.  My comfort zone lies in pencil sketches, which are soft, mutable and contain infinite shades of grey.  Perhaps because I’m lessed skilled with it, I often find ink stills and deadens the picture.  Which is why most of the illustrations in Allaigna’s Song are pencil sketches darkened just enough to reproduce well in a black and white publication.

But sometimes a story requires solid black and white.  ‘The Wolf’ is a poem by Kimberleigh Smithbower Roseblade.  Originally a spoken-word piece, it is full of contrast between the wild and vicious ‘wolf’ — the poet’s autoimmune disease, lupus — and her health, represented by the walls of her home.  The words are direct and visceral, devoid of ambivalence or shades of grey.  For this story, pencil sketches would not do.

The finished page

The finished page

When I must ink, I normally use a fineliner, creating a cartoon overtop of the pencils.  I then use a brush pen or chisel tip marker for shadows and depth.  This is the safe, minimalist approach.  This time though, I pulled out old fashioned brush and inkpot, and let the liquid black pour onto the page.

It was scary and liberating all at once, and pulled me right back into my student days with David.  It’s too early for me to tell critically whether I’ve made the right call, but my gut tells me this suits the story.

‘The Wolf’ will be printed in Pulp Literature Issue 4, Autumn 2014.

 

 

hummingbird5Due to full mailbox issues here at Pulp Lit central we’ve extended the deadline for the Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest to Monday 18 August.  That means you’ve got all weekend to get your stories in to us.

Heck, with a little caffeine, you can probably write two stories under 1000 words in that time, and double your chance of winning $300 and eternal fame!

Flash Fiction Endings

It’s all about the ending. Novels get quoted by their first lines; in flash fiction, it’s the last line that goes down in history. It carries the punch, like a bee sting.

With a flash fiction story, you don’t begin in medias res–you begin at the final scene. You leave just enough time for the reader to latch on to your opening, and then you are off. You don’t explain (you haven’t time) but you leave clues, and every detail is smoking-gun important.

The tone can be intense with foreboding or calm with post-catastrophic hindsight. Like an instant replay done in slow motion, the narrator rewinds us through the crucial scene, the climactic event, carefully re-examined because it decides the game.

The goal of flash fiction is to spin the reader around in a complete circle of transformation leaving us dizzy, or upside down. We look again at the title and it reads differently, its hummingbird5secret exposed. We are left to gasp into our coffee mugs, unsettled, and changed.

Last chance to enter our Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest is Friday August 15th!

Summer Muse

MuseHere at Pulp Literature Press we’re on summer holidays. That means I’m writing outside. Is there anything finer?

What a privilege to wake up to August mornings like these. To pocket that favourite pen, carry along a nearly-empty notebook, pages white as clamshell. To gaze about the park, the beach, the cityscape. And as a breeze reads over your shoulder, to feel a little like a dedicated writer, smiling as the words tumble across the page.

Happy days of August to all you readers and writers from Sue, Jen and Mel.

(PS Only 10 days till our Flash Fiction Contest closes!)

 

“Hide!”, Plague and the Monkeysphere

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We’ve got a Flash Fiction contest happening, and we’re looking forward to reading the entries. I’m full of admiration for you Flash Fiction writers. FF has to grab its readers almost from word one, hold them tight and send them off, tingling, after a few moments’ read.

Mind you, a gripping start is arguably necessary to most fiction nowadays. So, how do skilled storytellers achieve an immediate lock on the reader? In previous blogs we’ve talked about nailing the central conflict while setting us firmly in time, place and point of view. As well, many writers set their hero down right in the middle of the action. Danger ought to work, but often it doesn’t, because action alone isn’t enough to make us care.

Why not? I asked myself.  I recalled reading up on the Monkeysphere idea, which states that most or possibly all of us are only emotionally equipped to care deeply about a certain number of people within our circle. (for more on that, visit  http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html). Then, how do you cause a reader to drag your hero into his circle, so closely that he cares enough to read on?

Let’s say your hero is fighting her or his way out of a car accident or gunfight or whatever the action may be. You haven’t had time to set up a fascinating, flawed character that we can identify with and care about (although clever dialogue can help, and often does in movies that start in a hail of gunfire).  One answer is, if you don’t have time to build a character up front, then what you need is heroic resonance. I was fascinated to see how Ian Rankin begins Hide and Seek (Orion, 1990), smack in the middle of the action.

Chapter 1

“Hide!”

He was shrieking now, frantic, his face drained of all colour. She was at the top of the stairs, and he stumbled towards her, grabbing her by the arms, propelling her downstairs with unfocussed force…”

Rankin has skillfully made me care by having one imperiled character desperate to save, not himself, but somebody else. “Hide!” panic gives us heroic resonance that Help me! panic can’t easily achieve.

Then we have C.C. Humphreys, who this month released Plague (I love writing that!). He wrote one of the all time great starts in his book, that seems to take literally George M. Cohan’s advice to get the protagonist up a tree and throw rocks at him. His hero is in mortal danger as The French Executioner (‪McArthur & Company, 2001)begins:

“It was unseasonably cold for a late May night but the former occupant of the gibbet was too dead to care and his replacement too unconscious.”

 But these are only two highly skilled examples of one sort of beginning.

There’s an unlimited number of brilliant ways to start a Flash Fiction piece, of course, and I can’t wait to read yours.

Mel Anastasiou

You’ll find our contest page here and on the tab at the top of this page.

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Magpie Award Winners

The winners of the Inaugural Magpie Award for Poetry were announced last night at our Issue 3 Launch.

The shortlist, compiled by our poetry editor Daniel Cowper was, in alphabetical order by title:magpiesmaller

  • ‘Autumnal Equinox’, by Michael Patrick Eltritch
  • ‘Bear Medicine’, by Ryan Tilley
  • ‘Big Red Schoolhouse’, by Ace Baker
  • ‘Cocktail Noir: The Liquid City’, by Glenn Pape
  • ‘Grateful’, by Liya Khan
  • ‘Ice Fisher’, by Judith Neale
  • ‘intimacy requires more’, by Daniela Elza
  • ‘Riverbank’, by Ada Maria Soto
  • ‘The Arrangement’, by Judith Neale
  • ‘Wax-winged Icarus’, by Kate Austin

Contest judge George McWhirter was impressed with the overall quality of the entries, and from the shortlist selected the following poems, with this to say:

Honourable Mention

‘Riverbank’ by Ada Maria Soto, and ‘Cocktail Noir: The Liquid City’ by Glenn Pape.
The latter was “[A sparking piece that] … just couldn’t quit, like the persona, and if it had stopped after the first section, it would have been a contender for its seriously humorous subject and treatment of it.”

Second Runner-up

‘Autumnal Equinox’ by Michael Patrick Eltrich.
“… it is spare and unsparing, economical with its words and sad wisdom. The resonances in big words like ‘the end’ are orchestrated through the subject’s, the retired architect’s mind into an almost too-sharp perspective by the poet interpreting his position in time and his position on time. Very close to home for someone like me, in his seventies.”

First Runner-up

‘intimacy requires more’ by Daniela Elza
“[This poem] could have got tangled in the length of the analysis of this very delicate, but demanding subject, which itself is made up of demands.. It could have become too abstract, but then as its lines go, intimacy is more than being “shoved against    the wall/ opened       like a cupboard/ scribbled      on a scroll…” It’s hard to renew interest in things that rotate and reform, but they come back surprisingly in altered perspective with surprising phrasing. This is the kind of poem I would not normally keep reading, but I did with this one.”

Magpie Award Winner

‘Big Red Schoolhouse’ by Ace Baker
“The poem in 1st place, ‘Big Red Schoolhouse, keeps us up to our elbows in the muck of the moment and the situation with the calving.  I felt I was physically at the other end of the rope in my new jeans, and my uncle was a world away from where I was at and right beside me at the same time, handing me that rope to tie around the calf’s hocks to haul it out.  The poem is dynamic and dramatic in its details, as elegiac as it is realistic and beautifully sequenced through stanza and line.  I might even say choreographed, a choreographed chaos of feelings and action, dominated by a double dimension of obligation to the birthing and to the uncle.  Wonderful poem.”

We couldn’t agree more.  We were fortunate Ace was at the launch last night to receive his cheque for $500 and read his poem out loud.  We’re looking forward to publishing it and the runners-up, who will each receive a cheque for $50,  in the Autumn issue of Pulp Literature.  The contest was judged blind, so the judges had no idea when they selected Ace’s poem that it would end up published alongside his short story ‘Victory Girl’ in Issue 4.

Congratulations to all!