Tag Archives: Flash Fiction

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The Hummingbird Longlist

Thank you to all the wonderful storytellers who submitted to this years’ Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize.  Every year the number of quality stories grows, making our jobs as first judges ever more difficult.  This year we brought in a fourth prelimary judge, Katherine Howard, who helped us narrow our longlist down to 30 excellent pieces.  In no particular order the top thirty are:

  • Saturday in the Penthousehummingbirdissue7
  • Xuefei and his heart
  • Harmless
  • Silk
  • Arabesque
  • Golden Snowflake
  • Painted Nails
  • Neighborhood Watch
  • Funerals
  • Looking East from Heckethorn
  • My Brother’s Therapist
  • Texture of the Sea
  • In My Drawer
  • Scathed
  • Refugee Circus
  • Now You See It
  • Animal Eyes
  • Still Your Mother’s House
  • In the Valley of the Sun
  • Fall on Your Knees
  • Better Watch Out
  • Chameleons
  • Hell in Paradise
  • Whale in the Park
  • Them Bones, Them Bones
  • Ford
  • Button
  • The Deathbed
  • Venetian Blind
  • Ascending
  • A Mailman Drinking a Milkshake
  • Early Harvest
  • Waiting
  • The Yellow Blanket
  • The Wedding of the Junk Dealer’s Daughter

Congratulations to these authors who will remain anonymous until our final judge, Bob Thurber, has finished his deliberations, and to all the writers who submitted stories that made our job so difficult, yet enjoyable.

Stay tuned — we will be publishing the shortlist and the winners on July 15th!

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Spinning Straw into Gold

Life is full of pain.  As writers, we feel the blows keenly, yet the best of us utilize that pain.  Instead of letting tragedy or injustice overwhelm us, we turn our experiences into words.  We sit in an attic, holding on to the truth, and we dare to spin straw into gold.

Bob ThurberBob Thurber is a writer who transforms pain into beauty.  His dark past brings shadowy depth to his characters, and his dialogue bites like a call from home.  His voice is pure, simple, strong. He’s won or been nominated for every short fiction prize we know of, and it was pure pleasure to print his stories in Issues 3  and 6 of Pulp Literature.  We claimed, “Bob Thurber shines in the darkness like a Bic lighter in a munitions dump.”   We meant it.  When Bob offered to be the final judge for our Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction, we felt we had won an award ourselves, and knew something big was about to happen.

Nothing But TroubleCheck out Bob’s latest collection of short stories, Nothing But Trouble, or his novel, Paperboy.  Check out his online micro-fiction at 50-Word Stories, and read his treasures in Pulp LiteratureAnd most important, for all you writers out there, our Hummingbird fiction contest opens on Friday, May 1st.   Entries are limited to 300, giving you a better chance to win, and there is an earlybird entry fee until May 15th.  For guidelines see our contests page.

Submit your stories to a true master.  Take your straw, and spin it into gold.

 

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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.

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!

“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.