Shock Totem Flash Contest

A schoolhouse like the one in The Joining
The results of Shock Totem magazine’s fall flash fiction contest are in. My story The Joining came in 2nd place in a three-way tie! This was the first time I’ve participated in one of these anonymous contests, and it was a lot of fun. Twenty-one writers submitted and voted. Damn some of them were great. It was delightful to hang with such a talented group and get their feedback in a private forum. So to my ST peeps, thanks for the votes and kind words, and most of all, thanks for the great reads. My top three choices were:

1. WHEN THE WALLS SPEAK THEY WHISPER DARKNESS by Damien Walters Grintalis (I knew that was a DWG title)
2. MOVING DAY by Mark Onspaugh
3. BETWEEN by Jaelithe Ingold

Second place wins bragging rights, so here’s the brag: it’s a cliché, but I really mean it when I say I’m honored to have tied with Amanda C. Davis and Jaelithe Ingold, both of whom impressed the hell out of me.

The winning story was Rebirth, by Merrilee Faber. Merilee spun a vivid, creepy tale that also manages to radiate a twisted tenderness. You can’t read her story yet, because it’s still in the running for publication, but you can check out her blog here:

The process of anonymous voting/critiquing reminded me of some things I thought I knew about writing and publishing, but that only first hand experience can drive home.

What I learned at Flash Camp:

1. Even when you assemble twenty odd (very odd) people who all claim to write in the same genre, and give them all the same story prompt, the results of their writing and voting will show a wide diversity of taste, style and approach. Isn’t that awesome? I think so.

2. It’s a bitch being on the editor’s side of the desk, having to choose one great story at the expense of another. Sometimes you have to reject a wonderful piece because it doesn’t quite fit the vision of the publication, or in this case, the prompt.

3. Sort of a restating of 1 and 2, but I think it bears repeating: The chemistry between a writer, a story and a reader is totally subjective. It can be easy to forget that, and start thinking that if someone rejected your story, the story must be defective. If only you can fix your story, everyone will love it. No, sorry. A story is not a gadget. Even if it works, it won’t work for everyone. I find that kind of liberating.

So now that I know it won’t be in Shock Totem, where should I submit The Joining?


5 thoughts on “Shock Totem Flash Contest

  1. Damien Walters Grintalis says:

    Congratulations to you for participating and for landing second place! The contests are lots of fun, with creative prompts that allow for a good stretch of the writing muscles. And I suppose the secret is out about my special love for titles. I blame years of writing poetry. 🙂

  2. Charles Day says:

    Hey congrats on taking second place.

    I enjoyed your bragging article above. LOL! And I agree, there were some great stories in the small writers bunch, I was honored to be amongst some very talented authors.

    Charlie In The Box

  3. Merrilee says:

    Great post, and thanks for the mention. I enjoyed The Joining, great fantasy world and loved the creepy poem at the end 🙂 It was fun, an I know exactly what you mean about writer/reader chemistry. All very subjective. Congratulations!

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