Tuesday, January 28, 2020

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge: Audition of a Lifetime

For a number of years, I've participated in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. They give you three prompts and eight days to write a short story using these three prompts. The word count is capped at 2500. This year more than 4700 people from around the world participated.

My prompts were:

Genre: Ghost Story
A thing: An Audition
A character: A Divorcée

Audition of a Lifetime


Chris Todd Miller

Samantha Morrison stepped over the homeless man sleeping at the bottom of the steps that led from the subway to the sidewalk, but not before depositing the last of her change in the cup still held in his hand. Her last table that night, an eighteen topper, tipped her $100 on a bill of $265, forty percent, not bad at all. The restaurant had been busy lately, which meant she could almost get caught up on rent. Now, she’d only be one month past due.
            The subway stop was just a few blocks from her apartment. Headlights shown on passing cars, and neon signs were just coming on. The sun cast long shadows, a final bow to the day’s audience. The streets still hummed with traffic and enough pedestrians that she didn’t feel the need to keep her pepper spray at the ready. Jack would already be asleep, or he better be. Mrs. Clawson, who lived a few doors down, was kind enough to watch him while she worked her night shifts.
Her little man. Already so independent, tying his own shoes and everything.
She felt her hand bag buzz and pulled out her phone. The caller ID said, Favorite Agent. She touched the green dot. “Hey Neil, what’s up?”
“Hey, Sam. I got a question for you. Who’s your emergency contact?”
“My emergency contact? Why? Am I dying?”
“Not yet, but play your cards right, and you will.”
“It’s been a long day, Neil, what the fuck are you talking about?”
“I got you an audition with . . .”
Sam’s stomach tightened and she inhaled just a bit.
“HBO. Game of Thrones.”
She shrieked. Pedestrians turned to look. “Are you kidding me?”
“I like a good joke, but I wouldn’t kid you about this. You need to be there by nine a.m. I’ll text you the address.”
“Tomorrow morning? Shit, I’ve got to get my shift covered.”
“Quit if you have to,” Neil said. “You’re a shoo-in. And I haven’t even told you the best part yet. It’s not a leading role but it is a recurring role, so there’s a signing bonus. A big one. This almost never happens but it’s Game of Thrones. They do things their own way. And it doesn’t hurt that you have the world’s greatest agent.”
“Oh, Neil, you have no idea how much I need this.”
“I have some idea. You and Jack won’t have to worry about rent for a long while.”
Sam saw her apartment building in at the end of the block. “Why did you ask about emergency contact?”
“I said I like a good joke. This may not be one of them. You’re going to be on Game of Thrones. Eventually, you’ll be killed off, so I figure you’ll want your affairs in order.”
“Hilarious,” Sam said, with a dead-pan tone. “Don’t quit your day job. And, for the record, it’s my sister, Lexy.”
She hung up and started climbing the three flights to her apartment. She nearly flew up the stairs she was so excited.
The first door at the end of the third floor was Mrs. Clawson’s. Sam knocked quietly, hoping that her son was asleep.
Mrs. Clawson opened the door. “Come in, Sugar.”
Sam slipped through and followed Mrs. Clawson down the hallway. “Was he good for you tonight?”
“Honey, he’s always good. That boy’s an angel.”
“We are talking about my son, Jack, right?”
“Go on, you know he’s a good kid.”
“I know,” Sam said. She eyed the framed pictures that covered the walls. Mrs. Clawson’s family, and family’s family. Some of the photos were in black and white.
Mrs. Clawson saw Sam looking over the photos. “There’s three generations on those walls. You’re off to a good start.”
Jack lay on the couch, asleep, wrapped in his favorite blanket. Sam gathered him up. “Thank you so much for watching him.”

            Sam repositioned Jack on her shoulder so she could rip off the eviction notice on her door. She stuffed it in her back pocket and dug out her keys. Thirty days. “At least they didn’t change the locks,” she muttered.
            She dropped the eviction notice on the kitchen table next to a stack of unpaid bills. She put Jack to bed and left him with a kiss on his forehead, then pulled out her phone. First, a text to her coworker Cami:
            Hey Cami
Sorry to drop this on you so late,
but can you cover my morning shift?
I just landed a huge audition.
                                                                        Hang on
I totally would if I could but . . .

It took three more tries until she found Luis, who agreed to cover her shift. People at work were always talking about their big auditions, yet there they were, night after night, still waiting tables. This time would be different, Sam told herself.
            Next she called her sister, Lexy, who agreed to watch Jack in the morning. Sam set the alarm on her phone to six so she’d have plenty of time to make a big breakfast for Lexy and Jack, and still get to her audition on time. “This time will be different,” she said, before turning out the light.

            Sam placed two eggs, sunny side up, on top of a large pancake to form the eyes of the smiley face—a pad of butter made the nose, and a strip of curled bacon the mouth—when the doorbell rang. She opened the door and gave her sister a big hug. “Come in, come in.”
            Lexy put her purse on the couch and went straight for the plate of bacon, her curls bouncing with each step. “Fancy breakfast.”
“I wanted to put some happy vibes into the universe, and this is Jack’s favorite.”
With a strip of bacon hanging out of her mouth, Lexy picked up the crumpled eviction notice. “They’re kicking you out?”
            Sam dished up a plate for her and Lexy. “That’s what happens when you’re perpetually behind on the rent.”
            “Is Jared late with child support, again?”
            “Again? Still. Shit, Lexy, I haven’t seen a dime in over six months.”
            “Have the state garnish his wages.”
“They’ve got to find him to garnish him.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
            Sam shrugged. “What good would it do? You already work two jobs and have a roommate, and you’re barely getting by.”
            “Not true. I no longer have a roommate. She moved out. Still owes me for rent this month, though.” She picked up the eviction notice. “Call it karma, or kismet, or just the divine, but this is perfect. You and Jack should move in with me.”
            “I don’t know. I’m no charity case.”
            “This isn’t charity. I need a roommate, and who better than my big sis? Plus, Jack needs more Lexy in his life.”
            “Oh, really?”
            “Most people do. Today, you’ll kick ass at the audition, then this weekend we’ll pack up all your shit and move you into my place—our place. Don’t pay that landlord another fuckin’ dime.”
            Sam teared up a little and smiled at her sister. “Okay. Let’s do it.” Sam hugged her sister. “Go give Jack some more Lexy and get him out here before his breakfast gets cold.”
            Lexy came back with Jack on her hip. He still wore his Avengers pajamas, and rubbed sleep out of his eyes. Sam took him and set him at the table.
            Jack gave a delighted gasp. “Smiley face pancakes? These are my most favorite.”
            “I know.” She kissed him on his head.
            “Is aunt Lexy watching me today?”
            “I sure am. Your mom’s got a big audition today for a famous TV show.” She splayed her hands for emphasis.
            “Cool. Can I play Candy Crush on your phone?”
            Lexy smiled. “I’m sure there will be time for that. Now eat up.”
            Sam finished her bacon, eggs, and avocado. “You two finish up. I need to get dressed.”
Fifteen minutes later Sam emerged from the bedroom ready to go. She bent down in front of Jack. “Give me a hug.” He hugged her tightly around the neck and kissed her cheek.
“Break your legs today,” he said.
“I will, buddy, thanks.” She looked at Lexy, who gave a nod that said, you got this.
Outside, Sam pulled up the text Neil sent her with the address and her lines. She’d stayed up late practicing her part. This morning, she only put on minimal makeup to hid her tired eyes. The studio would take care of that. She thought about hailing a cab, but one of her mother’s axioms about chickens, and eggs, and math came to mind. She decided she could make it to the subway. With only one changeover she would make it with ten minutes to spare.
On the train, she practiced her lines again and again. Nobody interrupted her. In fact, barely a head turned her way. “I guess people talking to themselves on the subway is not unusual.”
At her stop, she gathered her purse, and with phone in hand, stepped off the train, making sure to mind the gap. The sun felt warm and pleasant on her face as she merged into the throng of people on the sidewalk. Every so often she had a moment like this, where she observed the strangers before, behind, and to either side of her and paused, just for a second, to consider how each person was living his or her own life in the world. Hustling and bustling to get to some place, entirely oblivious to everyone else, caught up in their own joys and sorrows, yet somehow the universe managed to weave them altogether to make the world go round. After today she would owe the universe a big thank you.
She was only a couple of blocks from the studio. Sam pulled up her lines again. She knew she knew them, but couldn’t stop reading them. She managed to read and project without running into anyone and before she realized it, she was across the street from the studio. She waited with the crowd for the light to change and moved in unison with everyone else when the signal chirped. The next sound she heard was the squeal of tires on asphalt and people screaming. A yellow taxi cab barreled into the crosswalk. Sam dropped her phone and put both hands out as if to stop the car by using “the Force.”
Sam opened her eyes to see a man leaning over her saying something. His mouth was moving but she couldn’t make out what he was saying. A crowd had assembled around her.
Fear grasped her chest. She started to get up. “What time is?”
The man didn’t respond but kept shouting at the people around them.
She picked up her phone, and to her relief, found the screen wasn’t even cracked. “It’s five to nine. I can still make it.” To her surprise, she felt okay. Although she knew that people in car accidents often didn’t feel the effects until days or weeks later, but she didn’t have time for that.

* * * * *

            “Ms. Morrison, I appreciate you having come in today to read for us,” said Mr. Benioff.
            “Yes, we know it was sort of short notice,” echoed Mr. Weiss.
            “It was no trouble, really. Thank you for the opportunity,” Sam said, barely able to control her nerves.
            “You’ve probably never done an audition quite like this one,” Mr. Benioff continued, “but it was really more of a formality than anything else. I’ve known Neil for years and he suggested you. We looked up your past work and we think you’re perfect for the role. Your performance today only reinforced that decision.”
            “So, I got it? Sam asked.
            Mr. Weiss opened his arms wide. “Welcome to Game of Thrones.”
            Sam squeed and gave them each a hug.
            “To continue the unorthodox nature of this audition, we have a contract ready for your signature. Neil has already read it and signed off on it. All we’re missing is your name right here.” He pointed to the bottom of the last page where a yellow sticky note shaped like an arrow indicated where to sign.
            Her hand only shook a little as she signed her name. With a steady income, and forever royalties, not to mention a hefty signing bonus, she knew she and Jack and Lexy would be okay.  She pulled out her phone and sent Lexy a quick text: Grab a jacket because winter is coming! I got it!


“Hello?” Lexy said, as she answered her phone to a number she didn’t recognize.
“Is this Alexis Simmons?” asked a somber voice.
“Lexy, yes, this is she. Who is this?”
“Ms. Simmons, this is Officer Clarke. I’m afraid there’s been an accident involving your sister.”
Lexy looked at Jack drawing a picture of him with Sam and Lexy on either side of him. They were holding hands. She kept a calm demeanor as she listened to the officer describe the accident. “Ms. Morrison died en route to the hospital. I’m sorry for your loss.”
            Lexy looked at Sam’s last message: Grab a jacket because winter is coming! I got it!
            “Was that mommy?” Jack asked. “When is she coming home. I want to show her my picture.”
            Lexy wiped a tear from her cheek and put her arms around her nephew. “Mommy’s not coming home, sweetie.”


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge: Lobster Bisque

For a number of years, I've participated in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. They give you three prompts and eight days to write a short story using these three prompts. The word count is capped at 2500. This year more than 4500 people from around the world participated.

My prompts were:

Genre: Romance
A Thing: A blank check
A character: A sea captain

My story takes place in prison, where all great romances begin.

Without further ado, I give you: Lobster Bisque.

Lobster Bisque


Chris Todd Miller

Portland Harbor, Casco Bay
Marion R Jensen Correctional facility
Rec Room

Free time in the rec-room at the Marion R Jensen Correctional facility in Portland, Maine resembled a playground, except there were no females, plenty of profanity, and in place of kickball, an old television clung to the wall. The corner of the screen was cracked, but the picture was clear. They even had a playground monitor, Correctional Officer Mendoza. A dozen inmates gathered around the idiot box.
Currently the Caucasians had the room, which today included a handful of skinheads. Access to the TV room rotated on a schedule between the Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, and the White Supremacists. Subcategories of those groups included everyone else: the mentally ill, the born-agains, the guys just trying to do their time, and any other hard ass that nobody wanted to mess with. As hard asses go, former Master Chief Petty Officer Curtis Oliver of the US Navy Seals was the baddest motherfucker on the block.
A dispute started over what to watch. Before things got heated they realized the channel was stuck on a local affiliate showing a Friends rerun. “Who the fuck was watching this?” asked Warchild, the skinhead leader.  
“Probably a schitzo,” replied another follicle-challenged brother.
Curtis smirked. It was rhetorical, you dumb hick.
Warchild left taking most of his cronies with him. Everyone else settled down to watch Friends, given it was their only option.
A new face pulled an orange plastic chair near Curtis and sat down. “Oh, this is the one where Phoebe tells Ross that Rachel is his lobster and she’s his.”
“Spoiler alert,” Curtis glared at the new guy. “Look, I don’t know who you are but I have two questions: one, what’re you talking about? And two: who the hell are you and why are you sitting next to me?”
“That was three questions.”
“You have exactly three seconds to get the fuck out of my face,” Curtis said.
The man put up his hands in a surrender gesture. “I’m Petty Officer 3rd Class, James Coleman, sir. You are Curtis Oliver and you’re a goddamn legend.”
Curtis looked at James for a long second. “That was a good answer. You can stay, for the moment.”
James slid his chair closer. His face shone like he was just asked to prom by the head cheerleader.
“You know my story?”
“Yes sir,” said James. “I don’t blame you one bit either. That son-of-bitch had it coming. He got off easy if you ask me.”
“Oh, I see. So you actually don’t know shit.”
“Just answer my other question,” Curtis said pointing at the television.
“Oh, yes sir.”
“And stop calling me sir. That’s not who I am anymore.”
“Yes si—um, okay. This is the episode where Ross is freaking out because he thinks he might lose Rachel and to calm him down Phoebe explains how lobsters mate for life and Ross and Rachel are lobsters to each other.”
“And this was a hit show?” Curtis asked. “It’s bullshit, by the way.”
“The show?”
“Yeah, but the lobsters, too. That’s not how they mate. Lobsters get it on with several mates.”
James scrunched his face. “Really, how do you know that?”
Curtis leaned forward and put his forearms on his knees. “Like I said, you don’t know shit about me. If you did, you’d know that before I ended up in here, my wife and I ran a lobster trawler. She still does, in fact.”
“You were the captain of a troller?”
Curtis shook his head. “Trawler.” He emphasized the AW. “And I never said I was the captain. That’s my woman. We own it, but I do whatever she says from emptying traps to eatin’ pussy.”
James nodded his head in deep contemplation. Curtis slapped James’ knee with the back of his hand. “You got a lady waiting on you?”
“Yeah, yeah I do.”
“Then you’d be wise to follow my advice. What’s her name?”
“Freyja. And she’s pregnant. Due in a few months.”
“No shit. When do you get out?”
“A lot longer than a trimester. This new administration is going to deport her and there’s not thing one I can do about it.”
“You married?”
“Engaged. Even if we were married, Trump’s ban would still kick her out.”
“Hashtag MAGA,” Curtis spat.


 Portland Harbor, Casco Bay
Marion R Jensen Correctional facility
The Prison Yard
Curtis and James met regularly in the yard. Curtis shared war stories and James, who never saw combat, shared Icelandic culture. James was convicted of forgery and immigration fraud trying to loophole the citizenship process for his fiancée. They met while James was stationed at the US Naval Base in Iceland at the Keflavik International Airport. When Curtis prodded him for details all James would say was “it’s complicated.”
On this day, the wind blew off the harbor and carried to the prison yard with a unique crispness. “It’s its own kind of punishment, you know?” Curtis said. “Putting us this close to the ocean and making it so far away.” They watched the trawlers come and go around the oil tankers, ferries, cargo and cruise ships, and the handful of yachts.
“Did you see that?” Curtis asked.
“See those trawlers to the north. Look for a flashing light. That’s my Jessie. She flashes that halogen light three times to let me know she’s close.”
“That’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard,” said James. They stared at the harbor for a minute or maybe an eternity, Curtis wasn’t sure.
“Let’s think about something else,” James said. “What’s the first thing you’re going to eat when you get out?”
“That’s easy, lobster bisque. Jessie makes the best lobster bisque in New England.”
They walked alongside the chain link fence, razor wire circled the top. James picked up a rock and threw it over. “You’ve never told me her name before.”
“Yeah, well, I’m starting to not not like you.”
“Sea captain and she can cook. Doesn’t get much better than that.”
“No it doesn’t,” Curtis smiled and winked. They walked for a few more minutes.
“Can I ask you something else?”
“You can ask,” replied Curtis.
“What’s your real story? You said I don’t know shit about you. What don’t I know?”
Curtis squatted on his heels and sighed. “I never killed anyone. I mean, outside of a sanctioned maneuver. I know everyone here tells you they’re innocent, but I really am.” He stood and they continued to pace the perimeter. “Jessie’s dad died right after she was born. When she was sixteen, her mother remarried. Before long, her step-dad started touching her and it escalated from there. When she turned eighteen, she left. Got work as a deckhand. Worked her way up to first mate. Eventually, we met, bought a boat and went into business for ourselves.”
“You walked away from the SEALS to catch lobster?”
“I was in a dark place, Jimmy.” He looked out over the bay. “She silenced the demons. I think it’s because she’d beaten her own demons. There’s not much that salt water can’t cure.”
“What did you name your boat?”
“Blank Check. It was the key to our earning potential, a veritable boatload.” He laughed at his own joke. “It also symbolized what we were trying to do. A clean slate. A fresh start.”
“But then?”
“Step-dad knocked up Jessie’s mom. Ultrasound said girl. Jessie about lost it. There’s no way on God’s green Earth she would let what happened to her happen to her sister. She found her step-dad and shot him. There’s no way in hell I’d let my woman go to prison. I took the fall. I had a good lawyer. Got it knocked down to manslaughter. Now I’m here and she’s out there.”
“I can’t imagine doing that. I mean, I’d want to, I just don’t know that I could.”
“You could. For the woman who quiets the demons, you could do anything.”
They stopped near a corner of the yard. “You see this spot?”
“Here where we’re standing?”
“Yeah. Remember it.”
“It’s a dead spot. Come on, let’s head back. Hey, are you any good at forgery? I mean you’re here so maybe you suck at it.”
“I’m good. I’m real good. Like I said, it’s complicated.”
            As they approached the main area, Warchild stepped in front of Jimmy. “Where have you two lovebirds been?”
            Curtis motioned Jimmy behind him. “Leave it alone, Warchild.”
            “Leave what alone? Your boyfriend? I knew you two were fags. Come’re sweetheart, I’ll show you a real man.” Warchild reached for Jimmy. Curtis grabbed Warchild by the wrist, did a step-pivot-twist and Warchild was on the ground. Curtis put a foot on his throat and didn’t release the wrist hold. The skinhead circle moved in. “Back the fuck off,” Curtis said. He didn’t yell it. He didn’t need to. “Try something and he’ll be jerking off lefty for the rest of his life.” He applied more pressure to Warchild’s wrist. “Do we understand each other?”
            “Fuck you,” Warchild said.
            Curtis applied more pressure.
“Yes, goddammit,” he said through clenched teeth. “Everybody, back off.”
            “Say you understand.”
            “I understand. God, please. I understand.”
            Curtis released him. He motioned to Jimmy and they walked away.
“I can handle myself,” Jimmy said.
            “I know you think you can.”
            James scoffed. “Then why?”
            “Like I said, I’m not not liking you more and more, Jimmy.”

            The next morning Curtis and Jimmy sat across from each other at a table near the middle of the pod. Two trays sat between them consisting of oatmeal, eggs, toast, and sausage links.
            Curtis cut up his sausage and mixed it with the oatmeal.
Jimmy speared a link and put it in his mouth.
            “I wouldn’t do that,” Curtis said.
            Jimmy made a face as if he’d just licked the floor. Curtis put a hand over his mouth. “Swallow it. If the guards see you spit it out that’s all you’ll get for a week.”
            Jimmy choked it down.
            “The oatmeal makes it go down easier.” He removed his hand. “About your special skills. Let’s say I found a way out of this place.”
            “I’m listening.”
            “If I take you with me, can you make passports and other documents?”
            “Absofuckinglutely, but I’m not going anywhere without my Freyja.”
            Curtis sporked a mouthful of eggs into his mouth. “Jessie will pick her up and meet us at a designated time and place, then we make a run to Canada.”
            “The dead spot?”
            Curtis nodded. “The dead spot.”


Portland Harbor, Casco Bay
Marion R Jensen Correctional facility
The Dead Spot
A handful of stars fought a losing battle with the pre-dawn. Curtis and Jimmy slipped away from the work detail where they were supposed to report to laundry. Officer Rodriguez would make sure their absence went unnoticed until it was too late. They followed the fence until they reached the dead spot where Jessie would be waiting with bolt cutters and his beloved SIG Sauer P226, just in case.
They made it through the yard without incident. When they reached the dead spot, Jessie wasn’t there. Curtis scanned the area looking for her. “Jessie!” he whispered and yelled at the same time.
“Where is she?” Jimmy asked.
“She’ll be here.”
“We don’t have—”
“There,” Curtis pointed at dark figured, approaching north by north-east. “Come on, baby, daylight’s coming.”
There was no prescribed love scene like in the movies, they didn’t kiss between the chain-link or grasp hands. Jessie just went to work with the bolt cutters.
“You’re a minute late. What happened?”
“Ground patrol was late. Idiots. I nearly ambushed them. I’m surprised you haven’t broken out of this place on your own by now.” She worked the bolt cutter with an easy rhythm. She’d cut through about a dozen links when Curtis grabbed the fence with both hands and wrenched back the opening. Jimmy wriggled through then he held the opening for Curtis.
“Did you bring it?” Curtis asked.
Jessie gave him a WTF look and withdrew a Sig Sauer and shoulder holster from a nap sack.
“Come to me, baby.”
Jessie handed it to him and he cinched it up with a practiced movement. Jessie already wore hers.
“You both have one?” Jimmy asked.
“Jessie, this is Jimmy.”
Jessie cocked her head. “Where’d you find this guy?”
Curtis laughed. “Iceland, as it turns out.”
She looked at Jimmy. “Freyja’s on my trawler. She’s fine but we need to go.” She looked at Curtis. “And for you, a thermos of lobster bisque waits below deck.”
“Can’t wait.”
“Does that mean what I think it means?” Jimmy asked.
Alarms shattered the peaceful morning. Spotlights raced each other across the yard and stopped on the three fugitives.
“Shit, go,” Curtis yelled. The three of them took off down the hillside, Jessie in the lead. The terrain was largely kept clear to deter escapees, but the city also had an ordinance that basically said it needed to look pretty. Clumps of trees dotted the area partially obscuring the prison and still giving the locals their fall colors.
The three zig-zagged from clump to clump until they ran out of trees. Between them and the bay was a hundred yards of open ground. An ATV crested the rise to either side of them, their headlights blazed into the remnants of the night. Curtis put a hand on the back of Jimmy and Jessie, pushed them forward and yelled, “Go.”
The three sprinted for the dock. Curtis calculated the intercept point. They weren’t going to make it. He stopped and fired his Sig at one ATV then turned on the other. He aimed high, hoping the shots would slow them down. It worked. The pursuers came to a halt, only to pull out rifles and return fire.
Jessie and Jimmy stopped when they heard the shots.
Curtis went down.
Jimmy froze.
Jessie shrieked.
Jimmy did an awkward dance as he tried to flee and run back to Curtis at the same time. Jessie sprinted back to her Master Chief. “Come on,” she yelled. When she reached him, she turned and laid down cover fire in one direction while Curtis mirrored her. Curtis yelled at Jimmy, “Go, get to the boat!” Jimmy bee-lined it for the dock, but hesitated before boarding.
Curtis fired a shot over his head and waved him on. Jimmy would have sense enough to know that meant shove-off and don’t look back.
Jessie put his arm around her shoulder and the two of them humped it back to the nearest cluster of trees. Through the crimson and gold leaves, they watched their Blank Check merged into the harbor traffic and disappear.
She looked at his wound. “How much time do we have?”
“Two minutes, maybe less. Look, they don’t know about you. I can get you a head start.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
He blinked back tears. “If you stay, know this: I’m not going back to prison.”
She slapped a new magazine into her Sig, racked the slide, and kissed him. “I go where you go.”


Sunday, August 26, 2018

League of Utah Writers 2018 Writing Contest Results


New Writer: Creative Non-Fiction 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Making Sense of Mormonism by Brian Perrin 
  • Second Honorable Mention: Another Rule Broken by Jacquelene Rivers 
  • First Honorable Mention: Dog-ma by Colleen Callahan 
  • Third Place: By the Short Hairs by Jelene Kirkland 
  • Second Place Fishing with Heber Stock by Kathy Davidson 
  • First Place: What Are You Living For? by Samantha Thorup 

New Writer: Fiction 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Erotic Hallucinations by Ramiro Torres
  • Second Honorable Mention: A War to Bring Peace by Krystal Gerber
  • First Honorable Mention: Lester by Patrick Hare
  • Third Place: A Painted Smile by Jonathan Humphries 
  • Second Place: The Maiden's Request by Gregory Lemon
  • First Place: Stumblecookies by Garrett Faulkner

New Writer: First Chapter (Fiction or Non-Fiction) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: CHARLY&NELLA by Tara Creel
  • Second Honorable Mention: MIDNIGHT by Natalie Evjen
  • First Honorable Mention: The Shadow Master by Justin Cole
  • Third Place: Weight of It All by Paul Warburton
  • Second Place: Quests & Confusion by Jenna Harris
  • First Place: Ruthless by Patrick Hare

New Writer: Poetry 2018
(only three entries no honorable mentions)

  • Third Place: Charge of the Dark Brigade by Zoe Stoffel 
  • Second Place: The Passenger by Lori Reichard
  • First Place: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School February 2018 by Daniel Cureton


Poetry: Encore Poetry (any category) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: OUT SLIPS MY THUMB by Jef Huntsman
  • Second Honorable Mention: The Tainting of My World by Lorraine Jeffery
  • First Honorable Mention: This Mundane Life by Anna Marasco
  • Third Place: STEPPING INTO LIGHT by Marie Tollstrup
  • Second Place: Rebel by  Anna Marasco
  • First Place: THE REUNION by Jef Huntsman

Poetry: Prose Poem 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: METHOD TO MADNESS by Marie Tollstrup
  • Second Honorable Mention: Norihiko's Bonsai by Jo Harline
  • First Honorable Mention: The Ride Home by C.H. Hung
  • Third Place: ARCHES by Marie Tollstrup 
  • Second Place: RED RIVER CHURCH by Marie Tollstrup 
  • First Place: Scapegoat by Alex Leavens

Poetry: Light Verse (Rhyming, Metrical, and/or Humorous) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Raincheck by Jeremy Gohier
  • Second Honorable Mention: Video Game Guy by Cesanne Greathouse
  • First Honorable Mention: The Perfect Pancake by Nathan Wright
  • Third Place: Old Gooselbine's Pumpkin Strudel by Alexis Tate
  • Second Place: Wrangler Jeans by Josie Hulme
  • First Place: Summer Sandcastles by Charlene Harmon

Poetry: Narrative Poetry (Open or Closed Form) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: ON SEAFORD HEAD by Kevin Shannon
  • Second Honorable Mention: Out of Reach by Alexis Tate
  • First Honorable Mention: WAR'S BEAUTIFUL FACE by Marie Tollstrup
  • Third Place: This by Lorraine Jeffery
  • Second Place: Stepmom by  Felicia Rose
  • First Place: Straining to Hear by Lorraine Jeffery

Poetry: Word Play 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Traffic Jam by Amy Leskowski 
  • Second Honorable Mention: The 105 by Daniel Cureton
  • First Honorable Mention: Magpies are Bitches by Candie Thomas
  • Third Place: A Body of Work by Denis Feehan 
  • Second Place: Pineapple Rules by Pam Tucker
  • First Place: X-ploring by  Grace Jessen 


Prose: Children's Story 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: As to Plan by Johnny Worthen 
  • Second Honorable Mention: Heroes Inside of Me by Rachael Jessop
  • First Honorable Mention: Just Like Max by Robyn Buttars
  • Third Place: The Elusive Socks by Jo Ann Stringer
  • Second Place: The Day the Spigot Broke by James Crofts 
  • First Place: S Is For Small by Robyn Buttars

Prose: Creative Non-Fiction 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Switchbacks by Jill Bowers
  • Second Honorable Mention: SWIFT CURRENT by Jef Huntsman
  • First Honorable Mention: Boyfriend by Rena Lesué
  • Third Place: Aura by Dianne Hardy
  • Second Place: Why We Live on a Homestead by Felicia Rose
  • First Place: Klatch by Tim Keller

Prose: Encore Prose (any category) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Bubble by Lorraine Jeffery
  • Second Honorable Mention: Tempest by Tim Keller
  • First Honorable Mention: Jamaica Rush by Jef Huntsman
  • Third Place: Matching Baggage by Tim Keller
  • Second Place: Thing That I AM by Paul Warburton
  • First Place: THE SIREN CALL by Marie Tollstrup

Prose: First Chapter (Novel) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: The Fates of Stars and People by Daniel Martin
  • Second Honorable Mention: Forever, Ethan by Rachel DeFriez 
  • First Honorable Mention: Salt Lake Sorceress by Heidi Voss
  • Third Place: What Comes From Darkness by Amanda Luzzader
  • Second Place: A Killer Frost by Amanda Luzzader
  • First Place: COYOTE SPILL by Jef Huntsman

Prose: First Chapter (Young Adult) 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: The Unenchanted by Emily Wheeler
  • Second Honorable Mention: Felicity by Lynne Allen
  • First Honorable Mention: Paige Sampson: Misfit Rebel by Kathryn Ferriello 
  • Third Place: Grey Matters by Rachel DeFriez 
  • Second Place: SUNK by Maggie Adams 
  • First Place: THE CHIME CHILD by Lisa Taylor 

Prose: Flash Fiction 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Exhibition by Jeremy Gohier 
  • Second Honorable Mention: Flash Ants by Kathy Davidson 
  • First Honorable Mention: Suburbia by Tim Keller 
  • Third Place: Falling Off My Shoes by David Rodeback 
  • Second Place: Marie by David Rodeback 
  • First Place: No Man's Land by Krystal Gerber 

Prose: General Fiction 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: I Made Muffins by David Rodeback 
  • Second Honorable Mention: SANCTUARY WITHIN by Marie Tollstrup 
  • First Honorable Mention: THE DEATH OF SAMANTHA ROSE by Warren Stucki 
  • Third Place: MASKS by Marie Tollstrup 
  • Second Place: Synthetic Heart by September Roberts 
  • First Place: The Switchboard Operator by Denis Feehan 

Prose: Media Article 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: Faceless But Not Forgotten by Robyn Buttars 
  • Second Honorable Mention: CONFRONTING SUICIDE by Marie Tollstrup 
  • First Honorable Mention: Heels by Felicia Rose 
  • Third Place: "Flaunt It Friday" or "One Woman's Domestic Tale" by Alice Batzel 
  • Second Place: The Hunger, Anthology, Book Review by Daniel Yocom 
  • First Place: Local Governments in Ancient Egypt by Sariah Horowitz 

Prose: Mystery / Thriller 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: New Job by Denise Johnson 
  • Second Honorable Mention: Hunger Moon by Sariah Horowitz 
  • First Honorable Mention: The Model by Neil Dabb 
  • Third Place: A Cup of Hot Chocolate by Lorraine Jeffery 
  • Second Place: Regret by Keri Montgomery 
  • First Place: DISTURBED by Jef Huntsman 

Prose: Speculative Fiction 2018 

  • Third Honorable Mention: Tilting Scales by Richard Timothy 
  • Second Honorable Mention: Breaking Up With an Angel by Heidi Voss
  • First Honorable Mention: City of the Bees by Carol Nicolas 
  • Third Place: A Friend in Need by Caryn Larrinaga 
  • Second Place: Missing Persons by Emily Wheeler 
  • First Place: Life Blossoms by Chris Todd Miller 

Prose: Spiritual Personal Essay 2018

  • Third Honorable Mention: THE TELLING OF THE BEES by Katharine Goodman 
  • Second Honorable Mention: Of Crayons and Angels by Amanda Luzzader 
  • First Honorable Mention: Seek, Find, Be by Julie Walton 
  • Third Place: The Piglet by Felicia Rose 
  • Second Place: The Topsy-Turvey World of Our Inherited Wolf-Stories by Shaunna goldberry 
  • First Place: Within My Glass Box by Joni Haws 

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