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newlogosmall (13K) December 2003 snowflakesmall (1K)
Issue 16 (Special Contest Issue)

From the Judge:
Reading the work of the semi-finalists sent to me by the editors of THE VESTAL REVIEW, I noted the frequency with which some of these very short stories depended on a supernatural or magical turn. The form invites this choice, even in a time when the literary short story has turned away from the O. Henry twist of an ending toward the "New Yorker-story" ending which is often a small note of suggestion or implication rather than some larger discovery or turn of events. In all good writing, every word counts. In flash fiction, every word must be the precisely right word as it advances and illuminates the story. There's no room for small talk. There’s no time for digression. This is the story, in these words. Nothing else.

DIVADLO is an exemplar of the flash fiction form from the first sentence to the last perfect word. The precision of the language lures the reader to the surprising yet inevitable conclusion with breathtaking elegance.

CAFÉ CENTRAL does more in 173 words to capture the sensibility of a place and its inhabitants than many novels ever manage to accomplish. It's deft and authentic.

Copyright © 2003 Katharine Weber

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Copyright © 2003 Ilya Lerner

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Congratulations to the contest winners:

  1. DIVADLO by David Fromm
  2. CAFÉ CENTRAL by Paula Grenside
  3. THE DEAD by Beverly Jackson
  4. THE DIORAMA-TATTOO by Paula Grenside
  5. TRANSIENTS by Zett Aguado

Honorable Mentions:
  1. The Desert by M.K. Hobson
  2. At Least I Got To Say Goodbye by Terry DeHart
  3. A Void by Pam McNew

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From the Editor:
In this issue of Vestal Review, we proudly announce the winners of our contest, Soft Thunder. We had roughly 80 entries; from those our judge, the accomplished and exceedingly gracious Katharine Weber, selected six winning stories and three that merited honorable mention. The stories, as Ms. Weber herself tells you in the column to your left, are gems. Their authors treated our theme with finesse and variety; no one takes the thunder absolutely literally—it is as subtle as a ringing phone, the call of a muezzin, a sky pregnant with coal smoke, a ghostly memory, painted water over stones. These are fine stories, and we're proud of them. We hope you love them as we do.

However… six winning stories. You, sharp observer, have undoubtedly noted that only five appear. As much as we all love rumors and speculation, please allow me to spoil the fun and set the record straight:

There were indeed six winners. Shortly after Mark notified them, however, one of the six sent us an email in which he said that his story had been influenced by another he had read sometime in the murky past, and upon re-reading that older piece, he wanted to make sure we felt comfortable that his flash was truly original. He supplied a copy of the two pieces for our comparison and when we read them, Mark and I agreed that the winning story—although by no means an exact knock-off of the first—was a bit too close for comfort, and that a canny reader who had enjoyed the first might well find the second more derivative than the author intended. So we declined the story, post-honor, with enormous regret, but with a very real admiration for the author's honesty and humility.

The judging has been complete for some time, and neither Mark nor I felt we should select a sixth story from the Honorable Mention pool, because Ms. Weber had not ranked them. Rather than presuming upon her good nature to do so, or adding our own opinions to the mix, we decided to go with five winners. We are distributing the sixth-place prize of $15 among the winners, upping their ante, so to speak.

Copyright © 2003 Sue O'Neill