A big thank you to US based writer, editor and teacher, Tommy Dean for being our 21st Award judge and for selecting a wonderful short list and winners from our fifty fantastic longlisted stories for the June Award, 2022. Read all his interesting comments below and read the winning stories by clicking the titles.
I was thrilled to be chosen by Jude Higgins to judge this round of the micro contest. What I love about micro fiction is that there’s no set way to write such short stories! There are a million ways to open a story and gain a reader’s attention, and the writers on the longlist provided excellent examples of how stories can start and how they can grip a reader through conflict, through character, through precise and beautiful language. The writers here trusted me as a reader leaving much of the story out, compressing the details into specific gems, and asking me to trust them as they took me into worlds that were familiar, unknown, and at their best a bit of both!
Micro fiction is a livewire act of balancing so many craft elements all with the design of telling a great story, of allowing the reader to invade the stage of the story and put themselves deeply into the narrative at hand. These writer’s compressed until the brevity sparkled with gritty realism, with fantastic fantasy, and showed me the joys and horrors of being human.
Specific, concrete and surprising details dominated these stories, and helped me inhabit the “hot spots” of their character’s lives. So many unforgettable stories that I have no doubt will find great homes in literary magazines big and small. Every story touched me in a way. Stories have always been a balm, an escape, but also a way of reckoning with the world around me, and I thank these writers for bringing their souls to the page, for filling it with truth and beauty, and sorrow, and humor, for giving me a chance to enter their worlds, to live so many lives, to commune with their wit and perspective.
No matter where you finished in this round, please be proud of the work that you’ve accomplished that your stories matter, that it’s only a matter of time before they find readers hungry for your words, your moments of distilled truth and beauty
I’m a sucker for a long winding sentence that does its best to cram in as much pertinent information as possible. I love how the first sentence winds around like the neighbors’ cars taking them to work. I love a story that has such a fierce desire, the truth of waiting for others to leave, to have this private moment. I love that we as the reader are privy to this private moment, one that resonates in its pain, its search for relief. I love how we are on this search for the best place to exert our emotion alongside the character, how specific the details are here, how specific the places of retreat are, how they help me see the character’s desperation, to feel it, to won it. How really screaming isn’t enough, how art isn’t helpful, how frustration is somehow sentient, an antagonist. A masterful portrayal of unmet desire.
I love a story that feels somehow commonplace, but because of its character takes us to a new place of understanding, of truth, of beauty in our human desire to be more than we are. I connected with this idea that we leave something of ourselves behind, that our jobs take something from us, that we don’t always know we’re losing something. How Juliet is more than this job, but she can’t quite see that, feel that, that she often disappears, but this story creates this delicious tension of the opposite of that, this story makes her live on the page! I love the fantastic details here, how the writer is so confident in their use of minimalism, how they refrain of telling us how to feel, how that image of Juliet at the end is murky with sadness, but for us, she has become visible!
Don’t mistake me for your crabapple
I love a writer who takes the risk of using the 2nd person point of view. It can be so intimate, like a cover of a great song that makes you pay closer attention to the lyrics. Another story that made me trust the writer from opening sentence. Another story that made me sit up a little straighter, to pay a bit more attention. And who wouldn’t with these great details and images, the way the narrator demands my attention. And that masterful use of dialogue! Just a few sentences but they create unique and specific characters who are talking past each other, occupying the same space, but not quite on the same page! A glimpse of a specific and unique relationship, one that I wish I could know more about! And that ending image!
On Our Daughter’s Wedding Day
I love a story that starts i the negative, that tells us something they didn’t do or in this case didn’t miss. The negative creates a ghost of two stories that creates so much tension just by using this device! The character is in conflict, but they’re not quite acting, and yet I’m pulled in! On the other side of the negative is the things the character did do or in this case did miss, and that shift from the negative does so much work to reveal this character in a specific and unique way! This is at the heart of any great story! There’s something quite lovely about a character choosing to do something they don’t want to do!
The Shape of the Situation in Apartment 23C on a Sunday in September
Oh, the specificity and intrigue of this long title! I love a story that uses the title to ground me in the setting before I read the first word of the story. There’s so much tension in moving from the title to the opening sentence! Titles like this jumpstart a story, and intrigue a reader, and this story had a high bar to cross to live up to this title, and it did it in spades! I loved the sense of play, the creation of this allegory, how it takes something commonplace, and twists it enough to delight and intrigue the reader! It’s fun, sure, but it also hits hard with resonance!