CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2023 MICRO MADNESS WINNERS!
Read this year’s top 22 micros, one a day, June 1 – 22
We dedicate the 2023 Micro Madness series to our friend and colleague Rose Collins (1977-2023). Rose won the 2020 no-theme Micro Madness competition with her story ‘The squid and the whale send Alan a piece of ambergris’, and then judged, with Meg Pokrass, 2022’s Micro Madness. Rose was a beautiful poet and writer who excelled in the small form. In 2022 she won the John O’Connor Award for her collection, My Thoughts Are All Of Swimming, which was published by Sudden Valley Press. Mother, daughter, granddaughter, partner, sister, cousin, poet, short story writer, bee keeper, gardener, word enthusiast and friend. We miss our beloved Rose and honour her with this year’s set of carefully crafted micros.
Chris Cottom – Macclesfield, UK
We test new words together: stay … share … exclusive.
Your gap year’s none of my business. Everyone has a past.
The motorway every weekend, van hire after your finals. Miles of love.
Freya’s hen party in Fréjus and I text you another word: trust.
Saves on rent, you say, as you move in. I think it’s commitment.
I count back to Fréjus. I know your cycle. And I know about honesty.
I drive all night but your dad blocks the doorway with words I’ve never heard.
Chris Cottom’s stories have been published by Bournemouth Writing Prize, Cranked Anvil, Ellipsis Zine, FlashFlood, Free Flash Fiction, Hysteria, LoveReading, On The Premises, One Wild Ride, Oxford Flash Fiction, Parracombe Prize, Retreat West, Shooter Flash, Story Nook, Streetcake, The Centifictionist and others.
Sherry Morris – The Scottish Highlands
A darker shade of red
She shivers. Keeps to deep dark woods’ shadow after escaping to sun-bright road. Snow piles high and level on round wide fence posts—a pristine row of winter-white Cossack hats –undisturbed and untouched. Unlike her. She spits. Shivers again. Slobbering bears sporting similar military headgear ate her bedridden babusya, stole her fox-fur ushanka. She’s kept her cleverness though. They’ll pay for their atrocities. A cloak of red rage embraces her, chases away the cold. Her feet crunch soiled snow. She hears breaking kistky. Imagines shattered skulls, battered brains. Grabs a fallen branch. Swings savage blows. Pulverises those fence-post shapki. Practicing
Originally from Missouri, Sherry Morris (@Uksherka) writes prize-winning fiction from a farm in the Scottish Highlands where she pets cows, watches clouds and dabbles in photography. She reads for the wonderfully wacky Taco Bell Quarterly and her first published story was about her Peace Corps experience in 1990s Ukraine.
Kathryn Aldridge-Morris – Bristol, UK
I was a screensaver, sure, but otherwise, it was all photos of her kids round Dad’s house. Sharon and Darren. At the zoo, the mall, the beach. Dad buried in sand, a Budweiser cock, eyes scrunched with laughing, or sand, or whatever else jokes they had.
I’m wrong. There was one of me downstairs―over the TV― all eighties perm and hormones. One weekend visit it vanished. A dog certificate in its place.
You don’t even have a dog, I said to her.
She stroked my head. No honey, she said. But if we did, well, that’s the dog we’d have.
Kathryn Aldridge-Morris is a writer from Bristol, UK. Her work appears in New Flash Fiction Review, Bending Genres, Pithead Chapel and Flash Frog, among others. Her stories have been nominated for Best Microfiction and the Pushcart Prize, and she recently won Manchester School of Writing’s QuietManDave Prize for flash fiction 2022.
Jennifer Fliss – Seattle, Washington, USA
You hop three times and the magic flower appears. Under static clouds, you hold down B, gain speed, and leap onto the golden wall. You’re about to face the Boss. Energy strong, you’ve never gotten this far before. Outside it is spring and your mom is still dead. Has been for hours, almost a whole day now. You pat the box and feel its warmth. You slay the boss with quick jabs to its soft and vulnerable belly. The body is collected. You press your face to the warm gaming console and wait for the next level to begin.
Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer whose collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, came out in 2021. Her forthcoming collection, As If She Had a Say, comes out in 2023 with Northwestern University Press/Curbstone Books. Her writing has appeared in F(r)iction, The Rumpus, The Washington Post and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @writesforlife or via her website, www.jenniferflisscreative.com
Sarah Cohen – Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
The world upside down
She shouldn’t snoop.
He left in a mood, trudging flecks of polystyrene. To be expected, she had read. The moods, not the polystyrene.
His door was open slightly…
The solar system was in pieces. Mars had suffered the event horizon of a school shoe – intricately painted with his grandfather only the weekend before. They had created together since the days of crayon scrawls and balloon planets, 60 years crossed in a heartbeat of shared interests.
Beneath the discarded cosmic wreckage she found a rainbow wristband.
She slowly sat on the floor.
Antarctica lay face-up, cracked and staring at her.
Sarah Cohen lives in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand. She did a BA in English to procrastinate on law school and now works in the public sector shouting at lawyers. This is her first tiptoe into the world of micro fiction.
Slawka G Scarso – Milan, Italy
On a beach that looks like the Maldives but really is ‘only’ Sicily
they’re playing, sunbathing, fighting, laughing, complaining about work, neighbours and relatives. About eating too little, drinking too much, not sleeping enough. Meanwhile, there’s a red dot on the horizon. And the dot with the tide becomes a stripe. And there are arms waving, voices calling. But nobody notices until a boy points out at the sea, because the stripe is now a dingy boat and the voices are clear. The vacationers jump into the water till it’s waist-high, and help the people out, and later give them water, food, and clean clothes. And stop complaining. For a week or two.
Slawka G Scarso’s work has appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, Fractured Lit, Scrawl Place and elsewhere. Her novella in flash All Their Favourite Stories was commended in the 2022 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award and published by Ad Hoc Fiction. She is based in Italy. More words on www.nanopausa.com
Rayna Haralambieva – Bulgaria/ Worthing, UK
A composition that breaks out of the confines of the canvas
I tell Lea
a big flood is coming.
to stop singing and do your
coastal areas will be completely submerged.
no, your daddy leaving has absolutely
nothing to do with you.
the planet has had enough.
I will take her to the theme park
as soon as I get paid.
we can still act, but will we?
we are a great team.
when you hear the emergency alarm,
you must run.
to keep going when she struggles with
her painting for the art competition,
themed ‘magic planet’.
find a safe place for yourself before
Rayna Haralambieva is a Bulgarian writer who writes mostly in English. Her fiction is published or forthcoming in, among others, Reflex Fiction, Litro, Strands and Bath Flash Fiction. She leads creative writing and storytelling workshops in the south of England. She speaks six languages but is most proud to be fluent in cat.
Megan Paonessa – Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
But our bodies are ours
We flip bedsheets in one skilled snap, place, tuck gesture. We wipe rooms from far left corners clockwise, sweeping backward so as not to leave footprints in plush carpets.
‘Time is money, ladies.’
We need out of each house in under two hours. If broken earrings, change, an old watch get swept into pockets, no one comments. That’s secret money. But it will eventually find its way back to Monty.
At dusk, we line up mattresses on the living room floor and lay like lumps, fetal, without sheets. Above us, college kids get high on the balcony, talking Sartre.
Megan Paonessa is a Professor of Creative Writing at Marquette University. Her flash fiction has won the 2022 TL;DR Word Herd competition, the Hayden’s Ferry Review 26th Anniversary Award, and received Honorable Mention in the 2021 and 2020 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contests.
Heather McQuillan – Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
Tourists, we gaze into a curated sky. Our brains pattern crowded stars into myth.
Clustered jewels of distant galaxies, coal sack blackness, the tarantula gas cloud; these are nebulous things. But, when Saturn appears, his rings crisp white, so like his photographs, we gasp.
Locals again, after the sun has scattered the stars, we join the dots between camper vans on the roadside and point out how these geese, as they flee in a sharp angled V, have more to say than God. You flip a calendar page. I search for missing keys.
Heather McQuillan’s flash fiction has been published internationally including Best Small Fictions 2020, 2019 and 2017. Her collection Where Oceans Meet and other stories was published by Reflex Press UK, 2019.
Christy Tending – Oakland, California, USA
Sagittarius stellium is born to run: through the woods on horseback; to the California coast, into the redwoods, among the hawks circling the valley; with the sand between my toes on the edge of the abyss, setting match to fireworks and making my mark on the sky; along the edges of the margins thick with ink and feeling and knee-jerk reactions and exclamation points; through the streets, banner waving behind me in a shock of red or yellow. I was born to drag this world into its own becoming. I was born to bury what wouldn’t stay dead.
Christy Tending (she/they) is an activist, writer, and mama living in Oakland, California. Their first book, High Priestess of the Apocalypse, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in 2024. You can learn more about their work at www.christytending.com or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.
Emily MacDonald – London, UK
He wanders, dreamlike, revisiting the rooms. In the kitchen he savours first tastes of artichokes, anchovies, and oysters. In the cellar he steals the Rieussec once more, rolls apricot nectar on his tongue.
He decorates his bedroom again. Pins the Bowie poster over the bed, positions the turntable in the corner, the beanbag on the floor.
He fills the empty house with his memories. More than when the furniture still stood, paintings covered the walls, medicines and pills vied for space on the shelves.
He says farewell to the spent magnolia and for the last time, double locks the front door.
Emily Macdonald was born in England but grew up in New Zealand. She has won and been placed in several competitions and has work published in anthologies and journals including Fictive Dream, Reflex Fiction, Retreat West, Crow & Cross Keys, Ellipsis Zine, Roi Fainéant, Free Flash Fiction and The Phare. https://www.macdonaldek11.com
Claire Polders – Hoi An, Vietnam
He is a word-spitter, rocket-dancer, thought-jumper, midnight-chaser, splurge-consumer, charmer of flames. I am, too, unless I’m a fit-thrower, grudge-holder, trick-breeder, conspiracy-seeker, tear-channel, shower of blows. In fourteen years, my dad has shown me everything I can be. We’re strong when we’re in sync, unbeatable. But it’s hard on my mom when we’re brain-freezers, hope-blackeners, never-never-thinkers, doom-dealers, death-wishers, and sharpeners of knives. She dissolves our pills in sweetened milk and hums us to sleep. The day we spring back, my dad and I carry her through the house and into the garden. Together, we’re sun-givers, happiness-reapers, singers of sacred love.
Raised in the Netherlands, Claire Polders now roams the world. She’s the author of five novels and a bunch of short prose. Themes in her writing are identity, feminism, social justice, traveling, art and death. She works on a memoir about elder abuse. Learn more about her at www.clairepolders.com.
Jasmine O M Taylor – Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand
Do you remember watching the satellite?
The witching hour with witchy chimney smoke and we watched it watching us.
Do you remember the noise?
The cat, you said, though our cat’s voice is pitiful and sweet.
Do you remember the smell?
I smell it all the time as if it changed the way my nose works.
Do you remember what really happened?
Nothing happened, my darling.
Do you remember my scream?
Oh, it was heavenly.
Jasmine O M Taylor is a tangata tiriti/pākehā, bisexual poet. She lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin and is part of the Octagon Collective team. You can find her work in Landfall, NZPS Anthology (2018 and 2021), Catalyst, Overcommunicate, Mayhem Literary Journal (2020), Poetry New Zealand Yearbook (2021), 1964 and takahē.
Carrie Beckwith – Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Don’t try no polycotton poppycock with me. Nor polyester, darn you. Heavy hold swelter ready sweat bag. Don’t collaborate with your nylon and viscose to rob my ventilation, itchy scratchy rashes from dampening me more. Give me silk, sleek soft, flimsy, floaty, billowing, skimming, caressing. Beats hands down those holding heat dear cling-ons. Keep your formaldehyde, dyes and spandex bound up to thyself. Cool me with cotton-picking cotton. Pluck that fluff stuff, spin and weave me. Free me with linen from Egyptian flaxing wizards. Roll me in bamboo coocachoo. Wick away the prickly night till cool, cool morning.
Carrie Beckwith lives in Stratford-upon-Avon but used to live Ōtautahi Christchurch. She writes marketing content by day and flash by night. She likes to note obscure things down, write off the seat of her pants, and edit much later. The time between really helps.
Amanda Hurley – Saalfeld, Germany
The rain is a curtain call, the darkened street a frontline. It’s the alcohol fuelling us, adding heat to your words. It’s the scotch that propels us, not the chemistry that used to send us scurrying home. It is only your fingers that are naked now, tugging at my wrist, impatient. You could be anyone, they seem to say, the urgency of your need anonymous. It is my heels that drag, my head that spins, your words that leave gashes on my cheek. It is your gaze that when it reaches me, refuses to meet my eyes.
Amanda Hurley, a New Zealander, lives in Germany. She writes short fiction and poetry, and reads for the literary journals Uncharted, Headland and Intrepidus Ink. Learn more at www.amandahurley.net / Twitter: @amandahurleynet
June Pitman-Hayes – Whangārei, Aotearoa New Zealand
There’s no wind today. No driving rain. Just the morning sun, and a line of waterlogged clothing hung out to dry: steaming, stiffening likenesses of legless paper dolls.
I’m sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor clumsily cutting around the paper doll shape of a girl with curly blonde hair dressed in just her underwear and a pair of black Mary Janes. There’s something… familiar… about… her?
Quick! Place paper tabs over her shoulders and around her waist!
Before me, my fragile paper doll folds inward, falls, disperses, and disappears.
June Pitman-Hayes is a published author, poet, jazz singer, songwriter and lyricist. Living along the shores of the Whangārei harbour in the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand, June mixes her love of gardening with other creative pursuits including an exploration into writing flash fiction.
Mandira Pattnaik – New Delhi, India
When the train rattles past, at the street corner
Back to the wall.
Two hands holding a cutter and an awl.
Three tenners under the rug, smelling of despair like salty air.
Four rogue pigeons gossiping nearby, all the time in the world.
Five kids flying paper planes that funnel through the air, flat drop dead.
Six times checking the stitch is right, the shoe feeling important.
Seven years saving money in a rusty tin box.
Eight halves of a loaf, one for each meal.
Nine hours a day under the spiteful orb aflame.
Ten minutes since his boy boarded the train, going to university.
Mandira Pattnaik writes in New Delhi, India. She is the author of collections Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople (2022), Girls Who Don’t Cry (2023) and Where We Set Our Easel (May, 2023). Her work has appeared in Flash Frontier, The McNeese Review, Penn Review, Quarterly West, Passages North, DASH, Miracle Monocle, Timber, Contrary, Watershed Review and QAE, among others. Visit her at mandirapattnaik.com
Gabrielle Dumberry – Oakura, Aotearoa New Zealand
Monday night in Montreal City
Smoke hung thick in the subway station D’Iberville. Outside, two men cooked sausages on a
barbecue, burning trinkets from plastic bins and smoking old cigarette butts. Their lives were in a rusty trolley. One man shook a cup to passersby while their heels drummed on the concrete and glanced toward faraway streets. Occasionally, people would throw a dollar or give them a sandwich, but that night was dry, careless and cold, and they laid on a cardboard bed dreaming of bushes of wild blueberries, salmon-filled rivers, and embers drifting off the canopy.
Gabrielle Dumberry was born in Montreal, Canada. After travelling for a while, she fell in love with Aotearoa. She now lives in Taranaki, where she spends most of her time writing and walking in the bush.
Dan Crawley – Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Off the porch with my duffle, I dodged Mom’s kiss.
She slurred Dad bad-mouths her. Why she did the same.
Dad’s car idled, an engine belt whined its alarm. I hurried curbside. My friends expected me back at Dad’s; we’d ride bikes to Mickey D’s.
Mom screamed he’d wrap us around a tree. Dad’s filthy pot.
Dad yelled she wasn’t a sweet-smelling field of lilies either.
They ordered me backwards, forward. Shouting, what Grandma called, brickbats.
I imagined baseball bats and fire engine red bricks sailing overhead. I crouched in the yard, while my friends waited for me at home.
Dan Crawley is the author of Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019), The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021) and Blur (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2023). His writing appears or is forthcoming in Gone Lawn, Lost Balloon, JMWW, Milk Candy Review, Atticus Review and elsewhere.
Margot McLean – Gisborne, Aotearoa New Zealand
On the inaccurate interpretation of night-time noises
Crashing and groaning outside my hotel room. Howling like a wolf. It goes on and on. Won’t someone call the police? I would press zero for reception but the bed is too warm.
In the morning I ask the waitress about the fight and she looks demure. The walls are a little thin, she replies. Elderly couples sit peacefully at tables, cutting marmalade toast into triangles and popping wrapped shortbread biscuits into handbags. Soon their bus will take them to visit stately homes. Which two are the sex gods? Impossible to say.
Margot McLean’s ancestors are from the Scottish Highlands. She was born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Aotearoa) and is inspired by its wind, underground streams and random paths.
Andrew Anderson – Bathgate, Scotland
Unfranked, Sender to return
I don’t think Frank ever left town.
There were clues if you chose to look. Postcards would arrive from all over the world, but nowadays you can easily buy these, and the appropriate stamps, online.
Mam lit up every time. She’d pore over its words, giving it pride of place on the fridge. She never seemed to notice that they weren’t postmarked; that they only ever arrived on Sundays, slipped through the letterbox when we were at church.
I think Mam thought Frank would come home one day, once the wanderlust wore off.
Maybe he did, just not to us.
Andrew Anderson (he/him) is a writer from Bathgate, Scotland. He is a full-time civil servant, writing flash fiction and short stories in a variety of genres in his spare time. He lives at the quiet end of town.
Jenna Heller – Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
Each person starts with a full deck
Before play, a round of drinks. This is the classic take. A strong hand is a stroke of luck but this joker may only want to play poker and this is not five-card stud. Everyone knows one-eyed jacks are wild. He may find himself down the river because you can fold at any time. Up the ante. Look for the complex trick. If he lays down a false-card, follow suit. Call his bluff. Go all in. He may want to shoot the moon but he hasn’t won your heart yet. This is a cut-throat game. Solitaire is a long night.
Jenna Heller is an American-Kiwi writer living in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand. She won the NZ National Flash Fiction Day competition in 2020 and her flash has appeared in three Best Small Fictions anthologies. She finds the micro the most challenging of the short forms.
Thank you to this year’s wonderful judges…
Mikaela Nyman was born in the autonomous, demilitarised Åland Islands in Finland and lives in Taranaki. Her latest poetry can be found in World Literature Today, Landfall 244, The Spinoff Friday poem, the climate change anthology No Other Place to Stand (AUP, 2022), and Trasdemar (in Spanish translation). Nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2020 for her first Swedish-language poetry collection När vändkrets läggs mot vändkrets (Ellips, 2019).
Her poem ‘Fem år senare’ was set to music by Finnish composer Peter Hägerstrand as part of the Åland Islands’ centenary celebrations 2022 and will be released as an album in February 2023. Co-editor of Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology (THWUP, 2021). Her first novel Sado was published by THWUP in 2020. Her second poetry collection in Swedish is forthcoming in 2023.
Kathy Fish’s short stories, flash fiction, and prose poems have recently appeared in Ploughshares, Washington Square Review, Waxwing Magazine, Copper Nickel, the Norton Reader, and Best Small Fictions. Her fifth collection, Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018, is now in its 2nd print run with Matter Press.
She is a recipient of the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize and a 2020 Ragdale Foundation Fellowship. Her highly sought after Fast Flash© workshops, begun in 2015, have resulted in numerous publications and awards for the hundreds of writers who have taken part.
She publishes a free monthly newsletter, The Art of Flash Fiction, which includes craft articles and writing prompts. She is currently seeking representation for her craft book of the same name.
A composition that breaks out of the confines of the canvas by Rayna Haralambieva
A darker shade of red by Sherry Morris
As the hearse pulls away by Rebecca Ball
But our bodies are ours by Megan Paonessa
Console by Jennifer Fliss
Curriculum by Chris Cottom
Driving to Dunedin by Lynda Scott Araya
Each person starts with a full deck by Jenna Heller
Family traditions by Claire Polders
From dreams to bits of me by Tracie Lark
House clearance by Emily MacDonald
It is by Amanda Hurley
It skipped like a stone casually flung by Charlotte Hamrick
Monday night in Montreal City by Gabrielle Dumberry
Naturally by Carrie Beckwith
On a beach that looks like the Maldives but really is ‘only’ Sicily by Slawka G Scarso
On the inaccurate interpretation of night-time noises by Margot McLean
Only time will tell by Caroline Greene
Paper doll by June Pitman-Hayes
Playing Pickle by Dan Crawley
Re-entry by Heather McQuillan
Saturday at the reclamation yard by Jude Higgins
Slight by Martin Porter
Splitting birch logs for the woodstove by Tom Gadd
Stellium by Christy Tending
Still time by Janean Cherkun
Taken by Deb Jowitt
Taking heed by Diane Simmons
The bee and the sun by Bronwen Griffiths
The long way home by Judy Darley
The park by Sheree Shatsky
The world upside down by Sarah Cohen
Toxic by Jasmine O M Taylor
Unfranked, Sender to return by Andrew Anderson
Wall space by Kathryn Aldridge-Morris
When the train rattles past, at the street corner by Mandira Pattnaik
Wildfire by Jo Cocker