Dear readers,

Yesterday we published the winning story of our 2021 Flash Fiction Contest. Congratulations again to winner Justine Gardner whose story “Collapse,” rose to the top of a field of 339 stories. Justine won a cash prize of $500 (as well as $25 for regular acceptance). We want to thank all the writers who enthusiastically submitted their work and waited patiently as we evaluated work, ultimately accepting 21 stories for publication. All accepted stories will run over the next few weeks.

Today we share a bit more from our contest judge Dan Crawley about Justine’s story and the two finalist stories, “Compensations” by Candace Hartsuyker and “Lunch in the Park” by Kevin Sandefur. We will publish the two finalists’ work in November. Congratulations, Candace and Kevin.

Below Dan shares his thoughts about “Collapse,” and the two finalists:

All of the stories on the longlist and shortlist are exceptional pieces of flash fiction, demonstrating how this form of storytelling can dazzle a reader in only a few pages. And then there is the story “Collapse.” It is a brilliant metaphoric tale, revealing the menace of the elements and the struggles of life, and how the “we” characters attempt to protect themselves from disaster. I returned to this story numerous times over the weeks, marveling each time I read it, noticing new aspects of the story that enthrall me.

I admire this writer’s use of exquisite images and remarkable symbolism, the pitch-perfect prose rendered in every line. Images are essential in my own writing, and so I am overjoyed that this writer is such an expert in creating unforgettable sensory details, highlighting a powerful mood throughout. With what we have all endured these last few years, this story resonates with me, deeply. I adore this flash fiction, absolutely adore this writer’s craft, and all that is said about our doubts and dreads, our striving to survive, despite what may come crashing down.

About the two top finalists, Dan said:

I love the unique details in “Compensations,” how different objects reveal a strained relationship, and even more. And the image that appears in the last lines is a flawless moment.

“Lunch in the Park” affects me on a strong emotional level. I love and admire all that this writer reveals about the narrator, the state of her fragility and her strength that emerges. Stunning, unforgettable writing.

We thank Dan again for his time and insights. Dan is a writer himself whose story “A Shiny Little Blue World,” we published and recently nominated for Best of the Net and the Best Small Fictions Anthology. Take some time and check out his novella, Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019), and his newer short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, August 2021). His writing appears (or is forthcoming) in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Thank you, Dan!

Lastly, we’d probably still be reviewing stories if it weren’t for our awesome volunteer readers: Caroline Packard, Kate Jones, Elizabeth Spencer, Susan Pohlman, Amanda Steel, and Windy Harris. Thank you all. You’re the best.

Happy reading and happy fall,

Rudri Bhatt Patel  and Beth Burrell
Founders and editors of The Sunlight Press