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Author: Reflex Fiction

Winter 2017 Long-List

Thanks to everyone who entered our Winter 2017 competition. We received 247 entries from twenty different countries.

Below, we’ve compiled a long-list of fifty stories. Congratulations to everyone who made the long-list!

If your story is on the long-list and you ticked the permission box (you can check your confirmation email or get in touch with us if you can’t remember), your story will be published on the website between March 1* and March 31. If you didn’t tick the box, your story will only be published if you’ve won a prize. Feel free to send us a message and we’ll let you know if your story is going to be published.

Before we start publishing the long-listed stories, we’ll publish some of our favourites that didn’t quite make the long-list. We’ll be emailing the authors of these stories in the next few days to let them know.

If your story is not on the long-list and you do not hear from us within the next week, it means your entry has not been selected on this occasion.

Here’s the Winter 2017 publishing schedule in full:

  • January 1–February 22*: Stories that just missed the long-list
  • February 23*–March 28: Non-winning long-listed stories
  • March 29: Third place story
  • March 30: Second place story
  • March 31: First place story & Judge’s report

*Dates subject to change due to withdrawals etc.

Don’t forget, the Spring 2018 competition is now open for entries with Michelle Elvy picking the winners.

Winter 2017 Long-List

A Floating Island by Christopher M Drew

A Hope in Hell by Louise Mangos

Anger Management by Charmaine Wilkerson

Aspects of My Father by Stephanie Hutton

Avocado by Lee Hamblin

Battle of Brushes by Claire Polders

Best Take Your Bike by Courtney Harler

Better Words by Debbie Bayne

Blood in the Water by Cat Pritchard

Bones by Jeanette Sheppard

Boy and Rat by Rose McDonagh

Coda by James Smart

Decision Making for the Middle-Aged Woman by Sherri Turner

Do Sit Still, Prudence Dear by Cheryl Nicol

Dog Days by Damhnait Monaghan

For Your Boy by Debbi Voisey

Ghosts in the Machine by Al Kratz

Grief for Beginners by Karen Jones

His Kiss by Alan McCormick

Hope on a Loop by Eilise Norris

House by Niamh MacCabe

If I Told You, You Wouldn’t Have by Lesley C Weston

It Had to Happen by Diane Simmons

Maintaining Balance by Elaine Dillon

Misspoken by Heather McQuillan

No Time for Stories by Annie Q Syed

Our London by Victoria Richards

Oxymoron by Lorraine Cooke

Poised for Flight by Alicia Bakewell

Porkin’ in Heaven by Sharon Boyle

Remote by Mary Thompson

Salt Lake by Melissa Jacob

Seven Fold by Cosi Nayovitz

Shrink by Julia Paillier

Six of Clubs by Niamh MacCabe

Some Stains Are More Stubborn Than Others by Emily Devane

Stone by Alison Woodhouse

Storm Drain by Billy Boyle

The Art of Putting Coins in Vending Machines by Philip Young

The Burr That Snags Me by Raewyn Bassett

The Cream-Coloured Dogs by Rose McDonagh

The Foxes by Adrian Plau

The Geometry of Want by Joely Dutton

The Word Thief by Victoria Richards

Tom Thumb Has a Daughter by Eilise Norris

Watch Yourself Burn by Annie Q Syed

We Fell by E

What Happened to the Things I Used to Think Were Cool by Anna Nazarova-Evans

Work Drinks by Claire Bourke

You Two Together? by Judith Wilson


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Autumn 2017 Judge’s Report

This round, thanks go to Tim Stevenson who had the difficult task of picking three winners from a long-list of fifty stories. Here’s why he picked the stories he did:

The fifty stories that made this longlist for the Reflex prize demonstrated that the flash-fiction genre is alive, kicking, and as vibrant as ever. Flash-fiction is a challenge, not only because of its length, but also because the stories must be well written and satisfying in themselves. This is the art of knowing exactly what to leave out of a story without detracting from the subtlety of the prose.

In order for flash to be successful (in my mind at least) it is important that it meets the criteria of any good piece of short fiction, the feeling of time passing for a character, the change wrought in that character, the ability of the reader to extrapolate into the story’s wider world and see the hidden things that are only obliquely referenced, and the knowledge of what will happen after the story finishes. A full stop is rarely final, and the short form wields its power not from the sense of conclusion, but from the knowledge of possibility, the tantalising glimpse of what might happen next.

Which brings us to the winners.

First Place

Jimmy Choo Shoes by Shannon Savvas

The winner, Jimmy Choo Shoes, was a surprise. To be honest, the subject matter is not usually one that I enjoy in my appreciation of flash, however the lines in which the abduction of a child would have been described are, instead, missing; an elegant choice, made more powerful by being unsaid. Then there’s Cas. The character moves (or rather stumbles) through the story like a millennial hedonist, self-obsessed and careless, entitled and selfish. This is a lesson in consequences, of a history that allowed Cas to think it is acceptable to get blind drunk the night before, a blindness to the inevitable hangover that leaves her without paracetamol. And this is where the drama comes from—Cas’ annoyance at a seven-year-old’s whining.

But, surprisingly, this is not where it ends.

So many flash-fictions take the frame of a tragedy and create a prose poem, an eloquent shrine based on the stab of that event. Very often there is no drama, no consequence, and frankly, no story to be had.

Not this time.

Once the unsaid has happened, once the tragedy is passed (imagine the time it took, first the police, then the investigation, headlines in the papers, grief, anger, recrimination, a family divided, and finally a funeral) there is only one response from the now numbed Cas.

Crap.

And, like all good flash-fiction, even though the story ends, once she puts her Jimmy Choos on her feet we know what happens next.

Second Place

Stolen Hours by Sophie van Llewyn

In second place, Stolen Hours, takes subtlety to new heights. The tension from the simplicity of the interaction of Mara and the ‘secret service man’ is palpable, and (even though it is unsaid) there is a real sense of despair, resignation, and yet a quiet determination in Mara’s imprecise responses. The silent ‘yes’ she gestures sets the scene for the final paragraphs, the plan to escape disguised with the excesses of food, and the unsuspecting greed of her husband. Of course, her plan is already in motion, she has answered ‘yes’ to the secret service man’s question ‘Did he speak against the party’, so this Wednesday meal, the endless courses, the spices and deception, will undoubtedly be his last. Soon, there will be a knock at the door.

Third Place

Pandora’s Cat by Tracy Fells

In third place, Pandora’s Cat, impressed with its use of a familiar setup derailed by the discovery of a box in the woods. From this moment, the characters are picked apart, attitudes are laid bare and the bonds between them are tested and ultimately break. The Schrödinger allusion is very apt, and is woven further into the story than is apparent on first reading. The simplicity of the prose hides the deeper meanings well, a delicacy of touch I very much enjoyed.

About the Judge

Tim Stevenson is an award-winning flash-fiction writer, including the National Flash-Fiction 100-Word Prize for which he now acts as a permanent judge, and has also judged the Bridport Flash-Fiction Prize in 2016.

Three volumes of his work have been published: The Book of Small Changes (65 flash-fictions, 2014), On Cleanliness and Other Things (13 short stories, 2015), and Songs Without Music (52 flash-fictions, 2016).

He is currently working on a further flash collection, and a novel, and can be found either lecturing on the origin of ideas for stories, or staring absent-mindedly out of the window.

You can find him at www.timjstevenson.com, or follow him on Twitter @tallfiction.


Picture: hay bale by Jon Bunting under CC BY 2.0
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Autumn 2017 Long-List

Thanks to everyone who entered our Autumn 2017 competition. We received 287 entries from seventeen different countries.

Below, we’ve compiled a long-list of fifty stories. Congratulations to everyone who made the long-list!

If your story is on the long-list and you ticked the permission box (you can check your confirmation email or get in touch with us if you can’t remember), your story will be published on the website between November 21 and December 31. If you didn’t tick the box, your story will only be published if you’ve won a prize. Feel free to send us a message and we’ll let you know if your story is going to be published.

Before we start publishing the long-listed stories, we’ll publish some of our favourites that didn’t quite make the long-list. We’ll be emailing the authors of these stories in the next few days to let them know.

If your story is not on the long-list and you do not hear from us within the next week, it means your entry has not been selected on this occasion.

Here’s the Autumn 2017 publishing schedule in full:

  • October 1–November 20: Stories that just missed the long-list
  • November 21–December 28: Non-winning long-listed stories
  • December 29: Third place story
  • December 30: Second place story
  • December 31: First place story & Judge’s report

Don’t forget, the Winter 2017 competition is now open for entries with Shasta Grant picking the winners.

Autumn 2017 Long-List

A Good Man by Elaine Mead

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Christopher Allen

Actress by Julia Owen

After My Father’s Funeral, I Just Drive by Claudie Whitaker

And So He Dances by Bibi Hamblin

Another Minute, Another Hour, Another Day by Marjan Sierhuis

Ashes to Ashes by Sherri Turner

Bumper Car Voices by Jeremy Hinchliff

Chloe by Eva Eliav

Chrysopoeia on Fessenden Street by Laura Scalzo

Cleaning by Sarah Gillett

Cycling by Matthew Gibson

Genus Pan by Niamh MacCabe

Grandma’s Christmas Cake by Ian J Burton

Henry’s Ways by Sophie van Llewyn

Hobo Heroes by Denise Cowap

House by Niamh MacCabe

In Litore Veritas by Rachael Dunlop

Jimmy Choo Shoes by Shannon Savvas

Layers by Olivia Campbell

Ministry of Quiet Enjoyment by Colin Watts

Mornings by Chris Yeoh

Morris Greene by Nadia Ragbar

Neptune by Laura Kuhlmann

Neptune’s Ocean by Christopher M Drew

November 6th, 2016 by Lee Hamblin

Orienteering for the Gravid by Shannon Savvas

Pandora’s Cat by Tracy Fells

Permanent Jewellery by Paul Croucher

Postpartum by Mary-Jane Holmes

Profit and Loss by Diane Simmons

Promises by Michael Salander

Rabid Dogs by Iona Winter

Replenished by Robert Mason

Rescue Me by Joanna Campbell

Rising to the Challenge by Jean Sheppard

Sleepover by Jason Jackson

Stolen Hours by Sophie van Llewyn

The Box Maker’s Son by Jeremy Hughes

The Chronicle of John by Dee McInnes

The City as Mother by Charlotte Newman

The Colonisation of Ms. Gina Batten by Stephanie Hutton

The English Teacher by Marcie McGuire

The Photographer by Julie Evans

The Pylon by Kelly Griffiths

The Village Burning by Stephen V Ramey

This is How You Mourn Your Father by Fiona J Mackintosh

Two Hundred Years Ago We Would Have Been Dead by Now by Louise Mangos

Undercurrent by Laurie Theurer

Water Baby by Louise Mangos


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Summer 2017 Judge’s Report

This round, Vanessa Gebbie had the difficult task of picking three winners from a long-list of fifty stories. Here’s why she picked the stories she did:

First Place

Fly Away Home by Helen Rye

A worthy winner in a strong field, and a terrific flash. Yet again, I am astounded at how much can be carefully packed into a tiny suitcase. I much enjoyed this piece for many reasons, not the least for its originality—flipping back and forth between bald technical communication and the musings inspired by of all things, delightfully, a stray ladybird hitching a ride.

I loved this piece for many reasons, not the least that it leaves me with so much to ponder, even after many readings. The underlying concept of leaving this beautiful, fragile world—so wonderfully evoked in so few words—because one day we might have to survive, is chilling. Turning one’s back on what is known and striking out into the unknown, listening to the echoes of childhood safety for a split second. The persistent thought—can we ever really leave the past behind?

The language in this piece is great, its effective juxtapositionings, its lyricism: ‘this ocean that aquamarines the bright planet’ set against the baldness of automated systemspeak: GLYCOL EVAP OUTLET temperature down around 58. This juxtaposition, to my mind and ear, acts as echo to the themes of the piece, emphasising the distances to be crossed, perhaps the unbridgeable difference between here and there. The poignancy of leaving much-loved richness and colour for a monochrome future, even if it is bright. The two creatures named, the ladybird and the blue whale—I am put in mind of ‘all creatures great and small—and the fact that we might well have the choice to leave, take our technologies elsewhere. They don’t. I hope this piece is shared widely. It certainly deserves to be. Many congratulations to the writer.

Second Place

Stop, Stop, Stop, Go by Stephanie Hutton

I much enjoyed this intriguing flash, the tightness of the prose and meeting this wonderful character. I was drawn to the shimmering nature of it—a twist of synaesthesia-meets-irreality as this writer creates a believable, slightly magical/disturbing series of events for this character who struggles to control her own body, as if that body has taken over, such that she has to control her hands, consciously—then her feet. I particularly loved the concept of the spoken word becoming concrete, and the delight of the baby in the ‘now’ and its subsequent shaming—very thought-provoking. Another terrific flash. Congratulations to the writer.

Third Place

Medium Sliced Humanity by Taria Karillion

I thought this was a very neat flash, the collision of two worlds, which on the face of it seem so wide apart, but actually, more similar than that. Again, so much carefully packed in—a filmic piece, covering a series of simple actions told in spare prose, whilst telling a much deeper more resonant story. Congratulations to the writer.


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Summer 2017 Long-List

Thanks to everyone who entered our Summer 2017 competition. We received 313 entries from twenty-five different countries.

Below, we’ve compiled a long-list of fifty stories. Congratulations to everyone who made the long-list!

If your story is on the long-list and you ticked the permission box (you can check your confirmation email or get in touch with us if you can’t remember), your story will be published on the website between August 27 and September 30. If you didn’t tick the box, your story will only be published if you’ve won a prize. Feel free to send us a message and we’ll let you know if your story is going to be published.

Before we start publishing the long-listed stories, we’ll publish some of our favourites that didn’t quite make the long-list. We’ll be emailing the authors of these stories in the next few days to let them know.

If your story is not on the long-list and you do not hear from us within the next week, it means your entry has not been selected on this occasion.

Here’s the Summer 2017 publishing schedule in full:

  • July 1–August 25: Stories that just missed the long-list
  • August 26–September 27: Non-winning long-listed stories
  • September 28: Third place story
  • September 29: Second place story
  • September 30: First place story & Judge’s report

Don’t forget, the Autumn 2017 competition is now open for entries with Tim Stevenson picking the winners.

Summer 2017 Long-List

360 Words in Purgatory by Tim Kenny

Baptism of Fire by Christopher M Drew

Best Friends by Y Oliver

Black Leaves by Alicia Bakewell

Blooming by Susan Hodgetts

Blown to Bits by Jean Sheppard

Breathless by Judith Wilson

Butterscotch by Melissa Goode

Coffee and Kafka by Sherry Morris

Crushed by Marie Gethins

Emerald by Melissa Goode

Every Seventh Wave by Ali Bacon

Family Crucifix by Mark Wacome Stevick

Fly Away Home by Helen Rye

For Brothers and Lovers by Mollie Backowski

His Art by Edward Field

I Ain’t No Fairy Tale Woodcutter by Christina Dalcher

Inheritance by Tracy Fells

Jesuses, Marys and Julian by Naomi Shuyama

Looking for Clues by Sean Baker

Medium Sliced Humanity by Taria Karillion

My Mother Told Me by Sarah Dobbs

Over There by Chris Rafferty

RoadThrill by C S Bowerman

Saving Lucy Maybe by Deet Urbon

Scrabble by Rosie Canning

Second Class Return to Brighton by Alex Cox

Solo for Two by Barbara Renel

Something Like Peace by Alyssa Jordan

Sometimes I Wish That You’d Spontaneously Combust by Alison Powell

Space Shuttle by Jason Jackson

Stop, Stop, Stop, Go by Stephanie Hutton

Take My Hand by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

The Distance From Daddy in Imperial Measurement by Stephanie Hutton

The Feather by John Holland

The Man Himself by Colin Watts

The Mean Girls of Camp Kennedy by Erica Plouffe Lazure

The Merboy in Her Life by Laine Cunningham

The Night is Another World by Simon P Clark

The Shore Road by Margaret McGoverne

The Sign by Maxine Hillier

The Sweetest Poison Kills You Slowest by Sharon Telfer

The Weight of Water by Louise Mangos

Third’s the Charm by Jo Gatford

Unthinkably, I Leave You by Victoria Richards

Vox by Steve Richardson

Waiting at the Door by J A Gregory

When My Father Asks What I Learned in School Today I Will Tell Him I Learned to Keep My Thoughts to Myself by Heather McQuillan

Wild Roses by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

Wildflower by Heather Anderson


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Spring 2017 Judge’s Report

If we thought arriving at a long-list of fifty-six stories from the 1,124 we received for our inaugural competition was difficult, it was nothing compared to choosing three stories from that long-list. Every one of those fifty-six stories would have been a worthy winner. If you’ve been following along as we’ve been publishing the long-listed stories, you probably have your own favourite. That’s great. We all have different tastes and our tastes change over time. There’s an element of luck involved in winning a writing competition. Not toss of a coin luck, but the kind of luck that means you put the right story in front of the right judge at the right time.

Here’s what we look for in great flash:

  • We like stories. The poetry of a piece is important, but something must happen. It doesn’t have to be much but don’t leave us asking, “So what?”
  • We like to have an emotional experience. We don’t want to be left a gibbering wreck at the end of every story but we do want to be moved in some way.
  • We like well-chosen words. They should be appropriate and consistent with the setting and character. We also like being surprised with original word use and unusual combinations. You’ve only got 360 words to play with. Choose them well.
  • We like room to think. Don’t give us it all on a plate. Make us work for it.
  • We like originality. It’s hard to be truly original but we like stories that offer a fresh perspective on a familiar topic.

And here’s why we chose the three flashes we did:

First Place

Barely Casting a Shadow by Alicia Bakewell

This flash stayed with us from the first time we read it. Each reread, and there have been many, offers something new.

What went wrong in this mother–son relationship that has led to this situation? We like how the contrasts of the son’s physical appearance echo the breakdown of the relationship: cherub lips versus dry, childlike eyes versus glassy and tired, pure white silk against an unwashed cheek.

The son’s fond memories and love for his mother are seemingly at odds with her coldness towards him (“Jesus loves you,” she writes in her letters. “But do you?” he wonders.) There’s a lot of backstory here that is only hinted at (“every little foil packet”, “the living room seems angry at his presence”) suggesting a much bigger story.

The author does a wonderful job of making us experience the same discomfort as the son. Our senses are overwhelmed by smells in the opening paragraph and later the streaming sunlight and dust particles and the chintzy sofa that enters his nightmare, the latter showing the son’s drug-induced delirium.

It would have been easy to have the son steal money from a drawer or an antique to sell and lead the story to a predictable close, bursting any sympathy we have for the character. Instead, he flees at his mother’s return and it is her that takes from him suggesting it is her selfishness or inability to forgive that is to blame for the breakdown of the relationship while all he longs for is “that same unknowable essence of home that he looks for in the folds of every little foil packet.”

We also learn the significance of the title at the close. Barely casting a shadow could refer literally to the emaciated body of the drug-addicted son or figuratively to the little significance he now has in his mother’s life. Beautiful, thought-provoking flash.

Second Place

Midsummer’s Eve by Ros Collins

Never open with a weather report, we’re told. But in this case, the weather is important to the story and is handled beautifully: the haar “knuckles into crannies and makes it easy to forage unnoticed.”

The mist adds a wonderful mystical atmosphere to this flash. It is almost folkloric with its descriptions of finding the baby under a blackcurrant bush and gifts of herbs as “blessings for the infant sprite.” The naivety of the superstitious locals, the contrasting cleverness of the main character, and the description of a lifestyle long forgotten give this flash an irresistible charm.

And who can resist an ‘aww’ moment when baby Sorrel tousles her mother’s hair and the look of delight when she receives a pea? We particularly like the occasions of the baby’s conception and birth described in sober terms in contrast to the overall mystical feel of this flash.

The ending raises a smile when you imagine the shock the captain is about to get when this smart girl tracks him down. The ending is particularly effective because it uses the motif of contrasting the mundane (“shoulder his responsibilities”) with the mystical (“end his days cursed on the high seas”) that runs through this excellent flash.

Third Place

Addendum to the Art Loss Register by Heather McQuillan

Many flash pieces aim to hit the emotional bullseye with tales of loss, grief, and despair. Huge subjects that are difficult to contain in the space of a flash. This flash deals with loss, but it’s a small loss—no one’s died—which allows a lighter treatment of the theme.

This flash makes us feel sympathy for a petty criminal (or underground artist depending on your point of view). We warm to the character because of the multiple obstacles he encounters: the wino dismissing his art, the policeman’s unveiled threat, and the ‘experts’ discussing his work as someone else’s, work he cares about so much he’s attached anthropomorphised emotions to it: “She sirened out to him . . . she wept at the stenciled-on signature.”

This piece has a strong sense of place with a great urban atmosphere, from the choice of name of the main character (Drexel) to the “oily orange” glow of the night, the “shipwrecked ribs of a shopping trolley” and “shadowed concrete canvas” of the underpass. Even the rhythm of this flash has a quickness to it, created with short sentences and clauses, that echos the breathlessness of the city.

The piece ends quietly with Drexel wavering “half-in, half-out of the shadows.” A perfect metaphor for his very existence.


Picture: Spring by Takashi .M under CC BY 2.0
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Spring 2017 Long-List

Thanks to everyone who entered our inaugural competition. We received 1,124 entries from seventy different countries; a truly international competition.

Below, we’ve compiled a long-list of fifty-six stories. If you made the long-list, you’re among the top 5%; a significant achievement. Congratulations!

If your story is on the long-list and you ticked the permission box, your story will be published on the website between May 10 and June 30. If you didn’t tick the box, your story will only be published if you’ve won a prize. Feel free to send us a message and we’ll let you know if your story is going to be published.

Before we start publishing the long-listed stories, we’ll publish some of our favourites that didn’t quite make the long-list. We’ll be emailing the authors of these stories today to let them know.

Here’s the Spring 2017 publishing schedule in full:

  • April 1–May 9: Stories that just missed the long-list
  • May 10–June 27: Non-winning long-listed stories
  • June 28: Third place story
  • June 29: Second place story
  • June 30: First place story

Don’t forget, the Summer 2017 competition is now open for entries. We’ve increased the value of our prizes tenfold and have flash fiction aficionado Vanessa Gebbie picking the winners.

Spring 2017 Long-List

A Fairytale by Catherine Cruse

A Father’s Gift by Jane Lomas

A Practiced Silence by Christopher Allen

Abby and Al in the Desert, Together by Annie Dawid

Adam by Charlotte Newman

Addendum to the Art Loss Register by Heather McQuillan

Barely Casting a Shadow by Alicia Bakewell

Canoe by Steven John

Chips by Oliver Barton

Crib Champion by Jill Talbot

Dead and Buried by Alison Powell

Deprivation by Juliet Staveley

Desert Flower by Diane D Gillette

Dogs by Catherine Edmunds

Glossy Magazines With Coffee Stains by Mara Buck

Green Thumb by Mureall Hebert

How to Lie by Naomi Shuyama

Human, Nature by Caitlin Stobie

Immigrant Song by Patrick May

Jack’s Predicament by Kayla Pongrac

Jellyfish by Kate Jones

Ladies Night by Deborah Gang

Ladybird by Alan Beard

Light from Above by Matthew Roy Davey

Little Button by S A Stockmeister

Lost Girl by Daniel Jervis

Mara’s Blood Fingers by T D Edge

Midsummer’s Eve by Ros Collins

Muchacho by Joe Eurell

My Loneliness by Reno Evangelista

Naked on the Train by Tom O’Brien

Never Bigger Than an Orange by Stephanie Hutton

No Mirrors by Lindsay Bamfield

Not Going Out by Emma Dykes

Numbers by Sibéal Devilly

On Consignment by Marjorie Thomsen

Only by Nkone Chaka

Outside the Big Top by S D Pitman

Sarah by Dave Clark

Strawberry Jam by Emily Green

Surrendering Camille by Stephen Mander

The Husband Who Went for a Walk by Janelle Hardacre

The Jump by Tobias Baudry

The Rain Around Here by Rachel Smith

The River in Her by Jenn Hollmeyer

The Valley by John Holland

The Way We Weren’t by Christina Dalcher

The Window by Lee Hamblin

Then It Was Autumn Again by Sherri Turner

This Is Not Who We Are by Stacy Trautwein Burns

Today I Will Wear the Blue Cotton by D R D Bruton

Unremarkable Remarkable First Encounters by Brianna Bullen

Vessels by Susan E Barsby

Waiting for Spring by Sophie Petrie

What the Garden Knows That the Summit Doesn’t by Melissa Fu

When Is It Time to Go Home? by Ellan


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