My writing niche is creative nonfiction or Chicken-Soup style memoirs so I have ready-made skeletons for my characters. My interest in a local flash fiction contest was selfish—extra credits offered by the instructor in my fiction writing course. Credits to enter. Credits to attend the celebration (already marked on my calendar before his generosity).
The day before the deadline, I touched my fingers to my computer home row keys—an ancient term I learned from my high school typing teacher in my teen years. The opening hook skittered across the screen and commanded words to follow. I cut ten percent from the 300-word limit until the printed story fit a single page. I honed the last line to an unexpected ending.
After cheesecake and lemonade at the celebration, I strolled, ballot in hand, reading dozens of anonymous entries. I chose two submissions, then circled my title, determined to receive one vote. I was engrossed in conversation with a prize-winning novelist when the winners were announced at the end of the evening. I listened but didn’t recognize the third-place title or the winner. Second place was an entry I selected, but I had not recognized a friend as the author. Like me, she had stepped out of her familiar writing territory. The first place title—a second circle on my ballot—was an unexpected twist.
In my quest for extra credits, I won first place.