Columns > Published on April 30th, 2014

UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: April (Poetry Month) Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or similar. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 30 words. You can write less, but not more.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words or less.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before April 29 will be considered. We'll run the winner on April 30.

This Month's Prize

This month's winner will get a copy of The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology edited by LitReactor columnist and instructor, Richard Thomas, and published by Dark House Press. This anthology also contains stories by LitReactees: Stephen Graham Jones, Nik Korpon, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, and Vanessa Veselka.  Here's some reviews that oughta get you excited:

The New Black ought to be the New High Standard for dark fiction anthologies. It's loaded with intelligence and talent. Every one of the pieces in this extraordinary compilation is worthy of your full attention.
—Jack Ketchum

The New Black is a great collection of incredibly unique fiction. I honestly liked every story in here, and I usually don’t say that about an anthology. It was also nice to encounter so many authors with whom I was unfamiliar. A strong compilation of talent. Very strong.
—John Boden, Shock Totem Productions

There's depth to darkness, a richness waiting for those who have the patience to let their vision adjust to it. Rembrandt knew that; it's there in the voluminous shadows that wrap around the figures in his paintings. So did Poe: it's the note sounding underneath the stories his narrators tell us. And so do the writers Richard Thomas has assembled for The New Black. At this point in our shared history, it's no secret that those things closest to us, our family, our memory, may be full of night. What is remarkable is what the writers in this book succeed in telling us about that darkness, what shapes they discern within it. A showcase of some of the most exciting writers at work today, The New Black is not to be missed.
— John Langan, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

If you aren't sure what Neo-Noir is, check out Richard Thomas' primer Storyville: What is Neo-Noir Fiction?

Your Inspiration

Well, it's National Poetry Month, so let's combine the concept of Neo-Noir and Poetry to create a challenging contest. I found an interesting writing assignment shared by John S. O'Connor on The Poetry Foundation website. Below is an adaptation of the lesson he used for his Literature and Film class.

1) Brainstrom 50 concrete nouns

2) Write down 10 "tough guy/girl" lines.

3) Use that word pool to write a 30-word poem

4) Avoid verbs and adjectives (but small words, such as articles and prepositions are ok.)

5) Ignore rules 1-4 and write a 30-word Noir Poem that knocks my socks off.

Now get writing!

And the Winner is ...Alan H Jordan

Only 16 entries, and this may have been one of the hardest Flash Fiction Smackdowns to judge yet! I enjoyed Mr. Jordan's allusion to the radio detective at the end of this poem. I may be a bit biased, though, because I actually got to meet the sound effects guy and voice actors when my childhood choir performed on A Prarie Home Companion back in the 90s. Yes, I did just make this about myself. But enough about me; here's the winning poem:

Bitter Almonds are not Twinkies

A detective
struggles each week to
survive and prosper.

Doomed to the dark
grey side of life and

Guy, as he is known
on NPR
makes me smile.

About the author

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer for an engineering firm and volunteers on the planning committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education.

She holds a degree in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. In the English graduate program at Penn State, she taught college composition courses and hosted a poetry club for a group of high school writers.

While living in Seattle, Taylor started and taught a free writing class called Writer’s Cramp (see the website). She has also taught middle school Language Arts & Spanish, tutored college students, and mentored at several Seattle writing establishments such as Richard Hugo House. She’s presented on panels at Associated Writing Programs Conference and the Pennsylvania College English Conference and led writing groups in New York, Pennsylvania, and Colorado for writers of all ages & abilities. She loves to read, write, teach & debate the Oxford Comma with anyone who will stand still long enough.

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