Columns > Published on August 30th, 2013

UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: August 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

  • 25 words is the limit. (You can write less, but you can't write more.)
  • The whole story must only be 2 sentences. No more. No less.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title (not included in the word count, but keep it under 10 words).
  • 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.
  • We'll pick a winner on the last day of the month.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before August 29 will be considered. We'll run the winner on August 30.

This Month's Prize

Win a Kindle eBook of Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel The Willow Tree. Here's a bit about the book:

Growing up in New York City’s soul-killing South Bronx ghetto, Bobby, a young black teenager, has only known violence, poverty, and despair. But there is one true light in his life: his girlfriend, Maria. On their way to school one morning, they are set upon by a vicious street gang. Bobby, beaten bloody and senseless, survives, rescued by an old German man who is himself a survivor of the Nazi death camps. The man calls himself Moishe, though he claims not to be Jewish, and he takes the damaged boy under his wing, determined to help heal his physical and psychological wounds. An unlikely friendship is born, strengthened by a shared sense of loss and life’s tragic injustices. But Moishe’s message of learning to forgive the unforgivable falls on deaf ears, because there is a hole in Bobby’s heart that only revenge can fill.

Hubert Selby Jr.’s extraordinary novel is a devastating work of raw power and stylistic brilliance that captures the pain and hardship of twentieth-century urban life. Unflinching and unrelenting, in the vein of his acclaimed masterwork, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Selby’s The Willow Tree is a dark tale tempered by hope: a story of love, death, rage, violence, and salvation. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Hubert Selby Jr. including rare photos from the author’s estate.

Your Inspiration

Let’s celebrate one of my favorite sass-mouthed writers this month. Born August 22, 1893 in Longbranch, New Jersey, Dorothy Parker first made a name for herself as a fill-in theater critic for Vanity Fair. Though eventually getting fired from that job for her offensive jabs at high-powered literary types, her wicked wit and wordsmithery had already won her acclaim. During her 50-year writing career, Dorothy (Miss Parker, if you’re nasty) published hundreds of poems (300 in 1920 alone); many, many articles in highly-ranked publications like Vanity Fair, McCalls, Life, Vogue, The New Yorker, etc.; published several books of poetry, including Enough Rope which sold 47,000 copies; and she even wrote for Broadway and Hollywood (though known as a quintessential New Yorker, she did spend a few years in Los Angeles.)

In addition to all her literary success, Dorothy Parker was probably best known for her sassy (and not often kind) witticisms. Here are a few favorites:

You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.

Tell him I was too fucking busy-- or vice versa.

The ones I like ... are ‘cheque’ and ‘enclosed.’

― On the most beautiful words in the English language, as quoted in The New York Herald Tribune (12 December 1932)

Thoughts for a Sunshiny Morning

It costs me never a stab nor squirm

To tread by chance upon a worm.

"Aha, my little dear," I say,

"Your clan will pay me back some day."

― First printed in New Yorker (9 April 1927)

In honor of what would be her 120th birthday, write a classic Dorothy Parker-like quip (in prose or poem form). Remember, you get 25 words and 2 sentences. No more. No less.

Now Get Writing!


And the winner is...jet_jaguar

This might have been the hardest choice yet. Though the number of entries was relatively low, the quality was consistently high!

Jet_jaguar's entry stood out, though, for its use of rhyme, meter, sarcasm, social commentary, and wit all rolled into a quippy poem.

Here you go: read it for yourself!

upward mobility

Our brightest minds are working hard, mankind won't suffer much longer

Praise be noble scientists who strive

to make our erections bigger, better and stronger

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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