Winners Writing Challenge One: January online festival contest

We had two flash fiction writing contests in the January online flash fiction festival day, both challenges judged by writer and co-director of National Flash Fiction Day, UK, Diane Simmons from visual prompts set by our Festival Director Jude Higgins Thanks very much to everyone who entered. And a further thank you to Diane for judging.

The first prompt and winning stories are published on this page. And we have another page for the three winning stories from the second challenge to write a triptych.. Congratulations to all!

For the first challenge, writers were asked to write a story based on this painting ‘Mrs N C Wyeth’ in the kitchen: Winter Light’ Alternate title: ‘The Recipe Book’, painted by N C Wyeth in 1933. Jude suggested writers could add historical details from the time. Adele Evershed won first price and the two runners-up are Jane Salmons and Laurie Swinarton. All writers win three competition entries from Bath Flash Fiction Award, books from Ad Hoc Fiction and the offer of publication in the Flash Fiction Festival Anthology, Vol 6.

Diane’s general comments on entries are below and she offers a little advice about writing to visual prompts. These comments are followed by comments on the winning stories.

“The painting by N C Wyeth that Jude provided as a prompt, seemed to strike a chord with many writers and the image of the woman in the kitchen inspired many entrants to write about the menopause. I think it’s a good plan to discard the first ideas that come to mind when writing from a prompt, unless you can come up with an original take on that idea, as they are often the ideas that will occur to others too. Some excellent stories were let down by endings which didn’t quite work for me. Overall, an inventive set of stories which I very much enjoyed reading.”


First prize, Depression Recipes-Volume Two.
Diane’s comments:

“Told as a foreword to a recipe book, this was a standout story from first reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this clever take on the prompt, re-reading it several times at one sitting. It made me laugh out loud!

Adele Evershed

Depression Recipes-Volume 2

Foreword by Parke Cummings

The first ‘Depression Recipes’ was assembled by the Mid-West Woman’s Club during wartime. Many of you reading will know it was a recipe book and a self-help manual in one, the first of its kind. The gratifying success of that volume encouraged us to prepare a new book covering some of the areas we omitted; for example, we now have a chapter on nervous breakdowns after the birth of a child. On the other hand, we have kept some old favorites like ‘Cooking for One After the Death of an Army Husband’ as we felt it can be equally valuable now if your spouse has taken his own life in light of the losses on Wall Street. Likewise, the chapter ‘Managing on a War Widow’s Pension’ can easily be adapted if you find yourself in reduced circumstances.

There are two insightful editorials considering the pros and cons of womb removal to cure hysteria and how to successfully eat your feelings and enjoy it.

We have a chapter on ‘Tea and Sandwiches’; there is no excuse for any woman not to be able to brew a pot of good tea. Another chapter is exclusively devoted to ‘Sour Cream.’ If you suffer from yeast infections, it comes highly recommended by a lady doctor. I have shared my Grandmother Pruitt’s ‘Vinegar Pie’ recipe so the next time someone calls you chippy, you will have the perfect acid retort.

We wish to thank the artist who has made this book as lovely to look at as it is stimulating to use, Mr. N.C. Wyeth, his wife, Nancy, was the cover model.

Finally, although we can’t claim to cure what ails you, the chapter “How to Make a Mint Julep” will help you forget whatever it is for the longest minute.

Bio Adele Evershed was born in Wales and has lived in Hong Kong and Singapore before settling in Connecticut. Her prose and poetry have been published in over a hundred journals and anthologies. She has recently been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net for poetry, the Staunch Prize for flash fiction, and her first poetry chapbook, Turbulence in Small Places will be published next year by Finishing Line Press.

Runner-Up, Letter to Betty
Diane’s Comments:
Written as a letter from 1933 Germany, this is an original response to the prompt – both in terms of form and subject matter. I particularly loved the title of the book mentioned: 35 Ways to Win his Praise!”

Jane Salmons

Letter to Betty

February 28th, 1933

Dear Betty,

I trust Eugene, yourself and the children are in fine health? Heartfelt thanks for sending 35 Ways to Win His Praise! Walter says it’s swell to have some good ole American cooking – he’s not yet developed a taste for Dampfnudel or Eintopf. This morning, I woke at dawn and set about baking a hot milk sponge cake. Picture me beating eggs in my pinafore and girdle!

Truthfully, I haven’t slept well since the new Chancellor was elected. I agree we should refuse the Sieg Heil salute, refuse to attend those beastly rallies, or swear loyalty to his diabolical regime. We should stand together, in Jehovah’s name. But Betty, our resistance troubles me.

There are rumours of Witnesses being imprisoned. You recall Dorothy and Frank Boyd, originally from Buffalo? Frank has gone missing. He was door-to-door preaching two weeks ago, and vanished. Walter is at the Watch Tower headquarters in Dresden, right now, hoping to find out more.

How is winter in Wyoming? We had a fresh snowfall last night, here in Ettersberg. This afternoon, I wrapped up warm and took a walk in Buchenwald forest. The pale sun peeking through the beeches, the long shadows, the earth glistening mauve and blue; everything was so tranquil. The snow-laden boughs, reminded me of our long white gloves and baptism gowns. How I miss you, darling Betty. Something disturbed me though. Towards the brink of the hill, there were signs with black, diagonal crosses nailed to trunks, and the words Entritt Verboten. In the distance, I saw a deathly grey building – a kind of facility, with tall chimney. It sure gave me the jitters.

That’s all for now, dearest. Write soon and please pray for us. I fear the worst.

Your loving sister,


Bio: Jane Salmons is a recent defector to flash fiction. Her poetry pamphlet, Enter GHOST, and full poetry collection, The Quiet Spy, were both published in 2022. She has microfiction and flash published with MacQueen’s Quinterly, The Ekphrastic Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears and has been nominated for Best Microfiction 2023. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and she won the Pokrass Prize with her story ‘Miracle Grow’ at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol last summer. A former teacher, Jane lives in Stourbridge in the UK. Her website is:

Runner-Up: What We Don’t Learn
Diane’s comments:
“This flash has a satisfying rhythm to it, which helps keep the reader engaged and invested in the story. I loved the image of the writer kissing a boy 175 feet in the air on the Ferris wheel at Niagara Falls.”

Laurie Swinarton

What We Don’t Learn

My mother taught me how to cook, how to hem a pant leg, how to change the oil in a truck. She taught me that the earth revolves around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the earth, and that the day ebbs and wanes with the tides, and the seasons come and go and that, one day, I will cramp and I will bleed and the world will blossom into summer.

And when summer came, my friends and I practiced French kissing and then I perfected it with a boy, 175 feet in the air on the Ferris wheel at Niagara Falls, our legs dangling against the starry sky shot through with coloured lights from the fair. And I learned to love and to be loved and I learned the art of groaning during lovemaking. And I learned it was okay to grunt and to ugly cry as I pushed mewling babies out from between my legs, slick with the sweat of undiluted labour.

And in autumn I learned to be a better friend, and I learned how to catch apples before they bruised, and how to make jellies and preserves, and how to bake, and I tried to fill up the dark corners that encroached upon me as the days grew shorter.

But in winter I was unprepared. No one told me that my skin would dry like desiccated wood, that my hair would turn brittle and lie in clumps near the bathtub drain, that my hands would weaken and that the skin around my elbows would hang around my arms like empty pockets. Or that, in the morning, I would have to peel myself from my sheets, stewed with my sweat. I was not prepared to be invisible even while my body caught fire.

Laurie Swinarton is a part-time writer and full-time tea addict who finds contentment buried in a book with a cup of lapsang souchong tea steeping nearby and Bach playing in the background. When not doing that, she can be found yelling out her window at loud cars. Please follow her on Twitter @laurieiswriting.

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