OUR FINALISTS! CONGRATS! By Dan Grech
The rules of the South Florida Flash writing contest were simple: keep it short and make it about South Florida. More than 500 people took up the challenge sponsored by WLRN-Miami Herald News.
The 507 entries ranged from lyric poetry to searing memoir. They poured in from 13 states, including Wyoming, Tennessee and Washington. And they featured the perspectives of teenagers and octogenarians.
We partnered with HistoryMiami on the contest, and all the entries will be added to the museum’s “Miami Stories” archive.
Our hard-working preliminary judges, local authors David Gonzalez and David Beaty, faced the daunting task of whittling down entries totaling more than 120,000 words to a list of 25 finalists.
The finalists reflect the full range of experience and personality of South Florida. All of the finalists are from Florida. They range in age from 15-year-old Osmany Corteguera, who wrote a David Mamet-like flash fiction piece called “My Neighbor,” to 83-year-old Arnold Slotkin, whose fiction story “A Birthday” tackles death and memory and manages a surprise ending in a spare 305 words.
And then there was Miriam Rosen. The 67-year-old from Miami managed to have four entries among the finalists, three poems and a piece of nonfiction. That’s no small feat, considering it’s easier to get into Harvard than to make our finalists list.
You can read the finalists, and vote on your favorite, at miamiherald.com/southfloridaflash.
The contest culminates in a live reading this Thursday, November 17, at 6 p.m. in the outdoor courtyard of HistoryMiami, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami.
A number of the finalists will read their entries, and then guest literary judge John Dufresne will announce the runners up and the winner. Dufrense is the author of four novels, two books on the craft of writing, and is editor of the forthcoming collection of unhappy holiday stories called Blue Christmas: Stories for the Rest of Us.
The runners up will get schwag from WLRN, the Miami Herald and the Miami Book Fair International, and the winner will get a dinner with WLRN-Miami Herald News anchor Christine DiMattei.
The poet and critic T.S. Eliot gave this advice to writers: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” The South Florida Flash writing contest borrowed its idea for the contest from “Tigertail, A South Florida Annual: Florida Flash,” a collection of 54 flash pieces edited by Lynne Barrett and published by Tigertail Productions. Authors will read from the Florida Flash at the Book Fair on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Here’s a list of the finalists of the South Florida Flash writing contest, in no particular order:
1. Arnold Slotkin, 83, Hollywood FL, Fiction, “A Birthday”
2. Gemeny Hernandez, 17, Miami FL , Non-Fiction, “Cuban Lightning”
3. Lisette Alonso, 36, Hialeah FL , Non-Fiction, “A Day at the Beach”
4. Nicholas Garnett, Miami Beach FL, Fiction, “Typecast”
5. Hal Howland, 61, Sugarloaf Key FL , Non-Fiction “Newcomer in Paradox”
6. Nanette Avery, Miami FL, Poem, “Hialeah Roses”
7. Miles Black, 38, Miami FL 33155, Fiction, “Tree of Lives”
8. Christine Armario, 29, Coral Gables FL, Non-Fiction, “La Cafeteria”
9. Meri-Jane Rochelson, MIAMI FL, Other, “Birthday Call”
10. Jonathan Estrin, 43, Coral Springs FL 33076, Other, “Next Exit”
11. Stephan Nesvacil, 53, Miami FL, Non-Fiction, “Drawbridge”
12. Carla Pugh, 59, MIAMI FL, Non-Fiction, “RED ROAD”
13. Miriam Rosen, 67, Miami FL, Non-Fiction, “The Center of the World”
Poem, “6 PM, Miami”, Poem, “Assorted Miracles”, Poem :Night Music
14. Roxanna Elden, 32, Miami FL, Fiction, “Bright Blue Day”
15. Carlos David Garcia, 32, Miami Beach FL, Poem, “Leah”
16. Sarah Mason, 25, Hallandale Beach FL, Fiction, Hurl
17. Osmany Corteguera, 15, Hialeah FL, Fiction, “My Neighbor”
18. Jennifer Heit, 50, Plantation FL 33322, Other (Essay, commentary, etc.), “These sweaty streets”
19. Diego Quiros, 49, miami FL 33157, Poem, “Meditation on Biscayne Bay”
20. Peggy Nolan, 67, Hollywood FL, Non-Fiction, “One order of french fries split seven ways”
21. Joyce Baggerly. 71, Plantation FL, Non-Fiction, “AT THE TOP OF A POLE”
22. Tobi Ash, 46, Miami Beach FL, Non-Fiction, “Beautiful in Florida”
23. Maggie McCraw, 63, Miami FL , Non-Fiction, “Miami, Summer 2000”
24. Julia Mason, 31, Lake Worth FL , Non-Fiction, “Why We’re Here”
25. Julia del Rivero, Miami, FL, Poem, “Chronicles of Ukulele Serenades and Hand-Me-Down Wisdom (Part 2: The Story of Me Without You)”
Tomas Birriel, Ft. Lauderdale FL, “Almost Home”
The Florida sun radiates above head and its light beams through my office window. The thick glass insulates me from the heat and I am enveloped by conditioned, recycled air. The blacktop of the parking lot absorbs the warmth that I want to feel on my skin and in my bones. A crow settles on the telephone wire and assumes an invariably vigilant stare—watching me, pitying me.
Two more hours and I’ll be out of here.
As I stroll through the halls I catch a glimpse of Frank at his desk, wide-eyed and kissing the rim of a steaming mug. In the kitchen I pick up the coffee pot and I hear the hollow sound of a thimble full of liquid hitting the walls of the steel thermal container. Apparently Frank did not read the memorandum sent from human resources relaying the importance o
Emily Webber, Plantation FL , “Everything Comes through Miami”
“Everything comes through Miami. Here is where you can find the impossible.”
This was how the last letter from Paul began. While reading it she imagined a giant funnel of people, animals and fantastic creatures being poured in through South Florida.
Paul loved birds, even though as a child he paid mightily for this. He was always looking up, scanning the sky, and this made him an easy target. But the secret he kept inside himself was that one day he would find something magnificent. He was small as a boy. The only thing big about him was his head. Adults told him it was because he had a big brain and knew lots of stuff. Kids never said anything about brains or being smart. They taunted him with words, in addition to their hands, and they never grew tired of it. So he kept his eyes on the sky. Some birds were ordinary and even ugly but they could always go wherever they wanted. And then there were some that went wherever they wanted and were magical. So in the end he wrote about the birds.
"There are some birds you always hear before you can see them and you only see them if very lucky. Green parrots are one of those - loud and cackling as if in a constant state of bickering - when you look up at the sky most of the time you see nothing but flashes of green or even more rarely pairs of them sitting on a wire. Legend has it these parrots are here because of a hurricane’s path of destruction that ravaged South Florida. So whenever I hear their loud cackling and look up at the sky to catch a glimpse of them, I’m reminded that out of the chaos can come something beautiful."
Erica Sklar, Wilmington, NC , “In Orbits”
It seems that we are in orbits that met for a time and are drifting away from each other, like the street between our buildings is the border of some undrafted territory that we are discovering now, separately.
"Neptune and Pluto have orbits that overlap, you know."
"You know that because you’re a scientist now, huh?" There is a half-smile there, and I feel an itch at the corner of my throat, in my fingertips. It floors me, how much we express with our pairs of eyebrows, the thin pallet of skin below them.
"Which would you be - Neptune or Pluto?"
"Pluto, I guess. Cold and distant, right? Uncommunicative?" We laugh, together, and then I say I ought to be going. Our kisses feel different now, now that I have an apartment fifty steps away. The dog goes insane when she sees me, and her insanity feels like my entrails, which have not been right for weeks now.
"So I’m Neptune? That’s the planet I can’t remember."
"That’s perfect. Now you’ll never forget." He looks, to me, like a cross between a duck and a bulldog. His smile is wide and his arms moved most of my furniture across the street. Later, he stopped by unannounced, and said, "I wanted to be your first houseguest."
Sue Germain, Miami, Fl, “The South Meets Cuba”
It is July 10, 1993 a Sunday night in Miami. I had recently joined a telephone dating service where I placed a long term relationship ad which said I wanted the all American dream, marriage, little house with a white picket fence, kids and a dog. The ad also said if the person listening does not want the same thing “please don’t waste my time or yours”.
Two men left me a message to call them. One I didn’t call and one I did. The one I called back left me a message which simply said “Sue, call me”. It was more a command than a request. After a lot of self talk and picking up and putting down the telephone I finally dialed the number.
After he remembered he left me a message he told me someone gave him a free coupon to join the dating service. We talked until it was time for both of us to get ready for work. We met for dinner at Penrod’s on South Beach on Wednesday July 14, 1993. Penrod’s restaurant is now Nikki Beach. He wore glasses, very handsome and carried a Time magazine. I was so nervous I just ordered mineral water. He leaned across the table and said “I think you are lovely”. That was it, I was in love.
It is October 17, 2011; my husband, Miguel, and I have been married for ten years. We have been together since that night at Penrod’s long ago in 1993. Our love for each other has never wavered and each day when he comes through the door I thank God. We have the little house, the white picket fence is brown, we were not blessed with children, but we have two Chihuahuas and they are our spoiled little babies.
Patrick Conner , KEY WEST FL, “A Flash of Insight “
It’s four in the morning. I can’t sleep in the heat, so I climb out into the cockpit where it’s cooler. The lights of Key West burn brightly from my spot in the harbor. The noise from the island is more low frequency throb than gleeful celebration. It sounds like an engine, like an immense machine, moving money around and squeezing out memories and regrets. I stare at the lights and imagine the bartenders announcing “last call.” I can imagine the strippers with their gym-bags quietly leaving the clubs by the back doors. I can imagine a drunk tourist from someplace in the Midwest not being able find his room key and wondering who he gave it to. I can imagine groups of tired bartenders and waitstaff agreeing to meet at so and so’s place for after work drinks… all of this, just an insignificant moment on a stiflingly hot night.
Suddenly Mr. Christian jumps onto the cockpit table. He’s aware of something. It’s dark but I can see him doing that cat radar thing, where he rotates one ear opposite from the other. He’s sailed in ten different countries and knows many secrets of the world, so I listen… There it it, a faint raspy exhale. There is a dolphin in the neighborhood. My cat probably smelled the creature’s breath before he heard it. I listen as the dolphin gets closer. I’m concentrating on my cat. This is all a part of his secret life. I just happen to be awake witnessing it. The dolphin swims under the boat and Mr. Christian follows him to the port rail. He may sit there all night. I don’t know, but he has reminded me once again not to be a curmudgeon… that in this life there are no insignificant moments.
Timothy Stanley, New York NY, “The Julia Tuttle Rain Dance”
The helicopters were the first to see her. a thick speck of black jittering in the great gray expanse of the causeway. as soon as she closes her eyes she can feel the erupting bass drum in her stomach. prickly tingles shoot up the back of her arms. she is swaying. the helicopters were the first to see her, gyrating her hips and floating the folds of her gothic black chiffon dress over the concrete. she bites her bottom lip and lets the spiking tingles arch her back towards the warm sunshine. water splashes loudly against the pile-ons below. she is shaking. the helicopters were the first to see her screaming and lifting her arms to the heavens. leaning as though falling, she lets her shoulders pull towards the causeway. her fingers reach out to the pavement, their splayed tips touching down gently. white birds are landing on thick metal railings. a gentle flute hovers over the throbbing bass drum and the sharp snaps of the snare drum. she is winding. the helicopters were the first to see the tiny gold reflection of the cameo portrait necklace dripping into the cleavage of her heaving bosom. bending and straightening her knees, she drops and lifts her black chiffon bottom into the air to the pulsing bass drum she hears in her head. she is grinding. the helicopters were the first to see the pink flush in her thick, smooth cheeks. the clouds cover the gray, shining causeway in gray. shadows show in her face. the quickening wind cools her damp and crawling skin but the beat is bigger now and storm clouds are assembling above her. her chest fills and falls. she is dancing. the helicopters were the first to see a black cloud snap. the helicopters were the first to see Julia making it rain.
Darah Zeledon, Hollywood FL , “A Lucky Girl”
You don’t know what you’re made of until you are ripped apart. I should’ve suffered a nervous breakdown, or at the very least, divorce, years ago when my seemingly perfect world began to tumble to the ground. But that hasn’t happened. And despite five agonizing years battling adversity, like the Palm tree, I continue to bend, but break, I will not.
It all began in 2006 when suddenly, I was diagnosed with a tennis ball-sized brain tumor while pregnant with my 4th baby. What followed was the abrupt suicide of an adored younger brother and violent armed home invasion. Six months after the robbery, we lost our business overnight. And fell into financial ruin.
Our hopeless situation forced us to abandon our comfortable life in Panama. With nowhere to go and in spite of everyone’s discouragement, we returned to the US—-marching straight into the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Here we set out to start anew with nothing more than a will to survive and five young children to care for.
Through it all, I came out fighting and keep fighting my way out, in search of tranquility and stability for my family and me. I manage to keep everyone united and happy by living a philosophy that kept me and keeps me sane and resilient—-the Seven Universal Pearls of Wisdom. My theory was put into practice recently when once again, my life hung in the balance. A weekend road-biking excursion turned tragic when I unexpectedly lost control of the bike, went flying off and landed face-down in the middle of A1A. I suffered multiple facial fractures, skull injuries and lost teeth. Still recovering from three extensive reconstructive jaw surgeries, I “walk the talk” and do what it takes to keep my family strong, and press on like a warrior.
Ricardo Rovira, Miami FL 33143 , “Mangrove Trail”
The mangroves at Matheson are heavy with morning light trying to break thru the spindly branches bundled with the night work of a thousand crab spiders that watch us as we bike past them with their thousand hungry eyes. My son, the arachnophobe, pedals faster and again asks why we didn’t take the high road, the smoothly-paved one without the rooty bumps or the pools of briny water or the broken branches groping at our feet, the high road that takes you where you want to go fast, no questions asked, no thousand eyes staring back at you, demanding that you slow down, that you dismount, that you stare right back and take it all in.