Our September Silver Medal Winner

Second place writing contest winner, Amy PepinAmy Pepin loves horses, and loves to write. She lives in Saskatchewan with her parents and three younger sisters.  Ever since she was young, Amy learned about horses and spent much of her time with them.  Black Friesians are her favorite!  She started writing in high school when she was fifteen and continued learning through creative writing classes and lots of practice!  She has a Wattpad account as amy-horse and frequently writes and reads on there.  Amy is finishing her school for massage therapy and hopes to write much more in the future!

What the judges had to say about Amy's story:

"Nice. A bit cliche - 'spark of life', but overall good."

"I like the approach, and structurally it was well written. The ending felt a little rushed and would be more believable if drawn out more."

"A nicely written piece."

"A unique take on the writing prompt that worked very well." 

The photo prompt:

The (unedited) story:

by Amy Pepin

There was pain when she thought about it and numbness when it was free from her mind. Kathryn had managed to survive three weeks, but her torturous current existence was not improving. Her husband was dead. Nothing could change that.

Kathryn stopped eating the day he died. She had stopped living, too. Friends had called on her and attempted to console her, but their attempts were futile. Her heart was now crushed and destroyed forever. Nothing would ever be the same, and that was probably the reason why she never shed a tear.

This was the day of his birthday. Kathryn meant to go to the place where she met him before giving up her will to live altogether. One more cold memory might be resurrected before dying like an ember fluttering from the fire only to be embraced by the cold ground.

Kathryn dressed in her usual colour of black. It was a simple dress with a V-neck that her husband had once adored. Along with it she chose a black covering for her head with soft netting over her face. She adorned her hands with black silk gloves, hoping they would hide her shakiness.

For a moment she stared at her face in the mirror in the entry way. She did not recognize herself in her cold eyes. A chill wracked her body. She had simply become a horrid sight in her inescapable nightmare. Life no longer resided inside of her shell.

Kathryn straightened her shoulders with a reverberating sigh and exited the door, careful not to trip on her black heels.  The eerie hollow click of them on the sunlit sidewalk followed the steady beat of her heart.

She chose to walk to the little café down the street.  That was where it all began, and that would be the last place she visited before it all ended.  Kathryn continued to somberly amble her way to the entrance.

Gentle saxophone music surrounded her as she went to open the glass door.  She would have blindly entered, but a whimper met her ear, and she froze.  Her heart beat quickened as she pivoted to take in the sight of a chubby, shorthaired black and white dog.  His beady little eyes widened as he captured her gaze.

Kathryn shook her head and once again moved towards the door.  What was she to do with a dog?  She would soon be gone, and the creature would once again be left alone. 

Alone like her.

The thought haunted her, and her face drained of any colour that was left.  Her head began to spin.  A pounding headache threatened to take over.  Summoned by unknown forces, Kathryn stepped forward to the door and held a hand out, ushering the animal inside.

Despite the many stares, Kathryn marched to a stool at the counter and plunked herself down.  The dog proceeded to sit at her feet and wag his little black tail.  Kathryn noted the pleading in his brown eyes as the once beady pupils swelled with life as she reached down to pat his head.  Upon seeing his prancing paws and perked ears, she set her gloves on the counter in front of her and touched the seat beside her.  The dog leapt up as if he were once again a pup.

“I’ll take a cream soda,” Kathryn said softly, refusing to take her eyes away from the strange creature beside her.

Seconds passed and a pink, bubbly drink was placed inside of her cold hand.  Kathryn gazed at the dog.  The first time she had consumed this drink was when she was thirteen and a boy had graciously bought it for her after accidentally knocking her books to the ground.  That was many years ago, but the moment was as vivid in Kathryn’s mind as if it were playing before her.
As she had done then, Kathryn extended her drink.  Her hands shook uncontrollably, and a few drops splattered on the ground.  Taking a deep breath, Kathryn aimed the straw at the dog.  A curious smile played upon her lips.

The dog stared at her expectantly, and as he licked the drops at the side of the glass, a tear streaked down Kathryn’s face.  He reached into the cup with his long pink tongue, and as the soda drained, more tears leaked from her eyes.  They refused to stop as she collapsed onto the ground and allowed all of the emotions that she had bottled up to explode like the cream soda.  She covered her face, and the dog went from the drink to her face, showering her with slobbery kisses, and she found her will to live slowly return.  Her stained face turned to the silver front of the counter.  A gasp left her as she realized that there was a spit of life in her dull eyes.

“I think I’ll call you Spark,” she whispered, “because you have given me a spark for the fire within me, and have encouraged me to live.”

Use the comments section below to encourage Amy in her writing journey!

Learn about our next contest here and consider entering a story of your own for the chance to be published in an upcoming issue of Blank Spaces!

Black Friday Sale - Save 25% Off Print Copies!

Black Friday Sale
This sale is now over. Thanks to everyone who placed an order! You can expect it to arrive by the second week of December!

Did you miss the pre-order sale? We're sorry, but we are offering another opportunity to save!

From today until Monday, November 28 (at noon), we are offering 25% off the print issue of your choice.

If you missed out on our September issue, this is your chance to grab yourself a copy for just $19.50; or, if you missed the pre-order sale, this is the next cheapest way to enjoy the great content we offer in our December issue, due for official release on December 1!

OR, grab them both for $37.

Taxes and shipping are included in the price.

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Our September Bronze Medal Winner

Kevin Jackson is a 39 year old writer from Northern Saskatchewan. He's been jotting notes and story ideas for over twenty years and has an old shoe box filled with sketches, drafts, and inspirational quotes. Brainstorming has never been the issue for him! Currently, he's working on two different trilogies and associated writings. He enjoys writing poems and short stories and is also quite the hobby enthusiast which might be what keeps him from getting the larger projects done.

Current works in development:
-Rifters Trilogy & Related Works (3 Volumes & 7 Short Stories)
-Star Wars – Rising Tension Trilogy (Extended Universe)

When we contacted Kevin to reveal his medal standing in the Flash Fiction Contest he responded with humility, saying, "I’m excited to find out that I placed at all in the flash fiction write prompt challenge. I wrote and submitted the story only for fun."

Well Kevin, we're glad you did and hope it inspires you with a little push to keep chasing after those writing dreams!

What the judges had to say about Kevin's story:

"Cute and clever."

"Confusing at first but it's clear the story pivots on the twist ending. Interesting interpretation!"

"There was a wonderfully natural flow in this story that allowed the read to be enjoyable and engaging. Intention and plot were clear and the written images spoke well of the character in the photo."

The photo prompt:

The (unedited) story:

by Kevin Jackson

“As with every superhero story, it all began with a series of curious events and a woman. A red haired woman in a quaint café to be specific. She was dressed in all black, from her small feathered hat to her pointed heels. She sat alone, watching the street, eyes moving back and forth as she stirred a strange pink liquid with a straw. I approached her with a soft greeting, her eyes fixed upon me and she smiled. She invited me to sit with her and I obliged, seating myself on the bench beside her.

“She spoke in a foreign language but her eyes and the language of her body were easy to understand. She wondered if I was hungry, and I yipped a confident, ‘Yes!’ Roaming was hungry work and it was well past lunch time.

“She laughed and stroked my cheek and ran her fingers through my hair. Her order arrived shortly. A nice eggy truffle for her and a small spiced loaf of meat for me. We ate and she spoke her strange language. I watched her eyes with curiosity. She presented me with a glass of pink liquid, a schooner half empty, with a white straw sticking out. She held it up to my nose for inspection.

“The smell set fire to my nostrils, and my mouth watered as my mind tried to place the scent. What was it? With no regard I lunged at the schooner.

“I drank deeply, trusting the woman in black's smile. I made a mess of myself as it dribbled down my cheeks, pushing the straw aside, unable to get enough. What was this pink, sweet stuff? She laughed as I continued, and she stopped me in no way. Then I could feel it taking over me…

“It started small, and before long my heart beat its drum intensely in my ears. My vision sharpened to a razor’s edge. I felt as though my skin was tightening. My muscles suddenly filled with strength. I jumped from the seat and ran away down the street, away from the woman in black, unsure what to do with myself. What had she done to me?

“I ran down the avenue toward the train station. In moments I was coming alongside a speeding blue and red train. I tried with all my effort to run faster than the train. If only somehow I could get to the safety of the other side, I could leave the woman in black behind forever.

“I had never outrun a speeding train before, and my muscles pulsed and flexed with ease. Perhaps it was an effect of the pink drink… come to think of it, why did that train have a white face?

“Anyways, I continued to run, and it came so easy. My muscles were powerful and strong and then I saw it. A nice house with a red corvette in the driveway. The commonplace two story home was a split design, though oddly this house was split vertically rather than horizontally.

“It should be easy enough, I challenged… and then I leapt. As I cleared the peak of the house, soaring in the air, I glanced down to see a generic looking couple; the woman blonde and the man brunette. They gasped in shock as the neighborhood’s newest superhero bound off in unhuman leaps as I continued down the block. I was off to find a nemesis worthy of my valour. I heard it then, an alarm, a shriek in that foreign language.

“I ran with all my might around the wrought iron fence, down the block several meters and around the concrete grassy embankment to the front of the local jewelry store. I saw a man there with a gun, pointing at the people, he waved his arms frantically. He was shouting in his language. I shouted back to him that everything was going to be alright, that he should surrender, and that it’s not worth the danger. I repeated myself about twenty times but he did not understand."

“The police arrived and surrounded the building. It was a standoff and many bystanders had gathered around the sides of the adjoining buildings down both sides of the block.

“The Policeman in charge was speaking over his large speaker and the two yelled back and forth for a few minutes. The jewel thief made threatening gestures with his gun towards one of the hostages. It was time to act! Without hesitation, I bound from my hiding place, darted across the parking lot and leapt at the bad man. Aiming for his arm and the weapon in it, I used all my might and gripped down on his wrist. He yowled in pain, a language anyone can understand.

“The jewel thief was unarmed; in a flash the police were on the man.

“My job done, one of the policemen kneeled to me to see if I was alright. He patted me on the back and congratulated my heroism. I was tired now, drained, the pink potion wearing off. The intense situation had drained me. I needed to rest. I found a close by patch of grass and laid down...”

“Is that the last thing you remember, Dad?”

“Yes, Son, I returned to the café many times looking for the woman in black. She never returned.”

“What about the pink potion?”

“Well, my boy, that’s why I brought you here. They have it. They have a lot of it. Stored in bottles. If only we could get our paws it, we could be super again!

“How are we going to get into that sealed case, Dad? It looks like it’s well protected. The man watching it never ventures far.”

“I’ve sat here day after day wondering that exact same thing, Son, and I can only add this,”with a smile I continued, “I suppose this would be easier if dogs had thumbs…”

What Kevin had to say about his story: 

My attempt at playful suspense and comedic timing culminated in a simple story of a dog trying to find his next sugar buzz. Unwittingly, he connects the effects of a pink liquid drink with the spontaneous development of super powers and adventure ensues. I’ve added some non-specific jokes within the text to see if readers catch them, attempting to keep the reader from realizing the spoken words are from one dog to another.

Although I’m an amateur author, I’m attempting to get over the hurdle of shyness when it comes to presenting my work. Small projects such as this build momentum for my larger works.

Use the comments below to encourage Kevin in his writing journey!

Flash Sale

Thanks for your interest. Unfortunately, this sale is now over; however, you can still grab a copy for a great price here.

flash sale issue 1 blank spaces
You deserve a treat!

From now until Friday, November 18 at 7:00 pm, we are offering a digital copy of our first issue for only $3.50

Enjoy all the great articles and art for a fantastic savings of 30% off!

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On Being a Writer

by Michelle McLaughlin

Sometimes staring at a blank page disheartens me. The words I thought I had in me before I sat down have vanished. I have nothing to offer. The blank space, sitting empty, taunting me to fill it up, is as intimidating as standing before a crowd of people and feeling I am paralyzed to open my mouth. My fingers sit poised over the keyboard but I cannot strike the keys. I cannot string together the individual letters that will form words into sentences to convey my ideas. There is nothing.

thoughts on being a writer

It's a difficult conundrum. To write is the very act of...writing. It should be simple really—make words flow together into sentences to express an idea to share with others.

But writing, that is something entirely different. When writing is something born of yourself, created in your imagination alone, and something others may (potentially) read, it takes on a whole new significance. It becomes not just words and sentences expressing an idea, it becomes a piece of your soul exposed to the world. Even if no one else ever reads the words put into print, once it is brought to light, the writer becomes unshielded.

Displaying my own vulnerability by writing, then sharing it through my blog, leaves me feeling naked. Thoughts formed in my mind and shaped by my words are available for others to examine and judge. Every time I hover over the post button, I pause, feeling a wild moment of panic. As much as I desire to share my writing, my desire to keep what I compose private is stronger.

Blogging has moved me forward in my journey as a writer. Joining a writers group has motivated me to quit hiding. I enjoy weaving words and expressing myself in ways I would never achieve verbally.  I have journeyed through, apprehensive at first and gaining boldness along the way. I'm finally embracing writing as one of my passions and owning it. I can call myself a writer and not feel I need to justify why quite as strongly as I did at the beginning. I feel I have proven to myself that I do have something worth sharing.

Michelle McLaughlin makes her home in the Ontario countryside with the love of her life and best friend where they are raising five young boys, an overgrown puppy and a cat that rules the roost. She grew up in the country as the youngest of four, often finding her many unusual pets to be her best playmates and great fodder for her imagination. She is still prone to daydreaming while tending the necessary but mundane tasks of motherhood. Recently she has rediscovered her love of writing, trying to make space for it as it is a needed reprieve from the piles of dirty laundry and tummies that are forever hungry. When she isn't tending her garden or whipping something up in the kitchen, you'll find her sitting on her back deck on warm days or by the fireplace when it's cold enjoying a cup of tea with a favourite book or a good friend. 

You can find Michelle hanging out at her blog, Simple Bounty, or on Twitter @simplebounty

Are you interested in being a guest blogger on Blank Spaces? We are open to submissions that fit into any of our regular categories. See the blog submission guidelines in our sidebar.

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