The First Annual
O:JA&L Editor’s Prize for Flash Discourse

Beginning in 2021, editors at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) instituted the O:JA&L Prize for Flash Discourse. These ten award winners were published between October 2017 and  June 2021. The next prize period will begin in July 2021 and end in June 2022. Five works will be added annually to the Prize List.

Selected and with an Introduction by
Pamelyn Casto, Associate Editor

When asked to choose the ten best stories we have published since we began our journey, I knew I was going to be in for a struggle. The flash pieces published by this journal are all outstanding and so many of them deserve special recognition. But I was asked to make my choices and as tough as they were to make, I made them. However, an extra bonus for me was the opportunity to re-read the many fine stories in order to make my limited selection of ten.

Before getting to the chosen stories, I offer a few words about flash literature. Through the years short-short stories have undergone many changes. Creative writers pushed boundaries, blurred genre lines, and the results have been stories that refuse to remain within any strict formulations about them. This trend continues as short-short stories evolve into today’s concept of very short fiction. The models and strategies from older short-shorts along with experiments that take stories into new, interesting, and inventive directions have given us more new stories that matter.

The protean quality of flash fiction allows for the constant changing of shapes as they draw and invent from various genres and traditions to create stand-alone stories that often work on their own terms. Countless writers are involved in the form’s long tradition and many continue to contribute to the reinventions of the form as they experiment with the boundaries and strategies of longer fiction and of other genres. These shortest of stories are not always diversions for the moment but are often stories that are profound and memorable.

In her essay in The Art of Brevity: Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and Analysis, Gitte Mose says: “Through their testing and tentative art of storytelling, these writers of short shorts are able to show the world as fickle and immense, a world we cannot fathom but perhaps approach when it is captured at the roots of a kind of fiction that is probing and challenging the capabilities of language.” She says that writers of short shorts show that “the world is full of possibilities, that it can be examined and told by imposing their artistic form on some small corners of chaos.”

As readers and writers of flash fiction, we want to remember that it is and can be much more than just a miniature story. We want to avoid putting flash fiction on some procrustean bed and lopping off its arms or legs to make it fit our preconceived or limited notions of what it is or how it works. It should be left free to test and experiment and find its own way and should remain free to create its own laws.

The selections I made, full of surprising images and fascinating ideas, show some of the many interesting forms flash literature takes. You will read stories about ordinary people as well as stories about characters drawn from history, fable, and myth. All of them struggle, in their ways, with the human condition of love, life, relationships, suffering, and death. These writers have imposed their artistic forms on our modern-day chaos and the results, as you will see, are some stories that won’t soon be forgotten.

Selections for the first annual
O:JA&L Editor’s Prize for Flash Discourse

(in no particular order of preference):

Ariel M. Goldenthal

(a story of a child’s relationship to her grandfather)

A Life in a Day


Evan Guilford-Blake

(a story about dealing with death)

Letting Go


Margo Williams

(a story about girlhood friendship and love)

Falling In Love Like Little Girls Fall In Love


Laura Sweeney

(a story about a failing marriage)

At the Fountain


Nelson Lowhim

(a journal in a war zone)

Journal of Truth


Stephanie Parent

(a story that draws from Greek myth)



Bill Capossere

(a story about time and identity)

The Map Museum


David Capps

(a story in epistolary literary style:  Menoeceus answers the famous letter written to him by his teacher)

Menoeceus’ Letter to Epicurus


Lorna Crozier

(a surreal story that draws from fable)

Another Bear Story


Kent Dixon

(a story from WIP Not for Sunday School)

How Mary Got Pregnant, Interruptus


About the Editor/Selector:
Pamelyn Casto, twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, has published feature-length articles on flash fiction in Writer’s Digest (and in their other publications), Fiction Southeast, and Writing World (and elsewhere). Her essay on flash fiction and myth appears in Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field and her 8,000-word essay on flash fiction is included in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading (4 volumes). She also has a 5,000-word article on flash fiction as the lead article in the new book Critical Insights: Flash Fiction. Subscribe to her free online monthly FlashFictionFlash newsletter (first issue published in 2001) for markets, contests, and publishing news for flash literature writers. Casto is an Associate Editor at O:JA&L.