My heartfelt gratitude to everyone who accepted this challenge. You may have raised
your eyebrows at its quizzity but decided to embrace it nonetheless.
And the splendid stories and poems you created have brightened the dray and
grizzly days of encroaching winter and made my quignog
a reality. Thank you kindly!
This past year, simmering anxiety over the pandemic and chronic health issues and
a frayed-shoestring budget curtailed one of my favorite activities: hosting writing
challenges through my literary journal. I ran the previous one in February 2021, not
knowing if there’d be another.
Eight months later, Horace’s sage advice was galvanizing: Carpe diem!
In other words, enjoy this present moment, since life is short and precious and no
one’s assured of waking up tomorrow.
Thus, for Issue 11 of MacQ, I playfully concocted what may be my most challenging
writing challenge thus far. Not only for fellow writers but also for myself
(For reference, guidelines are available at:
Triple-Q Writing Challenge.)
In mid-October, I posted calls for “Triple-Q” entries to several submission
groups on Facebook. Plus, author and editor Pamelyn Casto announced the contest in her
informative monthly newsletter,
Flash Fiction Flash—which she’s been publishing for 20
years. Congratulations, Pamelyn, and thanks again!
The Triple-Q submission period was open 14 days, from 22 November through 5 December,
and MacQ received 43 pieces, representing 36 contest entries.
2. Selection process
First, I read each piece at my cruising speed of 500 words per minute, just to gauge
my initial reactions. Did the piece grab my attention and hold my interest all the
way through, to the last line? Did it resonate on one or more levels (e.g., sensory,
musical, intuitive, emotional, universal)? Were there any rough spots? Did I want to
publish the piece?
Second, during slower and closer re-readings, I noted all words that began with the
letter Q, comparing those with the
Triple-Q list of prompts for matches, aka qualifying Q words. Did
each piece include the required minimum of three?
Just as important, were those qualifying Q words used appropriately as noun, adjective,
or verb as per the requirements? If not, then the piece was dead in the water, so to
speak, no matter how much I liked it otherwise.
Any additional words beginning with Q that were not on the list of prompts, I took
into consideration only if the minimum requirement of three qualifying Q words had
Several entries seemed to include the minimum, except that one Q word was used as a
different form of speech than specified by the Triple-Q list of prompts. For instance,
“quibble” may have appeared in the piece, but as a noun rather than a verb.
Or the adverb “querulously” was used rather than the required adjective
Small differences, but very important when weighing entries against others that had
used quibble or querulous as specified on the prompt list, and/or entries that used
more than the minimum of three qualifying Q words. The latter case would help entries
with a potentially disqualifying word like querulously avoid falling short in early
Grammar Geek Alert: For those who might be wondering, “quahog chowder” is
a qualifying usage. Even though quahog acts as an adjective to describe an attribute
of the noun chowder, quahog is still considered a noun there. With a special name:
attributive noun. Which I learned while refreshing my knowledge of grammar
before this challenge. 😊
3. A tip when entering future MacQ challenges
Might be a useful strategy to think above and beyond, and offer more than the
minimum requirement. Such entries might be more competitive, I think, especially
if they’re flash fiction.
With the Triple-Q, where fiction entries also competed with poems and hybrids, the
longer the story (up to a thousand-word max), the greater the hope that it would
include more than the minimum of qualifying Q words. Granting that it’s certainly
no picnic in the park, I think it’s a bit less difficult to intersperse seven
qualifying Q words into a thousand-word story, than to intertwine the same number
within a poetic hybrid one-third that length...
... I’m speaking of Marietta McGregor’s timely 335-word haibun
“Terror Australis,” among my favorites of the Finalists selected. In
addition to seven qualifying Q words, her impressive haibun also includes two extra
Q words. Huzzah!
Also a bit trickier, I imagine, than a few flash stories that fell short in early
rounds: weaving five qualifying Q words into a comparatively tiny piece only
54 words long—that is, Gabby Gilliam’s “Dinner Suggestion,”
a light-hearted poem that sounds unforced to my ear and makes me chuckle and grin.
A tip of the hat to Ms. Gilliam.
And I happily highlight a third Finalist that I especially admire, a poem in a more
serious vein and for folks like me who also enjoy complex, layered, introspective work:
“Le Grand Matin,” a fascinating ekphrastic exploration 203 words
long, including five qualifying Q words, by virtuoso Jonathan Yungkans.
5. And the Winner is...
During initial rounds of reading, I chose 22 semi-finalists from the total of 43 pieces
received. Next began the tougher challenge, the quavery-mavery process of
selecting up to a dozen finalists, and then, only one winner.
Definitely not easy. During final rounds of evaluation, the more closely I perused
pieces, the brighter their facets shone, and the greater my admiration and attachment
grew. A handful of potential winners had me vacillating.
Still, I kept returning to “Quite,” lyrical micro-prose by Guy Biederman
that’s delightful to read aloud. Makes me laugh every time. While this quirky
creation may not be a contender for more staid prizes like the Pushcart, I adore
its exuberance, and appreciate its whole-hearted incorporation of a cornucopia
of words beginning with Q—35 total, including all ten qualifying
Q words—in a piece only 284 words long.
One could say (borrowing from “Quite”), the author “simply
had no quit in him.” 😀
Just below my footnotes, you’ll find links to a baker’s dozen of Q-licious
pieces that I’m delighted and honored to present here in MacQ-11. Again, huge
thanks to everyone who participated in this challenge!
Triple-Q Winner ($200 USD):
Quite [prose poem] by Guy Biederman
12 Finalists (unranked):
Anatomy of an Inspired Chef [prose poem] by Linda Allison
The Ultimate Guide to Exercise, or How I Spend My Weekend
[microfiction] by Roberta Beary
Dinner Suggestion [poem, lineated] by Gabby Gilliam *
John Muir Warned You This Could Happen [poem, lineated]
by Susan Hayden
Open Wide [flash fiction] by Nancy Ludmerer
Terror Australis [haibun] by Marietta McGregor *
Inquest [ekphrastic poem] by Robbi Nester, after a photograph
by Ann Leshy Wood
Aurora [flash fiction] by Kathryn Silver-Hajo
Thumb [flash fiction] by Renée Jessica Tan
Clam Chowder [prose poem] by Anne Marie Wells
Our Years With the Latvians [nonfiction]
by Rebekah Wolman
Le Grand Matin [ekphrastic poem] by Jonathan Yungkans,
after the painting by René Magritte *
* ICYMI, see “Shout-Outs!” (#4 section in the commentary above).
Contest guidelines are available at
“Triple-Q” Writing Challenge.
Details about our previous seven competitions are available via MacQ’s Contest Portal.