The Boiler Journal Flash Essay Contest – Judged by Daniel Nester

500 Word Challenge, Blog
The Boiler Flash Essay Contest Judged by Daniel Nester

The Boiler challenges you to submit flash essays under 600 words. We’re open to hybrid forms of poetry, essay, and memoir. The only thing that matters are whether you can sustain our attention and craft a well-written, sleek, beautiful little thing.

Two winners will receive $600 and publication in our spring issue
. Finalists will be considered for publication in our spring issue and other prizes. 

Submissions open October 31st and close January 15th. We will announce the winner in the spring of 2015.

To get an idea of what we like, read magazines like Brevity, Sweet, or other flash journals.

Submit to our contest here. 

About our judge: 

Daniel Nester is the author of Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Grief, Making Out in Church, and Other Unlearnable Subjects, which is due from 99: The Press in 2015.  Other books include How to Be Inappropriate, God Save My Queen I and II, and The Incredible Sestina Anthology, which he edited. His writing has appeared in N+1 The New York TimesThe Morning NewsThe Daily Beast, Best American Poetry, Best Creative NonfictionThird Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, and Now Write! Nonfiction.  He teaches writing at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NYVisit his website here

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Caru Cadoc

500 Word Challenge, January 2012


“These crates,” Steven shifted in the dim light, “really dig in.” He leaned back against the plastic wall and started tossing an apple from hand to hand.

Klara looked up at the roof—just three old doors they’d laid across walls of plastic crates. She listened to the apple tapping in his hands. Looking out a firing hole, she saw the boys carrying wooden boards toward them through the tall grass.

“Are they coming?” Steven asked.

She nodded.

He stopped with the apple.


Klara saw, through the hole, a makeshift fort they made with the boards. She sat down, leaned back against the front wall and listened to Steven’s breathing.

She looked from her friend, tossing the apple again, to the apples piled in the dusty corner. She felt the crate beneath her and breathed the chill air in the dark little fort. She’d found a thick branch earlier that morning, the right size and weight for a sword in case things got ugly. She bobbed it now in her hand, familiarizing herself with its weight.

The first shot hit the doors with a dull thud, and Steven looked up with wide eyes. His knuckles were white around the apple.

A shot flew in through a firing window and shattered against the back wall. Klara watched the brown seeds spin, watched them touch air for the first time, nestled in the shard spinning at her feet. Steven hurled his apple out at them and Klara grabbed one from the pile.

Everything was chaos, crouching in the shadows of the bunker, firing into the light. Apples volleyed in and out of the firing windows.

She saw them in flashes. It was shadows reaching for apples, then the attackers in the light, framed by the dark crates as she fired, then shadows. She saw Tom running toward the fort. In the shadows, reaching down for an apple, she heard a crack as Tom kicked the wall outside. There were shouts and crashes as the others joined in kicking and shot into the windows at close range.

“Uncle Owen’s gonna be—” she flinched as an apple flew in. She wanted to tell them he would be mad if they broke a milk crate. Then maybe they would stop kicking the walls.

But Tom appeared in the back door, branch in hand. Klara grabbed her own and they clashed. The fort shook with kicks as Steven tried to hold up the front wall with his back, chanting, “Oh my godoh-godohgodohgod…” Apples flew in through the windows as Klara and her brother glared at one another over their swords. “Oh God!” Steven shrieked. “Stop!”

Tom and Klara looked up in fear and saw him falling into the collapsing wall. As she knelt and merged with the wreckage, Klara felt a mysterious peace.


Caru Cadoc‘s short fiction has been included in MAKE, Jersey Devil Press, Word Catalyst and Storyglossia. He is the lyricist for the Chicago-based band the Pseudosufis.

Amy Fladeboe

500 Word Challenge, January 2012, NonFiction

Our nonfiction Runner Up to the 500 Word Challenge.


I notice her crawling in the backyard with a mouthful of dirt. I know she’s been riding the dog. I’ve also watched her collecting sticks, pebbles, leaves for her bowl. I press my ear to the glass door and hear her tell the dog that his soup is almost ready. The sun goes behind the back fence and she stumbles into the house, tired and filthy. Her hair is greased against her forehead, a tangled, matted knot in the back. She reads my mind as I look her up and down and say, “Alex, it’s time for a…”

Noooooo! She screams, making a dash for the staircase.

I catch her hand before she gets two steps away. I hold her down with my right arm and take out the barrettes with my free hand. She’s kicking and trying to bite my leg. Pinning her between my knee and the floor, I get both shoes and socks.

She’s screaming for real now.

I tickle her feet. She tries to keep hollering, but little giggles come out between yelps. I get the pants and undies and now it’s just the shirt. I yank it over her head, but she’s caught up in the collar. After a short but fierce struggle, her head pops free.

She’s crying now, big bubbly tears rolling down her cheeks.

I kiss her on the forehead and throw her over my shoulder. She’s pulling out fistfuls of my hair. I plop her down in the water. She’s grabbing the toy boat, filling it and hurling it at my face. I dunk her head and make a quick dash for the Jergens.

She’s coming up spitting and whaling her best fake cry.

Close your eyes, I shout. No! She pleads. I dump the boat-full over her head. She’s blinking her eyes and pretending to shiver. I grab the rag and give her a quick scrub. She’s just hunched over now, pouting. All done, I say, you ready to get out?

No! She screams and grabs the boat vroomvrooming it around the tub.

I thought you didn’t wanna take a bath, I say. Ignoring me, she’s grabbing one of the hairless Barbies and leaning it toward the boat saying “Hello sir. I would like one ticket to the waterfall, please,” in a high squeaky voice. “That’ll be one hundred dollars,” in her man voice as she’s holding up the boat and glaring at me out of the corner of her eye.


Amy Fladeboe is an MFA candidate at Minnesota State University-Mankato where she also teaches composition. She is co-host of a radio show that interviews Minnesota authors called the KMSU Weekly Reader and is a contributing author to a spontaneous flash fiction writing radio program called Tales From the Poor House. Amy works in multiple mediums but mainly fiction. This is her first non-fiction piece to be published.