• Visit Indigo

    Sledgehammer is proudly presented by Indigo, which offers editing, design, and more to authors and publishers around the world.

    Visit us at www.indigoediting.com to learn more and to schedule a free sample edit and initial consultation.

    Indigo: editing, design,
    and more

    Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
  • Join Our Networks

  • Photo Gallery

    To view photos of Sledgehammers past, visit our Facebook photo albums!

    All photos property of Sledgehammer Writing Contest. Most photos copyright Doug Geisler.

Mini Sledgehammer November 2019

Chris Smith’s stories are regular favorites. Check out his latest winning story below, and if you haven’t read his others yet, search his name in the search bar. It’s like you’re own mini-collection of Chris Smith flash fiction!

Character: A traveling Evangelist
Actions: Forgetting the song lyrics
Setting: Inside a cup
Prop: A rejected manuscript

Congrats on another win, Chris!

Electric ChapelAventures in Portland 2019 (223)-Edit

By Chris Smith

Her hands gripped the steering wheel tight. Her long red nail glistened in the moonlight like talons of an eagle. She descended to me when I was in a dark place in my life. She first came on the television and was I was hypnotized. Her words touched my soul and lifted my spirit to a realm I never knew existed. It was only minutes long but the goosebumps lasted hours.

I had to find everything I could about her. Her past, her present, and our future. I was devoted to her! I found a small, yet growing following online. We were close knit and support each other. A group of societal rejects bowing at her feet. Worshipping her every move like God herself.

We tried to spread her self-written gospel far and wide but rejection came at every turn. She was too much, too different, too…weird. People would turn from her grace, her commandments, forgetting the words of her hymns in a few months declaring them a one hit wonder. But we, especially me, knew better.

Soon she started spreading the word across the nation; hitting every city big and small. She preached on stages, then theatres, then stadiums, then whole arenas. People started to take notice and see the talent some of us always knew was always there. We were so happy to see the small, nurturing cup of joy that is our star grow into a fully-fledged Queen. She rode our love and worship to the top of the charts. We owe our salvation to her, and she owes her fame to our devotion.

© 2019 Chris Smith

Chris Smith says, “I’m an aspiring filmmaker, photographer and writer. I enjoy crafting stories about the weird yet interesting mundane parts of life, whether it is visually or on the page. When not writing, I can be found taking photos around town or binging on TV show and movies.”


Mini Sledgehammer December 2018

Congratulations to first-time winner Elizabeth Shupe! Happy holidays, everyone!

Character: A banker
Action: Wrapping a present
Setting: Stuck in an elevator
Phrase: “What would the fish do without the horse?”

Without the HorsePolination Anxiety2 emailsize

By Elizabeth Shupe


“What would the fish do without the horse?”

They had been her parting words to him as the orderlies had prepared to wheel her away to the operating room. It was like a Buddhist koan, a sentimental enigma. Somehow the words had left her lips, in short puffs of breath between her contractions. Somehow she had managed to smile through the pain, an attempt to reassure him as he squeezed her hand desperately.

“Fish” was her nickname for him. He was the cool, clinical type; a banker, the kind of man who ironed his socks and was on formal, cold-blooded terms with everyone including his own mother. Everyone but her.

“Horse” was what he called her because she was a wandering spirit, a painter of desolate pink deserts, deserts desperate with barely restrained passion in the tradition of Georgia O’Keefe. She was like her paintings; multi-colored and stained and always slightly disheveled.

And lately she had been heavy and round, a self-enclosed planet, their baby stirring within her like a barely articulated thought. Her heaviness had not changed her wildness but rather emphasized it– her currents ran deeper now and their movements were felt as tremors like the movement of magma deep within the earth.

“What would the fish do without the horse?” had been her answer to the simple statement he had made as the hospital staff prepared her for the operating theater.

That statement, muttered under his breath:

“Don’t leave me.”

Now, she was gone. Wheeled away. There was nothing he could do, no action to be taken. To the man who had control over everything– his retirement plan, his blood pressure, his thermostat setting– this was a terror unthinkable.

He paced the waiting room for a while but his nerves clacked together too loudly for his sanity to bear.

So he gave himself a purpose.

I’ll buy her a gift, he thought. Something to make her smile. Something for the baby? Something…

He hurried downstairs to the gift shop and bought a stuffed animal in the shape of a horse. Halfway back up the third flight of stairs he panicked and went back for some gift wrap. He envisioned himself spending time in the waiting room, carefully folding the crisp paper, taping the ends evenly, making everything perfect.

I’ve got to get back to her, he thought as he checked out for the second time, the Scotch tape and colorful roll in a bag that asked him to “Have a Nice Day”.

He decided to take the elevator back up to the waiting room.

He stepped inside, distracting himself by silently scolding whoever had cleaned the buttons, they were filthy. He pressed the button that closed the doors. They shut and the elevator began to move with a dull grinding sound.

What would the fish do without the horse? he thought again as the elevator stopped on his floor, the Obstetrics and NeoNatal department.

The doors didn’t open.

He mashed the button frantically and nothing happened. He kicked the doors, he screamed, but they didn’t open.

The cold man, the banker, the frigid fish felt tears well up in his eyes for the first time in years. The eyes of the stuffed horse under his arm were deep and unfeeling black plastic and his wife was somewhere in the bowels of the hospital, facing the struggle alone.

© 2018 Elizabeth Shupe

Elizabeth (Beth) Shupe is a writer/artist person who lives in Portland, Oregon and has been published on occasion. As a misplaced Victorian, her hobbies include collecting hair jewelry, decorating with needle-pointed pillows, and haunting people’s attics. She is a social media recluse and has no Instagram to offer you, but if you knock on her door and are very polite, she will make you a nice cup of tea.

Mini Sledgehammer November 2016

A big perk of having multiple people to rotate hosting responsibility is that the hosts can win sometimes too! Daniel Granias has been one of the hosts for Mini Sledgehammer for more than two years, and we’ve long admired his writing style. We’re glad to see his story chosen as this month’s winner. Congratulations, Daniel, and thank you for all you do!


Character: An Australian tourist
Action: Passing the salt
Setting: A beach resort
Prop: A hat pin



by Daniel Granias

Like bones, our hearts are strong, but also easily broken. Little did Amos Dickson, a forty two year old truck driver from the great state of Texas, ever imagine that he would get tossed on a plane and sent to a beach resort in Sydney, Australia by a gas company sweepstakes. Little did ChoYoo Park, an air hostess for KoreanAir, know that the international terminal at Sydney International would run into their third week of union strike on the day of her last flight home to Seoul.

But there they were, three stools apart at the bar of the Applebee’s between terminals A6 and A8. Amos was on his third beer, building up his liquid courage to leave the airport, entering the only other foreign land he’d set foot on besides Oklahoma. He first noticed the young Korean air hostess, her jet black bangs pinned to the left, and her red and blue KoreanAir scarf tied elegantly to the right. It was mildly surprising that she ordered a margarita with extra salt. It was extra surprising that she drank it as a chaser to the two shots of tequila that were hiding behind it. “Pass the salt!” she whined in a sing-song sort of happy-angry familiarity. Amos slid the salt down the waxed oak counter, and upon receiving it, ChoYoo caught a glance at the lonely American.

Perhaps it was a result of watching a Korean-dubbed version of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” but between his denim shirt, strong, bearded jaw, and his light blue eyes, there was something about his smile, the way his grin looked left while his eyes looked right into her dark umber wells. They stayed in their seats for the remainder of their drinks, but just as Amos made his way out the bar, ChoYoo surreptitiously kicked her suitcase over from her barstool. Like a drunken show horse, Amos leapt into the air, kicked his legs out, but caught the handle of the mobile luggage and tumbled head over spurs.

Laughing together, ChoYoo helped Amos to his feet and he held her elbows, stabilizing himself against her polyester jacket. Amos looked at ChoYoo’s eyes, but they were looking downward, directly in the central vicinity of his pants. Following her gaze, Amos noticed that his belt buckle had come undone and was hanging limp by one hinge. Giggling mischeviously, ChoYoo took the pin from her folded pillbox hat holding her bangs in place and corrected the hinge, unabashedly grabbing Amos’s belt in a full-fisted grip.

They were an unexpected pairing, like polka dots and plaid. East met west in the Great Down Under. They spent another two hours at the bar, learning about the other’s homeland, and what brought them to Australia. But just as they were about to leave the bar together, the A6 terminal announced the end of the International Union strike, and all KoreanAir staff were to report to their flights in the F-lines. Three other Korean air hostesses appeared from the Applebee’s out of nowhere, picked up ChoYoo’s bags, and carried her away before she could look back at the lonely Texan.


Daniel is a writer, teacher, and visual artist specializing in ceramic sculpture living in Portland, Oregon. His writing practice has been regularly fueled by the Mini Sledgehammer series since 2013, and is forever grateful to its community for their undying enthusiasm and support.

Mini Sledgehammer September 2013: Blackbird Wine & Atomic Cheese

For the first Mini Sledgehammer since the main event, we had a small but strong showing. Congratulations to Ian Drew Forsyth for winning his first Mini!


Character: someone in a red hat
Action: playing cards
Setting: In front of the computer
Phrase: “I have to!”


Metaprogamming the Gods

by Ian Drew Forsyth

When the series of events that interlocks our existences is activated, it takes superior concentration to impede the unfolding events. For Dr. Azarel it seemed too late even in the manifold possibilities in front of him, at the helm of one of the first quantum computers in the multiverse.

I have to, he kept muttering to himself. With only a host of his befuddled associates to contain him, this seemed the best path.

The concept of “best” fails to take into account the full ramifications of such a path. He had read the cards correctly, laid each one, each electro-tarot, played with the possibilities, and some essential intuitive force had urged him to such conclusions.

Earth was in the midst of the battling mundane, and it had been beckoned by the call of the ‘red hats’ as they were called. Much as the British imperial soldiers had been deemed: red coats, these mad psychoneuronauts were an imperial force of the mind—close to the intangibly mystic spirit, for this mind they purposed to exist in all simultaneous glories was beyond all former conceptions of self.

Even the most far bent religious esoteric sects couldn’t filter such specific illuminations. Of the main electroaxioms that Dr. Azarel and his colleagues professed were as follows:

  1. The self is a fabric of individual parallel selves and layers of collective being composites.
  2. Time is beyond mere Einsteinian dimensions: past-present-future or pasenture as it is known is compounded by full directional non-sequential “time” which continually disassociates itself from not mere dualisms but even ten dimensional states: infinitude is the superior attitude of a simultaneous I and We interlocked in tangled illusive improbabilities of possibility.

There were more rules, or rather, supposed theories, that were a boggled mouthful. Although, the red hats had demonstrated miracles on the daily, although they’d long ago superseded the limited thoughtform of the day.

And thus is was on this “day”, that Dr. Azarel was prepared to ultimately refract himself, the self, the entangled being, into supradimensions. He carefully with full detachment placed the supracelluar hyperdimensional metaprogramming orbital circuit nodeform on his forehead drenched in sweat: also known as the womb helmet, or red hat, for its phosphorescent crimson hue that surged and crackled with the raw potentiality of infinity.

Just as the womb helmet slipped over his visage, his assistant, the hyperion grad student: Dr. Iblis entered screaming at him to cease his hyperspace actions.

“Don’t you dare!”

Dr. Azarel turned with a malignant glare. “I will do as I wish.”

“Your wishes are pure hubris, and I won’t see you exit this planet without explaining to me why you want to leave it so badly.”

The doctor grit his teeth and slammed his fists on the motherboard signals seizing them up and literally distorting his rationale. It takes much rationalization and reason to believe such bizarre theorems.

“Iblis you insist on an absence of free will in the multiverse because you’re afraid.”

Iblis began to creep towards his mentor ready to seize the red hat from his control. “It’s not like that, I believe in upholding the collective. Your individualized screen of hyperreality has lead you to isolation, even solipsism I could argue.”

“Damnit! It’s not solipsism, it’s what all those sufis, yogis, and the rest of the mystical masses were attempting with no understanding of mass, energy, and the dimensional space—I deserve this technologic samadhi for my work.”

“No one is denying your work—but it is a delusion to assume you would be elevated, even brought to apotheosis by such deletion of your stable self, multiforming into the larger suggestion.”

“Who says that!”

“We all do Dr. Azarel. We’ve been worried about you. Your love calls me consistently telling me to pull you from your lab. The governments of the world want your advice—”

“—Oh they would only use me for weaponry—they’d blow up the stars before walking through them.”

“Your posthumanism has gone to far doctor. We’re suggesting a human intervention.”

“Ha! You’ll never dethrone what I’ve known, seen, and what I could perceive if you babbling peons would let me.”

“Rage all you want—” Iblis finally within grasping distance tackled the doctor—slamming him into the quantum computer and exposing them to the threat of permanent impermanence refraction—

But Iblis was swift and in subduing the womb helmet from Azarel’s skull, the mad doctor collapsed in fatigue.

Iblis sighed, picked up the womb helmet, placed it on his head. And beat Azarel to his own technoapotheosis.

For in science, there is only one god. And it is the scientist.