NYC Midnight Challenge Entry: A Moment of Joy

A MOment of Joy

August 2022 (Final Round)
Genre: Open (Drama)
Word: Lift
Action: Laughing
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 100 words

CONTENT WARNING: Childhood illness, Cancer.

“Up, Mama, please.” Millie lifts her arms, her eyes huge and dark beneath hairless brows, a rainbow scarf swathing her smooth head.

And though grief and exhaustion weigh heavy on my limbs, this is an easy request to grant. Because today’s a good day—a day she’s strong enough to ask.

I swoop her up and throw her into the air amid a swell of sweet giggles. Though tears prick my eyes, I laugh along with her. Because there won’t be many good days left. So this moment, this joy, has to be enough.

I have to make it enough.

JUDGe’s Feedback

Unfortunately, this one didn’t place, but the feedback is below!


{1943}  ‘A Moment of Joy’ brought tears to my eyes. What a poignant, heartbreaking narrative. I loved the simplicity of the premise, with the child having the strength to ask to be picked up. The idea that she often wasn’t even strong enough to ask was heart wrenching. I liked the juxtaposition of the mother’s limbs being heavy with grief with the child flying in the air with a “swell of sweet giggles”. This was gorgeous writing. Well done.  

{1788}  The reader’s first view of Millie was truly wonderful, showing not only her vulnerability but her youth (i.e. the rainbow scarf). She was instantly lovable and her request was simple and poignant. The narrative voice had a terrific amount of sincerity. Since the author created such strong intimacy between the reader and the narrator, the reader was anxious to hear more about their final days together. 

{2035}  I thought that you captured Millie’s cluelessness about what was to come well. Her easy giggles and how she asked her mom to lift her up were both great details that showed us how the mother had to carry this burden by herself. 

{1963}  This well scoped piece makes good use of the prompt criteria to tell a focused and emotional story. The narrator can’t change what’s coming, but she has the power at least to choose how she faces it, and that keeps the reader invested. 

{1970}  I was taken by the emotion as I read “A Moment of Joy”. I really felt it when the mother sees the positive side, that today she’s strong enough to ask, in this tragic situation. This story pulls the heartstrings with just enough restraint when it comes to sweet sentiment. Thanks for the story. 


{1943}  I wondered if you actually needed to be so explicit with telling us that the child would die. I think this was already clear, so I would consider removing ” Because there won’t be many good days left.” I think the idea of this moment being enough might feel stronger if we weren’t just told that she was dying, eg: I laugh along with her. This moment, this joy, has to be enough….” I also wondered if we needed both details about the child having cancer. I would consider removing the detail of the brows, and instead, just showing us the smooth head and the scarf, which was a very vivid image.

{1788}  The last three lines pretty much tell the reader what they already know, and the author may want to think about focusing on imagery or small details that show her feelings instead. The reader can discern that there won’t be many days left and that she has to make this enough, but there are other things they’d like to know and don’t know. For instance, can Millie tell Mom’s crying? Does she comfort Mom? Does her giggle sound weak? What else will the author allow us to see that the reader can’t figure out themselves? Think about highlighting more gestures or observations that show her emotions. This will make the second half just as unique as the first half (the hairless brows, the rainbow scarf). “A Moment of Joy” makes a lovely impression on the reader. Once the author concentrates on the second half a little more, it will be a splendid microfiction narrative.

{2035}  To me, the latter half of the story felt a bit like the lines were only reinforcing one another rather than adding another layer to the piece. I think that condensing the final three sentences down to one could free up enough space to show readers the mother and daughter interacting more.

{1963}  You tell the story with an excess of clarity, which shows that you have a lot of leeway for shifting towards subtext. Perhaps better than being told directly of the narrator’s grief and exhaustion, we can be shown it through her words and deeds. If you let the reader participate in the comprehension of the story, any discoveries the reader makes belongs to them. When a reader feels personally invested in a story, that’s your opportunity to connect directly and fully. 

{1970}  There is only one thing that had me thinking it might need a tweak, but, I could be wrong. It’s the ‘…and throw her up into the air…’ part. Yikes. The image that came to mind. Perhaps I overdid it, but to envision a frail child with advanced cancer being thrown up in the air was a bit disturbing. What do you think? Thanks again for the tale.