Text Box: Text Box: Winning Entries Fourth Quarter 2014

First: Blood Bond by Marie Gethins

Second: The Language of Fish by Chloe Banks

Third: Pretty Maids All In A Row by Vanessa Savage

Click on the titles to read the three winning stories

 

Highly Commended: Sister Act by Kate Harmond Allan

 

Judge’s Report for the fourth quarter’s competition 2014 from  Liza Perrat

 

It is a great challenge to condense all the requirements of a good story – plot, pacing, dialogue and characterisation – into just 500 words, and firstly I want to say how much I enjoyed reading the twenty-five shortlisted stories, all of which met these criteria. My congratulations to the authors of these excellent tales that made my task of choosing the winners extremely difficult.  I read the shortlisted stories three times, over three different days, and selected my ten favourites.  These ten I read three more times, and chose what were (for me) the best four. Of course, my decision was, unavoidably, a little subjective, based not only on the criteria of good storytelling, but on my own personal taste.  Another judge could easily have chosen four others, but for me, these four resonated the most. These were the ones that evoked emotion: sadness, happiness, laughter, thoughtfulness. These were the stories I kept thinking about for days after I had read them.

 

1st: Blood Bond

Apart from making me ponder over the layers of meaning in this story, I also loved it because it made me smile. Beginning with the title, is this bond strong, weak or perhaps even deadly? The daughter’s clothes and the fact that she was “The last to arrive…” immediately hint at impoliteness and contempt.

The abundant use of the colour red and its shades - cardinal, crimson - brilliantly evoke an atmosphere of anger and rage, injury, illness, rebellion, passion, love and revenge. Violence too, which left me wondering, in the end, about dear old dad’s demise. Red is also daring, provocative and oozes confidence, and in the dirt she scatters I saw the gravel denting the coffin as a metaphorical wound for the childhood injuries she might have suffered. This display is not only publicly flaunting her revenge, but also demonstrates her unwavering confidence in regard to the reactions of others. Or perhaps it is simply her way of revealing the true character of this “pillar of the community”? 

It seems there was no other family, that they had only each other, which makes her childhood all the more sad, and her behaviour now all the more poignant. Or is it merely her way of coping with it all? These were the layers of meaning, the nuances, the questions that struck a chord in me; the words that left me thinking, and wondering.

My favourite line: “Scarred it descended, darkness swallowing it whole… ” hauntingly reflects the scarred relationship between a father and a daughter, the swallowing darkness hinting at possible recovery. And the stunning final line only underlines this: “Her red shoes glowed, becoming blood spots on the horizon.” No more grey skies; the sun glows. Very clever storytelling.

 

2nd: The Language of Fish

“The language of the fishing rod was too immediate, too perishable.” David finds this language, his father’s, difficult to understand, let alone accept. “David told himself he wasn’t to blame. It wasn’t him who didn’t know how to communicate. It wasn’t him who had the problem.” Then something changed, consequently altering the father-son relationship: “That Christmas, his dad sent him a book token.”

An eloquently-narrated journey of the discovery of love, in its many guises. A heart-warming, beautifully-told and moving tale.

 

3rd: Pretty Maids All in a Row

I loved this story as – like bulbs are transformed into lovely flowers - the initial sadness is transformed into happiness and hope. In planting the bulbs – the seeds of new life – she is not only trying to deal with her depression, but also creating memorials to her lost babies; something that society would likely frown upon had they been “bricks and mortar” gravestones.

Any woman who has experienced miscarriage will relate to this story: the grief and mourning that is, sadly, often regarded as misplaced since the babies: “…never had lives…”. It is also quite common for a woman to feel her body is defective; that she is unable to fulfil her “biological duty”.

This story also illustrates the fact that many men, though not all by any means, find it hard to understand and cope with a woman’s mourning following miscarriage. I don’t mean to say they cannot be sympathetic, on the contrary, many are very supportive, but if you have not physically carried, bonded and then lost a child before it had a chance at life outside the womb, I believe it’s more difficult to understand that very real, raw grief. The grief that a woman is generally not permitted. Emotional and uplifting.

 

Highly Commended: Sister Act

Cleverly-written, this made me laugh out loud at the end. How one, narrow-minded judgmental person gets it all wrong; totally misses the point. This was excellently evoked in the phrase: “Father giggled and gossiped like a teenager all through that sunny afternoon.”

And the final line sums up excellently the fact that she had no idea who her father really was: “The curtains swish shut to the sound of salsa.”

This story urges us to climb out of our box and look around us, to jump out of our window and disappear, to open our minds and our eyes.

 

We now regularly receive several hundred entries each quarter, so those making the long and short lists should feel very proud.

 

Short Listed Entries — in alphabetical order

 

A Novi-Sibersk Fairy Tale by Sherry Morris

Any Minute Now by Christine Griffin

Blood Bond by Marie Gethins

Candles and Cats by Michael Twist

Danny Doesn't Know Everything by Christine Steenfeldt

Death of the Archduke by Ryan Scott

Don’t Look Back by Sherri Turner

Feeding the Cat by Susan Howe

Gildi by Karen Wolfe

I Stand Here Sanding by J D Hellsinger

King of the Castle by Vanessa Savage

Knees off the Floor by Sharon Boyle

Not Forever Then by Sandra Crook

One to Four by Catherine Edmunds

Pretty Maids All In A Row by Vanessa Savage

Safety Pins by Sherri Turner

She Nose by Dave Joy

Sister Act by Kate Harmond Allan

Something to Hold on to by Clare Golding

Space by Ellen Day

Tears in the Sky by Jamie D Stacey

The Language of Fish by Chloe Banks

The Siren Call of France and Finland by Christine Griffin

Tomorrow, Maybe by Jamie D Stacey

When Goldilocks Came to Stay by Marie Gethins

 

Long Listed Entries — in alphabetical order

 

A Novi-Sibersk Fairy Tale by Sherry Morris

A Slap-Up Christmas by Carris Hunt

Aceh by Michael Hannam

Alone by Michael Seese

Anticipation by Graeme Buchanan

Any Minute Now by Christine Griffin

Arrival by Thiva Narayanan

Blackie and Caramac by Sarah Baxter

Blood Bond by Marie Gethins

Candles and Cats by Michael Twist

Danny Doesn't Know Everything by Christine Steenfeldt

Death of the Archduke by Ryan Scott

Don’t Look Back by Sherri Turner

E2-E4 by Paul Barnett

Feeding the Cat by Susan Howe

Free-running by Rich Cantrill

Gildi by Karen Wolfe

Heartbreaker by Laura Bridge

I Stand Here Sanding by J D Hellsinger

Johnathon Philips Moment by Chris Johnson

King of the Castle by Vanessa Savage

Knees off the Floor by Sharon Boyle

Moon by John Wayland

Not Forever Then by Sandra Crook

One to Four by Catherine Edmunds

Perspective by Kate Midwinter

Pretty Maids All In a Row by Vanessa Savage

Safety Pins by Sherri Turner

She Nose by Dave Joy

Sherif Johnny Shoots the Big Bad Kansa! by Jonathan Gough

Sister Act by Kate Harmond Allan

Something to Hold on to by Clare Golding

Space by Ellen Day

Tears in the Sky by Jamie D Stacey

The Clouds of Ignorance by Stella James

The Language of Fish by Chloe Banks

The Road by Tomas Furby

The Siren Call of France and Finland by Christine Griffin

The Tail End by Tricia Monk

...This Way Comes by Dave Tooke

Tomorrow, Maybe by Jamie D Stacey

We mustn't use the M word by Taria Karillion

When Goldilocks Came to Stay by Marie Gethins

Wrong Time Wrong Place by Richard Thomas