Competition Win : Esther Newton Short Story Prize.

Chess pawn wearing a gold crown

Image : Pixabay

I like the discipline of entering a short story competition – deadlines to keep, word counts to adhere to, themes to inspire (or frustrate).

They’re good for the writing muscles, even though success is often elusive.

When you receive yet another rejection (or when you hear nothing but yourself hitting refresh on your emails, searching for a message that never comes), you remind yourself that these things are subjective.

That your stunningly provocative tale about a ginger Tom sporting a bowler and plus fours might have hit the judge’s desk on the very day he / she discovered they have a potentially fatal cat allergy and their Nana’s just been knocked down by a runaway lorry, buried alive under its load of hard, domed hats and knee length trousers.  

And yes, you tell yourself that rejections are badges of honour to wear with pride – even if you do wonder how many such ‘badges’ you have to wear before someone gives you the one that reads ‘winner’.

And this is all very well and good and yes you know ‘J.K Rowling was rejected fifty squillion times before she was published’ but in the end she was quite nicely compensated for all that and by the way, when’s she going to move over and let someone else have a go?

However, amid the slew of rejections, the deafening silence that means ‘thanks but no thanks’, there is light shimmering in the grey.

A couple of weeks ago, I entered a competition run by author and tutor for The Writers Bureau, Esther Newton. The competition was on the theme of The Discovery and last week I discovered I’d been shortlisted. Lovely to be shortlisted and by someone so experienced and knowledgeable – delightful.

Yesterday, Esther announced the winning stories and … my story

Under the Skin

was there in first place!

To say I’m chuffed is an understatement. So thank you to Esther and congratulations to Stephanie Buosi and Suzanne Forman, my fellow winners.

Budge up, J.K – we’re on our way.

 

 

 

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Writing Magazine competition win

 

Gold winners trophy

Image: Pixabay

Back in April, I entered a short story competition run by Writing Magazine. For those unfamiliar, it’s probably the biggest selling writing magazine in the UK, aimed at aspiring and professional authors.

I’ve entered a lot of their competitions over the years – I could wallpaper my spare room with the submissions they’ve rejected – and only been shortlisted twice, once for a short story and once for a novel extract.

The notification period for this one came and went and I experienced my usual emotions, telling myself it was fine not to have won – no, really, FINE – analysing why the story was bad, why my work wasn’t sodding good enough for those darn picky judges – again.

Then an email plinked into my inbox – congratulating me on my competition win.

And you know what, instead of being delighted, chuffed, bowled over my my own skill and talent – I assumed the email was fraudulent and forwarded it to a writer friend for a second opinion! 

Well, my loves, the story did win and has now been published in print and online – the link’s here for all who want a few minutes’ read. May I recommend making an event of it – perhapes fetching a nice cup of something hot and a biscuit (a Penguin for that retro feel, or perhaps a chocolate Hobnob for you dunkers)?

It feels like quite a milestone, after submitting to the magazine so often. Seeing the story there in print and reading the editor’s comments online was the most delightful thing I’ve experienced since I started writing.

And for those in the UK who want to feel the paper in your hands, do rush to your local WH Smith’s and buy a copy (October issue). Even if you don’t like my story, the rest of the mag is very good.

Happy reading all.


P.S A public thanks to Maureen (whose glorious poetry you can read here and here) and Jackie (a wonderfully talented short story writer), my writing group pals, without whose advice and feedback the story would not have won.

 

Flash fiction win

Harbourside, boats and painted houses

Image: Pixabay

 

As part of National Flash Fiction Day on Saturday 25th June, Bristol has a Flash Walk around the city centre, where short stories inspired by the harbourside and all its watery goings on will be read aloud by trained actors.

I am delighted to say that one of my flash stories – Will there be pirates? – has been selected to be performed as part of the walk.

So, if you’re in the Bristol area on the 25th and fancy meeting up to hear some stella flash fiction, the walk begins outside Bristol Cathedral at 10.30 am.

Do come along. I can’t promise sunshine, but I can promise pirates*.


*Pirate not included

Through wooden bone and slate skin

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A boy lives in the roof. He smells of slate and warm pigeon breasts on crisp winter mornings.

Stolen feathers prick his scalp instead of hair. A flightless fledgling, he’s pressed under roof tiles, body bulging between the slats.

Hunched under the low roof, my limbs become a geometry lesson of angles. My foot scuffs the Christmas box- it tinkles, showing off its boa of fairy lights. The boy’s there, tickling my cheek with his musty down. He asks me to stay and I’m willing-unwilling but I sink to the floor anyway and listen, the thick, soft dust a cushion under my knees.

He whispers of the stars, the drift of a million suns that wink and shimmer, filling the sky with inky purple shadows. He bellows of the storms that have shuddered through his eaves, shaking plaster dust from his joists, threatening to tear his wooden skeleton from his slate skin. He drones of the bees, their waxy hexagons that tunnelled through him until his hollows shook with waggle dances and sung with the hive mind. Disturbed, honey drips and falls into my eyes.

He asks to take my hand and instinctively I reach for him. I yearn to count the stars as friends, to feel myself expand under the sun’s rays. He creaks, timbers groaning like a battered mast for love of me.

‘I love you more than the dawn,’ he chitters. ‘More than the bees. I’d extinguish a thousand constellations for you.’

Then I smell his breath‒wind-dried skin and bone, cement ground to powder by damp and time‒ and I kiss him once and stumble away. The Christmas box tips and falls, wreathing the boards with unlit bulbs.

There’s a boy in the cupboard. I run to him as the roof shakes and groans, as brick dust salts my hair and gums my tongue. The boy’s door opens with a sigh. I burrow into him, rip through layers of wallpaper‒ floral, stripe, floral‒ and dig my fingertips into his plaster, searching for his heart. I follow the pulse and thump until I find it, lay my palm over the beats that come faster for the touch of me.

The boy in the cupboard never begs me to stay, promises nothing as I curl in his darkness, my hand on his mineral chest. Soon I’m as cold as he is warm.

The boy in the floor stares through knots and gaps between boards, with his woodlouse eyes, his cable lips and tied-up tongue, tangled with balls of hair and shredded newspaper.

I never talk him.


Success- hooray!

After a succession of rejections, this piece of flash fiction was published yesterday on the website for Flash Flood the National Flash Fiction Day journal.

Do visit the site if you fancy reading some great fiction.

http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk/