Text Box: Text Box: Winning Entries Fourth Quarter 2015

First: A Matter of Minutes by Sandra Crook

Second: Mister Sad by Phil Bowie

Third: Danny Doesn’t Know Everything by Christine Steenfeldt

Click on the titles to read the three winning stories

Highly Commended: Tomorrow, Maybe by Jamie Stacey

 

Judge’s Report for the fourth quarter’s competition 2015 from Nik Morton

 

Basics first

Whether you’re submitting a 500 story or a novel, presentation is important. In the short list I encountered a variety of type fonts, and sizes. We all may have our favourites, some chosen to express our individuality perhaps, but for submissions it is advisable to stick to the basic popular font and size – Times New Roman and 12pt; they’re the accepted form because they’re easier to read. Yes, if you submit a script, use Courier.  There may be exceptions – spelled out by the competition rules or publisher or editor. The variations I’ve encountered have not affected my judging – I changed all of the stories into Times/12pt before printing them off for reading and assessment.

The competition is called Flash 500 for a reason – it’s giving you the opportunity to create a story in 500 words. When I see stories that are about 350 words, I fear that a chance has been missed; use those 500 words; even write a few over then hone the finished work down to 500. It is always possible that a particular vignette only requires 350 words, but I sincerely doubt it: depth, colour, character and atmosphere could be part of those missing 150 words. Again, I have not penalised any entry for being less than 500 words – though, inevitably, the shorter pieces might seem to be lacking in depth as I read them. 

Assessment

It was a pleasure reading through the short list of 25 stories which transported me to interesting places, where I’ve encountered a number of wonderful, frightening and even amusing characters. As always, selecting the winners presented problems – not least due to the quality of the writing and the content of the story.  There were several ‘also rans’ which bear mentioning, in no particular order:

Men Can be Broken Sometimes was a moral tale told in vernacular, with strong imagery, about trust and fidelity.

The Brown Envelope takes us back to the Second World War when families spotted the dreaded telegraph boy on his bike. Only this tale has a neat twist – showing us that everything is not always what it seems. A good use of description and dialogue.

The Rainmaker immediately immerses us in an African village where the shaman’s daughter is intent on making a pact with the village headman to stop female genital mutilation.  Gentle humour, a good sense of place, and a worthy cause. The girl, Nanyorri, should go far with this writer.

Getting What I Want is about sexual harassment in the workplace with a clever twist.

Hunting the Light is ostensibly about the Northern Lights, but in fact really concerns domestic violence – and a colourful and even fitting revenge.

Five Strong Colours was a well described piece possibly set in the wilds of Afghanistan, but sadly it didn’t evolve into a story. However, I wanted to know more about Yan.

Remembrance and The Right Thing dealt with the after-effects of war – one featuring a man who can’t forget; the other about a ghost.

A vignette about under-age smoking (The Alphabet Story of Adolescence) really emphasises the need for attention to layout. The sentences begin with the letters of the alphabet, thus: Anywhere. Behind the bike sheds or in the toilets. Classes…’ and so on. This would have been more effective if each time a new letter was introduced – all the way to ‘Zippo…’ – a new paragraph was used. Inventive, perhaps, but not quite a story, alas.

The remainder of the short list concerned regret and pride (Soloist), regret at not seizing the day (A Collection), the love of a good dog and more (Gone, Boy), the fears of incipient motherhood, hope from despair (Baby Steps), atmospheric sex up Blackpool tower (Under Heaven), an errant father (It was impossible…), small things can overshadow big catastrophes (A pair of turquoise earrings), never go alone down Vietnamese tunnels (The Rat), opposites don’t attract (Elemental), a death wish realised ([If You Gotta Go] Go Now), poetic mystical regrets of time and people gone by (Tears in the Sky), and a haunting echo of the King’s Cross fire (And then we were born).

Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the rest; attaining the short list is no mean achievement. Keep writing – and reading!

 

1st: A Matter of Minutes

A crime story in 500 words is no mean achievement. Here, we have suspense and character, conveyed with sparse but telling dialogue and the main protagonist’s thoughts. With a neat twist.

 

2nd: Mister Sad

Dialogue that tells us a story between the lines. The characters are shown mostly through their words. Emotional without being maudlin.

 

3rd: Danny Doesn’t Know Everything

The humorous beginning doesn’t quite prepare us for the terrible ending. Sad theme, but very good writing.

 

Highly Commended: Tomorrow, Maybe

Almost stream of consciousness first person narrative from a bullied child. Another story with an emotional punch, ending on a hopeful note.

 

We 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 Collection by Diane Simmons

A Matter of Minutes by Sandra Crook

A Pair of Turquoise Earrings by Anna Koenig

And Then We Were Born by Steve Gay

Baby Steps by Susan Howe

Danny Doesn't Know Everything by Christine Steenfeldt

Elemental by Jude Higgins

Five Strong Colours by Donna Brown

Getting What I Want by Jessie Morrison

Gone, Boy by Susan Howe

Hunting the Light by Vanessa Savage

(If You Gotta Go) Go Now by Dianne Bown-Wilson

It was Impossible for my Father to… by Jamie Stacey

Men Can Be Broken Sometimes by D. Bruton

Mister Sad by Phil Bowie

Remembrance by Emily Sharma

Soloist by Eithne Cullen

Tears in the Sky by Jamie Stacey

The Alphabet Story of Adolescence by Sara Roberts

The Brown Envelope by Claire Demaine

The Rainmaker by Gemma Burford

The Rat by Anna Koenig

The Right Thing by Diane Shortland

Tomorrow, Maybe by Jamie Stacey

Under Heaven by D. Bruton

 

Long Listed Entries — in alphabetical order

 

A Box of Feathers by Alison Clark

A Collection by Diane Simmons

A Matter of Minutes by Sandra Crook

A Pair of Turquoise Earrings by Anna Koenig

A Square of Light by Catherine Finch

And Then We Were Born by Steve Gay

Baby Steps by Susan Howe

Bitten by the Rainy City by Melissa Jacob

Boxes by Emma Collins

Danny Doesn't Know Everything by Christine Steenfeldt

Don't by Lucy Goacher

Elemental by Jude Higgins

Fingers Glide by Alice Skene

Five Strong Colours by Donna Brown

Getting What I Want by Jessie Morrison

Gone, Boy by Susan Howe

Hand Luggage Only by Hilary Hopker

Heat by Jennifer Tucker

How Not to Break Up With a Poet by Safia Moore

Hunting the Light by Vanessa Savage

Hymn by Steven Holding

(If You Gotta Go) Go Now by Dianne Bown-Wilson

I'm Lost by Edwina Jones

It was Impossible for my Father to… by Jamie Stacey

Just One Won't Hurt by Dan Ewers

Leo's Song by Sherry Morris

Men Can Be Broken Sometimes by D. Bruton

Mister Sad by Phil Bowie

Nice Girl by Kate Jones

Remembrance by Emily Sharma

Romance is Not Dead by Ellie Henley

Safe House by Linda Randall

Soloist by Eithne Cullen

Tears in the Sky by Jamie Stacey

The Alphabet Story of Adolescence by Sara Roberts

The Brown Envelope by Claire Demaine

The Bureaucrat by Lynne Voyce

The Emerald Mountain by Vanessa Savage

The Last of Michiko by Mandy Huggins

The Rainmaker by Gemma Burford

The Rat by Anna Koenig

The Right Thing by Diane Shortland

The Siren's Song by Hilary Hopker

Through the Letterbox by Julia Anderson

Tomorrow, Maybe by Jamie Stacey

Under Heaven by D. Bruton

You Break My Heart by Mandy Wheeler