Text Box: Text Box: Winning Entries Fourth Quarter 2011

First: Everybody’s Tuppence Worth by A M Smith

Second: Perfect Day by A F Packer

Third: A Couple of Plastic Clothes Pegs by Melissa Lawrence

Click on the titles to read the three winning stories

 

Highly Commended: Road Traffic Accident by Keith Smith

 

 

Judge’s Report for the fourth quarter’s competition 2011 from Guy Saville

 

As someone who struggles to write anything less than 100 000 words I’ve always admired those who can write short stories. Flash fiction is an even more notable skill, so I was impressed by all the entries I read.

Various themes dominated but I was struck by how many of the stories were about people looking back on their lives with regret and a yearning for different outcomes. Sometimes this had a cynical edge to it (with the occasional cold bite of revenge) but mostly the regret was wrapped in wistfulness. In some of the stories redemption was offered, though acceptance of the past was the prevailing conclusion. All seemed genuinely heartfelt. I think sincerity is an important quality for all fiction.

Whether this regret reflects current times as we reach the end of an age of easy abundance with a more unsure future ahead; reflects the writers entering the competition; or is merely coincidence is an interesting question. I’m sure the individual writers can answer that better than me!

If I have some advice for the entrants, it would be to think beyond your own world. The majority of the stories were set present day in familiar surroundings, with relationships between men and women at their heart. It would have been interesting to see some stories set in more exotic locales and historical periods. I think even in a form as brief as flash fiction the reader likes to learn something about different times and places.

But that is only a minor quibble as the level of entries and quality of writing was high… and made the judging trickier than I foresaw. Ideally I’d like to make several commendations, but since I’m only allowed one I also want to tip my judge’s hat at ‘Spoiled Dreams’ and ‘A Fond Farewell’.

 

1st: Everybody’s Tuppence Worth

This story immediately stood out as different from everything else I read, not least because of its structure and method of delivering the story. It also manages the clever trick of being a very short piece of fiction that spans decades and tells an entire life story, from conception to incarceration.

 

Essentially a black comedy, the action unfolds as snippets of dialogue between two mismatched lovers and the woman’s parents, with the ‘They said’ acting like the chorus in a Greek tragedy bearing independent witness to events. It has a great energy and although the story may have been told before, I found its presentation here refreshingly original. Great last line too!

 

2nd: Perfect Day

The two great strengths of this piece are its voice and atmosphere. I was transported to some out-of-season resort with the waves crashing and an elegant, enigmatic woman silhouetted  against the sea. The voice is unique and quirky with pleasantly rhythmic turns of phrase such as ‘the usual, as usual’ and an attention to detail: the woman’s hair whipping about in the wind.

 

As with many of the other entries it features themes of regret and looking back on one’s life. In this case the resolution is life affirming.

 

3rd: A Couple of Plastic Clothes Pegs

This begins within an arresting first line: ‘When I woke up, I knew I was dead’. After that we get another exercise in black comedy. The storytelling is subtle: the sexual deviance implied. What I liked best about it, however, was how the story played against convention. Normally paraphilic suicides are the preserve of rock stars or politicians; here it’s an ageing woman worried what the neighbours will think.

 

Highly Commended: Road Traffic Accident

As much a character piece as it is a self-contained tale about a marriage, this story creates an ogre of a husband, arrogant and belittling, who get his comeuppance. The dénouement is satisfying and ends things on a rather ironic note of hope.

 

~~~

 

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 Bitter Taste

A Couple of Plastic Clothes Pegs

A Fond Farewell

Against Time

Chivalry

Cigarettes and Soot

Everybody’s Tuppence Worth

Finding the Words

Give me some credit

In Desperation

Inside Story

Kiss Me Quick

Let Me In

Perfect Day

Road Traffic Accident

Spoiled Dreams

The Big Issue

The Dress

The Kingdom of Air

What Goes Round

 

Long Listed Entries — in alphabetical order

 

A Bitter Taste

A Call Drops In

A Couple of Plastic Clothes Pegs

A Fond Farewell

A Mother's Love

Against Time

Atoms in the air

Bread and Roses

Bright and Lively

Chivalry

Cigarettes and Soot

Epidemic

Everybody’s Tuppence Worth

Festive Spirit

Finding the Words

Give me some credit

Going Solo

Goodbye Gravy Train

In Desperation

Inside Story

Just another Game of Marbles

Kiss Me Quick

Let Me In

Perfect Day

Resolve

Revelation

Riding the Carousel

Road Traffic Accident

Robbed

Rows and Lines

Rules of the Lido

Spoiled Dreams

Stuck

Temptation

The Beginning and the End

The Big Issue

The Boy in the Dunes

The Cambridge Arms

The Dress

The Glass House

The Kingdom of Air

The Mother's Tale

The Ride (by AFP)

The River's Secret

This Month, Perhaps

Tipping Point

Top Deck Tilly

Walking Nan

What Goes Round