Text Box: Text Box: Winning Entries Second Quarter 2014

First: The Butterfly Effect by Pauline Brown

Second: The Taste of Dark Blue by Vivienne Vermes

Third: Not Thirty Yet by Margaret Callaghan

Click on the titles to read the three winning stories

 

Highly Commended: The Stone Baby by Tracey Upchurch

 

Judge’s Report for the second quarter’s competition 2014 from  Annemarie Neary

 

There are as many kinds of flash fiction as there are writers. In this quarter’s shortlist, stories with conventional arcs vied with poetic fragments. There were email exchanges, diary entries and dual perspectives. Themes ranged from the big topics — love, birth, death — to the irritations and frustrations of every day.

Now to declare an interest — in my opinion, a traditional story (with or without twist!) is very difficult to pull off in 500 words. I tend to favour off-kilter, elliptical stories, often with a single organising metaphor. However, the great thing about flash fiction is the way it can turn your preconceptions upside down. I’m delighted to say that the winning story did just that.

 

1st: The Butterfly Effect

This is a complete short story in miniature. It looks at events in Sarajevo 100 years ago from the point of view of Leopold Lojka, the Archduke’s chauffeur, crystallising the moment when things go wrong. It’s clever and fresh and a satisfying circularity is achieved when the metaphorical butterfly takes flight.

Choosing a well-known event like this is a smart move because it obviates a lot of explanation and allows the readers’ foreknowledge to work for the story. Even though we know what’s going to happen, we are desperate for Leopold’s sake that somehow, this time, in this story, things won’t go that way.

The writer draws us into Leopold’s experience through a series of well-selected details – the gloved hands on the steering wheel, the car rocking on its springs as the passengers take their seats behind him, the irritation of sweat beneath the tight band of his cap.  We feel his pride, his nervousness, his apprehension. This is a terrific vantage point for the story as the chauffeur is both active participant and helpless observer.

Linguistically, the prose is relatively unadorned, and I think that’s the right decision here. The drama of the event itself (and our intimate identification with the hapless Leopold) is enough to carry us through. A memorable piece of work.

 

2nd: The Taste of Dark Blue

This is a story about the human urge, even in extremis, to choose life over death. The metaphor of water, which delivers colour to the dying woman, expresses beautifully the human instinct to cling onto life at all costs. ‘Now all that mattered was water’. In an evocative passage, the writer takes us underwater where the dying woman experiences all the vivid and intoxicating colours that her dutiful life has denied her.

There is an incantatory air to the passages describing her attendants and their vigil. ‘They thought she would die that night. They came to surround her. Hold hands, say prayers, cry tears.’ ‘They’ are there to facilitate her passing and they interpret her desire to go to the coast as a dying wish whereas in reality this woman is gasping for a little more life.  There is a dream-like quality to all of this, and the language is beautiful, but the writer knows when to turn it off too, when simple works best.  There are only three scraps of speech and they track the course of the story itself — ‘water’, ‘more water’, ‘I want to go to the sea’ — growing ever more insistent as the woman emerges from the clutch of death into the uncertain embrace of life.

 

3rd: Not Thirty Yet

I particularly liked the voice in this story. It’s smart, witty, and very believable, with some lovely one-liners. ‘She would give him the cold shoulder and then glance over it.’ 

The writer shows us a young woman testing out labels for her experiences as she learns to interpret them: Cliché, Compromise, Insouciant, Serendipity, Imperious, Anticipation. Set in a bar, which could be any bar, this is a story about emerging possibilities, about being on the cusp of things. I loved the image of the girl’s sighing, head-shaking friends. ‘They would make her confess in the toilet cubicle. Repent at the wash hand basin, give him up for Lent.’

Threaded through the bar scene are strands of sharp observation ‘ But to get his confidence he’d have to take hers’,  ‘she liked the word cliché but didn’t want to meet one’ which allude to the traps that may await her. The writer evokes very well a certain time of life and the role-play of courtship. And a lovely final line sums up the entire story. ‘Anticipation. She liked that too.’

 

Highly Commended: The Stone Baby

A beautiful story about intimacy and loss and hope, it contains my favourite sentence of the entire shortlist: ‘The sun cooks the sky and the thrush is waking, crying for a mate and the chance of eggs.’  Lovely.

 

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

 

05.08.62 by Deshpal Panesar

A Novel Solution by Susan Greenhill

Blow by Tempered Blow by Kate Woodward

Bride and Prejudice by Dennis M. Skeet

Egg by Julia Anderson

Getting Away with Murder by Susan Owen

Invasion by Jeanette Lowe

Listening to the Slug by Matt Johnston

Not Thirty Yet by Margaret Callaghan

One More Try by Christine Griffin

One Stone by Robert Walton

Remember Me? by Pauline Brown

Return Ticket by Susan Howe

Sound Junkies by Jane Roberts

Special Needs by Sue Uden

The Bitterness of Parsley by Sally M Gander

The Butterfly Effect by Pauline Brown

The Stone Baby by Tracey Upchurch

The Taste of Dark Blue by Vivienne Vermes

Tiger's Eye by Jane Cooper

Two Bodies, One Journey by Kairen Cullen

Undone by Amy Salmon

We’ve Been Eating Oranges by Emily Cooper

When Magic Happens by Sue Pace

Woodcraft by Paul Curd

 

Long Listed Entries — in alphabetical order

 

05.08.62 by Deshpal Panesar

A Novel Solution by Susan Greenhill

Beacon by Mandy Huggins

Blow by Tempered Blow by Kate Woodward

Bride and Prejudice by Dennis M. Skeet

Dust by Louise Howard

Egg by Julia Anderson

Familiar by Adela Hamilton

Feelings by Frances Pitt

Getting Away with Murder by Susan Owen

Goodnight John by Stuart Riley

Hampsted Heath by Joanna Vadenbring

Invasion by Jeanette Lowe

Listening to the Slug by Matt Johnston

Magic Eater by Alison V King

My Courage by Tessa Crowder

Not Thirty Yet by Margaret Callaghan

One More Try by Christine Griffin

One Stone by Robert Walton

Only Two Hundred Words by Adam Vander

Remember Me? by Pauline Brown

Reprisal by Laura Bridge

Return Ticket by Susan Howe

Rewards by Sonia Ali

Rift by Lucy Steele

Some People by Dave Tooke

Sound Junkies by Jane Roberts

Special Needs by Sue Uden

Squidgy Pianos and Hairy Arms by Zena Hagger

Tears in the Sky by Jamie D Stacey

The Audit by Taria Karillion

The Bitterness of Parsley by Sally M Gander

The Butterfly Effect by Pauline Brown

The Cold Wind by W Heathcliff-Cooke

The Exhumation of Bernard Postlethwaite by John Rippon

The Farcebook Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Susan Howe

The Harvest by Simon Van der Velde

The Month of Single Magpies by Emily Sharma

The Outsider by Kit Samuels

The Stone Baby by Tracey Upchurch

The Taste of Dark Blue by Vivienne Vermes

Tiger's Eye by Jane Cooper

Too Close for Comfort by E.L Norry

Touchscreen Hearts by Dominic Carew

Two Bodies, One Journey by Kairen Cullen

Undone by Amy Salmon

Unfortunate Son by Michael Collett

We’ve Been Eating Oranges by Emily Cooper

Wheels by Bibi Jacob

When Magic Happens by Sue Pace

Woodcraft by Paul Curd