Judge’s report by Amanda Saint
Many thanks to Lorraine for inviting me to judge this contest again. I always love reading the shortlisted stories and being transported to so many different lives. This year’s was a great list and I have been around the world witnessing love, hate, confusion, fear, passion, famine and the cycles of life. Several stories used interesting formats to great effect, as we have become accustomed to now in the flash world, without sacrificing story for form. Which can be hard to do so I was impressed with them all. It was hard to choose my top three and I read all of the stories four times before whittling them down to a shortlist of five. Then I read these five over and over again. I would like to give a special mention to Office Thesaurus and All the Times She Didn’t Say No and the Times She Did as these two stories moved in and out of my top 3 as I kept reading.
First place: Breaking the spell
I loved how the title of this had more than one meaning within the story. The spell that these two children wanted to cast to fix their Mommy and the spell of childhood truly being broken as the narrator moves into the knowing of the adult world at the end. The symbolism of the legless beetle works so well to foreshadow the truth of what’s happened, and the acceptance that the narrator comes to throughout the story about what the accident she caused has likely done. And with that acceptance, the ending gives a real sense of hope. Lovely stuff.
Second place: How to Say Goodbye
Even though this story is told in second person, there’s a real connection with the You of the story and the confusion, loss and pain she feels about ending this relationship. I loved the ambiguity of it and that I couldn’t understand what she was really feeling as part of her was so determined to say goodbye but then another part was so bereft at having done it. I think it reflects the myriad of thoughts and emotions we go through all the time so well, to show that reality is a constantly shifting phenomena.
Third place: If I Could Find One Word
The repetition of the title as the opening of each paragraph in this story worked really well to give a sense of pace and forward movement through a flash story that covers a long time in the narrator’s life. The choice of words for each stage of the relationship we witness gave us a real sense of the changes it went through and I loved the final line and how it captures the way our lives, and our minds, can move on.