Many thanks to Lorraine for inviting me to judge this contest again. I enjoyed every single one of these stories and was impressed by the really different story ideas, ranging from wig making to spelling bees and dictionary definitions of words. Despite the many different settings and approaches to storytelling, all of the stories made me feel something by connecting me to a narrator and a world and giving me a reason to care.
My winner stood out to me from the very first reading and I had a feeling it was going to be the one even though I still had stories to read. By the time I had read all of the stories through twice, I had a shortlist of four and it has proven very difficult indeed to get to the final decision. So I’d like to give a special mention to
The Genie of The Lamp’s Sojourn in Alfred’s Antique Shop, Leipziger Street, Berlin, Germany, 1935-1938 as I loved this story too.
First Place: Glass Heart Hindsight
From the first line this story grabbed me and I loved the imagery of the damaged glass heart. That strong imagery continues throughout the story with stand out lines being “There is too much flesh at the formal, flaming torchlight pinking skin that is unsunned and tripe-white.” and “Her back is bare and her shoulder blades are bone spoons.” But to be a winner a story has to have more than great lines and this delivers on that with a sense of restrained emotion to match the glass-brittle heart. The sense I got that from now on, the narrator was going to change things.
Second Place: The Human Heart is a Forest Wild
What I loved about this is that it has taken a common premise and brought fresh life to it. This story of a drunken, abusive husband and father is elevated by the narrator’s voice and the ideas planted in our minds about the different things that could happen to remove him from their life. But then the final shows that none of that is needed as our narrator is strong enough to withstand it all.
Third Place: Good Teeth
The use of second person really added great tension and pace to this story that initially I thought could only end badly, so I was surprised by the hopeful and empowering ending. From the opening where we see the loneliness and desperation through the lasagne for one with a half bottle of vodka we’re propelled on a physical and emotional journey with the narrator and I found this completely gripping.