This quarter’s report is by Amanda Saint
Firstly, thanks to Lorraine for inviting me to judge this great competition again. I’ve really enjoyed reading these 25 stories that have transported me from hospital wards, battlefields and drought-ridden farms to seedy hotel rooms, gravesides and health spas.
Themes of love unable to be expressed, love that has died, and love that is blooming were woven through tales of poverty, death, sex, addiction and women rediscovering their strength and power. Loss, leaving and grieving were strong themes throughout all the stories, no doubt a reflection of the times we find ourselves in.
There is much to recommend in all of the shortlisted stories I read, but my winners are the ones that kept coming back to me when I was doing something else.
Winner: The Truth About Snowflakes
A devastating story that is filled with a savage, sad beauty at the same time. The parallels of the creation of snowflakes with what’s happening to the narrator are really well drawn in language that works really hard and paints vivid pictures. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story and each time I read it, more and more layers were revealed.
Second place: Everything Said
The different reactions captured here at the end of each paragraph perfectly capture the time, place and atmosphere of Friday night revels, which are often tinged with hysteria. Loved the line: “…everyone is drunk/ tired/ a little broken.” A sad and poignant story that is filled with hope and humanity by the end.
Third place: Two Days Later
The choice the mother has to make that sits at the heart of this story is even more overwhelming as it is revealed through a very matter of fact voice, and a structure that leads you to the love that is still fierce despite what she has had to do. I had to go back and read it from the beginning again straight away as the ending makes the beginning even more powerful than it initially seems.
I’d like to give a special mention to Deflowering and The Whole Truth About Half Dates as well. Both strong contenders for my top spots and I have no doubt they’ll find a home elsewhere very soon, as will all of the stories on the shortlist.