2015 Short Story Competition Results
1st Bernadette Hughes A Different Place
2nd Clare Fisher Whoever You Are, You Are Not Juliet
3rd Sally Jubb Between the Trees
Linda Fulton A Pram Fit for Purpose
Frances Gapper In Need Of
Melanie Whipman Each Side of the Water
Virginia Ledlowe Undine
Patricia Duncker’s Judgement:
What is a short story? It’s not just a question of length. Some short fictions can be a page long, some as little as three hundred words, and some short stories will run for over forty pages. But a short story should be read in one sitting. A great short story should work like a firecracker or a depth charge. The impact of the story should have the force of an explosion, and its aftermath, even when that explosion is subtle, muted and works slowly, should be far-reaching, lasting, like an echo that is endlessly repeated. It is this element of shock, which ensures that a good short story is a disturbing rather than comforting experience. A good short story should make you think.
I was spoilt for choice this time reading fourteen finalists in our short story competition. All these fourteen stories bore the mark of the echo. I can remember them all.
I had some splendid sharp tales about mothering, failing as a mother, and mourning the mother’s loss: In Need of, Between the Trees and Each Side of the Water. English as a language searches for the object, the concrete, discrete thing that is offered to the reader as a clue to meaning: in Confessions this is the indigo birth mark, in A Pram fit for Purpose, the pram itself. I read some wonderful tales from the other woman’s point of view, Reflections, and the wife’s. Sometimes the story is all about the ending, that last twist of the knife, and in two cases this coincides with the return of the wife, My Life with Eva, or her brilliant revenge, Bad Rubbish. How relationships end generated some hilarious and unsettling moments in stories with very different moods: That Day and Whoever you are, you’re not Juliet. Mourning and coming to terms with the absolute loss of someone you love dominated several stories, in oblique, strange ways. A Different Place was one of these. Setting, even when it is briefly done, is crucial in short fiction and often overlooked. Not here – for I read a complete dystopia in A Dream of Blue Hills, and powerful evocative descriptive writing evoking the sea and the seaside coastal towns in Undine and After the Raincoat.
If you are one of the fourteen finalists in this competition, then be proud of yourself and your writing. I’m not the only reader who has enjoyed your work and been impressed. Give us more pleasure – never stop writing.
Every judge says how difficult it is to choose, but for me this really did become hard work and took days of re-reading.
Undine and Each Side of the Water are love stories, addressed to the mother, whom the daughter, however reluctantly, must let go. I found both these stories desperately moving. The shock of what is not said or remains wonderfully understated still resonates with me. Two other stories about mothering: A Pram Fit for Purpose and In Need Of seemed to me extraordinary, and, again in very clever ways, shocking. The superb litany of prams and the terrible sound of a dog’s whine are the echoes in these tales, which suggest an entire narrative hinterland of emotion. Congratulations to all these authors.
Suggestion, restraint, understatement and the use of small detail to convey significance are the hallmarks of a writer who has mastered his or her method. I was very impressed by Between the Trees and more so every time I re-read the story.
Whoever you Are, you’re not Juliet.
I laughed out loud at the daring, shocking story of an unlikely runaway couple, the Asian girl and the CHAV would-be gangsta. This was a story that had me gripped from the beginning, and I had no idea how it would end. This is wonderfully sharp witty, contemporary prose.
Writing is made of language and it was not just the emotional risks that this story took, but also the quality of the verbs that enchanted me. When I began underlining the verbs, and relishing the language, reading it aloud, savouring each sentence I knew that A Different Place had to win the first prize.