Competition Results

Short Story 2019 Results

Read Winning Stories Here

Organiser’s Comments

I was overwhelmed – both figuratively and literally – by the number of entries which were received for this year’s competition: at the final count, we had over 300 entries from 200 writers. Many of those who entered made great use of our money-saving “four stories for a tenner” entry facility. It’s a great way of getting lots of entries in, and I was delighted to see so many writers doing so.  

The stories entered were of a tremendous range, both in subject matter and style. We had an epistolary tale, a story told entirely in dialogue, a narrative in the second person, tales told from odd perspectives and even one which included “newspaper clippings” in the story. The inventiveness of this year’s entries has been astounding. The subjects have been the usual broad range: romance, science-fiction, historical escapades, mysteries in the art world, spine-chillers, family dramas and murder by the bucketload.

Just a quick note about where we had entries from: I think that the only continent not represented this year was Antarctica (husky postal services not being what they were). This year’s international writers came from such exotic locations as Hawaii, Illinois, Stellenbosch, New Zealand and the Ukraine. We had a sprinkling of European entries, and lots from the island of Ireland. I’m delighted that the creativity we have seen has come from all longitudes.

A big thank-you to everyone who took the time to enter one or more stories into the competition. By my rough estimate, the number of words you collectively sent us was the equivalent of five decent-sized novels.

One more note of thanks, this time to the brave volunteers of the Circle who read through a batch of stories each before passing their favourites onto our Chief Judge. Their sterling efforts deserve a hearty round of applause.

And talking of our Chief Judge, here are a few words from Dr Anna Maddison regarding the winning entries:

Chief Judge’s Feedback

I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the stories and I found the creativity inspiring. The standard was very high and made judging both pleasurable and difficult!

Thank you for the opportunity to be involved in the judging experience.

First

‘No Answer’ by Eamon O’Leary

This winning story had one of the strongest openings of the competition, pulling the reader in immediately with its striking language and highly visual (and sensory) description. In fact, despite an economic use of language, every last word felt saturated with vivid imagery, giving a strong sense of character and setting – and evoking quickly and strongly a physical and emotional response. As reader, a feeling of revulsion was brought out towards the unkempt, misanthropic character and his surroundings. However, counterbalancing that were humorous and poignant moments, which acted like guideposts through the sea of unpleasantness, which really humanised the character and drew the reader in to what was essentially a very moving tale. This was especially effective given how unpalatable the character was and illustrated the inherent skilfulness of the writing. Overall, this story had a strong flavour which stayed with me long after reading. A worthy winner!

Second

‘Living Stones’ by Elizabeth Pratt

This poignant story had one of the most moving endings, eliciting a strong emotional response. The style had a simplicity about it; a clean, clear use of language and a calm, steady pace throughout. The tone of slow determination reflected the main character and her style of painting, which was all about close observation and subtlety. The author clearly shares these attributes, with convincing characterisation and sense of place effortlessly drawn for the reader. The title, almost an oxymoron, signalled the use of juxtaposition of opposites throughout, which made for an interesting dynamic. For example the interplay between images of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, which resonated with characterisation as well as setting. Images of both hardness and fragility were evoked through mention of materials such as wrought-iron and eggshell, and most particularly through references to glass throughout, which cleverly symbolised and reflected the character of the homeless girl. This is a thoughtful, nuanced and sophisticated piece of writing.

Third

‘The Curious Koi’ by Peter Kelly

This story was highly original, intelligent and amusing. Eloquently written, it had a philosophical quality, which read like a Buddhist tale, of Confucian fable. The curious koi in his pond, with his questioning mind, is a metaphor for human nature, its curiosity beyond itself and its quest for identity and meaning in life. The style had aspects that reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s short stories for children; loaded with more significance than is at first apparent. Its tone also reminded me at times of the philosophical playfulness of Lewis Carroll’s writings. The apparent simplicity of style and the light hearted tone belies the level of sophistication and refinement on show here. This is a carefully crafted, thoughtful and engaging piece which was a pleasure to read.

Highly Commended

‘The House of Resentful Women’ by Valerie Thompson

This story had a fluent and effortless style, it was easy to read and the subject was compelling. Believable characterisation combined effectively with a strong sense of place from the start. In the best tradition of dystopian fiction, the author established a world not so distant, having contemporary political resonance. The gut punch of a dark twist – which I didn’t see coming – was thrilling! Although successful as a short story in its own right, this piece felt very much like it could be part of a longer narrative. I found I wanted to read more about this character and her predicament. Well done!

Commended

‘White Sky’ by Jocelyn Kaye

This story had strong characterisation. It effortlessly established a psychological depth in the main character and made effective use of first person narrative throughout. It also had a striking simplicity in its use of imagery which effectively conveyed the climate and atmosphere of England, not just how it looks, but how it feels. As the story progressed, the interplay between the representation of England and its projected antithesis, The Gambia was particularly vivid. Overall, this was a touching story with a pleasing, hopeful and poignant ending.

Commended

‘Fleur’  by Jez Hodesdon Despite its contemporary setting, this story had a timelessness about it. The subject and character had shades of Thomas Hardy in their tragic poignancy, particularly in the evocation of loneliness. The closeness of the man to his horse and the land also made me think briefly of D.H. Lawrence. The slow and steady pace reflected the simple, methodical nature of the character and his work. This story didn’t hurry, but it wasted no time either. I thought the Gothic and macabre elements were handled with sophistication and were truly affecting; the use of colour in these sections being particularly bold, enhancing the drama.

Poetry 2019 Judge’s Report

To read the winning poems CLICK HERE

Organiser’s Report

This was a difficult year, with many talented poets taking a chance that their work would catch the eyes and hearts of our judges and to make it through to the final sift. As ever we had a good spread from across the globe, though more than a couple came from France. The south of England and Scotland had good representation also, leading to a wide mix of cultural influences in the work we received. There is something special about how the differing experiences of individuals give birth to these 40 line windows into other types of lives.

Popular themes this year included Cats (going to show that people did their research!), Religion, DIY, Age and for some reason quite a lot of poems around the Sea and similar nautical themes. Very few about Love or War this time round, which is an oddity in itself, but nice to see writers branching out in their art.

A side note – Every year we have entries whose writers are a little loose with their interpretation of the rules, in terms of line count or things as fundamental as not putting their name on it. I’m happy to say this time round we had the least disqualifications on record for this competition, which is great, because as everyone is aware, you don’t stand a chance of winning if your entry does not even get read. Well done to everyone who entered correctly and please know, it was very hard to decide the shortlist indeed as the majority were excellent.

Chief Judge’s Report – Daniel Riding

It is never a difficult task to explain why you love or loathe a certain piece of poetry, for some, it may be the emotional tone that evokes long lost memories, or it may be the intelligent use of form and structure that alerts me to the talent behind a poem’s creation. However, when greeted with numerous poems that exhibit such a level of intelligence and passion, that the task of choosing winners proves somewhat difficult. Given the difficulty of said task, I am thrilled to say that it was a complete joy to see so many people still writing and enjoying the art of poetry. 

1st Place – Mistaken Identity – by Hannah Stephenson

First place goes to the wonderfully constructed, and charmingly visual ‘Mistaken Identity’. It quite simply made my heart sing, with its delightful childlike quality and the use of a normally overlooked piece of nature to effectively get across its message.

2nd Place – Finally – by Laurence Hughes

Second place goes to a poem that enabled me to see the beauty of beginnings hidden in endings. Finally is a piece of poetry that is small in stature but big in presence. Each sentence, each word, and each syllable is used carefully and with thought. Not a single moment is wasted in this small but poignant piece. 

3rd Place – The Space Between – by D.C.Tunstall

This poem had a smoothness about it that drove home hard this idea of love, it’s limitations and its limitless power to change everything. Be it familial, plutonic or even passionate, love is explored cleverly and with heart in this lovely piece of writing.

Humour Prize – No, don’t tell me – by Dan Hicks

I would like to tell you what I enjoy about this poem, but I may have forgotten! In all seriousness, this poem made me chuckle with its razor-sharp observations about memory loss. Something that all of us can admit to dealing with every now and again. It had a nice rhythm which kept the pace of the poem ticking along nicely and only added to its very funny take on a sometimes serious subject matter. Cleverly done. 

Highly Commended – Fingers for Eyes – by John Morris

Commended – 

Grenfell Tower: The Day After – by Jacqueline Pemberton

Still Water – by Michael Hobbs

Journey – by Helen Jeffery

Short Story 2018 Results

NOTE – THE WINNING STORIES AVAILABLE HERE

Organiser’s Report

It is always a pleasure to read through the stories that so many people decide to send, in the hopes that their little pieces of inspiration will gain the light and recognition that they deserve. The quality of many entries deserved such recognition, though it has to be mentioned the importance of reading the rules for any competition, which sadly some people fell afoul of this year (don’t put your name on every page of an anonymous entry!).

We had stories about every topic going – romance, war, shopping, robots, babies, time travel, chocolate and many more. Entries came from Germany, France, and Spain as well as a good concentration from the south of England. Of course, shortlisters can only go so far, and any love they have for particular favourites in the sifting has to be put aside for the final judge to have her say. We were fortunate this year to have an award winning novelist join us and we respect her final opinions.

Chief Judges Report – Carys Bray

It is not especially hard to decide whether a story is enjoyable and satisfying – as readers, we do this all the time. It is, however, hard to take a group of satisfying and enjoyable stories and pick a winner. I recognise that another judge, on another day, may have looked at these stories and placed them in a different order. The stories below intrigued and surprised me, and I enjoyed reading each of them.

1st Place: Peace and Quiet by Louise Wilford

First place goes to this well-written and intriguing short story that invites an active, interrogative response from the reader and concludes with an enjoyably sinister twist.

2nd Place: The Spae Wife by Julie-Ann Rowell

Second place goes to this evocative, historical short story that makes beautiful use of sensory language and explores themes of prejudice and judgement in an isolated community.

3rd Place: Closer to the Edge by Robert Kibble

Third place goes to this tense short story in which the writer examines the line between cruelty and humour while achieving a satisfying combination of action and introspection.

Highly commended: Equinox by Marianne Whiting

This highly commended historical short story explores themes of shame and sacrifice, reaching a powerful, understated conclusion.

Commended: The Angel and the Bridge by Norman Kitching

This commended story empathetically tackles big themes: guilt, betrayal and the kindness of strangers.

Commended: The Real Fake News by Paul Barnett

Resonant and timely, this commended short story contains some lovely images and has echoes of Orwell’s 1984.