Short Fiction Competition Winner
The following announcement appeared in www.writing.ie:
Judge, award winning writer Vanessa Gebbie, told writing.ie:
I read thirteen pieces of work. All were great, and I am so impressed with the creativity, the writing, the skills out there... thank you to everyone who entered, and special congratulations if your story reached this last stage - I enjoyed them all, without exception, and picking a winner was very hard. I narrowed it down to three who interpreted the theme of A Garden of Eden really well, read them many times, then slept on it. They were both very different...but in the end, I had to choose a winner:
My winner is no 19, ‘The Well’ by Rumjhum Biswas, Tamil Nadu. India
.For me, this piece does many things. Firstly, it contains some lovely writing:
"The leaves lay like anchored boats on the water’s surface, until they had soaked up enough liquid to drown.
Secondly, in so few words, a complete world is created, centred on this well -- something that is dark, darkly beautiful, attracts and repels in equal measure. And, as you get to the end, begins to horrify, as we wonder, suspect, begin to question ... and for this reader, that sense continued after every read.
I thought the interpretation of the theme was great - slightly off-centre, unexpected and original. So many congratulations to the writer."
Rumjhum is thrilled with her win and is booking flights now to take part in Vanessa's workshop in June!
But what of 2nd and 3rd?
Winning a 10% discount on a future workshop, we can reveal that in 2nd Place was "In the Beginning" by Danielle McLoughlin from Donoughmore, Co Cork, Ireland, and in 3rd Place Anne Booth from Canterbury in England, with “Hen Party/”
As you know, first prize in this fabulous competition is a place on Vanessa Gebbie's short fiction retreat 'So Much More Than it Seems' 9th-15th June, which will be “a chance to explore in depth the craft of short fiction in all its challenging guises, in one of Ireland's most creatively exciting venues. A chance to focus on acquiring skills that will maximise the chances of your work rising to the top and standing out for the right reasons not only in publication slush piles but also in competitions.
In the company of a well-published, multi-prize-winning short storyist, who is also an experienced tutor, this will be a focused, collaborative workshop retreat during which you will create not only complete new work and the seeds of many new stories, but you will also discover tried and tested strategies for editing and revising your existing work to make it as good as it can be. We will make full use of the local resources to find fresh inspiration. Although biased towards the art and craft of short fictions, we will also be able to explore the relevance of the craft issues to prose poetry and longer works.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The children had gone. She walked down the corridor, breathing in the smell of bleach and old gym shoes. The caretaker's store was open and she could see the red bucket of sand, brought out whenever one of the girls vomited in a classroom, sitting on its hook.
Her room was still there behind the mural of Prince Pondicherry's chocolate palace on the green door. She had wanted to put this off, hoping she would be the last person to see the room before the desks and chairs were sold. All 30 copies of Fair Stood the Wind for France were still stacked by the back wall. The whiteboard had been taken away, revealing the old blackboard where she had written: “What role does fate have to play in The Woodlanders?”
Ormesby, Middleborough, UK
“Man of Straw”
It is Sunday morning. As usual he is walking the dog.
As he approaches the barbed wire fence his attention is caught by something that flutters as the breeze gusts.
He stops. He calls the dog to heel. As it runs back to him he stares at the fence, focused on the thing.
It is a piece of string, teased out to no more than a bundle of sisal, the shape of a man, caught on a barb.
Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland
“A Garden of Eden”
“Your mint looks as withered as the skin a snake sheds.”
I smile and continue tending my turmeric. Ameera is trying to rile me; my mint is the best in the district.
I look up from my devotions to survey the rooftop scene. My garden is a haven amidst so much concrete. A young couple promised to each other snatch a quick word among the vines. I pretend not to see them although I know my Imam would complain that I have created a new Garden of Eden. Ahmed receives excellent internet reception here so he sits and reaches out to the world from beside the coriander. Ameera and her friends come after their household labours to gossip and escape the busy streets. My daughter makes mint tea and generally maintains order.
Donoughmore, Co. Cork, Ireland
“In the Beginning”
In the beginning, she didn’t even slow down, just drove on past.
After a few weeks, she grew brave. She would roll down the car window when passing the house and inhale the scent of honeysuckle from their garden.
Then she began to stop. An apple tree overhung the pavement and she would park in its shadows and watch another woman peg his shirts to the line.
One Friday – after dinner but before sex - Adam took a call on his mobile. He paced the floor of Evie’s flat, frowning.
The carriage clock ticked on the mantle, marking the passing of a long Sunday afternoon. The monopoly set lay untouched on the coffee table. He glanced through the window from time to time, checking to see the car approaching through the overgrown hedges, despite knowing he’d hear the crunching of tyres on the gravel in advance. He noticed in passing the tired and dejected garden, long ago referred to as their Eden in this the garden county.
The clock ticked as evening drew in, embracing the shadows cast by the watery sun. He decided to stock up on turf for the night ahead, better now than later, as he zipped up his fleece before stepping out into the cool blast. Back inside the fire crackled as he lit a candle to ward off the gloom and eased himself into the depths of the armchair. He glanced at the serpentine amber liquid resting on the sideboard. Instead he picked up the newspaper in an attempt at distraction.
The memory of their last visit flitted repeatedly into his mind.
Skerries, Co. Dublin, Ireland
As her husband moved deeper inside her, Rose wondered whether to cook carrots or sweet corn for tomorrow night’s dinner. Carrots were cheaper, of course, but sweet corn was more usual with tuna.
It wasn’t that he was a bad lover; it was just that she had already had her pleasure and her mind, being of the efficient sort, had turned to the next thing. She had already bought the tuna, onion, tomatoes and garlic; it was just the vegetable she needed to consider.
Ally ducked under the honeysuckle arch and the wooden gate closed with a decisive click. The rumble of lorries in the street vanished like magic, and a collective humming took its place. Bees. Honeybees flying loops in the lavender, bumblebees rolling themselves fat and yellow in the buddleia, cross bees fighting amongst Love-in-a-Mist under the almond tree.
The sharp, white sunlight moved the garden like a mirage as if Ally was seeing through the gauze of a cataract. She screwed up her eyes but the flowers stayed cloudy, the colours indistinct; and the bees droned on.
Paper and paints sat waiting at the garden table. She decided quickly; just graded washes and modified hues: thin, raw umber and zinc white with a dash of purple for an old blousey rose; diluted cadmium red with a hint of black for a graceful hollyhock.
Elizabeth Rose Murray
Schull, West Cork, Ireland
His dad had always said that a home wasn’t a home without a few ducks. Now, Declan wished he’d never opened his mouth about that. Amazing how foolish a few whiskies at a wake could make you.
Victor Sullivan hadn’t been an hour in the ground before his doting son had shared the anecdote with friends and well wishers. Within a week, there was an army of ducks in Declan’s care and yet another red face to contend with.
Freshford, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
At the seaside beach balls, shovels and buckets were stacked in colourful bundles under a flapping canvas; wind whipped windmill toys into a frenzy of spinning brilliance. Then I saw the kite, straining and tugging in the breeze.
My brother and sisters had buckets and spades; they wanted to dig to Australia. I didn’t want to see any more dark holes in the ground.
Ted, my brother, was born a week after my father was buried. Aunt May said he arrived early because of the shock and that’s why he hadn’t walked yet.
The last time we saw the sea my father was with us and he taught me how to fly a kite.
Tamil Nadu. India
The well in our back garden was still. Not a ripple on its dark waters. No frogs. No blind white turtles. No snakes. The boughs of an ancient Margossa tree kept the sun out and the dead leaves in. The leaves lay like anchored boats on the water’s surface, until they had soaked up enough liquid to drown.
We never threw stones into the well. Nobody drew water from it. Even bats avoided it. Only during the monsoon, when the rain fell so thickly that it seemed the whole sky had turned into one massive waterfall, did it show any signs of life. It opened up its maw and drank up all that water. But its thirst was never quenched. The water never reached out for the rims of its old brick walls. Worse, the water remained dark like before. Never glassy white like the fresh rain it consumed.
The first feather was a surprise. She got her tweezers and it came out easily. Her glasses were new- varivocal - and she squinted at this delicate intruder on her finger. Maybe it had just transferred to her chin when she had collected the eggs that morning. She laughed at herself, yet the little sting in her skin remained. Something had been extracted, and there was no hair to be seen.
Each morning, more feathers. Finding them began to replace her previous obsessive fingertip probing for the hard shaft of any rogue hair. She had been so upset when the first dark line had interrupted the soft smooth profile of her face, memories of childhood and the bristly chins of elderly female relatives filling her with dread.
Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, Ireland
My hand was cold and purple when I withdrew it from between the bars of the cot. For six hours I had opened and closed my eyes, reluctantly falling into a restless, jumpy sleep while my fingertips rested on her, noting the rise and fall of her ribcage. During the night, when nothing moved except the flickering lights on the monitors, or the nurse doing her hourly checks, I did not move my hand once from the warm body. I believed nothing could possibly stop that rhythm of breaths once my hand was across her heart, instilling calm, reminding her I was here. I had gone beyond exhausted at this stage, my body struggling to cope with the fact it had been rushed from pregnancy seven weeks too early just five days ago.