March Competition Winners 2015

‘Write a Romantic Encounter – Falling in Love’

The lovely, lively Lorella Belli was the main speaker last night and also the adjudicator. She gave a refreshing look at the world of writing and inspired many of our members to try different routes into publishing. Read the main report for the full account of the evening.

Lorella’s assessment was based on the following criteria;

  1. Readability (based on the submitted piece alone, rather than how it might fit into a longer piece of fiction, for example as part of a novel)
  2. Writing itself (both the use of language, metaphors, word association, etc; and even more avoiding clichés, stereotypical imagery, and even spelling, for example)
  3. Originality of concept/idea
  4. Characterization and scene building
  5. Pace, flow and element of surprise/suspense/mystery
  6. Final twist

Lorella’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: David Lea, Killer Heels

‘This entry won because it ticked all the above boxes: Enjoyable and clear/clean writing (ie. careful and meaningful choice of words, which is key especially in a short piece); well observed, structured and vividly-described scene, one can picture it very easily. Characters well introduced and relatable; good use of dialogue; catchy title and nice element of surprise at the end, it makes you wish to read more of it.’

We reached Clapham Junction and people bundled over us and around us to get out of the carriage – him on the floor, face grey with shock, and me trying to be a one-woman protective shield. I went as if to help him up, but he made no attempt to move. I should have worn my flatties.

‘Why did you do that?’

‘God, I’m so sorry’, I said, ‘I thought it was you.’

‘Thought what was me?’

His foot was very long and narrow in his hands. And the hands were abnormally long and thin – delicate without being womanly.

He is a pianist: I know that now.

Good job he wasn’t a dancer.

‘Somebody was rubbing themselves up against me.’

‘And you thought it was me.’

‘Whoever it was, he was behind me.’

‘Frottage.’

‘What?’

‘Rubbing yourself against someone for the purpose of sexual excitement – often practised while clothed and in a public place.’

‘You seem very familiar with the subject.’

‘I went to public school – we know about these things.’

I had been standing with my Evening Standard resting nicely on the back of the black woman in front of me when I felt something pressing up against my bottom. I knew what it was and tried to shift forward, but he just eased up against me and settled into the rhythm of the train. So I stepped back, took my left foot off the ground and let all my weight go through my right heel.

I tried to ease his shoe off, but he put his hand over mine.

‘It wasn’t me, you know: elderly gent, thin, blue overcoat.’

He smiled up at me – floppy fringe, knobbly cheekbones, grey-blue eyes.

And I still don’t know why I did it, but I kissed him.

On the lips.

2nd Prize: Honey Stavonhagen, Midsummer Mountain

‘Very much enjoyed the writing here, carefully selected and measured use of language; I also liked the originality of this entry, not the obvious theme or scene to describe ‘a romantic encounter’, so it shows imagination and flair. Good sense of pace and great last sentence. It’s the kind of piece one needs to re-read to appreciate the work which has gone into it I feel.’

Have you ever free-wheeled down a mountain in midsummer? It all starts so innocently; a lingering sip of the view, a heart-warming breath, and then the dive that causes your legs to spin in giddy rotations. You are blissfully blinded by the vibrant colours of the setting sun. The steep mountain path encourages your speed, while the wind entices the air out of your lungs and steals it away. You’re moving too fast.

Your stomach once filled with moths is teeming with rhinos, agitated and jostling. Lifting your feet from their haven on the crossbar, you try to reunite them with their pedals. But the treadles are livid. They stab at your shins pitting them with bruises and the brakes rigidly mock your pleas to stop. You want to get off.

You look to the verge. There’s no hassock of grass only a row of hardboiled kerbstones. Weary legs grope for the ground, but the tarmac steals their sandals and your wounded feet retreat like slugs from salt. Forlorn. Your heart fills your ears with its pulsating song. You must stop. Wrenching the handlebar clean off the bike you’re shaking, your steed unbalanced and slaloming. You close your eyes tight and swallow your pride. It will soon be over.

The front wheel is struck by an unseen obstacle and thrown from your saddle you spiral though the air and land in the comforting arms of a bush. But the pain in your limbs exposes their thorns, which shred your pricked skin as you flail to get free. You sink ever deeper. The sun is eclipsed and you’re alone in the dark, crying and wishing you’d never set eyes on that midsummer mountain, which looked so inviting and tempted you down to the depths of despair. This is love most unfair.

 

Lorella said she couldn’t separate the third place winners even though they are two very different pieces:

3rd Prize: Diane Batten, A Romantic Encounter at the Rec

‘A witty and entertaining read, characterization spot on, which is not easy to do in a short piece, and lovely use of 1st person narrative (and dialogue to go with it). Good balance of action and description. Lovely punch line at the end. (But not so keen on the usual description of ‘a tall dark haired guy with broad shoulders’, which is used endlessly in romantic fiction and should really be avoided).’

Northbury has to be the worst place in the Western Hemisphere for night life. Dull brick houses, a couple of dismal pubs which smell of stale beer and school dinner cabbage, and a supermarket. I use the word ‘super’ in its loosest form. Personally I see nothing super about trying to get a tin of beans from the top shelf of an aisle so thin even a super model would struggle to navigate it.

Northbury was also the home of my Ex Chris. Things had been running along smoothly with him, until he was caught kissing mouthy Martina. Chris claimed he’d been practising First Aid but the Instagram pictures were compelling. After that I trusted the local talent about as much as the kebabs from Dodgy Dave’s Van.

A visit to the White Lion with Jo met all my expectations. Warm vodka and lime, crisps so dry they could have been unearthed from an archaeological dig and old men clustered like vampire bats outside the side door in a fog of smoke. When Jo said “Lets go to the Rec” it was almost a relief.

Of course the Burger Van was down at the Park and Jo can never resist a kebab. I went along with it though greasy meat and limp bread isn’t my idea of meal. Someone nudged me and said “You don’t want that do you?” I turned around and saw a tall dark haired guy with broad shoulders, clearly not local. He held out his hand.

“I’m Phil”

As I clasped his fingers my stomach lurched. For once it wasn’t because of Dave’s kebabs.

3rd Prize: Amie Simons, The Girl Who Fell in Love with the Moon

‘I enjoyed this modern day fairy tale scene. Original idea (falling in love with the moon rather than a man) and liked the fact it combined the everyday ordinary act of doing the dishes to being magically transported to another time and place, the daffodils being the trigger for it (and as yellow as the moon). Great title and loved the last sentence.’

On the night that the girl travelled back in time, people from all over the world loved and laughed and sang songs from their souls.

Aurelia did not mean to time travel but her unconscious was an illusionist, creating unexpected things to the eyes of her world. As she stood at the kitchen sink, delving soft hands into frothy water making it dance, the daffodils that her husband had brought sat patiently on the windowsill in a plastic cup, waiting to be noticed.

It was as the girl stroked a wooden spoon with a dishcloth that the nostalgic scent finally seized her, in an instant pulling her from one moment to another, as if time and space were as boundless as she.

By the daffodils the little girl sat once more wrapped in her dressing gown, their crowned heads bowing to the dark sky, a stream of moonlight beams turning the flowers into ghosts. The woods below looked like shadow lands where bony arms and fingers waited to pull her into the depths. But the girl was not afraid because when she tilted her head upwards, sending her eyes flying into the universe, Aurelia discovered a torch. In its primordial arms she was held, her soul illuminated through an unspoken understanding of all things. Over the hill, in the distance, her parent’s emotions could still be heard setting fire to the house. For once though, Aurelia neither noticed nor cared for her heart was on fire too for that was the night that she fell in love with the moon.

Annie Simons, Honey Stavonhagen & David Lea
Annie Simons, Honey Stavonhagen & David Lea

Highly Commended: Linda Page, Didn’t See that One Coming

‘A Sweet story which will touch the heart of anyone who cared and looked after a pet. What seems like a clichéd relationship and description at the beginning, turns into a surprising and moving ending when we realize the ‘big, dark, handsome fella’ is not a man.’

 

The 2nd and 3rd prizes were signed copies of Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files, and a copy of Claire Fuller’s debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days was given to the winner, David Lea. David, as the winner of the last three competitions, already had a copy of the Snowden Files. A signed Certificate of Adjudication from Lorella Belli completed the prizes.

The competition secretary, Jim Livesey, thanked everyone who had entered the competition. It had been a very good turnout with 22 submissions, and Lorella said there had been an interesting mix of genres and styles, as well as some very good writing.

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