‘Write a Scene Between a Mother and Daughter’ – 300 words.
Barbara Large introduced Catherine King – our adjudicator for March. Catherine said she very much enjoyed reading the entries which were of a very high standard.
It is very encouraging that we had 20 entries for this competition, many from ‘new’ members.
Catherine is a full time author, currently working on her 14th novel and 9th historical saga. Her second saga, Silk and Steel, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008. Her latest title is ‘The Secret Daughter’, published in November 2012 and is tonight’s prize for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd competition winners.
I asked Catherine to say a few words on the criteria that she used to assess the entries.
‘The standard of entries was high and I was impressed by the variety of themes that members used for this piece. However, several needed more than 300 words to do justice to their selected ideas. I believe it is more difficult to write a well-rounded piece in 300 words than it is to write a novel! The novel, of course, takes much longer.
To decide on the winners I looked for a rounded piece of writing with a beginning, middle and satisfying end. In one or two, the ending was rushed or contrived, indicating that the idea was more suitable for a longer piece. The writing, also, had to communicate something to the reader in the form of a premise or message. Many did this very well but, again, needed more words to round off in a satisfactory way. Finally, I wanted to see a clear
1st Prize: Rosie Travers, The Gremlin
A sharp observation of the barriers between a mother and her anorexic daughter. This was an original interpretation of the difficulties of communication; well rounded, beautifully written, and delivered within the requisite limitations.
Half a Weetabix has gone from the packet. It’s a token effort, meant to appease me.
She is watching Breakfast TV, wrapped in a baggy sweatshirt. The Gremlin sits benignly on her shoulder. He nestles there, quite comfortably.
‘We need to talk,’ I say.
I have tried broaching this subject before. Now I recognise the softly, softly approach will not work with the Gremlin.
‘I have to go to school,’ my daughter says. She flicks off the TV. ‘Can’t it wait?’
‘No. I’ve had enough of hoping this is just a passing fad. I think you need to seek professional help.’
A scared, haunted look fleetingly appears on Becki’s face and I feel of glimmer of hope. This is the Becki I want to reach; rational, sensible Becki, who knows her behaviour is spiralling out of control.
In an instant the Gremlin responds to the threat. He hunches his back and bares his ugly, jagged teeth. He is greedy, grasping, grotesque and very clever.
Together he and Becki have calculated the minimum amount of calories she needs to get through the day. Half a Weetabix is a token gesture because the Gremlin knows I’m on his case. This evening he will sit at the table, egging Becki on to another Oscar worthy performance of pretending to eat, while chopping, slicing and manoeuvring her dinner around on her plate without actually consuming anything.
I want to reach out and reassure my daughter that we can, we will, work this out. Instead the shutters come down.
‘I’m fine, mum,’ Becki says. Her face is set in a stubborn glare. ‘Don’t fuss.’
She tugs at the hem of her sweatshirt and pulls it down to conceal her ever-decreasing frame.
The Gremlin settles back down upon her shoulder, grinning at me triumphantly.
2nd Prize: Hazel Donnelly, A Chink of Light
An exploration of a mother/daughter relationship focusing on the contrariness of a teenager. This was a light-hearted bitter sweet piece that raised a smile and was delivered almost wholly in dialogue.
“That green eyeliner is lovely, darling.”
She heaves a sigh, pushing the untouched toast around her plate, “It’s turquoise.”
I had hoped today would be a better day.
“Well, then your turquoise eyeliner is lovely. It matches your sage shirt.” I’m trying too hard.
“It’s grunge green.”
“It suits you.”
“What? You mean grungy colours suit me?” Her dark eyes flash.
“I mean, that sage suits your colouring.” Feel fraught, sound calm. I have learned to perfect the art.
We sit in silence. It chokes me. When did we lose that easy chatter?
“Are you doing anything after college, today?”
“Just making conversation.”
“So, you’re not really interested.” Flat. A statement. Not a question.
“Of course I’m interested.”
“You said, you were just making conversation. You don’t need to.” She turns the radio up.
We resume our silence.
“If you might possibly be interested, I have a netball match.” She has actually volunteered the information.
“I didn’t know you were in the team.”
“Why would you?”
“I would if you told me.”
She shuns the temptation of an acid retort. I can see a chink of light.
“Can I have some money? The match fee is three pounds.”
I open my purse.
“I’ll have the brown note.”
“Nice try. You’ll have the green one.” I hand her a blue five pound note. It’s not lost on her and I cherish the hint of a smile.
“It should be a good match. They’re a tough opposition.”
“Worth watching?” I hold my breath.
“Well the sun’s out. Spectators won’t get cold.” She doesn’t look up. She is cautious. Uncertain.
“I’ll be there.”
She stands up and hefts her sports bag over her shoulder. “It’s gonna be a lovely day mum,” she grins, “the sky is a beautiful bright green.”
3rd Prize: Linda Welch, Mother of the Bride
A ghost story that takes place as a bride is about to leave for the ceremony. This was a well-crafted emotional short story that tugged at the heartstrings. It was a clever idea that was delivered skilfully within the word limit.
This was a day I never thought I would see: my daughter Nicola’s wedding day. I stood in the doorway to her bedroom and watched as she sat at her dressing table, surrounded by her bridesmaids, sipping champagne. She looked radiant, although she had lost weight in the past few weeks, and her dress had been taken in twice. There were shadows under her eyes. She had hidden them well with make-up, but I knew they were there.
‘The cars will be here in a minute,’ my husband said from the doorway. ‘Ladies, can you give me a few moments with the bride, please?’
He sat on the edge of the bed and watched as Nicola opened the jewellery box he and I had given her one Christmas and took out my gold charm bracelet. She counted each charm as if counting rosary beads and my lips moved in time with hers.
“Tiny pram, tiny me inside, for the day I was born; little dog, for the puppy you gave Mum for the first Christmas you were married; Cornish pixie, because that’s where you went on your honeymoon; gold abacus with amethyst beads, that you gave Mum to congratulate her for passing her accountancy exams …”
I listened to her recital of each charm, each milestone in my life, some entwined with her own, some just for me. Her father fastened the bracelet around her wrist and kissed her cheek.
“I wish your Mum could have been here to see this day,” he said, and there was a quiver in his voice. Nicola held his hand and gave it a squeeze. She glanced towards the door and for a moment her eyes met mine.
“She is here, Dad,” she whispered and she smiled, right at me. “She is.”
Highly Commended: Dorothy Collard (pseudonym E C Grace), Nolene
A role reversal short story comprising dialogue between a school age girl and her mother, one of whom is possibly pregnant. This was fun to read but I found the clarity was reduced because the voices were occasionally too similar.
Highly Commended: Tristan Warner-Smith, Untitled
A role reversal piece where an elderly mother becomes the child. This writing had a refreshingly light touch which I enjoyed. The story was delivered in an imaginative yet concise way.
The prizes were Catherine King’s The Secret Daughter, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication.
In Conclusion: Catherine King said she thoroughly enjoyed doing the adjudication and the events of the evening.