Yasmin Kane, founder of Kane Literacy Agency not only came and spoke to the members about creativity and how to find it, but kindly agreed to adjudicate our November 2021 Competition.
Currently representing fiction authors for children, YA and adult genres, Yasmin wanted to set members the challenge of keeping an open brief and simply being free to create whatever they wanted. The brief was set as follows:
Imagine This… 300 words to let your imagination run riot! Think outside the box – it would be great to encompass universal themes and read a profoundly moving piece. I’m looking for something that will make me sit bolt upright!
And the winners are:
First Place – Natalie Morant with Let’s See
Second Place – Damon L. Wakes with The Merchant’s Tale
Third Place – Summer Quigley with Imaginarium
First Place: Let’s See by Natalie Morant
Stunning intro, immediately engages the reader. The protagonists have a mythical quality to them. Very thought provoking, unnerving and chilling as it is only a game… Needs to be read a couple of times to let it sink in as one tries to fathom which natural elements are running the show? I loved it.
Floodrush frowned at the card he had drawn, his forehead rippling as the horizontal waves of his expression jarred with the continuous flow of his face. He looked up at the others apologetically.
“Global warming,” he said.
“Ha! I knew it,” shrieked Howl. “There was bound to be a disaster card soon. We’ve been getting away with all sorts for the last few rounds.” He resembled nothing more than an Egyptian mummy, though his ragged strips were of many colours, blurring together as they fluttered around him.
Lavana laughed. “I know why you are so cheerful, Howl. You want this game to end so we can start a new one. What say you, Bonechill? Shall we abandon this game with the humans and deal another set of species?”
Bonechill considered the question, meeting Lavana’s eyes. She is, in fact, the only player he can comfortably look at. Floodrush and Howl make his head hurt with their constantly moving bodies, and he’s careful to restrict them to his peripheral vision.
“I think we can still win.” Bonechill always spoke one syllable at a time.
“So do I.” Lavana smiled and tilted her sinewy frame backwards, re-crossing her legs. Her change of position forced the others to adjust their own accordingly. Lavana’s skin glowed hot and her companions must ebb and flow to avoid being burned.
“Okay with me,” said Howl, who was always happy to go along with a group decision.
“You roll for the rate of warming then,” said Floodrush. Howl did.
“0.2 degrees per decade,” he announced.
The four of them leaned in towards the slowly spinning sphere, and Lavana touched the atmosphere gently with her fingertip.
“I bet I was right though,” said Howl, good-naturedly. “I’d try the dinosaurs again.”
“Well,” said Lavana. “Let’s see how the humans do.”
Second Place: The Merchant’s Tale by Damon L. Wakes
Beautiful allegorical storytelling, instantly visual and told in the simplest of manners. Makes the reader feel completely present in the scene.
Imbibed with the true craftsmanship of storytelling. I wanted to read on and on and on…
When the merchant found a holy man—marked as such by the tattoos upon his face—sitting in the dust by the roadside he stopped his cart to offer coin.
However, the man held up his hands in refusal. “Save your drachmas,” he said. “I am merely a traveller, the same as you. I have renounced my vows. I follow no god—not anymore.”
“I have a tale that might give you cause to reconsider,” said the merchant, settling down beside him. “Two years ago I was passing through this desert. My cart carried not earthenware or spices, but my own wife and children, for that was the year of the ash-storms in the north and we were seeking refuge from them.”
“I remember those days,” said the traveller. “Many came to me for blessings before risking such a journey.”
“And I should have done the same! My camel, it transpired, had been afflicted by the ash and died without warning. We could not complete the journey on foot, and had little water for so many. Soon it ran out, and we knew none of us would last the day.”
“What did you do?” asked the traveller.
“I prayed for water, and it rained for five days. Five days’ rain in the desert.” The merchant spread his arms across the dry expanse before them.
There was a long pause.
At last the traveller spoke: “Like you, I made that journey when the ash-storms came. Like you, I brought my wife and children.
My camel, like yours, died in the heat and like you I prayed when the water ran out.”
The merchant’s face fell. “But when you prayed, it did not rain.”
“No.” The traveller shook his head. “It rained for five days. But it rained five hours too late.”
Third Place: Imaginarium by Summer Quigley
It leads one’s imagination into darkness or light – depending on what state of mind one is reading it from. This sums up the true craft of imagination – not just to imagine but to give others the gift of imagining.
Menowin metamorphosed – ringmaster, trapeze, magician – creating his own world of wonders. The buzz of the fair, the perfect backdrop for his own sensational show.
This is the moment the clown spotted him, spotted his imagination.
Menowin didn’t notice the clown at first, surprisingly silent in his approach, given his oversized shoes.
“You’re having fun,” came the gruff voice from behind.
Menowin froze for a moment, catching sight of his reflection in the wiggling wall of mirrors opposite, and the giant clown who towered above him.
“Errr.. yes…I was. But now my mum will be wondering where I am.” Menowin backed away.
“Don’t leave on my account. I noticed you playing. Your creativity made me smile. A special thing, a creative spark you know.”
Menowin paused… flattered.
“Where’s your parents?”
“Mum’s home. I should really get back.”
“Well, before you go, fancy a tour of the tent? I saw you looking.”
“No… no money, sorry.”
“That’s okay,” the gruff voice softened. “I’m Kooky. I’ll get you in. Let you in the side. Special VIP treatment.”
Every fibre in Menowin’s body knew he shouldn’t, but every fibre wished more than ever to see first hand, just once, the thrill of the circus.
Kooky continued, “And if we see the ringmasters, I’ll introduce you.”
Menowin looked over his shoulder. The crowds dissipated. If he didn’ t go with the clown now he may never get the chance again. His mum couldn’t afford to take him.
He bit his lip, looking down, hoping the grass had the answer. It didn’t.
“How about just a little peek under and then you decide,” and checking no-one was nearby, Kooky raised the tent curtain with his shovel of a shoe.
A little peek couldn’t hurt. Menowin bent on all fours, tilting his head for a glimpse as something whizzed by in a cloud of colourful smoke. Menowin edged forward for a closer look. He was in… and the curtain dropped down behind him.
Highly Commended: A Good Report by Graham Steed
Tantalisingly puts the reader into the mind of a killer. It results in the reader feeling achingly sad and thinking oh, this is so clever.
Imagine this…a body on the tideline. Right by my deckchair spot. A woman’s body. I’m annoyed. Now I must trudge back up the hill and phone 999.
‘…Hallo. I’m Norman. I’ve just found a body in Smugglers Cove…’
‘…Yes. It’s near the monastery…’
‘…No. Not accessible by vehicle…’
‘…I live on the hill. On sunny days I bring my deckchair down…’
‘…She must have floated in on the tide.’
* * *
If you are watching, you will see I have not climbed the hill. I sit in my deckchair and dare to look at the woman.
Dressed in jeans and a short black top which shows her midriff, her body is pawed by the incoming tide as if to wake it, but I’m in no doubt she is dead, for the dead lie differently from the sleeper: the dead are frozen in attitude, vacant, they lie in bad places – like this one, borne in, as I believe, on rising water during matins when the monks nearby rise and pray in darkness: Venite adoremus.
* * *
But I hesitate to call 999.
I need a good report because I know the inside of a prison cell…
‘We want to interview you under caution, Norman, at the police station.’
…so I’ll be cooperative, open, and honest.
Except every good point will be offset by a single bad point: me alone on a beach with a body.
It is not for our sins we are punished, but for our crimes.
* * *
I swim with the body lying on my back.
‘Where are we going?’
‘Where you came from.’
‘I was trying to escape.’
‘You’ll always be my true love.
‘And you mine.’
I let the body slip away.
* * *
I’m up early. I run to the hilltop. The beach and sea are clear. I wave to the helicopter flying overhead.
I think I’ve got away with it.
Highly Commended: The Soul App by Peter Duncan
Thought-provoking and compassionate.
It began with the drownings. Twelve young men in the English Channel, their flimsy inflatable capsized after being turned back from British territorial waters by the Coastguard. A football team plus reserve, Robarge thought, his mind flashing back a week and the return from the family villa in Languedoc. He’d slowed for a roundabout just before the ferry terminal at Caen, noticed some guys playing soccer on a patch of wasteland. Shouting, animated faces, a skilled tackle: for a few moments this long dull journey came alive. Migrants for sure, he’d reflected: their game a brief joyous escape from the deadly task of trying to reach an indifferent country.
Had it been them? Was it these boys who’d drowned?
He felt a sharp pain somewhere inside, almost unknown yet strangely familiar.
Robarge was a successful software developer with many connections. It didn’t take long to gather those he needed for the project: biofeedback experts, anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, philosophers, theologians. Religious leaders had been the most difficult to persuade, but eventually they joined too. Months of discussion, months more of development work.
At last it was ready. To begin with the download rate was slow. Then a young Novice called Giulia from a convent near Rome posted a video on Instagram. It showed an image, at once mysterious and universal, on the screen of her mobile phone. The camera panned to Giulia’s spellbound face. A sharp gasp of amazement as the Novice recognised her own soul, eyes shining now with radiant light.
The video went viral. Before long, millions were filled with that very same light. Mlllions became billions, and the whole world was suffused with the luminous wonder of souls finding healing and redemption for all the drowned and broken of the planet.