This week I had the pleasure of choosing a winning story from the seven shortlisted entries in Southville Writers’ first open competition. Having just submitted some hundred-word stories to a comp myself, I was eager to see what others could do in so few words. The only stipulation was that an aspect of Bristol must be mentioned somewhere along the way.
I was impressed by all the stories, particularly by the strong sense of history that permeated most of them. Although I take part in the selection of flash fiction for NFFD’s Flash Flood, this is the first time I have had to choose one story over another and, let me tell you, it isn’t easy! However, one story stood out immediately and kept its place during many subsequent readings. Those that seemed quite light — almost abstract — at first, revealed more depths and insights with each visit.
I have permission to post the winning story and the runner-up with my comments. If you’d like to read my thoughts on all the shortlisted pieces, please visit Southville Writers’ website. Congratulations to Ali and Pauline and many thanks for letting me post your great little stories on my blog!
FROM THE ARNOLFINI by Ali Bacon
The yellow boat called Blackbird beaks its way through chill and choppy waters. The crew are raw and clumsy, rowing for dear life. Crowds on the quay look once and turn away, expecting more than this as entertainment.
Watching from five floors up, we are warm, remote, content to chart its progress.
‘Look, boat,’ says the toddler on my lap.
‘Its name is Blackbird.’
‘No, yellow boat,’ he says.
A scuff of wind, a missed stroke, a wobble that goes way beyond correction.
Excitement at last.
‘Look, look! Yellow blackbird drowning.’
My comment: this was the story that made me want to punch the air and shout, ‘Yes!’ From the moment the Blackbird ‘beaks’ through the water, I knew I was in safe hands. In a few words, the writer conveyed a place, an event, a relationship, the human condition, humour and pathos. The winner – I couldn’t ask for more!
Ali Bacon lives in South Gloucestershire where she reads, writes and reviews on http://alibacon.com. When she isn’t writing she knocks a small white ball round a golf course and makes strictly unserious attempts at ballroom dancing. Her debut novel A Kettle of Fish is a roller-coaster family drama set in Scotland. E-book and paperback from Amazon. A Kettle of Fish on Facebook Ali on Twitter @AliBacon
EXPECTING THE MOON TO TANGO by Pauline Masurel
“Come doon y’daft wee hinnie and dance with me!”
He brandishes the rose. She beams serenely down from lofty height. Her silvery-blue skirts shine bright against dim expectations of the sky. He shakes off his donkey jacket, slips fleetly across Castle Green, smooching frost-spangled silence in the crook of his arm.
One of these nights she will though, you can tell. She gazes longingly at dented snow. She’d love to dance, really she would, and after a sniff or two of whisky he’s the only man alive who knows her secret.
“Don’t be shy lassie,” he croons, “I’ll nae tell.”
My comment: I loved this story, for the sharply visual nature of the writing and a peep inside the imagination of a joyful drunk. This was my runner-up because, although I enjoyed the beautifully rendered Scottish dialect, a more local accent would have placed the piece more firmly in the area.
Pauline Masurel lives in the rural borderlands of Bristol. She is a gardener who writes short and very short fiction. She often performs her work in the Bristol and Bath areas. There’s more about her writing on her website http://www.unfurling.net and you can find her on Twitter @unfurlingnet.
If anyone is based in the Bristol area and would like to join the group, visit their website or pop along to one of their very friendly events. There’s one coming up on 16th April and yours truly will be there.