Anyway, here is the shortlist of 5 stories, with their authors.
If you’re new to this, the idea was to write a 100 (max) story or poem that included the words: vote, sunshine, frost, skyscraper and toy. Additions to the words (eg: ‘voted’ or ‘frostily’) were allowed.
If your story or poem didn’t get a mention this time around, don’t be too disheartened. I know it’s a really hard thing to do, in just 100 words (and I think the words were particularly tricky this time).
Two things I would say, for future reference:
(i) Use all the words you’re allowed!
You were allowed up to 100 words for this exercise and some people only used 40 or 50. It’s no coincidence that none of the shortlisted entries is that short. They’re all within the 97 – 100 word bracket because you need all those words to make your entry the very best it can be. A 50 word story is going to have to be pretty exceptional to beat a 100 worder.
(ii) I know you’ve heard this before but don’t go with your first thought.
Half the 32 entries used a skyscraper for their setting. After a while, all those skyscraper stories (and one poem) started to blend into one another. If you can be original and different, your story will make more of an impression on a judge. And 5 of the skyscraper stories were set in – or made reference to – New York. Most of us associate skyscrapers with New York but that’s a first thought, isn’t it? Why not The Shard or The Gherkin? No one set their story definitively in London or somewhere like the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. Just saying…
On Monday I’m off to Writers Holiday in Fishguard for (almost) a week, so the winners will be announced on here before then.
The judge has already made his/her decision, so if you’d like to comment on which is your favourite story, then feel free, as it won’t affect the final result and it’s always interesting to see who likes what!
1. A Little Learning – by Christine Cherry
They laughed in the factory when she told them. “You? College? Little Miss Bluestocking? Never!”
She’d left school at 14, but she’d read; she’d remembered; she’d dreamed. Endless facts- tallest skyscraper? Deepest ocean? First Prime Minister? When did women get the vote? Endless lists- monarchs; battle dates; famous lives.
But here now, a row of black-gowned crows facing her, she was shrinking. Words, knowledge deserting her. The day was warm but the room remained frosty. Forbidding.
“Try once more,” the voice barked. “War and Peace?”
“Was written by…” her head spun, “Leo…Toy Story.”
Outside, the sunshine disappeared.
2. Deal or No Deal – by Linda Mallinson
“It’s Thursday, why are you here?”
A little ray of sunshine, Grandma is not.
“I’ve come to take you out to vote.”
“Out in a boat? I hate water.”
Grandma was sitting, with three others, round a table looking at a toy train.
“These are the people waiting at the railway station,” said Grandma, waving a handful of matches.
Pointing, I asked, “Is that a skyscraper?”
“That’s a pile of matchboxes, obviously,” said Grandma frostily.
“See you Monday then?” said Grandma.
On my way out I heard cards being shuffled and Grandma saying “Is it my deal?”
3. The Possibilities Are Endless – by Kathy Schilbach
So tiny. I hold you in my arms, stroke my fingertips across your cheek, and think of your future.
Maybe you’ll be an architect and build bridges and skyscrapers. Or you’ll be a TV weather girl and forecast frost and hurricanes. Or will you be a designer, creating toys for the super-rich? Or an MP, voted in to champion the poor?
I blink away a tear. There were complications at your birth. They say you’ll have severe learning difficulties. But I look at your smile, like sunshine filling the room, filling my heart, and I think: ‘What do they know?’
4. Treasure Hunt – by Alyson Faye
Our little gang of scavengers always take a vote before we head out. We’re democratic that way.
That January day, the waste ground behind the newly built skyscraper won.
It was Billy who found the doll, lying in the frosty tipped grass. Weak sunshine gleamed on her glassy eyes.
Shoving it at me, Billy rubbed his hands on his denims, ‘Yuk, it’s slimy. Here Jem. You have it.’
None of us had toys, so this was real treasure. Grabbing the doll’s tiny hand, I instantly recognized it.
From the ‘Missing’ poster. The lost girl was holding it.
5. Unseen – by Julie Durdin
Frosty face; polished obsidian eyes; blackbird-winged hair, glossy with oil.
“Don’t toy with me.”
Punches, burns, vicious kicks to ankles – I suffer them all.
My nose mashed on the window. Outside, placards held aloft. I know what’s on them. Vote for Gilmour. That benign smile.
Don’t believe him, I silently scream. Know what he does to me up here in this skyscraper he built with your money. All this glass, but you don’t see me.
One day I’ll jump. You’ll see me then, head spread across the pavement, bright red blood glistening in the summer sunshine.