Sunburn/Carrot Random Word Competition – Shortlist

You could have used ‘Ninepins’ as one of your words…

Sue Johnson kindly agreed to act as ‘Head Judge’ and choose a shortlist of 5 stories from the longlist of 10 and then, a winner and runner-up.

Sue’s a short story writer and novelist, poet and tutor and she’s a member of the Evesham Festival of Words Steering Group, along with yours truly.

There’s more about Sue further down the page but now, without further ado, here’s the shortlist of 5 stories (listed in alphabetical order by title).

If you need a reminder, each story had to contain the words NINE, SUNBURN, CARROT, MUSTARD and SIGH.


• ‘Ere Ear
• More Than One Way to Skin a Carrot
• Seeing Red
• The Fourth Week
• The Spy Who Came in From the Heat

The stories are printed in full below and here’s a word – and a useful tip or two – from the judge, Sue Johnson:

“I’m a great believer in using an idea as many times as you can. Don’t just use something once and think ‘I’ve done that.’ Is there another direction you can take a story – or could you develop something totally different from the setting or a minor character?

I’m currently in the process of looking at producing ‘The Girl With Amber Eyes‘ as an Audiobook. (This was originally published as a My Weekly Pocket Novel). I’m also mining some of the bits I didn’t use for possible magazine stories.

My latest poetry collection ‘Threads‘ was published in March. I am currently developing a play and a novel from some of the poems.

I am doing a workshop at Worcester Cathedral on Saturday 10th August from 10.30 – 1.30. The cost is £20. (This is part of Worcester Festival).

Further details of my work can be found at

1. ‘Ere Ear – Linda Mallinson

Mum opened her eyes when the sun disappeared. “Where’s your sister?”
“Don’t let her out of your sight, I said. When did you last see her?”
“When we went to feed her carrot sticks to the donkeys.”
As our eyes raked rows of sunburned bodies, the rain started. The wind got up and soon the beach was almost empty.
The police response time was nine minutes. Her teddy bear was found floating in the sea.
At a nearby private airfield a little girl refused an expensive new doll. She cried for a one eared bear wearing mustard coloured dungarees.

2. More Than One Way to Skin a Carrot – Lynda McMahon

“We gotta eliminate The Carrot! He’s taking over our patch,” growled Don Chorizo licking mustard from nine fingers. “This healthy eating ain’t good for us. Who’s gonna grab him and roast him?” “I’d be first to offer,” Bread Roll, pasty white and doughy. “But…,” The sigh said it all. “I get sunburn under the grill.” The Don thought hard, “Bring him in!” The Carrot was bundled into the dark cellar. Blindfold removed, a gun fired and something warm and sticky dripped down his slender body. “Gotcha! 100% butter. Welcome to the family!” The Don laughed long and hard. Sorted.

3. Seeing Red – Margaret Garrod

‘Why if it isn’t a skipping Ginger Nut!’ I sigh inwardly as Tara Cassidy, the class bully sidles up.
Mum says if you ignore bullies they go away.
Head down, I concentrate on my skipping: salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper.
Tara shows no sign of budging.
‘Careful Carrot Top, you don’t want sunburn; you’re ugly enough without more freckles.’
Mum says I’m lucky to have red hair and pale skin.
Tara makes a play for my rope.
Mum says redheads can be hot-headed and unpredictable. Seems she’s right for a change.
Word from the hospital is that Tara needs nine stitches.

4. The Fourth Week – Miranda M

When he picked Millie up from school he noticed her sunburned nose, wishing he’d remembered to rub sunscreen over those freckles. The next morning he tried harder. His clumsy fingers fumbled through her carrot coloured hair nine minutes before school, producing lopsided pigtails. He dressed Jake in a mustard jumper and took him to play group, enduring conversations with mothers who sighed their condolences and said how well he was doing. Part of him wanted to say sorry back, to tell them that he wasn’t coping, but he held it down and smiled a silent thank you.

5. The Spy Who Came in from the Heat – Linda Tyler

After a week hill walking in the Highlands, Mark was suffering from sunburn on his bald patch. When he boarded the sleeper at Rannoch Moor, the steward offered a pre-packed meal of haggis, carrots and mustard sauce. With a sigh from the locomotive’s air brakes, they were off, rolling through the Scottish dusk. Mark checked his Rolex; almost time for his covert liaison with the Russian in the next berth. He knew that during the night he would experience a burning pate, indigestion and not a little guilt – but he would be at his desk in Westminster by nine.

Well done if your story’s on there! It clearly helped if your name was Linda/Lynda!

And commiserations if you didn’t make it to the final 5 but remember Sue’s advice and ask yourself what else you could so with that story now?

The final results (winner + runner-up) will be on here in the next few days. The winner and runner-up have already been chosen, so your comments won’t affect the final result. Feel free to give a ‘shout out’ to your favourite!

And in other news… I got a blasted fine from the lovely people at Cheltenham County Council yesterday, for inadvertently driving down a bus lane. They even sent me a photo! I was lost and late for an appointment and looking for a car park.

I realised I had suddenly entered a bus lane (no buses were harmed by my action. In fact, there wasn’t a single bus to be seen) BUT once I was in there, there was nothing I could do. Except swear. And keep driving. And swear a bit more.

This entry was posted in Competitions, Cotswolds, random word competition, West Midlands. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sunburn/Carrot Random Word Competition – Shortlist

  1. banksywrites says:

    Hi Helen. I attended a talk by the lovely Sue Johnson at a Cheltenham Literature Festival fringe event back in 2012. She gave me some great advice and I still dip into my copy of her Creative Alchemy book from time to time. I thought all of the shortlisted entries to your competition were fab, but my favourite is ‘Seeing Red’ by Margaret Garrod. Loved it 🙂 Sorry to hear you got a fine, but it might be worth contesting it on the grounds of poor signage, since you got lost. From the looks of it, you got caught in the new traffic scheme which is a massive bone of contention in the town. The Facebook group, Cheltenham Residents against Boots Corner Closure, is one of a number of campaigns against the ‘experiment’ if you’d like to find out more. Btw, I’ve finished my contract in Evesham now, but I’m interested in some of the Festival of Words events – perhaps we’ll run into each other there.

    • Helen M Yendall says:

      Hi Clare
      Yes, Sue is lovely, isn’t she – and very encouraging to writers of all levels, I think! I noticed on the ‘Visit Cheltenham’ Facebook page that lots of other visitors to the town have been getting fines for straying into the bus lane (one poor woman got about 4!), so I was expecting to get mine… and was just glad not to get more than one! Can’t be bothered to contest it to be honest – I know I probably should but too much going on and it was ‘only’ (only!) £30 if you paid within 2 weeks, so I’ve just paid it and am hoping to put it behind me!! Yes, would be great to see you at Evesham if you book any of the events. Let me know!

  2. Keith Havers says:

    Great shortlist. My favourite is Seeing Red.
    Bad luck with the fine. Apparently it’s a crime to make a mistake these days.

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