The shortlist for the 2016 Writers’ & Artists’ competition has been announced:
Which means I am now free to post my entry. You can find it below.
To repeat myself (which I do often) I will post this ‘disclaimer’ whenever I post a short story entry: I decided that 2016 would be the year I enter competitions and at present I have around four or five a month on my list. Every time I enter one I will copy the story as a blog post ready to go and share it with you. Let me put my hands up in surrender now, I do not expect to be shortlisted or win any of them. That’s not an easy excuse, it’s just being honest. I don’t think these will be my best work and I have a lot of years ahead of me in which to improve my writing but this is my reasoning… it’s more of a compromise. I have two main objectives this year, to grow my company (a little bit) and complete the first draft of my novel. They are ongoing projects that occupy my mind night and day, however, I have a lot of scraps of ideas that I have set aside (as I won’t be spending time developing any short stories to self publish this year) and I felt bad at just leaving them to rot. They are playing on my mind so why not use them to enter short story competitions? The ones I self publish are always a minimum of 10k words (up to around 20k) and take me weeks to work on but the competitions can be as short as 500 words. I think that by allowing myself to spend a few hours (at most) on these entries I will firstly feel better than I am keeping myself busy when not working on the novel (which again, is often), secondly improve and test out new ideas or techniques (that may come in handy later) and thirdly reach out to new people and new content which is naturally a frightening thing because you are exposing yourself to people who are better than you. That’s the only way to learn though and I have never shied away from that. The only negative is that I know I won’t be spending enough time on the stories to show off the best I can do, but that’s the compromise isn’t it? I get a lot out of it without spending huge chunks of time. You can’t have both. So, is that a good enough excuse for you? Anyway, when each competition closes I'll post my entry in between my normal rambling blog posts or news announcements, some will have themes (the one below was on 'ageing') and some don't but I'll always leave the link so you can visit the website and check out the shortlists and winners... and maybe take note so you can enter yourselves next year?
‘Well, would you look at that!’
Flo places the tip of her finger on a worn photograph and caresses the face of the young girl looking back. The creases and torn edges are invisible, and despite being blurred and grey she sees the red glow on the cheeks of the worn out twelve-year-old who Flo remembers would be fresh from skipping across the heath. Flo’s fingertip hovers on the brown mole prominent on the flushed and surprised gaze. The birthmark, a small round bump the size of the girl’s contracted pupil, sits above the left corner of her mouth, halfway between her top lip and the bottom of her nose. Flo’s touch is gentle, as if pressing too hard will damage more than the delicate film.
As Flo spreads out more photographs, the beauty spot repeats and repeats. Her dining room table, rustic and rugged but well polished with a rosewood hint, transforms into a page from an artist’s notebook. Images from a lifetime of recorded moments shine. 1950’s greys mix with more vivacious modern tones; spring greens from birthday picnics in the park, deep chocolate browns in thick spirals that spread-in-bloom across oversized poet collars, and dazzling white from a wedding in a church courtyard where rain has collected into silver puddles forming a children’s game of mirror-like stepping stones.
Flo leans close to the table, her nose an inch above the photos, and lets her squinting eyes scan freely. She picks up the scent of beeswax from her daily chores but the musty aged photographs overpower the present and she moves from year to year with each framed still of her life; there is the garden with the perfect grass that they never managed to grow again; there’s teenage Peter and Billy, when tight corduroys and band t-shirts were pleaded for. Flo stops when her inspection meets John.
‘Why do some leave and others stay?’
Flo stands and walks to the mantelpiece. She presses a razor-thin cream-hued button on her new radio; a recent gift. It is a sleek, cutting-edge digital radio designed to appear like a utilitarian yet post-war domestic luxury appliance of yesteryear. Flo breaks her own rule and looks at herself in the mirror above the fireplace before sitting back down at the table and shuffling the photographs together. She wraps tissue paper around the neat pile, slowly and carefully, making sure to align the edges with the beveled folds dug from decades of protection and isolation. Flo doesn’t put the pile away immediately; she fears she will take one more look later, perhaps after soup and tea.
Flo’s fingertip circles her mole. It hasn’t changed. They say all of your cells replace, that you aren’t the person - physically speaking - you were decades ago; except those buried deep in the brain or deep in the something-or-other of your bones. Yet, this mole hasn’t changed. It is ageless; perfection embarrassing decay. This mole is still the ruddy-faced tomboy racing the next door neighbour’s stick-in-the-mud little boy that died of tuberculosis. This mole is still the shocked smile of saying ‘yes’ to Gerald when asked for her first dance. This mole is still the beautiful young woman who had everything. This mole is that woman in the mirror who is still beautiful and wants everything all over again.