Judge’s Report by Jocelyn Simms
I find the one-hundred-word limit a fascinating challenge both for the writers who attempt it and for the person whose task it is to evaluate the entries. This year saw a majority of pieces tackling serious societal issues, perhaps reflecting the months of lockdown when concerns regarding inequality, deprivation, fear and isolation have surfaced. I would like to commend all this years’ writers for their unflinching gaze. In one-hundred-words how can an observation, story or reflection make an impact? Well here are my choices which demonstrate that less is more.
[Editor’s note: this is the short list – the commended works – with the winner and runner up at the end. The competition was judged anonymously but author’s names have now been added…]
[Editor’s Note: The following writers received £10 per work, and a parcel of fiction and poetry books….]
The World from the Eighth Floor by Flavia Idriceanu I really like the perspective taken here. We are in an urban setting where nature has put on a show but we are deluded by an optical illusion. I love the intrigue posed, but not answered, as to why an eternity passes before the yellow cab moves off.
In Planting Potatoes by Jill Yates we are able to imagine only too well the backstory that has brought our young offender to prison. Punchy dialogue and a series of choices turn the offender round and we are treated to a tempting prospect in the final line pointing to further redemption – if only the weather will stay fine.
Under the Radar by Sally Pearson is a chilling and scary moment where the anguish of an abused child is dramatically told. The inclusion of sensual smells and tears add to the visceral impact and reinforces the perilous and frightening feelings she experiences in her hiding place, waiting to be rescued.
A Shift in Time, also by Sally Pearson, is a story of domestic abuse and futility boldly told. I was particularly moved by the silently uttered line in italics. Taut and unsparing it reads with acute authenticity. The ending gives us a momentary sense of just retribution but we imagine respite will be fleeting.
A Question of Womxnhood – Sally Pearson again! – is a playful and accomplished piece that poses a serious question and invents a new word to describe the female of the species. I love the word pilosity and the challenge to social norms. The historical markers underpin deeper questions concerning how the ‘fairer’ sex Is viewed. A quirky and memorable piece.
Evidence by Alison Lock offers a pleasant lull as we observe a picnic but the wry humour permeates the rural idyll with a question and answer that makes me smile on one level, yet emphasises the fact that so many people today (in my view) refute the evidence placed before them whether it be climate change or inflammable building materials.
Enough by Sally Stanford is a heart-breaking story of cruelty in a family setting. Graphically told we witness the blows, the guilt and shame. The ending is beautifully simple but powerfully orchestrated. A good example of an ending that remains ’open’ even though the door closes.
Boys by Denny Jace is an atmospheric piece of writing, capturing the heat of the funfair. A dialogue ensues which gives the dilemmas of an adolescent encounter, capturing the teasing moment of flirting whilst the fireflies scatter their jewelled light.
[Editor’s note: the runner up received £30 and a parcel of books.]
My runner-up is Revenge by Catherine Adams, an understated piece of writing and all the more poignant because of this. A snapshot of life as an under-valued cleaner perfectly illustrates the gap between rich and poor and the unfairness of a system that fails to recognise the contribution of one of our ‘essential’ workers. Very economical, each sentence makes a point. The ending is a clever twist.
[Editor’s note: the winner received £100 and a parcel of books]
First place goes to Memorials by Taria Karillion which deftly portrays three people. I appreciate the ruminations of the cemetery keeper, reflecting on the tasks still to be done with his old mower and aching muscles, whilst he observes the last two graves he needs to tend. We are given a potted history of privilege versus the common man. Names alone reveal the endemic class struggle. A formal coldness surrounds our double-barrelled deceased whilst touching family ‘memorials’ reveal a warmth and sense of loss for unpretentious ‘Ernie.’
I hope the groundsman did manage to finish early.
[Editor’s Note: A selection of the shortlisted works will be added when we’ve heard from everyone, and checked who wants to publish their work here – ed]
You can find out more about judge Jocelyn Simms here…