Each year, to support entries to the flash fiction Bridport Prize competition, there is a story slam that takes place in Bridport. This year it will be held on Monday 3 April from 7.30pm in the Arts Centre Café. Tickets (£5 for readers and for writers) must be purchased in advance from the Arts Centre box office (01308 427183 and http://www.bridport-arts.com). If you would like to read a 250 word story, please also register your interest by emailing email@example.com.
If more people want to read than there are slots available, names will be drawn from a hat on the night. Those who sign up have a good chance of being able to read (although this is not guaranteed). Do go along. It’s a great fun evening with prizes and feedback from the judges.
Here is the short fiction story that came highly commended in the National Poetry Day Bournemouth flash fiction competition. It’s titled In the Highlands.
Droplets fall in parallel lines and the rain plinks against the earth. Banana leaves fan the mist, and beneath the covered balcony of the lodge, there’s activity in the kitchen. I’m startled by shouts in Tok Pisin then I concentrate, trying to make sense of the words. Elias appears barefoot in the doorway and watches the downpour; his springy hair shows a scattering of flour. He lights a cigarette rolled in newsprint and takes a long drag. ‘Im bagarap.’
‘Bugger up, indeed.’ I assume he’s referring to the weather, but it could be a disaster in the kitchen, judging from the smell of burning that wafts. He disappears inside before I have a chance to practice my conversational skills, not that he really wants to talk to me. It’s easier being with the women in Papua New Guinea. They chatter and stroke my hair with fingers thin as vanilla pods.
When the sun splits the clouds, I walk to the edge of the gully. The land is covered in a lemon light and the river is a piece of twisted foil. In a clearing, little children emerge from kunai houses, squat wooden buildings with smoke seeping through the thatch. One boy is naked but for a belt of twine strung around his middle and his head’s been shaved. The hair is used to make ceremonial wigs which the tribesmen decorate with bird of paradise feathers. I have at least learnt something during my study tour.
‘An-i-ta’ The three syllables of my name bounce over the distance from the lodge. I return to find Elias with his hands cupped. Whatever he’s holding, I hope it isn’t alive. Last night a moth the size of a dinner plate had me cowering under the covers.
‘Lukim yu.’ He hands me a clump of moss and the roots of an orchid show. The flower hangs delicate between the leaves. I lean close to breathe the scent of honey.
Elias’s smile is broad and his brown eyes dance. ‘Nais.’
‘Very nice.’ The flower nods as I examine the structure and the dotted markings on the waxy petals. I find words of thanks in Tok Pisin, ‘Tenkyu.’
Elias shows me how to strap the orchid to a tree and each day I walk the garden to admire the plant. The gift is an entry into his world.
Myriam San Marco and me
National Poetry Day was founded by the Forward Arts Foundation to promote a love of reading and sharing poetry. Each year there is a different theme and in 2016 the focus is ‘messages’. A poetry and flash fiction competition was organised by Bournemouth Poet Laureate, Myriam San Marco, to celebrate this national event. I am delighted that my poem Starlings was awarded first prize in the poetry competition and my short fiction In the Highlands came runner-up in the flash fiction section.
Myriam is doing a great job in promoting the work of local poets and I’m indebted to her for providing this opportunity. I’d also like to thank poetry judge Louisa Adjoa Parker for selecting my poem and the feedback she provided. Thank you also to James Cole who acted as a judge for the flash fiction competition. Congratulations to Sally Lewis for taking first prize for her flash fiction piece about texting. At a celebration on 5 October in The Winchester, there was a chance to hear the winning and highly commended entries. I especially liked the superb performance by Kech Wo.
This success has given a huge boost to my confidence and I’m keen to develop further poetry. My aim is to create a series of connected poems and I’m looking forward to making progress towards this goal.
Here is the winning poem:
Side-by-side we sit, watching the wipers swipe
You gnaw tags of skin beside your nails,
I grip the steering wheel like a life buoy.
Staring ahead, I pose the questions
you don’t want to answer.
Talking from the side of your mouth,
you dismiss the concerns that fill my head
like murmurating starlings.
I’ve had a recent success with travel writing – my submission about a journey to Enga Province in Papua New Guinea was highly commended in the Mairi Hedderwick Travel Writing Award. (Have a look on the link, where I have a short bio and a photo!) As a prize I’ve been given a £200 grant towards a course at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. I’m looking forward to heading north later this year.
Here’s a photo from Enga.
Beaumont Park is a fabulous 20 acre site on the outskirts of Huddersfield. Constructed in 1880s it was accessed by a tramway from the town and boasted a castle, pavilion and bandstand. According to Henry F Beaumont, the landowner who provided fields for the conversion, ‘Parks are necessary for large and populous towns to increase the happiness and promote good health and elevate the minds of people.’
The Friends of Beaumont Park work with Kirklees Council to restore the park and I’m proud to be part of a project which aims to bring art and nature together. My poem, Walk was selected from entries to the poetry trail competition and is now on permanent display.
My poem is one of 25 included in the poetry trail. The acrylic plaques work well displaying every 12 line poem to great effect. It’s wonderful to wander around the gardens and read poetry written by the very young and the more mature. Indeed, I was so impressed with the whole idea of bringing poetry into a public space, I talked with one of the organisers of the poetry trail to find out whether is possible replicate the project elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
My name has finally reached the pages of a women’s magazine (check the small print at the bottom of the photo). In September, I entered the annual Elle magazine talent competition with a 500-word short story inspired by the hashtag #relationshipgoals. The story titled Five Days to Go imagines the hopes and aspirations of a teenage Muslim girl planning to become an Isis bride. With so much in the press about young girls and their misplaced dreams of supporting Islamic State, it seemed appropriate to explore this through fiction. Told through first person narration, readers gradually realise what this British Muslim girl is planning.
The competition judges included Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist and Kate Mosse, Novelist and Chair and co-founder of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction so I’m thrilled to think they’ve read my work. I am one of five runners-up and have won a monogrammed Smythson Notebook worth £135. Congratulations to the winner, Lia Louis.
As a fund raiser for the Bridport Arts Centre , Frances Colville is organising a spring story slam. This is in addition to the annual story slam that features as part of the Open Book Festival in October each year. Held in the Arts Centre Cafe, the story slam will take place on Thursday 23rd April from 7.30 pm. All entrants are required to read a story of no more than 250 words (the same length as required for the Bridport Prize flash fiction competition). There will be three judges (chosen by the BAC) and prizes for the top three entrants. It is hoped that twenty people will read, but if there are more wanting to do so, names will be drawn from a hat. (This method will also be used to decide the order of those reading.) The charge is £5 entry on the door for both readers and listeners alike. You can register in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or just turn up on the night. Prose only, please.
Visual to support the framing of ideas for story writing
The Dorset Writer’s Network have secured Arts Council funding to launch a new project with the aim of publishing an ebook which celebrates the diversity of the county. I recently delivered a workshop to support entry and you can read about this here. To have your writing considered for inclusion in the ebook, you are invited to join a competition. Stories must be no longer than 500 words and set in Dorset. Anyone can enter the competition (information for adults appears below) and a further category for 11-16 year olds will be made available shortly. Entrants can live or work anywhere in the country but the story must take place in Dorset (including Poole and Bournemouth). The full rules for the competition appear below.
I do hope you’ll take the opportunity to submit a piece of short fiction. Good luck!