At Long Last: Results from Summer Short Story Competition

So it’s September, and although it isn’t quite cold yet, I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty much saying goodbye to summer.

However, silver linings. We now ~finally~ have the list of winners from our Summer Short Story Competition. All entries were of very high standard and the voting was close – so much so that we had to have two rounds of voting!

A reminder that our theme was CHAOS and the results were decided via anonymous public voting.

All winners will be immortalised in our Hall of Fame!

Here are the results:

1st Place: Maria Rose Sledmere with “The Many Moons of Jupiter”

Joint 2nd Place: Rachel Norris with “The Path” and Rachel Walker with “From Here to There”

Third Place: Maura Kenny with “Mind Diving” 

Congratulations to all!

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Anticipation of a Sound

We’re coming for you at 7.

6:59pm

Ma leg’s been twitching for the last three oors. Baith eh them, but no at the same time. Just the wan, gawn up n doon like the wee dugs ye get fur yer dashboard. Am always tappin away tae, drummin oan the desk. Only four eh my fingers, my thumb makes too much noise. It’s like playin air guitar withoot movin yer airms.

Only a minute tae go so I need tae pick the next song quickly wit can I listen tae in a minute I don’t huv many wan minute songs this wan’s only two and a hauf that’ll dae they might be late. A wee pop tune, some’hin light, hud the heedbangin’ shite oan aw day. Gets me pumped up – if I’m walkin’ tae an exam, or gaun up a hill, or need tae have a wan tae wan chat, it’ll be yon Linkin Park or some’hin else wae a load ah screamin’ in it.

I widnae mind sa much if I kent sooner. I ken it’s joost Laura and Pete and I ken I see them aw the time, and it’d be fine if it was just wan eh thur hooses wae were gawn tae, but it’s Friday and the pub’s gonnae be foo eh aw the wallopers fae aw ooer the toon. It’s the worst night tae go oot, along wae Saturday, but any night really, it’s always the busiest place on any night, and I cannae really haunl that.

I’ve brushed ma hair aboot four times in the last oor noo, it keeps messin up cuz I’m pure sweatin. I widnae really mind if we wurnae gawn oot, Laura and Pete dinnae care if ma hair’s a mess, though their parents might, or their flatmates might, or they might even if they say they dinnae, so I’d probably be dain this anywiy. Aye.

I’m breathin awffy fast, no sure if I should pace my room or chew ma thumbnail while ma leg geez it laldi. Wit if somebody fae school’s there and they talk tae me. They’ll probably be pished, like “aw how ye dain it’s been ages! Wit ye dain these days?” and I’ll stumble ooer ma words, I’ll ask thaim wit their dain, and then I’ll ask them again cuz it’s ma go-to conversation hing, even though ah’ve already asked. Alwiys ask them wit their dain and how their dain. Efter that just hope it goes somewhere. Try slow doon and no rush through the sentence tae, it helps if it’s no jist wan long howyedainwityebeenuptae? Ah might no meet them anywiy, might just be the three eh us and just a load eh randomers.

Mind you, there wis that time that guy took ma glesses. He didnae mean any hairm, I just laughed et him as he was lookin pure daft an aw that, but efter I goat hame it made me feart tae go back ootside. Ye cannae really dae that, ken? I need thaim tae see. Cannae just take somebody’s vision fae them, they’re no a fashion accessory. Remember, if anybidy asks tae try yer glesses, ye say naw, unless it’s a pal who’s also specky in which case they just want tae compare blindness. That’s awright.

I hope it’s no too loud cuz it’s hard tae talk ooer the thumpin music. I trip ooer ma sentences at the best eh times so I don’t want tae huv tae shout, it just fucks them up even mare. Really unsocial, ken? Just sitting there wae a drink on ma phone tweeting about how I’d rather be at hame. It’s no very nice but I could just set up a tweet the noo for an hour’s time so it sends anywiy even if I’m no oan ma phone. Mibby I can slip away early if I say there’s some’hin oan at hauf eight I want tae watch. It’s only a ten minute walk, that’d gee us aboot an oor the gither, that’s plenty ah time oan a Friday night at the pub, we never dae all nighters anyway, we’ve never been the type.

Aye, I’ll just tell them ma chat show’s startin back, and it’s got that guy fae Mad Max oan it. I pure love him, they’ll un’erstaun. I’ve no missed an episode anywiy, it’s no like it’s oot the blue. They might work oot it’s no oan til efter ten, but I can jist say I was poppin tae the shoap first or huvin a bath or chattin tae my maw.

Aye, hauf eight I’ll be hame fur. Ma leg’s calmt doon a bit et the thoat eh that. Shouldnae be that busy by that time, maste folk’ll still be pre-drinkin. How bad kin it be? Just a few folk, aye. Awk I need tae brush ma hair again. Keeps stickin tae ma foreheed. I hate ma foreheed, there’s too much eh it, cannae draw any attention towards it wae a few hairs stuck there cuz I’m pure boilin. Dae I need mare deodorant? Already pit some oan but I’m just so hoat, worried I’m pure reekin. Wit’s the time? Still fifty nine? Fuck sake where ur they thoat they’d be here by noo. They said seven aye, but it’s no like them to keep iz waitin.

Huv I goat time fur a pee?

Maybe I’ve goat the wrang colours oan. No sure rid really goes wae green ootside eh December, gonnae feel like a fuckin Christmas tree. It’s April. Pete’ll be wearin aw black mind you, moody basturt, he doesnae really care but I care, don’t want folk tae look et me thinkin “bet their tree’s still up.” Don’t need ma gless handed tae me like “there ye go, Robin, tweet tweet.” I shoulda checked wit Laura was wearin. Wit if she’s got green and rid oan tae, they’ll hink it was aw planned, aw naw. Christ I cannae go oot like this, have I goat time tae change? Wit’d ye mean calm doon? You calm doon.

Awk I’m gonnae go pee again.

How could they no’ve told me this a week ago? They ken I cannae haunl last minute hings. I ken the day-of isnae last minute fur maste folk but is fur me, I hud ma night aw planned, and it didnae involve oors eh plannin tae go doon the road. Hud tae change my dinner, when I washed ma hair, when I goat dressed, how many songs I could play, when I put ma shoes oan…I wisnae planning oan puttin thaim oan the day but I need tae put them oan noo…such a fuckin mess. Woke up feelin dead fine, then ah goat the text “pub tonight? x” and I wanted tae say naw but it’s gettin tae the point if I say naw any mare they’re gonnae stoap invitin mae and I cannae be alane, that’d be even worse than aw the plannin. Naw the plannin is fine, it just coulda been avoided, ken? If they’d telt me a week ago then it wilda fit in wae every’hin else, coulda worked up tae it, it wid only ah been the last five minutes before I left the hoose that hud me shakin ma legs rather than hauf the fuckin day.

Ma room’s a state, mibbe I’ve goat enough time tae start geein it a tidy up, pit some books away or some’hin. I just dance roon them aw, ken, there’s enough space oan the flare fur ma feet but aye it needs tidied sometime and I should probably just dae it the noo, I cannae go before it’s finished, needs done right enough. Cannae believe it goat this bad, never lettin it get this bad again, that’s it, this is the last time. Stayin oan tap eh it noo.

Plenty ah time fur a pee again, just tae make sure, dinnae want tae be pure burstin oan the wiy.

I feel fuckin mental, but ah ken ahm no the only wan who does aw this stressin and preparation. Mind that time Sammy said she wiz late cuz she’d spilt some’hin oan her dress but ah ken that’s a load ah pish, she wiz dain aw this an awl. She telt me. She gets stuck tae her chair, cannae move, kens she wants tae go and brush her teeth or whatever, but she just cannae dae it. Panics. At least this wiy I’ll snap oot it when Pete and Laura get here, ahm no gonnae be mad in front eh them. I’ll just shout “comin” ooer the flush ah the toilet and they’ll be nane the wiser. I’m just no social, no a loat tae say, it’s definitely no that facin’ the ootdoors is like facin’ every’hin ye’ve ever said ye cannae dae in wan go, it’s definitely no that. It’s no like when ye walk intae P.E. wae yer muscle mass eh a crisp packet and specks the size eh the moon. It’s just nae chat. Nae chat is better than bein’ seen as a loony, ken?

Feelin’ pure knackered noo. Don’t even remember staunin’ up, but I’m lookin’ oot the windae aw the same, then ma other windae, then the first windae. Sweatin’. Fix ma hair. Sit doon ya daft bastard. Leg gaun like mad.

Doorbell.

I run tae the bathroom. At the sound eh the flush…every cunt be normal.

The Many Moons of Jupiter

I was just five years old when my Dad first took me to see the stars. In the museum downtown they have this observatory room with a great glass ceiling displaying the night sky. A kind of visibility you can’t get in real life; you can’t help staring and staring for hours and hours, just staring at that bright jewellery case of stars. The blackness in the bashckground, that velvet sheet they use, seems deeper alongside the purplish blueish hues which streak behind the twinkling chips of silver. I would sit on the floor of the observatory and stare up at those stars until my neck hurt. There was a makeshift telescope too, which showed up tiny coloured planets. You could check everything you saw against The Book of Celestial Details which was lying open on the glass table. It gave me an immense satisfaction: checking up on those stars, learning the constellations.

It was always Dad that took me to the observatory. Saturday afternoons I was his responsibility, and the easiest thing – the thing I begged for – was to visit the museum. We would go out to lunch afterwards, me leading the way down the familiar streets with the bustling weekend crowd, people weaving in and out of each other like threads from a harlequin fabric, trailing smiles and shopping bags. We always went to the same cafe, where they sold chocolate milkshakes and beans on toast for a fiver.

Dad is a landscape gardener. He digs up piles of mud and lays down square rolls of soft grass and puts in fancy plants that people order from catalogues. He does things with precision: cutting up his food carefully, watching everything I do with his observant eye, following this kind of persistent rhythm. He hated if I got food around my mouth, if I made a mess of the salt shakers or the scraps of food I left on my plate. In the cafe he talked to me about school and how I was getting on and what I liked and if my friends ever got into trouble. One thing we never talked about was Mum. Dad didn’t know how to talk about Mum.

My favourite planet is Jupiter. The biggest planet in our solar system, made of flaming greys and yellows and oranges, patterned with swirling lines which sweep around its diameter. After the moon and Venus, Jupiter’s the brightest planet in the night sky. Of course, I’ve never seen it in real life, only the simulated museum version – the version that flashes up onscreen and floats around in orbit. I always dream of that beautiful hologram, but all those pixels get mixed in with the Saturday city buzz and the taste of milkshakes. I don’t know what I’d do if I stumbled upon it one day, walking in some clear crisp countryside and seeing it up in the real night sky. I think it’d be pretty scary, not very real at all. I always wonder about that giant spot, the storm that’s raged for centuries on its surface. I’ve zoomed in right close to that Giant Red Spot like I was looking into the eye of a god. It’s like my way of praying, staring into that spot, feeling very small as I read about its greatness.

In the cafe, Dad asks me about the future.

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” he says. He asks me this just about every week, like he’s forgotten how I answered before. I have a list of things which I reel off for him: astronaut, astronomer, artist, builder.

“Artist? Builder?” he sounds confused. He doesn’t understand what I mean by that. I mean, I want to draw planets, to make planets come to life out of pencil and paper. I tell him I want to build things which will last like the planets, that will exist on the earth as the earth exists in the solar system. I can’t put it quite into words; it’s a feeling I have. Eternity. The rings, faint and reddish pale, that surround some of the planets – it’s sort of like that – the feeling drifts out to you, faint and pale. I wonder what it’s like to glide along one of those rings, feeling the chaos of gravity, shafts of light shooting right through you. Like playing Mario Kart, whizzing down a rainbow highway and picking up gold stars.

The problem is, I don’t think I’ll ever be an astronaut or an astronomer; I’m no good at maths.

Sometimes, I don’t think I’ll ever grow up at all, because Mum and Dad won’t let me.

“He doesn’t like toys anymore!” Mum shrieks at Dad when he buys me a train set for my birthday, or a Gamecube for Christmas. “He’s too old, for God’s sake!” She stares at me with her eyes on fire, wanting me to say something, to agree with her. Sometimes she throws plates or tips the dinner all over the floor, or literally shoves my father out the door. They fight over everything.

What’s confusing is that I can’t tell sometimes whether they’re making up or being mean; whether they hate each other or love each other. There is a small red wine stain on the carpet by the sofa, and I stare at it when they are arguing in the living room in front of me; I stare at it like it’s the Giant Red Spot of Jupiter. I want to dig my nails into the carpet and peel it off like a scab. They hurl swear words at each other, and Dad always shrinks into silence. It’s Mum who creates disorder, swirling her self around the room, her voice getting louder and louder. I sometimes have nightmares about this: the way she goes from shouting to crying, her red face blurring into something indistinct and terrible. I close my eyes and think of comets, shooting endlessly over the night sky.

She says I’m getting too old for museums.

“Help him with his homework instead,” she nags to Dad as we leave on Saturday mornings to get the bus into town. Her plea is lost to our backs as we step out of the house. Sometimes, late at night, I hear her come into my room and tuck me in. She stays there for a while, hanging over me and breathing softly – breathing warm tufts of fire. She touches my face and I pretend to be asleep as she slowly starts to cry, still stroking my cheek. All I want to do is shout: Mum, stop! but I can’t. I lie there, still as a shop floor dummy.

She listens to me sleeping, but she doesn’t listen to me talk about the things I like. She doesn’t listen to me when I talk about the sun and the solar system, the many moons of Jupiter. She just switches off, shutting you out with this kind of supernatural force.

How amazing it would be, to escape among the stars! I watch the science channels and see the space ships and the shuttles hurtle away from earth. They always interview the astronauts after they’ve landed: How do you cope with not seeing your family for so long? Don’t you get lonely? What can you eat out there? but they never ask about the things I want to know:

Were you good at maths at school?
Do you need to do algebra to be an astronaut?
What is the square root of 395,691,324?
What do Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s Red Eye look like from Space?

I always turn off the tv when I see their smug faces, when they take off the space helmets like they think they’re in a movie. Plain old human faces are as boring as my parents’ arguing.

Nowadays, they fight about anything at all. I don’t understand it; they’re like kids – and even Dad shouts now. From the top of the stairs I watch them through the gaps in the banister, wishing I could go down there and make them stop, make them shut up as fast as a hurricane tears up a city.

“Don’t forget we love you son,” Dad always says afterwards, “no matter how Daddy and Mummy feel about each other.”

But he never answers when I ask if they are getting a Divorce. It’s like I’ve whispered a secret I’m supposed to keep quiet, the one special code word that holds us back from chaos.

Now that I’m older, we don’t go to museums anymore; we get lunch in the pub. Dad loves fish and chips and Fosters lager. He also loves the slots.

Saturday afternoons he stands in front of the puggies while I watch the bartenders pouring pints and count how many times they spill things. Sometimes I go over and watch him play: I like to see the flashing lights, the colourful fruit symbols glow as the slots fall into place. Simple, persistent, like the bubbles in a glass of lemonade. Dad buys the drinks and tells me to go sit down. It’s a weird thing, watching him at the slot machine; like he’s in control of everything, like he knows when the slots will align the way he wants them to. Often, he pounds on the plastic shell of the machine, curses. We walk home in the purple dusk, past the city shutting up, and he tells me about anything – a song on the radio, the size of his shoes, the hat his mother used to wear when he was a kid – anything but how much money he’s lost.

The other day, I found Jupiter in a textbook at school. I guess I haven’t really been thinking about planets and stars and space for awhile, and now it stood out from the glossy pages like a face smiling from the darkness. A familiar face.

This girl sitting next to me, Layla, leant over my shoulder.

“What’s that you’re looking at?” she asked in that bright, tinkly voice of hers.

“Jupiter,” I said. I ran my hand over the smooth page where the clouds patterned themselves across the surface, like the wisps and eddies of smoke leftover from a fire. In my head, I rehearsed the names of all the elements that drift on through those clouds: carbon, vapour, neon, sulphur. 

“Is that your favourite planet?” Layla whispered, a lock of her hair spilling over my cheeks. I nodded.

“It’s the biggest planet there is. It’s so big it could swallow up all the other planets.”

“And one day you’ll live there like a king?” she smiled. She was teasing me.

“Nobody could ever live there, it’s too cold.” I closed the textbook.

After a while, I turned to look at Layla, thinking she would be facing the front again, watching the teacher scribbling sums on the board. But she was still looking at me. In her eyes I saw the glass darkness of another kind of space, where stars come forward like shoals of beautiful silver fish rising to the surface of the ocean. I glanced back at my paper and wrote down a perfect equation.

It was winter and after class she cornered me in the snowy playground and for fun I kissed her, just like that. Her lips were cold and wet with snowflakes and everything felt very still around us, like we were caught in a hullabaloo. It was all just luck really – that was the exciting part. I told her it’s a beautiful world and she laughed, like I had just said something funny and random from a movie. Like we’d made up the world ourselves and now we were powerful.

When I got home, all Dad said was: she’s left us. He looked around the room with this blank expression on his face, like the air itself was different, like something in the particles around him had changed. I poured a glass of milk and thought about it for awhile, but then I remembered the stars and the cool night sky that was only a few hours away, waiting with equations and gorgeous auroras. And yeah, I guess I felt okay.

Summer Short Story Competition 2015

Hello all – hope you are having a great summer so far and that the Exam Results Fairy was good to you! We’re really pleased to announce our summer short story competition for this year. We want as many entries as possible, and you have plenty of time to work on it, so please read over the details:

  • Everyone is allowed to enter, regardless of your age, ownership of a kitten or whether or not you’ve ever attended a Creative Writing workshop or liked our Facebook page.
  • Entries must be predominantly prose (i.e. if you want to weave a few lines of poetry or a drawing or something in with your story then fine, but we want it to be prose fiction).
  • The theme of the short story competition is CHAOS. You are free to interpret this as you like, but please make sure your work links to the theme somehow.
  • The word count is between 800-3000 words, inclusive. Please don’t go outwith these limits.
  • Your work should have a title, but don’t just use the prompt as your title as it will be difficult to distinguish from the other entries.
  • The deadline is midnight on Friday 7th August
  • All entries are to be submitted as Word documents to mariasledmere@outlook.com , with the subject title ‘Summer Short Story Competition Entry’. The reason it is going to our old president, Maria (me), is because the competition is to be peer-judged and so since I’m in charge of uploading the stories, I will be the only one who knows who wrote what. This means that while I can submit an entry, you can rest assured I don’t get a vote because my vote wouldn’t be anonymous.
  • All stories will be peer-judged. This means that after the closing date (7th August), all entries will be anonymously uploaded with their titles to the blog. There will be a vote over the next few weeks to see which story wins. We will also provide a comment space where you can write feedback for the stories (everything can be anonymous). This way, all entries get a showcase on the blog and writers can access some feedback. The winner will be revealed by the end of August and hopefully we can concoct some sort of a prize, as well as a place in the Hall of Fame page Nina and I are still developing!
  • If you have any more questions, email me or gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com

Last year’s winners were Katalina Watt (1st), Scott Dallas (2nd) and Ross Van Gogh (3rd). You can check out their work if you search ‘Elements’ via the blog search tool. Hopefully this will be a nice summer project to work on, and I look forward to reading everyone’s stuff!

100 Word Challenge!

In the spirit of our ‘Breaching’ session, inspired by one of our members who decided to try this, I thought it would be fun to set a 100 word writing challenge for this month.

You have until 5th November to submit!

Basically, the challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less.

The theme is: WASTE – interpret as vaguely or specifically as you will!

Sounds tricky, right? I love using lots and lots of words, so I’m going to give it a go too. Since it’s so short, it shouldn’t take up too much precious mid-term study time, so please give it a go and submit it via our ‘Contact Us’ page, or just email it to gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com with your name and title. I’ll put all stories up on this page. Good luck!

(see https://gucreativewriting.wordpress.com/100-word-challenge/ where I will be posting all your stories!)

Summer Short Story Competition

Hello everyone,

Hope you are enjoying your summer so far. As I sit here writing this I can see through my window the strangest kind of pelting rain and it seems the kind of rain that would kill you with impact if you were to lie in it long enough. Well anyway, I just wanted to announce a wee competition we’re going to run to keep you inspired to write over the summer. It’s nothing too demanding and hopefully a fun way to showcase or experiment with your writing.

Basically here are the guidelines:

–  short story/flash fiction/creative non-fiction with maximum word count of 1500 words

– anonymously judged

– winner and runner-up prizes

– members only competition

– theme of ‘Elements’ (interpret as you will!)

Please submit your entries as an attachment or in the body of the email along with your name, student number and story title. The deadline is midnight on the 10th August 2014. Please email to gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com

Thanks and good luck!

x