Back in June we hosted our first creative writing competition with the intention of making our journal an open one. The three literary areas we chose to open the contest to were poetry, flash fiction and short story. Selecting poetry as one category was an obvious must: who can dismiss the rich beauty of the images and powerful messages that can be presented in a few tightly-woven lines? To add to this we chose flash fiction, a lesser-known type of writing which perhaps deserves more credit than it receives, and has the ability, not unlike poetry, to tell a bittersweet, devastating or joyous tale in a couple of hundred words. Balancing out these two "short and sweet" categories, we chose the short story as an opportunity to create longer works with fully-fleshed characters, allowing for intense, more detailed narration and exploration of the elements of surprise, humour, irony and emotion.
We left these categories open to each individual contestant's interpretation in regards to form, style and theme and enforced only broad word limits. Leaving the options open for our entrants resulted in a wealth of variety among the numerous entries we received. In the Poetry competition we found our winning piece, "I Should Have Told Her I Care" by Akinsamoye Samuel Omoniyi, to be compelling in the rhythmic poignancy of the emotive refrain running throughout, and the distancing from personal to collective worked well with the subject of regret. The last line particularly provided a powerful evocation of readerly intrigue, whilst also lending finality to the speaker's grief as it concluded the poem.
When it came to Flash Fiction we were lucky enough to have been sent entries from a writer so skilled at crafting unique and vividly pure moments with her words that we ended up selecting two of her pieces to jointly win first prize. Celia Jenkins's "A Girl Called Snow" shocked us with its stark, mournful storyline mirrored by the bleak, deathly landscape of winter mountains. Her second piece, "The End", made use of sentence structure artfully and effectively to elicit an emotional response from the reader. The relatable moments described allow a connection between the reader and the boy.
Selecting our winning short story was not an easy task, as this was a strong category with many entries that were well-written and intriguing in vastly different ways. The winning piece was chosen for its fresh take on the action genre. "How to Survive Being the Protagonist of an Action Story" is a parody, a playful deconstruction and a brilliant idea, executed with a lightness of touch and a fast pace. A drolly omniscient narrative tenor with an undertone of deadpan humour effortlessly drives a suspenseful plot with a satisfyingly unexpected twist in the last sentence, punctuated by lively dialogue from distinctive characters.