I wrote my very first short story (except for those I had to write at school) last year. I was inspired by the Country Life short story competition. I love this magazine and I think the competition is great too. Some of the previous year's entries have brought me to tears.
Last year’s story theme was 'threads'. A story jumped into my head almost immediately. It ended up being called Sunset and Saffron.
Here’s an excerpt:
Scarlett dragged herself down her tree-lined street but heart-tearing grief was robbing her muscles of their function. Even simple tasks seemed insurmountable.
Apple blossom scented the country air. Julie had loved that smell and together they’d often worked picking apples as teenagers. Now each inhalation seared the memory of happy times with her sister, with desperate grief. They say no parent should bury a child but there was no saying that captured the horror of watching a polished wooden box lowered into the earth with your mirror image cold inside.
She reached her fence and tapped every second paling, the habit of a lifetime. Julie’s palings remained untouched.
A letter protruded from the letterbox. Scarlett sighed. Most likely a bill. She grabbed the envelope. Julie’s name looked stark on the white paper. A sob leapt up her throat and the letter dropped from her grasp.
‘Is everything okay?’ The voice, deep and foreign and close, made her jump. Her new neighbour retrieved the letter and held it out.
She took it and blinked back the tears. She’d cried for so long but she didn’t want to weep before a stranger. Nico was tall, Spanish and new to the street. Mrs Hilltrap at number forty-three had his story within a few hours of his arrival. Nico had moved from Spain to work as a GP in their little country town. Mrs Hilltrap had mentioned a number of times, with sledgehammer subtlety that he was in his early thirties and single. How could she possibly think Scarlett could start a relationship three months after her twin’s death? The stupid crazy things people said in the name of comfort . . .
‘Yes. I’m fine.’ Scarlett fussed with her handbag.
She’d been a bad neighbour. She hadn’t dropped over when he’d arrived. She hadn’t invited him over for tea. Hell, she hadn’t even spoken to him. Orange was famous for its country hospitality but she’d proved the antithesis to the town’s reputation. But conversations with strangers were currently as difficult as setting off from base camp to climb Everest.
I think the Country Style short story comp is a great initative as it is open to everyone, it provides a chance to see your work in print (if you win or are a ‘runner up’) and there’s $5000 prize money.
This year’s competition can involve any situation or setting but must incorporate ‘light’ as a major or minor theme in either a figurative or literal sense. The story can be no longer than 1500 words, which I have to say I found a challenge. No story has leapt into my head yet, but I’m hoping inspiration strikes before the closing date of 19 April.
Do you like short stories – reading or writing them? I’d love to hear.