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.
WOW love that excerpt I need to read it all :)
I love reading short stories they are just the thing sometimes when you have to be somewhere or have a short wait so yes I read them here and there :)
Thanks so much, Helen. I currently thinking about where I should publish the story. Will let you know when I decide.Delete
That excerpt is awesome, Jennifer. I've always been an avid fan of short stories but haven't had the inclination to write one. Wouldn't know where to start. They take a special author, I think. Obviously you've got the touch. The above example is brilliant.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Sue. I, too, didn't know how to start and only really had a go because the story hit me so fully formed, which was nice!!ReplyDelete
Oh what an intriguing excerpt! Now I want to read the whole story! I'm not a huge reader of short stories, mainly out of habit more than anything else...but I did start out writing very short pieces in my creative writing course (in the Dark Ages!). You've got me all intrigued again!ReplyDelete
Thanks Louisa. I'm like you, I don't really read short stories...I'm more a novel gal.Delete
Hey Jen. Beautiful story. Big love to you xxxReplyDelete
Thanks Amy. Ah yes, there are some autobiographical undertones!!Delete
Beautiful excerpt, Jen -- great details. Now I really want to read the rest of the story. :-)ReplyDelete
As a rule, I'm not a big fan of short stories, but every now and then I'll get a taste for them. When I did my Masters I wrote one (that was published in a local anthology), but it came from a place that seems utterly mysterious to me now and I'm not sure I could channel it again. That said, I really enjoyed the process.
Same for me, the inspiration for that first story came out of nowhere and fully formed. Wish that happened all the time.
Jen, I love a well written short story so I can see why this appealed. They're difficult to write though, aren't they? My first pubbed stories were shorts that appeared in some major women's magazines in Australia and New Zealand but though I loved them and the sense of accomplishment, I think I'm better suited to longer stories.ReplyDelete
Wow, Annie - how fabulous! I probably read those stories before I knew you.Delete
I think I'm more suited to longer stories too.
I look forward to seeing this short story in it's entirety once you publish it. I like that the competition is open to all... makes it feel more accessible in some ways.ReplyDelete
I'd almost like to see the variety of stories they get from this year's word - light could be taken in sooooooo many different ways. Just off the top of my head I'm thinking it can be associated with weight, lighting and the light at the end of the tunnel
Wow Lyn, that are such good ideas. You should get writing!Delete
Thanks for your faith in my writing Jennifer (especially since I have yet to share anything I've written publicly). Bummer given the prize money is that being in NZ, I'm on the wrong side of the Tasman to enter. That said, I'm still going to use light as 'trigger' word for some writing.Delete
I almost think that in addition to doing this, I might every several months open my dictionary at random and then pick a word from the opened pages to inspire short story or a few paragraps - not necessarily with a view to using the results, but to encourage my currently AWOL temperamental muse to show up, stick around and be useful.