For the Telegraph Creative Writers’ Group, the New Year has started with an old story: January’s short story competition theme was to revive a previously unused work. ‘Arrivals’, originally written in October 2012 during my Open University A215, seemed strangely topical, following a year of major air disasters. How can people cope with receiving the news of such loss, in the anonymous surroundings of an airport?‘Arrivals’ came third in the voting, and my February entry, on the theme of ‘Love Story’ was a toxic one: ‘Love at first sight’. The March theme was ‘Money’, set by Pavlovaqueen, who had once shown me the wonders of the Mauritshuis in The Hague. So I wrote ‘Gold, and Blue…’ a story about an inheritance, incorporating scenes from Golden Age paintings and written from the viewpoint of a fictional young female artist of the day. This one was a winner!The April theme being ‘Health’, the story of the month ‘Smoking is bad for you’ was a short fiction about a survivor of children’s home abuse. Inspired by the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute Greville Janner due to his dementia. All characters are fictional. This story came second in the monthly vote!
The May theme was ‘Food’. My entry ‘Meat‘ was a nasty story about a serial killer, set on a hog farm. This was originally a 500 word short fiction written for OU A174, but I replaced some of the elements I’d cut, taking it to just under 900 words.The June short story was on a theme of ‘Heaven Sent.’ This was a hard theme for me as I don’t like stories with a ‘deus ex machina’ type of plot. ‘Out of the Blue’ was a story about a brief passion and its consequences. The rosebay willow-herb in the story symbolised for me a brief flowering that comes out of nowhere, and takes root in the most barren ground.
‘The Immortal Lavoisier’ was on the theme of an ocean crossing – in this case the story of the founder of the DuPont company and his links with the Lavoisier family. My story celebrates my son’s Masters degree in Chemical Engineering awarded in July 2015. I was delighted that it came second in the voting.The theme for the August competition was ‘Nightingale’ – a 500 word short fiction, and one option was the birdsong forming the backdrop for an unrequited love. My story was ‘Adam‘
September’s theme was ‘Hype’ and my story ‘Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo’ was a blend of First World War newspapers, trench songs, and the mud of Flanders. It came first in the voting!In October I took a rain check, but for November, on the theme of ‘Secrets’ wrote ‘A Month at Bath’, a Regency pastiche which imagines the secret gambling system of the historical figure of John Law, a gambler and banker who caused an economic crisis in France in 1720. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…
‘A Month at Bath’ was also a winner, and inspired by another writer’s story, I set the January 2016 topic as ‘Legend’
My December story, on the theme of ‘Spirits’ was ‘Silver Ghost’, inspired by thread!