*UPDATE: Round 5 has begun. Details HERE!*
This has got to be one of my favourite newly-regular posts because I get to deliver news that makes at least 3 people very joyous and proud of themselves, and they should be proud of themselves for they have won not just money and publication, but an audience which let’s face it, is the ultimate dream goal of any writer.
In case you haven’t seen the shortlist yet, here they are in alphabetical order:
- Bachas Magic – Claire Gaudry (UK)
- Bucket Seat List – Elizabeth Willett (USA)
- Carpè Diem – Megan Euston-Brown (SA)
- Nana Mac – Kyle Walsh (USA)
- Reminders – Christina Held (USA)
- The Name That Fits – Laura Besley (UK)
- The Sweetest of Days – Julie Meier (CAN)
- Time For Goodbye – Laura Tapper (UK)
- Undercover Superpower – Completely Boofyblitzed (RUSS)
- Winding Back The Clock -Alyson Hilbourne (UK)
Once again congratulations to all our shortlisted stories and their writers, but what you really want to know is ‘who won’ right? Once again it was a difficult choice and choosing winners is not always about the obvious best story, sometimes it’s about what has an impact on us, what touches our soul or our imagination, and that’s why we chose the stories we chose.
So congratulations to our 3 winners of Round 2 of the Mum Life Stories, Micro Fiction Writing Competition, themed ‘GrandMother’.
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All three winners receive a cash prize and publication on the blog as well as in a printed anthology, to be published at the end of 2020.
‘Bacha’s Magic’ by Claire Gaudry of the United Kingdom
What we liked: We loved that this story was about an out-of-the-ordinary Grandmother but with those lovely warm fuzzy feels we’d all like to remember our Grans with. The story was more sensory than most, with sights and aromas that invite you in and make you feel welcome.
Bio: Claire Gaudry is a Mum and a writer. Originally from France, she lives in Hampshire, UK with her family. She has always been curious, whether as a postdoctoral Life Sciences researcher or later-on as a coach/personal development trainer. When she hit 39, she was overworked, single and fed-up of running around in circles. She turned her life around, asking one single question ‘what if I truly connect with the Power of Love?’ As a result, she met her soulmate Phil and with the arrival of their two children, she could finally hear her heart’s calling and she started writing. Her stories have won and been highly commended in local competitions. She is currently preparing a collection of short stories ‘A Rendez-Vous with Love’ and regularly blogs on http://www.clairegaudry.com
Authors Statement: ‘Bacha’s Magic’ was written by connecting to my personal power statement on Love and the memory of my grandmother. My grandmother adored nature and gardening. I spent many childhood hours, watering, weeding, pruning with her. We never spoke much, but her love and presence made me who I am today.
Why do I write? Because I love writing, I love playing with words, I love the learning and exploring storytelling demands. Above all, I love the intimate space of discovery writing provides.
I drop my school bag under the hook where Bacha’s black hooded poncho hangs. It falls knocking one of her wellies onto the tiled floor, just missing the old straw broom she keeps in the corner. I step further into the old stone cottage, welcomed by a hearty aroma. ‘Bacha, where are you?’
She taps my shoulder. ‘Right here.’
She always appears out of nowhere. She is wearing her purple long-sleeve dress. Her grey curls are in a loose bunch, held up with a twig she carefully selected in the forest and carved herself. She’s promised to make me one when my hair is long enough. Another three months, maybe four.
‘Happy Birthday, Petal’ she says, licking a wooden spoon. She walks to the cast iron pot hanging over the flames, sniffs the scented steam and sits on her hand-made stool looking satisfied.
My birthday is a Wednesday this year. Mother works late on Wednesdays. When school ends, I rush through the woods to Bacha’s, for the night.
‘Off to the tree-hugging witch, are you?’
‘Won’t miss you if you end up in the stew!’
I hear all sorts. Bacha isn’t much liked in the village.
I don’t care. My grandma’s special. I know she is.
‘Come closer, Petal.’
Like every Wednesday, we sit together, watching the flames, barely speaking.
‘What have you made, Bacha?’
‘Mushroom and bark soup. Picked them at dawn. Lay the table, Petal. This is soon ready.’
We sit at the oak table and tuck in a delicious bowl of food.
‘Bacha, why doesn’t Mother cook like this?’
‘Even little, your mother was never interested. Now, eat up.’
Not surprising, Mother is so strict and boring.
After washing up, I join Pickles, her cat, on the rug by the fire. ‘Bacha, will you read me one of your stories?’
‘I was hoping you’d ask’. Bacha picks the large volume from the mantel shelf and sits in the chair behind me. I shuffle back to rest against the warmth of her legs.
There is only one book at Bacha’s and it never seems to run out of stories.
‘Petal, it’s time for you to read to me.’
I turn around, nervous at the proposed change of routine.
‘You’re thirteen, Petal. It’s time. When your mum turned thirteen, she had her chance.’
I extend a shaky hand. I rub the leather’s folds at length, as if to connect with the spirit of the book.
Without my control, my hand eventually reaches across the cover to pull it open. The pages are yellowed, their edges smoothed by the years. The double spread is blank.
‘No! Please, no! I don’t want to be like Mother.’
Bacha touches my forearm ‘Patience, Petal.’
My breath deepens as blue and gold mist pours onto the page, painting a starry sky across the fold. Carefully crafted letters form, one at a time. I read out loud: ‘Love… is… Our… True… Power.’
Bacha is smiling ‘Welcome to my world, Petal.’
‘Time For Goodbye’ by Laura Tapper of the United Kingdom
What we liked: A sweet story about love and family. We liked the genuine conflict that arose and set the contrast between love and abuse, with her GrandMother, a somewhat silent character in the story, being the catalyst of the granddaughters choice to let go of that which was not representative of love, love that her GrandMother had demonstrated to her. We also found it intriguing that the story broke the expectations set up by the title.
Bio: Laura’s interest in creative writing began in childhood. In common with so many girls, she read books like ‘Little Women’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and knew that there were two things in the world that she really wanted to be: a teacher and a writer. Through dedication and hard work, she has been fortunate enough to become both, thanks in no small part, to the study opportunities afforded her by The Open University. As a woman with a disability, and a survivor of domestic violence, she would not have been able to achieve these things without more flexible access to higher education.
Authors Statement: The story ‘Time for Goodbye’ is, in no respects, autobiographical. However, I grew up with a very close relationship with my grandma, who was a wonderfully loving, caring woman, and that was the inspiration behind my story. I write feelgood short fiction for women’s magazines and am proud of the role those happy-ever-after stories have in women’s lives, so it was important to me that a romance book would feature in this very different sort of story which, nevertheless, has a hopeful ending. Our fingers are crossed for Sarah to have a better future.
“Josephine watched as he rode away from her across the moorland, taking her heart with him. She sighed. In her heart, she knew that the time had come to say goodbye.”
Sarah closed the book and laid it gently on the bedside table. She picked up the wooden picture frame and ran her hand lightly across the cool glass, as she had watched Grandma do countless times, although there was never any dust. The image made her smile: two young people full of bright-eyed excitement standing in the arched doorway of a country church. Eight months later, that joy would be shattered by an accident, leaving the young girl pregnant and alone. Sarah replaced the picture. She reached out and stroked a stray grey curl from the old lady’s forehead, all wrinkles relaxed in sleep.
For as long as Sarah could remember, Grandma had read soppy historical romances; immersed herself in them, delighted in them and believed in them. Perhaps it had been easier for her to hold on to what might have been, rather than to risk something new. With all the dashing heroes in the stories, she hadn’t needed to seek out another of her own. Or maybe real love can genuinely last a lifetime.
Sarah’s mother’s experiences in life couldn’t have provided more effective contrast. After a childhood starved of male attention, she gorged herself on it as an adult. Drifting from place to place and relationship to relationship, her accidental daughter was a frustrating encumbrance. It might be fun to play Mum at Christmas time and on occasional summer holidays but, for the other tedious parts of her upbringing, Sarah had been left with her grandma, who had been only too happy to lavish love on a child all over again.
After the stroke, Sarah wanted to take the opportunity to repay all that her grandma had done for her. Though she hated the fact that strangers came in to do the washing and feeding, apparently there was no way she could take on the role of carer, no matter how desperately she wanted to. One thing she was determined to do, though, was to repay all the bedtime stories Grandma had read to her. It was a privilege, but Gavin didn’t see it that way. Her throat tightened and her eyes stung.
“What are you wasting your time on her for? It’s not like she even knows who you are!” he’d shouted. The bone china cups had rattled in their saucers as he slammed out to the pub an hour ago.
“But I know who she is. I can do her remembering for her.” She wiped the tears from her cheek and winced slightly – she could feel the swelling and knew the colours would be developing. Now she jumped, as the phone rang.
“Are you coming or what?”
She looked from Grandma to the faded photograph. All the doors were locked.
“No Gavin – from now on, I’ll be staying right here.”
‘Undercover Superpower‘ by Completely Boofyblitzed of The Russian Federation
What we liked: What could be better than a superhero in disguise story? We loved how relatable this was. The writer retells a nostalgic story of her childhood impression of her grandmother and how her perspective changed with maturity. We loved how drawn we were to characters and how intriguing they were.
Bio: Completely Boofyblitzed (Pen name) is a 23-year-old computational linguist whose job is natural language processing, writing is a hobby.
Author’s Statement: I write out of the overflow of my emotions and the inability to share something this personal with people I know, which is also the reason I’ve written so little.
When I was a child, I often used to think that my grandmother was pretending to be deaf. That way she could know all the secrets, I thought. That way no one asked too many questions or bothered more than was necessary. What a smart move, I thought. Or might have been.
I would throw tests at her once in a while, yelling from the other room for her to save me from something – fire, robbers, saying witty jokes right in front of her and waiting for her reaction, but she never came to save me and she never laughed. Not a blink. Not a rustle, but I kept holding on to the thought that she was just deeply undercover.
Once my mother left granny to watch me play the piano – my daily lessons which I hated. I was pretending to play my etudes, for the whole hour she watched me. She was suspicious. So was I.
She had a brother and a sister. They would often rejoice over something together, sometimes sharing it with the whole family. Granny saw this and wanted to participate too, but who had time to explain everything to her in sign language when all they wanted to do was to jump and shout for joy. They would wave their hands at her assuring her that nothing was the matter, that she should never mind, but of course, she knew something mattered and she did mind. She was deaf, not blind.
Granny was more perceptive in the case of non-vocal expressions and retrieved from them all the extra information she could use when interacting with people. It was like the echolocation for bats. It was her superpower. The moment when I finally let go of my suspicions was the moment I noticed she could see more than any hearing person. One look at me and she knew I was down, that I needed to be talked to or stopped to be bothered. She could always tell when I was lying, even if I was talking to someone else. She could disbelieve my words but she always believed my face. She taught me to watch, but I didn’t like what I saw. Because this was also a curse.
Oh, how many times she was laughed at. How many times she was not taken seriously by people on the streets and how many times she could do nothing about it but accept. Every time my mother tells me of such stories I just wish I could have been there, wish I could have shown them all, wish I could have fought with the power of the pain it gave me, wish she had been undercover.
If you missed out on placing in this round, never fear, there will be another round beginning shortly. The theme this time will be ‘Single Mother’. I’m sure there are lots of fascinating stories just waiting to be told about this topic so I am anticipating lots of entries and no need for extending deadlines…here’s hoping!
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