Thank you to everyone who entered our 5th round of the Micro Fiction Writing Competition. The entries this month were all outstanding, so picking just 10 for the short-list was a challenge to say the least, and picking just 3 winners was a little agonising. I’d love to make everyone a winner but alas, it wouldn’t be a competition then, would it? Congratulations once again to all our shortlisted stories this month. If you missed the previous post containing the shortlist, you can find it HERE or just see the list below.
As a quick reminder however, here are our 10 shortlisted stories for round 5 of our micro-fiction writing competition.
- Born on The Wrong Side of the BedSheet – LAURA BESLEY, Great Britain
- Grey-Grey-Ma’s Toes – MFC FEELEY, United States
- How to Become a Great Grandmother by the Time You are 50 in 10 Easy Steps – MICHELLE CHRISTOPHOROU, Great Britain
- Joint Effort – TZE CHUA, Singapore
- Sweetheart Divinity – MYNA CHANG, United States
- The Landscape of Hands – DETTRA ROSE, Australia
- The Long and Short of It – BETT WILLET, United States
- The Skeleton on Top of the Wardrobe – ALISON HILBOURNE, Great Britain
- The Visit – LAURA TAPPER, Great Britain
- You May Decide to Ride Elephants – NICOLA DAVISON, United Kingdom
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And here they are, our 3 winners. Congratulations to you all, you should be very proud!
1ST PLACE ($50 prize, printed copy of anthology + a digital copy)
‘Grey-Grey-Ma’s Toes’ by MFC Feeley, United States.
What we liked: This was such an enjoyable, engaging narrative, with a good sense of place and realism. The joy and innocence of the relationship between granddaughter and grandmother was beautifully captured and an attractive main character (a logical and honest child) is always welcome in a story.
Bio: MFC Feeley lives in Tuxedo, NY. She wrote a series of ten stories inspired by the Bill of Rights for Ghost Parachute and has published in Best Microfictions 2020, SmokeLong, Jellyfish Review, Brevity Blog, Liar’s League, and others. She has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist, and has judged for Mash Stories and Scholastic.
You can find more of her writing at MFC Feeley/Facebook and on Twitter MFC Feeley @FeeleyMfc
Author’s Statement: Because I never knew mine, grandmothers always seem magical to me; I watched my friends’ grandmothers closely. I started this story with the image of a maroon vinyl rose on an old lady’s foot. My first drafts received polite rejections, but I maintained affection for the piece. Weeks later, I noticed a lot of fragrances, so I drummed up the aromas and the theme of Bonnie’s jealousy for her older sister—a theme I’ve used before, although I only have brothers! I realized that the grandmother should be older, a Grey-grey-ma, because even though she can barely walk, her toes keeps dancing. That is magical. I am thrilled that Grey-grey-ma’s Toes has found a home at Mum Life Stories. Thank you.
The pew smelled of polyurethane and Lemon Pledge. Grey-grey-ma, smelled of Ben Gay and lavender. Bonnie knelt. Grey-grey-ma got to stay sitting because of her back.
Bonnie’s sister, Constance sat behind the altar, off to the side, with the choir. Bonnie could see her by leaning over to the right. Light from the long tapered candles played on her hair. Bonnie waved her steepled fingers discreetly. Mom hissed. Constance didn’t look up, but Bonnie felt her smirk.
Constance devoted so much time to curling her hair she’d missed pancakes and maple syrup only to twirl the kitchen in a stench whirlwind of hairspray, and ask if it looked natural. Because Bonnie, a logical and honest child, observed that only a congregation of stupid heads could mistake Constance’s curls for natural after watching Constance grow up as a straight-head for her whole entire life. Bonnie now sat wedged between Grey-grey-ma and Mom, instead of in her usual spot at the end of the pew, where Grey-grey-ma could sneak Bonnie candy under the auspices of giving Mom a little break.
It was time to stand, but Bonnie got to stay seated and hold the book while Grey-grey-ma found the page and then they bent their heads together as if Bonnie could read already, because Grey-grey-ma knew that was how it happened: one day—boom! —Bonnie would a reader. Already, Bonnie had most of the words memorized. Besides, she and Grey-grey-ma were the only ones who prayed with feeling; everyone else acted like they were reading a grocery list and surely that was more offensive to God than waving. “Doesn’t she look beautiful?” whispered Grey-grey-ma, breaking the rule about no talking, except Grey-grey-ma was old, which made it OK, and she was deaf, which made her whisper really loud, which made it funny.
Grey-grey-ma clapped the prayer book shut and Bonnie tucked it behind the rail in front of them. Bonnie slid her butt all the way back in the wooden bench; drone-drone-drone went the preacher; Bonnie distracted herself by swinging her feet like she was dancing on air. It didn’t make one single noise. Still, Mom squinted a warning. Then Grey-grey-ma danced her shoes in the air too. Grey-grey-ma’s shoes had vinyl roses on the toes. Connie watched them. She’d wear them around the living room when they went home and maybe even get them as a present.
Meanwhile, Constance’s hair was already falling straight.
2ND PLACE ($20 prize + digital copy of anthology)
‘The Landscape of Hands’ by Dettra Rose, Australia
What we liked: A story about stories that is wonderfully descriptive with thrilling turns of phrase. It’s warm, nostalgic and invites us into the story, leaving us wanting to know more.
Bio: Dettra Rose writes flash fiction, creative non-fiction and tiny poems. She wrote her first flash fiction in 2018 and won the Australian Writers’ Centre inaugural Furious Fiction competition. Since then she has developed a serious addiction to flash. Dettra’s pieces have won and been shortlisted/longlisted in a number of esteemed competitions, including: Bath Flash Fiction Award, Reflex Fiction Flash Competition, Retreat West’s Micro Fiction and TSS Publishing Flash 400. Dettra is also working on her first novel.
A born-and-bred Londoner she now lives in Australia and calls both places home.
Dettra lives with her non-verbal partner, a handsome cat and a bossy dog. Say hello at Dettrarose.com or on twitter @dettrarose or Facebook @Dettra Rose
Author Statement: My story was inspired by the theme of great-grandmother. I wanted to convey her with wisdom and insight and one foot in the old ways. I liked the juxtaposition of her not being
able to read words, but able to read people. I wanted something intimate and personal, passed on through the maternal line. As I wrote, I played with the great-grandmother reading tea leaves or cards, but chose hands because of touch and connection. I raced to write ‘The Landscape of Hands’ just hours before the deadline. Pressure like that usually crushes my storytelling but this time, happily, it didn’t.
I’ve always loved words. I’m fascinated by how they can connect or disconnect us. Themes I
enjoy exploring include: Communication and its breakdown, Love – what burns it out and refuels it and, Endings and beginnings.
My stories often have hope in them. Redemption is important to me. I like the small tender
moments that are ordinary yet extraordinary. Inspiration comes in many different ways,
often through listening to people. I write to connect. I write because if I don’t, I get cranky! Like most authors, I’m juggling my life to make time to write but don’t always succeed. Four years ago, my partner had a major stroke. He was youngish, fit and healthy. He lost all his language, both written and spoken. He’s become almost independent again, but still has very little vocabulary. It’s given me an even deeper appreciation of words.
The Landscape of Hands
Mum’s hand was around mine as great-grandmother Kettie opened the front door. Her skin had blotches like coffee stains. Her eyes were blue as denim.
Her boxy flat was cluttered with dark furniture. On the table, orange roses with wide-open faces.
She made tea in a dented silver pot and I sat on Mum’s lap. They gave me an old doll to play with; she had human hair and a puffy white dress.
We drank Russian Caravan tea and Kettie took Mum’s tight hand and unfolded it like a precious letter. She couldn’t read stories on a page, just in people’s palms.
They talked about my father in whispers, but I understood. They hush-hushed about me. I understood that, too. Kettie looked at my hands. Pressed my thumbs and fingertips. Her touch made me goosebumpy.
Then we shelled fresh peas and shared them with magpies.
That’s my only memory of meeting great-grandmother, Kettie.
I saw her again in sepia photos. She was swimming in a giant coat huddled into her father on a train platform. Two suitcases on the ground, too small to carry their lives in. They shouted refugee. I studied her hands in old pictures. Often, they were close. Holding each other like lovers. I wanted to touch them. Turn them.
When Mum plucked mine from my sides and showed me my heartline, union lines, travel line, fate line – the stars, crosses and rings – I felt kettie in my skin. We studied our palms many times, as some do night skies.
I only met Kettie once, but I know her in the stories I can tell you about your palms. Your fingertips and wrists. In the spaces between your ring and index fingers. In the landscape and constellations of your lines.
My great-grandmother said hands are stories rarely told properly. My grandmother and mother learned those stories. Now like precious heirlooms, they’ve become mine.
3RD PLACE ($20 prize + digital copy of anthology)
‘Born on the Wrong Side of the Bedsheet‘ by Laura Besley, Great Britain
What we liked: A well-balanced, satisfying story that is relatable and inspirational. The great-grandmother’s personality is so skilfully revealed through small, relatable details: an ‘ironed teatowel’, measured dish liquid, etc. The ‘you are good enough’ moral sits nicely with our purpose at MLS, to see women confident in their identity.
Bio: Laura Besley is a full-time mum to two young boys and squeezes her writing time into the bookends of her day. She has recently been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers with her story ‘On Repeat’ (Reflex Fiction). Having lived in Holland, Germany and Hong Kong, she now lives in landlocked central England and misses the sea. Her flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, was published in March 2020.
She tweets @laurabesley
Author’s statement: My inspiration for ‘Born on the Wrong Side of the Bed Sheet’ came from a friend who used this phrase about her own great-grandmother last summer. When the theme of great-grandmother came up, I knew immediately that I would use that phrase for my title. Having a title before writing the story is very rare for me. As I was drafting it, I thought about the relationship that the two women might have and how it might be bridged in a single conversation. You’re never able to predict whether a story will do well in a competition, but I secretly had high hopes for this one, just because I loved it so much, and am thrilled that it’s won third place!
Born on the Wrong Side of the Bedsheet
‘Eliza, come,’ my great-grandmother says. ‘You can dry.’ Despite her age, she still insists on doing her own washing up.
I look at my mother, then my grandmother, pleading at them with my eyes to do or say something, knowing they won’t. Everyone is scared of “Big Grandma” (not that she knows we call her that). We’ve been sipping coffee and eating chocolate cake in honour of her 90th birthday while making stop-start conversations in the dark sitting room.
‘Here,’ she hands me an ironed tea towel and starts running the water, using a teaspoon to measure the washing up liquid. She looks out into her garden and starts washing the Royal Albert violet-patterned teacups.
I reach for one and she says, ‘No, leave them for a few minutes otherwise the tea towel will get too wet.’
‘Okay,’ I say.
‘Tell me, Eliza, does this baby of yours have a father?’
I knew it. I knew this was coming all afternoon. Even my maxi dress can’t hide my expanding stomach. ‘That’s usually how it goes.’
‘Don’t get smart with me, young lady.’
‘Sorry.’ And I am, for so many things, nothing I can tell her though.
‘Does he know?’
I nod. ‘He’s not interested. Said he’s too young to be a father.’
‘How old is he?’
‘Same age as me. 21,’ I add, in case she’s forgotten.
‘You can start drying now,’ she says.
‘Did I ever tell you that I was born on the wrong side of the bedsheet?’
I stop and look at her. She’s still washing, looking out the window.
‘No,’ I say.
‘That’s what it was called in those days. My mother was a servant in a big house and was forced out once her condition became known to the Housekeeper.’
‘Did she go back home?’ I ask.
‘Goodness, no. She wouldn’t have been welcome. No, she took a room above a pub and worked there as a cleaner and barmaid.’
‘I grew up in a room above a pub. Never knew any different. One day, though, I was playing out the front and a man got out of a car – remember how rare it was for someone to have an automobile in those days – and asked my name. “Emmeline,” I said. He handed me a gold coin and said, “You’re as beautiful as your mother. Always be good, Emmeline, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.”’ My great-grandmother sighs. ‘I didn’t tell anyone at the time, it felt exciting to have a secret. However, later, when I told my mother, she suspected it was my father, but still wouldn’t reveal his name.’
‘Did you ever see him again?’ I ask, looking down at an almost-dry teacup.
‘No.’ She snaps the washing up gloves off and turns to face me. ‘Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you or your baby isn’t good enough. Promise me.’
‘Now, finish that drying up; it won’t do itself.’
If you missed out on placing in this round, never fear, there is another round beginning within the next couple of weeks. The theme this time will be ‘Foster Mother’. As the last official round, I am anticipating lots of entries and no need for extending deadlines…here’s hoping!
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