In mini- competition 5: Summer in…

There was a huge range of writing and several pieces vying for first place. We had a hard time trying to place the top four in any order – so hard that in the end we decided we’d publish all four in the next anthology (The Book of Euclid) Congratulations to Melissa Lee Houghton (Summer Decay), Joe Smith (Summer in South Africa), Rosalind Hudis (Summer in Powys) and Geraldine Clarkson (Our Dancing Day) whose pieces will be included in the spring anthology next year.

Congratulations also to very close runners-up: Lydia Harris (The Avon at Alveston Nearly Forms an Ox-bow Lake); Emily Greene (Summer in Rainy city (Flying Ant Day)) and Bonnie Thurston (Memory) whose work will appear on the website.

Several other pieces should also be highly commended – those by Graeme Buchanan, Jessica Wright, JoAnne Bauer, Tracey Iceton, Gina Challen, Judy Dinnen, Helen McWilliams, Rena Rossner, Jessica Kennerson, Polly Young, Gregory Bott and Kate Myers.

Joint First – 4 entries:

Mini- competition 4:

This competition attracted a huge postbag and some very inventive letters – everything from towel rails to letters from the end of the world featured with plenty in between.  Whilst the content was nearly always engaging some of it suffered from not reading like a letter – if you want a fantastic example read Harrison Solow’sFelicity and Barbara Pym available in the non fiction section of the Cinnamon Press website. The use of long passages of direct speech or overly formal language in otherwise domestic situations often got in the way of creating the illusion of one side of a written conversation in many of the entries. Another thing to watch out for is cliché – if the language isn’t fresh the reader won’t remain hooked. And, of course, with a letter, the voice is essential – a twelve year old has sound twelve – as Samantha Woodward’s twelve-year-old Annie, writing to a ghost she wants to befriend, did.

The voice of Max Hawker’s care home manager to a son whose mother was being thrown out for unruly behaviour was beautifully handled, slightly stiff and pompous in her defensiveness, but inadvertently hilarious, as well as tragic as it dawns on the reader that the mother’s ‘bad’ behaviour is not ornery but a degenerative condition. Hazel Carlstein’s letter writer has a more wistful voice as the letter that is too late to reach its recipient unfolds its narrative whilst the voice of Lucy Hume’s ‘Coincidence’ writes to ‘Fate’ in wonderfully parodied legalese. Michele Wardall paints a comic picture in her letter from what should be a picture postcard beach, but is anything but in as a hurricane descends and Wendy French writes a letter that meanders between associations, echoing the theme of memory that is both powerful and fragile for her correspondent. Tiffany Haggith’s letter writer uses the form to utter a great existential cry that remains controlled and true and Tiffany’s mini-biography was equally well-written – perhaps we should have amini-biography writing competition? J

There were many letters that didn’t quite make it to  the commended list, but contained a great deal of good writing – inevitably we had to make hard decisions and the competition was so good that there were also  several letters that they might easily have been outright winners in a less competitive field. Helen Holmes’s ex-wife writing a letter of condolence to the new wife is dark and funny and beautifully controlled, while Gabriel Griffin’s letter from ‘AM’ to Samuel Butler conjures not only an exquisite sense of place, but also of melancholy yearning, lightly done. Tracey Iceton’s ‘Letter to Long Kesh’ not only evokes the voice of child in a perfectly pitched accent, but also tells a story as much between the lines as in them.

Once again we chose two first place winners, two very different, but accomplished pieces of writing.

Robin Lindsay Wilson’s ‘Letter to Neil’ is written as a poem with a rhythm that has liturgical force and a voice that sings off the page. The pulse of the poem is as insistent as the crafted language and the combination makes this emotionally affective without any cloying sentiment. Tricia Durdey’s letter from ‘Hedda’, sent from ‘Leliegracht, June 2nd 1943’ is a wonderful example of how powerful the epistolary form can be. The voice is authentic and the threat is subtle and layered, building to an almost unbearable pitch that is all the more powerful for what is not said. My temperature dropped as I read it and I was there, feeling the fear.

Thanks for well written, intriguing letters from: Miki Byrne, Hazel Carlstein, Anthony Costello, Wendy French, Rob Gemmell, Tiffany Haggith, Max Hawker, Lucy Hume, Julie Maclean, Kate Myers, Heather Price, Michele Wardall & Samantha Woodward.

And special thanks for superb reads that appear below from Gabriel Griffin, Helen Holmes & Tracey Iceton

And congratulations to the winners whose work appears below and will be included in the April 2013 anthology.

  • Tricia Durdey
  • Robin Lindsay Wilson

Runners up:

Winners