31 Oct 2016

Sheffield Short Story Competition

Back in September a friend shared a writing competition on social media.  I don’t generally write short stories – as the wonderful Berlie Doherty (one of the judges) said on the award evening, they’re a very specific skill and not one I’m interested in developing further at the moment – but it was an intriguing brief.  You could choose from 5 different opening lines and the story needed to be 1,000 words, set in Sheffield or have a Sheffield theme.

I mused over those specifications for a few days to see if any stories presented themselves to me.  One started to form, but it seemed too big an idea for 1,000 words.  Nevertheless I decided to give it a go and see if I could make it fit within the word count.

It did, I entered, was long-listed (one of 12) and attended a very fun award evening at a local cafe where I discovered I’d been short-listed (one of 6) and had to read out my story.  It was the first time I’ve ever read my work out in public and it was a bizarre experience.  Thankfully I was fourth to read – my heart pounded like it was trying to escape my ribcage during the first person’s story, but the second person’s story was so lovely and funny that it took my mind off it and helped me calm down!  (“Santa Calling” can be found here)

When my name was called out, obviously I was chuffed to be shortlisted, but also concerned because my lips kept sticking together.  What made me most nervous though is that I hadn’t ever, in all my practices at home, managed to read the story without getting teary!  There’s not much that’s more embarrassing than a performer being emotionally affected by something that the audience aren’t feeling 🙂

I think I did alright – I just focused on the words and lost myself in the story.  Occasionally I would suddenly notice humans in my peripheral vision around the edge of the sheet of paper and it would strike me that there were people in the room actually listening and having some sort of reaction to my work.  Too mind-boggling to contemplate then!  Still bizarre to think about now.

I didn’t cry, I was Highly Commended for which I got a gorgeous leather notebook, and I met other Sheffield authors, some of whom I’m now connected with online and will hopefully be meeting up with from time to time for cake and coffee!  All in all, a great competition and event and one which I would take part in again without hesitation.

You’ll find my entry – Time Slip – here.  One day I will write something that isn’t sci-fi/fantasy!


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Steve says:

Thanks for posting this, Mel. I love your story: a real skill to get so much over in just 1000 words. Very moving and leaves you thinking which is just what it should do.

Mel says:

Thank you Steve! I so enjoyed writing “Time Slip” and setting it in Sheffield was huge fun. Thanks for running the competition!

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