I entered a short-story competition and…

c/o Foxtongue on Flickr

c/o Foxtongue on Flickr

And? Won? Lost? Read on! On December 17 I posted that a short-story I had published in August of last year on this blog titled ‘Coming Up’ was ineligible for entry in a writing competition because of its publication on this blog.

I then tried to make it disappear by making it private and hoping that Google would not be able to find it. But it has not been able to escape Google’s gaze even if clicking on the link takes the searcher to an empty page, this is still a trace that this story was previously published here!

But then it did not matter anyway because I discovered another site hosting a writing competition that did not mind, give two hoots and what have you, that a story had prior publication, at least online, print media was still not allowed.

Them being the Writer’s Village based in Leighton Buzzard, England. No significance to Leighton Buzzard rather some place names are just worth sharing! And indeed wherever you happen to be in the world this competition is open to you.

Writers' Village Web Page Banner

Their prize went by the name of ‘Best Writing Award Winter 2012’ and so I entered it.

It was the first writing competitoin I had ever entered.

Their remit was broad and to quote the site:

Any form of short story may be submitted up to 3000 words and in any genre (eg. mystery, romance, fantasy, crime, science fiction, children’s, etc).

Closing date was 31 December 2012 and having already a story complete it was just a matter of ensuring it was presented in the manner they required.

Entries were by Email and win or lose you would be notified of this by Email too. You would be so notified because all stories were guaranteed a critique from the judges. Another selling point to me – whatever the outcome we would not be ignored.

Having Emailed my story then came the twilight period of wishing and hoping and doubting and…trying as much as possible to forget the whole thing until that Email shows up in your Inbox. Of which we were promised this would be late January.

And Monday January 21 proved to be that day.

At the sight of this Email my body involuntarily braced!

And recoiled further when I saw I had been scored a 3 on one of the categories ‘Professionalism of Presentation’. I looked away, instantly forlorn. On casting my eyes back I then noticed this three was out of three and a sigh of relief followed!

There were five other categories and I scored as follows:

‘Unity of story form, incl. closure’ 6/8.  And that was my lowest category score. Looking good for my story?

The category allocated the most points was ‘Overall power to engage the reader, incl. use of conflict’ of which I scored 8/10.

For ‘Appeal of first paragraph(s)’ 7/8.

For “Originality of  story concept’ 9/10 – oh yeah!

And finally for ‘Aptness of language to story-line’ 6/6 giving me a total score of 39 out of 45. Enough to win?

The written conclusion they gave was:

A delicious satire on the vacuity of television shows, populist reviews and fatuous publishers! (Or is it a subtle lampoon of a political manifesto?).

So of course I won?!

They ended by saying:

You have an impressive gift for fiction writing and your work shows great competence. Merely address a few points of detail and you will be well placed to win a worthwhile award next time.

So no I did not!

The main point of negative criticism was that perhaps the story went on a bit. This I was aware of because this was my intention – I was making a meta-pont – no really! – that just as these TV product-touting shows can go on without end so my story! I Emailed this back to the judge who said he got that point but still thought I could have shortened my short story! He reiterated his praise though saying that ‘he thoroughly enjoyed it’.

All very pleasing and encouraging. Or perhaps not.

This particular competion also had a second cash prize. And further cash payouts for five shortlsited entrants. And yet further five highly commended entrants get a free entry in the next prize.

So with all the praise of my story I was still bested by another 12 stories.

I know that prizes have a lottery element. Consider a competition which attracts a low entry of one-hundred stories with just one prize. Your story has to be deemed in the top 1% to get that prize and 99% of you will get nothing!

And leave aside the subjectivitiy of the judges.

I am not discouraged though. I will enter further competitions and may submit Coming Up again. (I today made it public again, it may go private again but for now at least…!)

Indeed today I am finishing up a flash-fiction story of up to just 100 words for a Reader’s Digest competition with a £1000 cash prize. £10 per word! And this one is free to enter! But only open to residents of the UK.

Readers' Digest 100 Word Story

But in the future I will focus more on submitting my work to journals than entering competitions. Getting published in a journal is still a lottery but with better odds if smaller prize!

Oh and just to show how magnaminous I am, I provide a link to the winning story of the Writers’ Village ‘Best Writing’ Award, Winter 2012 Writing Competition.

It was titled  The Ghosties and written by Ellie Stewart. I enjoyed it very much.

Exclusive: The Mad Gardener’s Song, new verses

Well I never.

Upon a walk in January I looked over by a loch, and saw peeking from a rock, these titled verses do not mock, my weary eyes did flock. Preserved a million or more tick-tock, in an oak box upon them I knock-knock. Its wood gave up the ghost and its contents I did clock, I swear upon the dock.

But here is the thing, there were seven additional stanzas not detailed in any extant publication.

I did consider I would make myself a small fortune and auction them off to the highest bidding Lewis Carroll aficionado but there was all a bother of authenticity and provenance and all that argy-bargy rigmarole. Not enough just to take my word for it apparently.

So I thought I would share with the world and make not a penny from my find. That’s the kind of person I am.

The established version of The Mad Gardener’s Song starts with this stanza

He thought he saw an Elephant
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
‘At length I realize,’ he said,
‘The bitterness of Life!’

If you are not familiar or just want to remind yourself of it then the rest is here.

And now without any further fanfare or ado are the extra verses in the sequence of which I faithfully recorded them. Marvel too at the technological propheticness of one stanza.


He thought he saw a racing horse

Distracted with a pipe.

He looked again and found it was

A gurning butler’s gripe.

‘At length I realize’ he said,

‘The fitfulness of Skype’.


He thought he saw a magistrate

Bewildered by a goose.

He looked again and found it was

A spinster on the loose.

‘It really must be said’ he said,

‘That really is obtuse’.


He thought he saw a carpenter

A louche giraffe rebuke.

He looked again and found it was

A lone reclusive Duke.

‘Well I never’ he softly said,

‘He’s come out from his nook.’


He thought he saw a mannequin

A customer offend.

He looked again and found it was

A sermon without end.

‘It really ought to stop’ he said,

‘My ways I will not mend’.


He thought he saw a publican

A bath of tea did soak.

He looked again and found it was

A man expelled from Stoke.*

‘It is true what they say’ he said,

‘There’s nowt as queer as folk’.


He thought he saw a Débutante

Practising long her sigh.

He looked again and found it was

A trampolining spy.

‘To make some sense of this’ he said,

”I guess he thinks he’s sly’.


He thought he saw a Naturist

Defiant on the moon.

He looked again and found it was

A yodelling baboon.

‘The way now of the world’ he said,

‘This life is out of tune’.


* Here the writing of ‘from’ was difficult to read and it might have read ‘to’ – ‘A man expelled to Stoke’ is equally plausible.

Lewis Carroll was wont to travel widely around the world and even greater wont to leave and lose pages of his work as he went. He never talked about it as as well as causing him great anguish it caused him great embarrassment too. But this does mean you yourselves may find the odd stanza of his floating around your neighbourhood including surprisingly likely verses from this poem.

If you do then please share in the comments below. Such a venture will help bring his long, long work together, and comprehensively this compendium compile.


2.4.2013 – Poem without blog content published to Wattpad.

Aunts and Uncles

On New Years Day one of my Aunts died. Or passed away as it is more usually softly called.

My relationship with this Aunt was not close. In latter years I would never visit, at most send her and her husband (my mother’s brother) a Christmas Card. We did live hundreds of miles apart but this was not the reason for the distance between us. This description could apply to nearly all my aunts and uncles, whatever the geographical space separating us.

I do have fondness towards my aunts and uncles. But ‘fondness’ though a warm word is not as warm as ‘affection’ let alone ‘love’.

I have nieces and nephews myself whom I love and love spending time with. I did not get much nephew time with my own aunts and uncles. And wonder why.

Most of my aunts and uncles have children of their own and I do not. Perhaps then this is why I am able to spend more uncle-time as I have no father-time with sons and daughters to consume my love, time, energy, affection.

But I have an aunt and uncle who do not have children and did not spend too much time with them either.

The distance between us may be related to the geographical miles between us. Certainly with social media, and Facebook in particular, I am able to keep in a more constant contact with my nieces and nephews than if we did not have this access – I live in Scotland and have one set of nieces and nephews in London England and another on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Had their been social media in the decades I was born and schooled in (the 1960’s and 1970’s) perhaps this would have held those avuncular and – what is the equivalent for aunt?! – bonds together.

But if I think about it the most likely reason for our emotional distance are the relationships between those aunts and uncles and my own mother and father. Their own sibling rivalries which ebbed and flowed over the years. Nevermind the added in-law dimension.

As children our adult relationships are naturally siphoned and routed through our parents. And so if they are not getting along with one of their own adult relatives then quite likely we children are not going to be allowed to get along with those adult relatives either.

Husbands and wives can get divorced. Brothers and sisters as adults are not so required but in all but name and legal statute they can be too.

I opened by noting that I was out of the habit in recent years of visiting my aunts and uncles. Sadly there is one event that remains a notable exception that will always bring most of us together again. A funeral.

And with age they occur more often. They become less shocking and grievous and more resigned to and contemplative. And we resume our conversations with each other. Some polite small talk, even more nostalgia and sometimes we go deeper too. We usually end by promising to keep in touch. And then we don’t….until the next funeral.

I close with a photograph featuring my recently departed aunt (we are at our most euphemistic with death – the one area we are perhaps even more euphemistic about is a bit of what you fancy?!). The photograph is the wedding of another of my aunts and uncles but one of the few I possess with her in. It is the after-reception you are seeing.

Family Wedding photoMy mum’s parents are in there and so is my mum but I am not telling you which. You are free to guess! My dad is in there too but has stood behind someone taller and only the hair of his head can be seen. I don’t know whether this was his intention! The photo is filled up with other aunts and uncles too.

There are a number in this photograph I do not recognize which I think is typical of old family wedding photos. I am presuming/hoping those unknown to me are all friends of various family members and not family members who I cannot make sense of in their younger state!

They are stood outside the home of my grandparents.