1st Place – Genesis by Kristen Coros
2nd Place – After the Argonauts by Robin Bailes
3rd Place- The Sound of Murder by Cindy Brown
And in no particular order:
John Wesley Hardin, Outlaw by Flora Gebre-Yohannes
Hunting the Light by Vanessa Savage
What Men Do by Euan Stuart
The Glorious Twelth Susan Kemp
The Grab by William L. Spencer
The Holiday by Sarah Line Letellier
Mazimdas by Pat Black
First You Survive by Suzanne Gochenouer
The Fury by Maia Cornish
The Birdman by Steve Amos
The Exchange by Julia Anderson
The Wishing Sea by Durga Walker
The Boy by Sophie Green
Into the Light by Sue Smith
Indian Summer by Celia J Anderson
Night Time Caller by Emma Norry
Jane the Magnificent by Michele Ivy Davis
Sandrah, with an H, and spaceships by Bryan Marshall
Justice by Michelle Parkyn
Improper Use of Human Remains by Alan E Taylor
Black Tongue by Rebecca Johnson Bista
Candles and Karma by Lorna D'Alton
Lindy's Story by Joy Manne
Waiting for Marie-Claire by Helen Meikle
Flicker by Jo Spencely
Thanksgiving by Jonathan Curran
Judges Report by Sue Grafton
1st Place – Genesis by Kristen CorosI’m impressed with the confidence with which this writer set up the particulars of her tale. The tone is intimate. In essence, the narrator invites the reader to observe the relationship between herself, Allison Jane, and her younger brother, Cole, whose birth was unexpected, coming as it did ten months after the narrator’s own. Coolly analytical, nay even jaunty, she assesses the differences between them with a faintly self-congratulatory air. In her candor, she exhibits a sense of self-awareness that hints that she’s a heartless sociopath. It’s as though the reader is looking over her shoulder, caught up in a sibling rivalry that probably doesn't bode well for Cole.
2nd Place - After the Argonauts by Robin BailesI was taken with the historical setting for this opening in which the writer deftly establishes the protagonist and lays the groundwork for the action to come. The suggestion of the story unfolding is sure-handed and economical. The writer was clearly well-acquainted with the underlying mythology on which the tale proceed. The ‘voice’ is clear and the tone sustainable. The narrator comments from a position of omniscience, allowing the reader to observe from a distance events that I surmise will be fraught with conflict.
3rd Place- The Sound of Murder by Cindy BrownThis writer makes good use of dialogue, employing quick brushstrokes to establish the protagonist’s character, her current situation in life, and the setting for the story. An unemployed actress, she’s indebted to her uncle, a private investigator for whom she’s doing clerical work in advance of what she expects will be schooling in the finer points of detective work. The pitch is underplayed comedy with the suggestion of madcap adventure on the horizon.
The Winning Entries
1st Place – Genesis by Kristen Coros
My brother and I were born less than a year apart. As a child, I liked to imagine that the ten-week interstice between our respective tenancies in our mother’s womb owed to my birth being such an exciting and celebrated event, and to my being such a beautiful and delightful baby, that our parents felt moved to repeat the process right away. The truth is that Cole’s conception, though far from being immaculate, was an unplanned surprise. Our parents didn’t think a second pregnancy could occur so soon after the first; they were shocked to learn of his impending existence at a time when they were still coming to terms with mine.
Have a look at the baby books our mother made for us. Mine is practically bursting with photos, with locks of my hair, with handwritten observations: Allison Jane was born at 1:48 am! At 8 lb 6 oz, she is a beautiful and healthy baby girl! That same exclamation-studded tone continues as she records absolutely everything about me: My first smile! First time rolling over! My contrary first word (“No!”). That first small step – A giant leap for my baby!
The notes in Cole’s book are more scarce, also more sedate. He was born underweight, jaundiced, and anemic. His first portrait was taken through a cube of hospital-grade plastic; he stayed in the incubator for three days. These are the things I’ve tried not to think about: How our mother could not record for my brother, as she did for me, a healthy weight, a perfect Apgar score, an unshakable bond formed in those first hours of skin contact. How Cole may not have had these things because throughout his pregnancy, I stole our mother’s sleep, leeched nutrients from her blood and bones. How maybe if we were twins, he would have had a better shot; maybe then the riches of our mother’s pre-pregnancy body might have been distributed a little more equally. But maybe not – maybe I would have found a way to steal from him then too.
2nd Place - After the Argonauts by Robin Bailes
It was Aias and Achilles who first began to question the identity of the man calling himself Aeson.
No one seemed to know where he had come from, a volunteer at the walls of Troy. He fought alongside the Greeks, shared their tents, gambled with them, sang the old songs, drank with them and shared their hangovers. He celebrated victories with them, he bled with them, he mourned their dead. But somehow he stood apart. By night he was often seen standing alone, staring out to sea, listening to the beckoning waves, hunched, not by the years but by some unseen weight that rested on his shoulders.
It was none of that that made Aias and Achilles suspicious. It was nothing specific, nothing they could place; certainly not any familiarity of feature in the face hidden behind a mass of prematurely greying beard, nor in the tired eyes that stared from that face. Nor was it how he conducted himself in battle; charging into every fight like Ares himself; unafraid, the weight suddenly lifted from him, felling Trojans left and right. In the end, it was perhaps his manner, the air of command to which he had no right, that made those two great heroes look a little more closely and reach back into their memories. Could it be? They had both been children when they had seen him last, and back then he had been a different man, one who had led both their fathers. But take away the layers of dirt and the creases of age, strip back the years, remove the beard, uncrack the voice, unbend the back, re-light the fire that had once burnt in those empty eyes…
Still it was impossible for either to say for sure. And yet, truth be told, once the flicker of recognition had been ignited there was not a shadow doubt in either of their minds that they could put a name to the man.
And that name was Jason.
3rd Place- The Sound of Murder by Cindy Brown
I should never do anything pre-coffee.
“It was only a teeny fire,” I told my uncle. I sat outside on the steps of my apartment complex, talking on my cell phone and watching firemen carry equipment out of my second-floor apartment. Black smoke trailed behind them. The air smelled awful, like the time I’d fallen asleep in front of a campfire and melted the bottom of my sneakers. Except this smelled like an entire Nike factory.
“Teeny fire?" said Uncle Bob, “Isn’t that an oxymoron or something?”
“Nah. That’s firefighter language for no one got hurt. Right?” I said to an especially cute guy wearing a Phoenix Fire Department cap.
“Yep,” the fireman said over his shoulder. “Teeny. No one hurt.”
“Ivy,” said my uncle. “Stop flirting with firemen and tell me what happened.”
“Um,” I said, “I’m not entirely sure.”
I’m not a morning person. I think that’s one reason I became an actress. I rarely have to be anywhere before noon. Every so often I’d have a commercial audition in the morning or …
“I got up early to come into the office, to go to that meeting you put on my calendar,” I said.
Since acting didn’t always pay the bills, I worked part-time at my uncle’s private investigation business. Right now I was mostly filing and writing reports, but Uncle Bob promised he was going to give me some real detective work soon.
“You got up early?” I could hear the skepticism in my uncle’s voice.
“Eight.” There was a pause on the other end. “Ish,” I finished.
“Right. Go on.”
“I put the kettle on the stove …” A coffeemaker took up too much space in my minuscule galley kitchen, so I used a French press instead. “And got in the shower. Just like usual.”
Another pause. Then, “You usually do that? Turn on the stove and get in the shower?”
“Sure. Then when I get out, the kettle’s boiling and I make coffee. No waiting.” Not only was I not a morning person, I was not a patient person. Especially in the morning. “And since the water was running, I didn’t hear the smoke alarm.”
“That’s why you didn’t hear the alarm? You were in the shower?” said the cute fireman, who was going back up the stairs. I nodded, though it did seem sort of obvious. I was wearing only a towel.